It is famously said that “You are what you eat” Though there are tons of articles, videos and documentaries, explaining the type of food we eat, its benefits and risks, and how they affect the environment etc on the internet, but still people prefer to eat meat based foods in large quantities. This post is not to alter anyone’s food habits, and neither to propagandize any theory. But considering the humongous impact food has on the body and environment, it simply cannot be ignored. Hence, adding my two cents to understand and emphasize the importance of what we eat!
To begin with, I am a proud vegetarian ( recently proselytized to the religion of vegetarianism). Not long before, I used to be an avid meat eater except beef. My reasoning for not eating beef had nothing to do with any scientific reasoning, or environmental impact it does, but simply a family tradition. Because, naturally, when I could eat chicken or turkey, and not beef, it did look curious for people to ask me the reason for not doing so. But then after eating meat based products for a while, I suddenly stopped eating them!
Why? Many reasons, and one of the most important is the fact that why should we eat meat, when we have plants readily available? We are in the 21st century world where everything is just a few clicks away. Same goes for food. When we can buy or make endless varieties of plant based delicacies, why is there a need for eating meat which involves killing of live animal, just to satiate our predatory cravings, which drives our worst behavior! But, it would also be ludicrous to convince the audience that killing animals to eat is violence, but killing plants isn’t? Because even plants have life as proved by legendary scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.
So, even killing plants for eating would be treated as a violence, isn’t it?. Yes, as plants also have life, and they feel, have emotions, so it would be injustice to harm plants. But for survival, humans need to eat something. So, if violence/killing is involved in both plants and animals, which one is better? Or in other words, which one is less harmful for the body and the environment? Referring to the Can Plants feel pain?, it says that it is far more better to consume plants over animals as eating plants directly, rather than feeding them to animals and then killing those animals for their flesh, requires far fewer plants and hurts fewer animals who, we already know for sure, feel pain. Cows, for example, must consume 16 pounds of vegetation to yield 1 pound of flesh, so by being vegetarian/vegan, we save many more plants’ lives than if we ate meat.
As per the Spiritual Scientist, we see that when we eat plants, they have already reached their maturity stage. For example, we pluck fruits which are ripened and which would anyway fall off, so there is very little if not no pain involved. We harvest the crops that are fully grown – if they are not harvested they will rot and they will get wasted. Hence, this process involves very less harm or pain to plants. But on the other side, animals are often bred and killed before they even get old. If we compare the enlivening atmosphere at the time of harvest in the field with the gruesome atmosphere in the slaughter house when the animals are to be slaughtered with blood and flesh strewn and spewing all around and the animals screaming and writhing in pain, our own conscience and intelligence will indicate to us the huge gulf of difference. Hence, the best path would be the path of minimum violence or pain, which is obviously consuming plants.
Another reasoning can be given with reference to the VeganFirst is where all animal forms can retract, defend, escape or attack when in threat of an attack, and this makes killing animals a terrible act, for they are, for the purpose of killing, overpowered, trapped, incapacitated and eventually slaughtered. On the contrary, plants were not designed to escape or retract – they were given the power to rebuild and grow, their flowers, fruits, seeds and roots are designed to build all over again. Which is why, when you take a fruit off a plant, you call it plucking, not severing or beheading – a new fruit or flower will spring again and the plant delivers continuity of life.
If we look from the angle of spirituality or karmic effect, isn’t it natural that animals which we eat like chicken, cow or goat, usually eat plants. and then we kill those animals and eat them. So, if killing plants is a karma of violence, killing animals is double karma of violence, as animals have already eaten that live plant and we add on to it the violence of killing that animal. Hence, double karma of violence is gained in the act of killing animals. I know this is something out of rationality, but many of us are spiritual, believe in karma and so this might throw some light on the karmic aspect involved as well.
The next question often comes from meat eaters is that they eat meat for proteins. It is often incorrectly assumed that vegetarian eaters do not get proteins from plants and hence are weak as compared to steak or chicken eaters. But this is all wrong and propagandized by Hollywood and wealthy, influential meat industry lobby. As pictured in the movie clip below, we often accept the
wrong theories projected by media and start believing them without any background evidence. I too had once accepted this idea and hence to gain weight and build muscle, I started eating meat. But then, I saw the health based documentary “The Game Changers” which completely changed my perspective. As Dr. James Loomis points out in The Game Changers, “All that protein that you get when you eat a steak or a hamburger, where did it come from? It came from the plants that the cow ate.” Adding to it, in fact, all protein originates from plants, which also contain all nine essential amino acids we have to get from food. If this wasn’t the case, how would the largest and strongest animals on the planet, including elephants, rhinos, horses, and gorillas — all of which are herbivores — build and maintain such huge amounts of muscle? I would recommend watching this documentary which provides more insight on the wrong food assumptions which we have accepted due to media and meat industry dominated advertising.
Another analogy which meat eaters often like to contend is the strength of the carnivores such as tigers and lions due to meat eating. And they even assert the relative weakness of the herbivores such as deers and cows who are plant eaters. So, meat eaters want to become strong like carnivores.
Being social animals, and due to our evolution over centuries it is very natural for us to crave for strength and machoism, and this can be easily seen in carnivores. But we often forget that carnivores are evolved to hunt and eat meat, and again the strength which comes in the carnivores is due to eating of plants ( having proteins and vitamins), indirectly through herbivores. But for humans, simply eating like carnivores, won’t make us strong like them. Else there would have be no reason for our ancestors ( assuming they were meat eaters) to design stone weapons to hunt. It’s been thousands of years since humans have been eating meat, and still there hasn’t been any evidence of any super-human like strength quality being derived due to meat consumption. We still make weapons ( though not made out of stone) even today and are equally prone to being killed by carnivores, just like herbivores.
Also, medically it is proven that human body is not designed for meat eating. As stated by Dr. Richard Leakey, a renowned anthropologist, says, “You can’t tear flesh by hand, you can’t tear hide by hand. Our anterior teeth are not suited for tearing flesh or hide. We don’t have large canine teeth, and we wouldn’t have been able to deal with food sources that required those large canines.”
Our Digestive System Doesn’t Like Meat
Carnivores have short intestinal tracts that allow meat to pass quickly through their digestive system. Humans’ intestinal tracts are much longer, like those of plant-eaters. This gives the body more time to break down fiber and absorb the nutrients from plant-based foods. In fact, our hands are perfect for grabbing and picking fruits and vegetables. We don’t have sharp claws to seize and hold down prey. And most of us (hopefully) lack the instinct that would drive us to chase and then kill animals and devour their raw carcasses. Dr. Milton Mills builds on these points and offers dozens more in his essay, “A Comparative Anatomy of Eating.” Link
After all, we are not carnivores. As per Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Humans originated from ape like ancestors. Humans are primates. Physical and genetic similarities show that the modern human species, Homo sapiens, have a very close relationship to another group of primate species, the apes. Humans and the great apes (large apes) of Africa — chimpanzees (including bonobos, or so-called “pygmy chimpanzees”) and gorillas — share a common ancestor. As per the Rob Dunn’s blog “Human ancestors were nearly all Vegetarians” The majority of the food consumed by primates today–and every indication is for the last thirty million years–is vegetable, not animal. Plants are what our apes and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving. In other words, there is very little evidence that our guts are terribly special and the job of a generalist primate gut is primarily to eat pieces of plants. We have special immune systems, special brains, even special hands, but our guts are ordinary and for tens of millions of years those ordinary guts have tended to be filled with fruit, leaves, and the occasional delicacy of a raw hummingbird. Hence, for the meat eaters who are in support of paleo diet or food similar to what our ancestors ( who were hunter-gatherers) eat, it is seen that even hundred thousand years ago, our ancestors spent the most time eating fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves. But its also worth noting, that meat in the form of insects were eaten, though rarely. But again, eating insects differs from eating cow or pig, as simply, our digestive system is not evolved suitably for it.
Besides, if we consume meat for proteins in large quantities, and as the human body does not store protein inside the body like fats, so it gets excreted out of the body and hence, practically if eaten in excess ( which meat usually has) its getting wasted. Economically, eating meat is more costly than eating plant based foods. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition in 2015 found that a vegetarian diet is cheaper than its meat-inclusive alternative. For those “austere” minded people, it would be stupid to spend more money on meat based products as compared to plant based food, which is lot cheaper.
Another economic reasoning for meat eating among the society can be attributed to the growing wealth in the society. As mentioned in the Scientific American, Return to more frequent meat eating has been a key component of a worldwide dietary transition that began in Europe and North America with accelerating industrialization and urbanization during the latter half of the 19th century. In affluent economies, this transition was accomplished during the post-WW II decades, at a time when it began to unfold, often very rapidly, in modernizing countries of Asia and Latin America. As a result, global meat production rose from less than 50t in 1950 to about 110t in 1975; it doubled during the next 25 years, and by 2010 it was about 275t, prorating to some 40g/capita, with the highest levels (in the US, Spain and Brazil) in excess of 100g/capita. As per “The Making of Meat-Eating America” Mark Rosegrant, an economist with the International Food Policy Research Institute, says “All countries eat more meat when their incomes grow and they have the economic wherewithal to eat more meat,” Even a country like China, whose society relied on traditional rice paddy culture have shifted to more meat eating due to rapid industrialization and enormous wealth generation in last 40 years. The extent of meat eating has crossed the norms of beef/chicken to wild wet markets including all sorts of animals sold for consumption. And this has resulted in the spread of Covid-19 virus from China to the world. It is indeed strange of the society behavior where with more wealth, people prefer meat over vegetables. Rather it should be the other way where the rich society, has the capability to grow and consume vegetables in large amount.
Lets look at this from the medical point of view. A large-scale meta-analysis carried out in 2016 reported “a significant protective effect of a vegetarian diet versus the incidence and/or mortality from ischemic heart disease(25 percent) and incidence from total cancer(8 percent). Vegan diet conferred a significant reduced risk (15 percent) of incidence from total cancer.” Vegetarian diets are also tied to a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cancer (again), and lower blood pressure and they may fend off childhood obesity.
As per the paper from National Institute of Biotechnology Information, it says that the results show that achieving a sustainable diet would entail a high reduction in the intake of meat and vegetable oils and a moderate reduction in cereals, roots and fish products and at the same time increased intake of legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
Environmental effect- Meat is undoubtedly an environmentally expensive food. Some of the recent statistics (Source: Happiness Express) shows that
- 51% of the land on planet earth is used for meat production
- Chicken production releases 25 times more CO2 than grain production
- Animal farming ranks no-1 cause of species loss & deforestation, and no-2 cause of global warming
- Meat production causes more emissions than all transportation combined
- 15000 Ltrs of water is used for to yield 1 kg of beef, while only 3000 Ltrs of water is used to yield 1 kg of rice. In other words, water to feed 1 meat eater = water to feed 3 vegetarians.
- WHO places red & processed meat in the same danger level to our health as smoking & tobacco.
- 70% of food poisoning is caused by meat consumption including exposure to arsenic.
As per New York Times article, the world’s food system is responsible for 25% of the planet warming greenhouse gases. Meat and dairy, particularly from cows account for 14.5% of world’s greenhouse gases. In general, beef and lamb have the biggest climate footprint per gram of protein, while plant-based foods tend to have the smallest impact. Pork and chicken are somewhere in the middle. Beef and lamb have an especially large climate footprint for another reason: The stomachs of cows and sheep contain bacteria that help them digest grass and other foods. But those bacteria create methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is then released through burps (and a bit of flatulence). Though chicken and other poultry have a lesser climate impact than other livestock, but industrial-scale poultry operations still create water pollution, and have prompted major concerns about animal welfare. That doesn’t mean that we should not do livestock farming, as animal agriculture does provide useful products like milk, eggs, and also manure from cow which is useful as a fertilizer. Besides, it provides livelihoods for some 1.3 billion people worldwide.
However in places like the United States, Europe and Australia — who currently eat far more meat than they need to for a healthy diet, and if we want to feed a growing population without adding to global warming or putting increased pressure on the world’s forests, it would make a difference if the heaviest meat eaters cut back. If its not completely possible to stop eating meat ( due to old habits, or cultural influence) then another approach would be to simply eat less meat and dairy, and more protein-rich plants like beans, legumes, nuts and grains.
Hence, based on all the scientific, medically proven, economic and somewhat spiritual reasoning as well, I decided to switch over to a healthy, environment friendly, planet preserving, money saving vegetarian/plant based meal. I sincerely hope this post is read and spread widely for increasing our awareness about the foods we eat and its impact on the planet. The sooner we know, the better it would be for everyone’s well being. As rightly said by spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravishankar, “Food being an essential part of any lifestyle, people would like to have the right to exercise their freedom in making a choice; arguing or forcing anyone will not work. The right way is to make people aware and then let them choose for themselves. It may take some time but everybody realizes sooner or later that short term gratification is not worth the long term troubles it brings. Quality of life is enhanced when we make choices that are life supporting.”
Being vegetarian does not just help one’s own life flourish but also that of other beings.
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