Why People Must Be Vegetarian
So, in a very real sense, the keeping of a vegetarian diet is a gift which we give to ourselves. We feel better, the quality of our lives improves as the heaviness of our karmic indebtedness diminishes, and we are offered entrance into new subtle and heavenly realms of inner experience. It is well worth the small price you have to pay!
The spiritual arguments against eating meat are convincing for some people, but there are other compelling reasons for being a vegetarian. All of them are rooted in common sense. They have to do with issues of personal health and nutrition, ecology and the environment, ethics and animal suffering, and world hunger.
Health and NutritionStudies of human evolution have shown that our ancestors were vegetarian by nature. The structure of the human body is not suited for eating meat. This was demonstrated in an essay on comparative anatomy by Dr. G. S. Huntingen of Columbia University. He pointed out that carnivores have short small and large intestines. Their large intestine is characteristically very straight and smooth. In contrast, vegetarian animals have both a long small intestine and a long large intestine. Because of the low fiber content and high protein density of meat, the intestines do not require a long time to absorb nutrients; thus, the intestines of carnivores are shorter in length than those of vegetarian animals.Humans, like other naturally vegetarian animals, have both a long small and large intestine. Together, our intestines are approximately twenty-eight feet (eight and a half meters) in length. The small intestine is folded back on itself many times, and its walls are convoluted, not smooth. Because they are longer than those found in carnivores, the meat we eat stays in our intestines for a longer period of time. Consequently, the meat can putrefy and create toxins. These toxins have been implicated as a cause of colon cancer, and they also increase the burden on the liver, which has the function of getting rid of toxins. This can cause cirrhosis and even cancer of the liver.
Meat contains a lot of urokinase protein and urea, which add to the burden on the kidneys, and can destroy kidney function. There are fourteen grams of urokinase protein in every pound of steak. If living cells are put into liquid urokinase protein, their metabolic function will degenerate. Furthermore, meat lacks cellulose or fiber, and lack of fiber can easily create constipation. It is known that constipation can cause rectal cancer or piles.
The cholesterol and saturated fats in flesh also create cardiovascular disorders. Cardiovascular disorders are the number one leading cause of death in the United States, and now in Formosa.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death. Experiments indicate that the burning and roasting of flesh creates a chemical element (Methylcholanthrene) which is a powerful carcinogen. Mice given this chemical develop cancers, such as bone tumors, cancer of the blood, cancer of the stomach, etc.
Research has shown that infant mice fed by a female mouse having breast cancer will also develop cancer. When human cancer cells were injected into animals, the animals also developed cancer. If the meat which we eat daily comes from animals that originally have such disorders, and we take them into our body, there is a good chance we will also get the diseases.
Most people assume that meat is clean and safe, that there are inspections done at all butcheries. There are far too many cattle, pigs, poultry, etc. killed for sale every day for each one to actually be examined. It's very difficult to check whether a piece of meat has cancer in it, let alone check every single animal. Currently, the meat industry just cuts off the head when it has a problem, or cuts off the leg which is diseased. Only the bad parts are removed and the rest is sold.
The famous vegetarian, Dr. J. H. Kellogg said, "When we eat vegetarian food, we don't have to worry about what kind of disease the food died of. This makes a joyful meal!"
There is yet another concern. Antibiotics as well as other drugs including steroids and growth hormones are either added to animal feed or injected directly into the animals. It has been reported that people eating these animals will absorb these drugs into their bodies. There is a possibility that antibiotics in meat are diminishing the effectiveness of antibiotics for human use.
There are some people who consider the vegetarian diet not sufficiently nourishing. An American surgical expert, Dr. Miller, practiced medicine for forty years in Formosa. He established a hospital there, where all the meals were vegetarian, for staff members as well as the patients. He said, "The mouse is one kind of animal which can support its life with both a vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet. If two mice are segregated, with one eating flesh and the other vegetarian food, we find that their growth and development are the same, but that the vegetarian mouse lives longer and has greater resistance to disease. Furthermore, when the two mice got sick, the vegetarian mouse recovered quicker." He then added, "The medicine given to us by modern science has improved greatly, but it can only treat illnesses. Food, however, can sustain our health." He pointed out that, "Food from plants is a more direct source of nutrition than meat. People eat animals, but the source of nutrition for the animals we eat is plants. The lives of most animals are short, and animals have nearly all the diseases that mankind has. It is very likely that the diseases of mankind come from eating the flesh of diseased animals. So, why don't people get their nutrition directly from plants?" Dr. Miller suggested that we only need cereals, beans and vegetables to get all the nourishment we need to maintain good health.
Many people have the idea that animal protein is 'superior' to plant protein because the former is considered a complete protein, and the latter is incomplete. The truth is that some plant proteins are complete, and that food combining can create complete proteins out of several incomplete protein foods.
In March 1988 the American Dietetic Association announced that: "It is the position of the ADA that vegetarian diets are healthful and nutritionally adequate when appropriately planned."
It is often falsely believed that meat eaters are stronger than vegetarians, but an experiment conducted by Professor Irving Fisher of Yale University on 32 vegetarians and 15 meat-eaters showed that vegetarians had more endurance than meat eaters. He had people hold out their arms for as long as possible. The outcome from the test was very clear. Among the 15 meat-eaters, only two persons could hold out their arms for fifteen to thirty minutes; however, among the 32 vegetarians, 22 persons held out their arms for fifteen to thirty minutes, 15 persons for over thirty minutes, 9 persons for over one hour, 4 persons for over two hours, and one vegetarian held his arms out for over three hours.
Many long distance track athletes keep a vegetarian diet for the time preceding competitions. Dr. Barbara More, an expert in vegetarian therapy, completed a one hundred and ten mile race in twenty-seven hours and thirty minutes. A woman of fifty-six years of age, she broke all the records held by young men. "I want to be an example to show that people who take a whole vegetarian diet will enjoy a strong body, a clear mind, and a purified life."
Does the vegetarian get enough protein in his diet? The World Health Organization recommends that 4.5% of daily calories be derived from protein. Wheat has 17% of it's calories as protein, broccoli has 45% and rice has 8%. It is very easy to have a protein rich diet without eating meat. With the additional benefit of avoiding the many diseases caused by high fat diets such as heart disease and many cancers, vegetarianism is clearly the superior choice.
The relationship between over consumption of meat, and other animal source foods containing high levels of saturated fats, and heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer and strokes has been proven. Other diseases which are often prevented and sometimes cured by a low fat vegetarian diet include: kidney stones, prostate cancer, diabetes, peptic ulcers, gallstones, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, gum disease, acne, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer, hypoglycemia, constipation, diverticulosis, hypertension, osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, hemorrhoids, obesity, and asthma.
There is no greater personal health risk than eating meat, aside from smoking.
Ecology and the EnvironmentRaising animals for meat has its consequences. It leads to rain forest destruction, global heatrising, water pollution, water scarcity, desertification, misuse of energy resources, and world hunger. The use of land, water, energy, and human effort to produce meat is not an efficient way to use the earth's resources.Since 1960, some 25% of Central America's rain forests have been burned and cleared to create pasture for beef cattle. It has been estimated that every four ounce hamburger made from rain forest beef destroys 55 square feet of tropical rain forest. In addition, raising cattle contributes significantly to the production of three gases which cause global warming, is a leading cause of water pollution, and requires a staggering 2464 gallons of water for the production of each pound of beef. It only takes 29 gallons of water to produce a pound of tomatoes, and 139 gallons to produce a one pound loaf of whole wheat bread. Nearly half of the water consumed in the United States goes to the growing of feed for cattle and other livestock.
Many more people could be fed if the resources used to raise cattle were used to produce grain to feed the world's population. An acre of land growing oats produces 8 times the protein and 25 times the calories, if the oats are fed to humans rather than to cattle. An acre of land used for broccoli produces 10 times the protein, calories and niacin as an acre of land producing beef. Statistics like these are numerous. The world's resources would be more efficiently utilized if the land used for livestock production was converted to raising crops to feed people.
Eating a vegetarian diet allows you to "tread more lightly on the planet." In addition to taking only what you need and reducing excess, it will feel better when you know that a living being doesn't have to die each time you eat a meal.
World HungerNearly one billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition on this planet. Over 40 million die each year of starvation, and most of them are children. Despite this, more than one third of the world's grain harvest is diverted from feeding people to feeding livestock. In the United States, livestock consume 70% of all the grain produced. If we fed people instead of livestock, no one would go hungry.
Animal SufferingAre you aware of the fact that more than 100,000 cows are slaughtered every day in the United States?Most animals in Western countries are raised on "factory farms." These facilities are designed to produce the maximum number of animals for slaughter at the minimum expense. Animals are crowded together, disfigured and treated like machines for the conversion of feed into flesh. This is a reality that most of us will never see with our own eyes. It has been said that, "One visit to a slaughterhouse will make you a vegetarian for life."
Leo Tolstoy said, "As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields. A vegetarian diet is the acid test of humanitarianism." Although most of us do not actively condone killing, we have developed the habit, supported by society, of eating meat regularly, without any real awareness of what is being done to the animals we eat.
The Company of Saints and OthersFrom the beginning of recorded history we can see that vegetables have been the natural food of human beings. Early Greek and Hebrew myths all spoke of people originally eating fruit. Ancient Egyptian priests never ate meat. Many great Greek philosophers such as Plato, Diogenes, and Socrates all advocated vegetarianism.In India, Shakyamuni Buddha emphasized the importance of Ahimsa, the principle of not harming any living things. He warned His disciples not to eat meat, or else other living beings would become frightened of them. Buddha made the following observations: "Meat eating is just an acquired habit. In the beginning we were not born with a desire for it." "Flesh eating people cut off their inner seed of Great Mercy." "Flesh eating people kill each other and eat each other ... this life I eat you, and next life you eat me ... and it always continues in this way. How can they ever get out of the Three Realms (of illusion)?"
Many early Taoists, early Christians and Jews were vegetarians. It is recorded in the Holy Bible: "And God said, I have provided all kinds of grain and all kinds of fruit for you to eat; but for the wild animals and for all the birds I have provided grass and leafy plants for food." (Genesis 1:29) Other examples forbidding the eating of meat in the Bible: "You must not eat meat with blood in it, because the life is in the blood." (Genesis 9:4) "God said, Who told you to kill the bullock and the she goat to make an offering to me? Wash yourselves from this innocent blood, so I may hear your prayer; otherwise I will turn my head away because your hands are full of blood. Repent yourselves so I may forgive you." St. Paul, one of Jesus' disciples, said in his letter to the Romans, "It is good neither to eat flesh nor to drink wine." (Romans 14:21)
Recently, historians have discovered many ancient books that have shed new light on the life of Jesus and His teachings. Jesus said, "People who have animals' flesh become their own tombs. I tell you honestly, the man who kills will be killed. The man who kills living things and eats their meat is eating the meat of the dead men."
Indian religions also avoid the eating of flesh. It is said that, "People can't get flesh without killing things. A person who hurts sentient beings will never be blessed by God. So, avoid taking flesh!" (Hindu Precept)
The holy scripture of Islam, the Koran, forbids the "eating of dead animals, blood and flesh."
A great Chinese Zen Master, Han Shan Tzu wrote a poem which was strongly against flesh eating: "Go quickly to the market to buy meat and fish and feed them to your wife and children. But why must their lives be taken to sustain yours? It's unreasonable. It will not bring you affinity with Heaven, but make you become dregs of Hell!"
Many famous writers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and eminent men were vegetarians. The following people have all embraced vegetarianism with enthusiasm: Shakyamuni Buddha, Jesus Christ, Virgil, Horace, Plato, Ovid, Petrarch, Pythagoras, Socrates, William Shakespeare, Voltaire, Sir Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emile Zola, Bertrand Russell, Richard Wagner, Percy Bysshe Shelley, H. G. Wells, Albert Einstein, Rabindranath Tagore, Leo Tolstoy, George Bernard Shaw, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Schweitzer, and more recently, Paul Newman, Madonna, Princess Diana, Lindsay Wagner, Paul McCartney, and Candice Bergen, to name a few.
Albert Einstein said, "I think the changes and purifying effects that a vegetarian diet have on a human being's disposition are quite beneficial to mankind. Therefore, it is both auspicious and peaceful for people to choose vegetarianism." This has been the common advice of many important figures and sages throughout history!