Many among us, especially in this part of the world, have grown up eating meat and fish. Meat is a vital component of our palate, whether it’s a simple roast dinner or a sumptuous festive meal, how could we imagine a diet without it? Despite this, there are millions who have ethically adopted vegetarianism as a lifestyle. Why is that so? Is there anything wrong in eating meat?
To fully understand vegetarianism, we must discuss a rationale for forgoing meat that hardcore vegetarians often contend rather aggressively – ethics. We believe eating meat is morally wrong. Most non-vegetarians justify eating meat by saying that they are not directly partaking in the killing of animals. Other non-vegetarians simply have not thought deeply about the matter or are so used to their diet that they believe that there is nothing immoral about it. However, these are all myopic perspectives. It needs to be clear that it is the very consumption of meat that propels the slaughtering of animals. If no one ate meat, would slaughterhouses even exist?
Most people are not completely aware of what exactly happens in a slaughterhouse. Fowls and other animals like goats, cows and pigs are subjugated to atrocious living conditions, existing in constant dread, shrieking in the most abominable fashion when the slaughterer’s knife hits their throats. The asphyxiating stench of blood, flesh and bones that pervades the slaughterhouse is enough to make the average meat-eater vow to never touch meat for the rest of their life. Am I over-dramatizing a mundane reality? YouTube will provide you with an answer to that question. As humans, we are all born with a conscience. I am sure that if an average meat-eater delves into the matter of vegetarianism deeper, looking into the macabre things that happen in a slaughterhouse, he or she would concur that it is absolutely inhumane to kill innocent animals. Humans being the most intelligent of the animal kingdom- all the more reason we should see meat consumption for what it is! Animals are beautiful products of nature, each species holding an intrinsic value to the ecosystem. We have no right to take their lives.
From a nutrition standpoint many would argue that a ‘balanced diet’ is one which includes meat. In order to debunk this myth we must look at the biology. The scientific name of the human species is Homo sapiens. We belong to the order Primata. Our closest species are chimpanzees, orang-utans and gorillas, in fact, about 98% of the DNA in human beings is the same as that of chimpanzees. All our primate cousins, and indeed a few other herbivores, have similar biological systems as us – long intestines, similar dentition, to name but a few. The length of the intestinal tract is 10-12 times the body length in plant eaters, primates and in humans, to enable fruits and vegetables which do not rapidly decay to pass slowly through the body. However, in meat-eating forms of life, the intestinal tract is only 3 times the body length, to let rapidly decaying meat pass quickly through the body. Additionally, just like other members of the order Primata, we have a dentition comprising of incisors, molars and not-so-sharp canines which enable the slow chewing of fruits, vegetables and nuts. Furthermore, the stomach acid in meat-eating life forms is around 20 times more concentrated that of humans and herbivores, to facilitate the digestion of decomposing matter. Since we are not designed to eat meat in the first place, human stomach acid is not that concentrated. It is a simple observation that we do not have pointed fangs, like snakes, and sharp canines, like lions. Neither do we have claws, like other wild beasts. Such life forms are biologically built to eat meat. If one offers a lion an apple, it will not eat it. But give it a deer, and it will happily tear at it with its claws. I could go on and on and provide many more such examples, but we can clearly understand by looking at our biological constitution that we were created to survive on a plant-based diet.
From a health perspective it has been attested by scientific research that vegetarians are much healthier than meat eaters. Research carried out by Harvard Medical School has indicated that vegetarians have a much lower risk of suffering from heart diseases. Several other revered medical research institutes around the world including George Washington University School of Medicine and the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Oxford, have discovered that rates of illnesses like cancer, kidney stones, cataracts, diabetes and other ailments are much lower among vegetarians as compared to meat eaters. We can clearly see that our systems are signalling that meat affects the health of humans adversely; if we were meant to eat meat, our health and life spans would be boosted by its consumption, not deteriorated. We have no reason to stress our bodies by forcing them to digest something they were not crafted to digest. Of course, there are people who counter these points by claiming that vegetarians lack proteins and other vitamins like B12. However, nature would never deprive her creations in this manner – humans get proteins by consuming milk, which is benevolently bestowed by cows, and its derivatives like cheese, and by the consumption of beans and legumes. Practically thinking, – why do we want to make our bodies graveyards? It is much better for the human health to abstain from meat altogether.
The Environment: Human population is exponentially growing. We need food, land, water and resources to sustain us all and our future generations. It does not make sense to waste so much of our beautiful and natural areas just to create poultry farms and grazing pastures for cattle, fowls and other animals which will ultimately be slaughtered. Thousands of acres of land are reserved for growing corn which would serve as fodder for fattening these animals so that human beings can gluttonously eat succulent meat. Gallons of water are also channelled in raising these animals. If humans did not eat meat, we would be saving much land, which could be utilised for housing or growing crops or simply be reserved as nature reserves, and water, thus tackling the issue of water scarcity in many areas in the world. Additionally, if meat consumption were to be curtailed rates of global warming and environmental degradation would steadily plummet.
It could be debated that thousands of people who are employed in the slaughterhouse business would lose their livelihood if slaughterhouses were to no longer exist. However, this problem seems less important in light of the ethical implications and the matter of animal rights. Another argument is: if slaughterhouses are shut down, would there be sufficient crops to feed the world, seeing that meat forms a major part of the world’s diet as of today? We can counter these problems simply by growing more crops – that is, turn the land used for grazing pastures, poultry farms and slaughterhouses into cropland and orchards. This would not only take care of the food scarcity problem associated with the termination of slaughterhouses, but also ensure that the people who had lost their jobs in the process are re-employed as farmers on these croplands and orchards.
Ultimately, vegetarianism is not a choice. It is a diet that should be adopted by everyone for universal welfare. Switching to vegetarianism is a serious lifestyle change, one which cannot be executed overnight (for most!). But do bear in mind the points you spent the past few minutes of your life reading to help you wean off meat-eating gradually.
Mallika Venkatramani – LifeStyle Writer
Thinking of taking the plunge and going veggie? Check out the following blogs for further inspiration!