Once upon a time in a village in ancient India, there was a little goat and a priest. The priest wanted to sacrifice the goat to the gods. He raised his arm to cut the goat’s throat, when suddenly the goat began to laugh. The priest stopped, amazed and asked the goat, “Why do you laugh? Don’t you know that I’m about to cut your throat? “Oh yes” said the goat, after 499 times dying and being reborn as a goat, I will be reborn as a human being.” Then the little goat began to cry. The high priest said, “Why now are you crying?” And the little goat replied, “For you, poor priest. 500 lives ago, I too was a high priest and sacrificed goats to the gods.” The priest dropped to his knees, saying, “Forgive me, I beg you. From now on, I will be the guardian and protector of every goat in the land.”
The above tale, which is so wonderfully narrated in the opening scene of the movie – “Little Buddha”, explains to us in no uncertain terms about the horrors related to the practice of killing animals. Today, a surprisingly large number of people across the world are becoming vegetarians by choice. They do not practice religions or belong to races/communities that advocate vegetarianism. They do so as a matter of their individual and conscious choice. Well, if you consider the reasons, it is not so surprising that all these people have made this choice. Let us understand why exactly we should all adopt this more humane way of life.
“The Guided Food – Live and Let Live” is an video(English) created by “Dr. Newton”, founder of “Life Research Academy(LRA)”.
In terms of spiritual evolution, the animal kingdom is very close to the humans. In fact the humans also form part of the animal kingdom. Therefore, killing and eating animals is like killing and eating our brothers and sisters. Studies have shown that animals have reasoning abilities, feelings, and even emotions. Killing and eating them attracts negative Karma. At the etheric level, the negative vibrations associated with such actions contaminate our aura thus making us more prone to afflictions of the body, mind, emotions and spirit.
The Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill,” but everywhere people are slaughtering animals and eating them. All religious scriptures promote non-violence as the first principle of religious life. Whatever we see is created by God. No one has the right to kill anything or anyone, because no one can create anything. We cannot create an animal. We cannot create even a mosquito, so we should not kill even a mosquito. Spiritual life means non-violence. Animals should be protected. This is confirmed thus in the Bible: Whatever you do unto the least of my brothers, you do it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)
Health related issues
It is a well known fact that free radicals weaken the cells in our bodies leaving us vulnerable to disorders and diseases such as arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, emphysema, diabetes, cataracts, rheumatoid arthritis, nephritis, Alzheimer disease, cancer, AIDS, etc. Aging process is also a result of the oxidation by free radicals in the body. Free radicals are formed naturally, both internally by metabolism and externally by chemicals. Plant food contains a wide range of phytochemicals and anti-oxidants, which are protecting agents against free radicals. Common sources of Beta-carotene are dark green, yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruits such as carrots, pumpkin, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, watercress, broccoli, cherries, peaches, papaya, watermelon and apricots. Several tropical fruits and vegetables are good sources of antioxidants. Vitamin C is found in all fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly citrus fruits; melon, strawberries, leafy green vegetables and tomatoes. Vitamin E is found in all whole-grain cereals including brown rice, oats, whole-meal bread, wheat germ, Soya beans, cold-pressed vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, parsley, broccoli and asparagus. By controlling free radicals, we can prevent the degenerative diseases. Vegetarians have an advantage over non-vegetarians, because they eat a large variety of fresh vegetables, fruit and whole grains.
The average meat eater runs a much higher risk of premature death due to cancer and heart disease. Diabetes is an increased risk as well as increased blood pressure and obesity. Meat eaters also have to contend with gallstones, kidney stones and diverticular disease. To this we can add the proven fact that 95% of food poisoning occurs in animal products due to microorganisms like E.coli, salmonella etc. The recent spate of diseases originating from meat eating like mad cow disease, bird flu etc. are strong messages from nature that we should mend our ways.
Impact on our environment
A growing number of people, particularly those involved in the environmental and green movements, are beginning to become aware of the connection of the food on their plate and the pollution and waste of resources caused by meat production. Meat is very wasteful in terms of land use and protein conversion as it takes around 10 kilos of vegetable protein to produce one kilo of meat. The UK alone uses 80% of its land to raise livestock. It could feed around 4 – 5 times its current population by adopting a vegetarian diet. In addition to the wastage of land, meat production also consumes over 150 billion liters of water in the UK alone, and, as many of us know, water is not the unlimited resource we once thought it to be. This is hardly surprising when it takes 25,000 liters of water for one Kilogram of meat as opposed to 29 liters for a Kilogram of wheat. The production of this meat also destroys tracts of rainforest, uses valuable energy and water in the process and creates an end product of pollution in the form of animal manure and methane, adding to the greenhouse effect.
The reduction of the rainforest and other plant life in this manner also contributes to global warming and the strange weather seasons that are occurring worldwide can be directly attributed to the unhealthy diet of humanity. Added to the Methane from animal excrement, the ammonia produced by the animals also contributes to acid rain, killing off the very trees that provide the oxygen required for us and other animal life to live and flourish. Clearing of the rainforest as well as adding to more general environmental problems also has a disastrous effect on the native animals, plants and human cultures who have previously existed in the habitat with minimal impact for often thousands of years, with around 50 species of flora and fauna a day becoming extinct. A tremendous price to pay for maintaining our eating habits!
In the west, cattle and other slurry, together with pesticide run off, are destroying native streams and rivers and killing off the aquatic life. There are valiant attempts to reintroduce the otter and even the European Beaver but those attempts will fail if we do not clean up our act. Meat production also contributes to soil erosion adding another nail in the ecological coffin. Even those members of the population who are less concerned with animal welfare can be persuaded to adopt the vegetarian diet if they are concerned about their fellow humans. With 38% of the world’s grain squandered on the production of meat it is clear that many millions of people in the developing world are dying of hunger for no better reason than to pleasure the taste buds of the rich. This is a particularly important argument to use for those members of the public who claim to care more for humans than for animals.
Even the ocean world is not safe, due primarily to excess fishing and also to pollution, the ecological balance of the oceans has been disrupted, numbers of fish are reducing drastically, together with sea mammals such as dolphins, seals and whales, and the number of unknown large scale death from disease incidents continues to increase.
Though vegetarianism has been very popular and practiced in the east since ancient times, in the west it is now fast gaining popularity. However, the history of vegetarianism in the west dates back to 2600 years ago. Pythagoras is generally acknowledged to be the father of Western vegetarianism. Indeed, until the nineteenth century, vegetarians were known as Pythagoreans. He lived about 2,600 years ago and was born into a society where holistic ideas were dominant. For Greeks before the time of Socrates believed, that the world was a living organism which unified all life. Pythagoras developed a view about the transmigration of souls: the belief that on death the soul migrates to the body of another living creature. Pythagoras is famously said to have warned a follower not to eat an animal lest it be his grandmother! For Pythagoreans, all souls spring from the same source and inhabit every living thing. It follows from this that all living things are related and there is literally a kinship of nature.
Among the famous adherents were the Roman poet Ovid, and Porphyry, whose ‘On Abstinence from Animal Food’, published in the third century, is the classic statement of Pythagorean attitudes to vegetarianism.
Here are a few from the vast list of famous vegetarians:
Religious Leaders and Mystics: Buddha, Mahavira, Jesus Christ, Adishankaracharya, Annie Besant, Maharishi Dayanand Saraswati, A.C. Bhaktivedantaswami Prabhupada, Sri Bhagwan Rajneesh (Osho), Sri Sri Ravishankar, Mata Amritanandamayi, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Yogananda Parahamsa, Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Emanuel Swedenborg, Thich Naht Hanh, St Brendan, Rev. William Metcalfe, Sylvester Graham, Krishna Anand, General William Booth, John Wesley, Serge Raynaud de la Ferriére, Ellen G. White
Statespersons, Politicians, Activists, Business people: Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, C Rajagopalachari, L.K.Advani, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, Maneka Gandhi, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Queen Sophia of Greece, Chelsea Clinton, Ron Kaufman, Steve Jobs
Writers, Artists, Poets and Philosophers: Leonardo da Vinci, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, V.S.Naipaul
Musicians, Rock/Pop Artists: Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, Bryan Adams, Omar Hakim, Kate bush, Damon Alburn, Alanis Morisette, River Phoenix, Prince, Michael Bolton
Sports Personalities: Martina Navratilova, Billie Jean King, Greg Chappell, Anil Kumble, Paavo Nurmi, Carl Lewis, Robert De Costella, Bruce Lee
Movie/TV/Stage Actors & Actresses: Cameron Diaz, Penelope Cruz, Dustin Hoffman, Sir John Gielgud, Richard Gere, Michael J. Fox, Woody Harrelson, Julia Roberts, Alicia Silverstone, Brooke Shields, Kate Winslet, Demi Moore, Reese Witherspoon
Towards a more compassionate diet
Even ten years ago, in the West, anyone admitting to be vegetarian could be considered weird or cranky. However this view can hardly be maintained when Burger King used Frank Bruno to launch the veggie whopper and Granada services this year used cricketer, Ian Botham. This no doubt contributes to the spread of the diet as many of these professional vegetarians are in influential jobs such as teaching, media, art or theatre .In the pop world, many famous vegetarians such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Paul McCartney, Kate bush, Damon Alburn etc. are seen as examples to be followed by many young people. Vegetarians are less likely to be seen these days are self denying and holier than thou but are viewed as aspirational and enlightened, as people to be emulated.
In recent times, there have been many changes in perception of the vegetarian diet from cranky to fashionable etc. but perhaps one of the most surprising changes, at least in the western world, has been the growth and availability of vegetarian targeted products. The meat free market has changed dramatically over the past few year and, even more welcome, growing moral awareness has played a part in driving consumer demand to make the vegetarian market one of the most dynamic growth areas in modern times. It is also particularly noticeable that the fast food sector, traditionally anti vegetarian, is now providing meat substitute dishes. Even better news is the growth of dairy alternatives, Soya cheese, yoghurts, ice cream etc. Clearly this sector still has a long way to go before veganism becomes the norm for everyday shopping but it is still a pleasure to see these products out there on the supermarket shelves. When it comes to eating out, London is estimated to be the veggie capital of the western world with an estimated 75 totally vegetarian restaurants. The number is still growing rapidly!
A survey sponsored by Dalepack in 1998 showed that 82% of those asked felt there would be more vegetarians in the future. In 1984 2.1% of the UK population was said to be vegetarian but this has now grown to 7%, increasing to 12% amongst 15 – 24 year olds, the consumers and parents of the future. At this rate of change everyone in the UK will be vegetarian by 2035 and everyone in the USA will be vegetarian by 2075!
To conclude, here is a poem attributed to the literary genius George Bernard Shaw
We are the living graves of murdered beasts,
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.
We never pause to wonder at our feasts,
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights.
We pray on Sundays that we may have light,
To guide our footsteps on the path we tread.
We’re sick of war, we do not want to fight –
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread,
And yet – we gorge ourselves upon the dead.
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat,
Regardless of the suffering and the pain
we cause by doing so, if thus we treat
defenceless animals for sport or gain,
how can we hope in this world to attain,
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for.
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain,
to God, while outraging the moral law,
thus cruelty begets its offspring – WAR.
Official Website of the International Vegetarian Union – http://www.ivu.org
Website of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness)
“Little Buddha”- Movie directed by Bernardo Bertolucci