Case for Vegetarianism

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Case for Vegetarianism

<poem>In fact, as human consciousness develop[s so the scope of man’s compassion expands. At first, it was freedom only for the elect, then the serfs were freed from oppression, then the slaves were given freedom. The uplift of the so-called Harijans, untouchables, outcastes, the Adivasis, and the hitherto down and trodden has begun to receive serious and positive consideration. Not only this, a new understanding is emerging and it is seen that man’s compassion must embrace the subhuman species as well and that it must oppose the attack on the natural world, its wild life and its live stock. If we deny this new understanding, at least new for a majority in countries outside India and even in India, for those who are imbued in the western or the materialistic way of life, we shall devalue freedom in our own minds and fail to defend it until progressively we ourselves are threatened and doomed, as avers Peter Robert, the secretary of the Compassion World, ‘Mankind cannot escape the danger of wars, bloody and devastating wars, and that, too, in this age of highly developed and extremely destructing nuclear weapons’ No gainsaying that non-vegetarianism ultimately leads to violence and wars, while vegetarianism is the basis of peaceful co-existence.

In 1929 the Vegetarian Society of England brought out a leaflet giving twenty-four reasons for vegetarianism, most of which still hold good and the more important of which are: 1. The flesh of animals can never be free of impurities. 2. Flesh meet contains nothing of value which may not be easily obtained from the vegetable kingdom. 3. Vegetarians enjoy comparative immunity from illness and many people after adopting the practice have lost long standing complaints. 4. The nation would gain by increasing the area under food cultivation in preference to developing the stock-farm, for in the feeding of the stock there is great waste of material fit for human food, and by developing less land to the rearing of cattle w e should have a larger area for the cultivation of cereals, fruits and vegetables and thus be more self-supporting. 5. It is selfish and inhuman to set apart a whole class of the population for the digesting, brutalizing and unwholesome occupation of butchery, which is not only entirely needless but absolutely inimical to the best interests of the human race. 6. The highest sentiments of humane and compassionate men and women revolt at the cruelty, the degrading sights, the distressing cries, the perpetual blood shed and all the attendant sickening horrors which inevitably surround the earing, transit and slaughter suffering sentiments beings. 7. A vegetarian diet is favourable to purity of thought and chastity and leads to refinement of character 8. Vegetarianism is a protest against those evils which beset most nations – luxury, intemperance and vice.

All these reasons are quite weighty, and many more can be adduced. As Jaya Chamraja Wadiyar, the ex-maharaja of Mysore, once remarked, “There is no scientific basis for the view that a man becomes stronger and healthier on a meat diet than on a vegetarian diet. It is now proved beyond doubt that all the proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals and vitamins needed for a healthy life are found in right proportion in an intelligently composed diet of vegetables, fruits, nuts and milk.” And, in the words of Dr. Robert Mc Carriso, one of the greatest food scientists, ‘A perfectly constituted diet is one in which the principal ingredients are milk, milk products, any whole cereal grain or mixture of cereal grains, green leafy vegetables and fruits. These are the protective food. They make good of other constituents of the diet, protect the body against infection and disease of various kinds, and their use in scientific quantity ensures physical efficiency.” R. Quale also thinks, “Basic economic necessity may see our society as mostly vegetarian in the distant future.”

Thus, whether viewed from the point of view of necessity or suitability, or on physiological, economic, social, humanitarian, moral, ethical or religious grounds, the case of non-vegetarianism hopelessly falls through. But, as the great Jaina intellectual, the late J.L. Jaini, once wrote. “Man really wants very little here. Alas” he wants much to possess and then to live in the world …… Our whole civilization is based on physical comforts, luxuries and adornment. Food, gratification and all are needed only for the flesh. The poor immortal captive needs nothing. The soul is in its essence separate from the bodily requirement; but yet as being linked to it, it is impossible for the animal not to be swayed by the corpus. Indeed our animal instincts and needs make us thralls, not seldom unwilling thralls of social conventions and fashions,”