We have all heard strong arguments, not just from others but from ourselves in the past when we were thoroughly defensive of non-vegetarianism. We justified meat eating primarily because of old beliefs and habits carried through generations. Thankfully the right awareness can be spread for the benefit of all concerned so that we can be on a path which is peaceful while not falling for the same old traps again. Here is how:
MYTH 1: Vegetarians Kill Plants
It is true that plants have life like animals do and there is no saying that plant life is less valuable than animal life. The fact is that plants do not usually die when you consume their parts. The plant does not even die when you pick its fruits. Their life energy is still intact and not lost making fresh fruits a ‘sattvic’ or positive diet. In contrast eating an animal involves killing them. By taking away their life prematurely we were consuming dead or ‘tamasic’ energy. In contrast plants retain fresh life energy regardless of your harvesting them. In-fact there are perennials that keep growing and providing harvest year after year and annuals would have dried off anyways at the end of the season even if you did not consume them, though many of them reseed and grow again.
MYTH 2: Plants Do Not Want to Be Eaten
Plants automatically shed their ripe fruits without any struggle when the fruits are ready. These fruits, including most vegetables are meant to be consumed so that the left-over seeds can be spread around or replanted. Even if you consume some of their leaves and seeds, as compared to animals, plants can regenerate and heal. To avoid overcrowding and to help them grow better they require thinning out, spreading, harvesting and trimming. In-fact they grow better and healthier through right gardening. We can understand the needs of plants, knowing what sort of care they want and refrain from harvesting them too early. When the time is ripe they will be happy to be picked.
MYTH 3: Plants Hurt Like Animals When We Cut Them
Plants are so calm and silent from within and outside, that their thinking and therefore suffering is negligible as compared to animals. In strike contrast animals feel tremendous pain and suffering. Spend some time out in the garden trimming leaves and picking fruits. Then spend the same amount of time in a slaughterhouse. Feel the difference? Because meat eaters purchased meat over the counter they do not see the pain and forget the part they are playing in taking innocent lives. Yes, plants do have sensations. They can sense light and grow towards it. They can sense approaching pests and protect themselves. It is said they grow better when we sing to them, so they must hear us too. Some can respond to touch. But please do not imagine that they suffer like animals when being cut.
MYTH 4: Humans Were Designed to be Meat Eaters
Humans are most similar to the genus Pan consisting species of primates such as Bonobos and Chimpanzees that are primarily fruit eaters. Our teeth, our digestive system and our mind are well tailored for a plant based diet. Even if we once were omnivores and hunter-gatherers in ancient times for reasons of non-availability of adequate plant foods in certain regions of the world, today we have evolved highly. Today we can grow and trade varieties of plant food in almost all countries regardless of climate and weather. We are the only specie to have maximum choices in every aspect of life, unlike other animals who work with their natural limitations. We can now choose to eat plants and be less harmful to other species.
MYTH 5: We Need Animal Foods for Our Health and Nutrition
Plant foods with minimal fortification provide all of the dietary nutrients we need, minus the disease causing properties of animal based food. Most allergies, ailments and cancers can be prevented with herbs and raw vegetables. Plants provide us fibers that help us eliminate toxins and keep our gut clean. Plant vitamins are essential for protecting ourselves from harmful germs while minerals help in our nourishment. They are also rich in proteins and calcium. Through higher spiritual awareness we can also learn to live without too much food and to be healthy from within. There is an inner power that creates everything in the world which meditation connects us with and our body receives energy directly from the inner spirit in increasingly higher proportions with spiritual growth.
MYTH 6: Carnivorous Diet is Part of Ecological Balance, So Why Not Be Meat Eaters
It is true that Lions, Sharks and many species consume meat and nature designed them to be this way in order to keep earth in balance, just like herbivores kept plants from growing too thick. These species were not given a choice. Yet as Human beings we have been given choices and free-will by nature herself. Nature has allowed us to decide and choose whatever is least harmful for all concerned. The human mind is far more flexible and capable of directing our own evolution further into time. Unlike other animals, humans have a chance of approaching towards the spiritual goal of Moksha or liberation from cycles of karma. This can be achieved by learning to be as detached and harmless as possible.
MYTH 7: It Is Impossible to Never Harm, So Why not Eat Animals
Yes we may be unknowingly harming many small or invisible microbes and insects in our day to day life. This does not mean that it is alright to kill animals for food just because you have been killing various lifeforms inadvertently. When it is plain and obvious that they are being tremendously harmed for the sake of food, you can be kind and considerate enough to avoid eating them, thereby discouraging this age old yet unnecessary practice. Animals clearly feel emotion and have their own families. Killing animals for entertainment, religious sacrifice, medical testing, fashion or any other reason can be equally cruel just like killing them for food when it is very easily avoidable.
MYTH 8: Organic Plants Are Expensive and Unavailable
It was animal based and artificially processed foods that were a reason for increase in health problems and associated costs. It is also well known that animal farming so far led to increase in carbon emissions, stressed our resources and hurt our planet. Cultivating plants is far less expensive and less polluting than raising animals for dairy or meat. For the sake of a healthier and prosperous planet we definitely need to go organic and vegan. While it is true that pesticide and chemical laden plants can be harmful for health, organic plants are not as expensive and hard to obtain as once thought. When their demand rises organic farming will become more widespread and affordable too. Most importantly think of all the medical costs savings and better economic productivity when with reduced animal farming and increased organic plant farming.
MYTH 9: Meat Eating is Part of Being Natural
Being natural and returning to our roots is not about going backwards to mid-way in evolution when we were cavemen or hunters. Being natural is about being in touch with our inner self or true nature as a spirit being which is our original self. When we meditate, we stop complicating our minds with all the consumerism inducing messages given through the centuries of false conditioning and artificial stress. We consumed a variety of harmful snacks, fast-food, meat based and processed products because we were busy in our outer or material world without being mindfully and peacefully present in the moment. To be in alignment with our inner nature helps us do what is truly right and meant for us. Our body, mind and spirit respond with well-being as a result.
Swati Prakash is a spiritual author and can be followed on www.amazon.com/author/swatiprakash