From Thirumoolar in India to Pythagoras to Greece, for ages, sages, yogis, philosophers, and spiritual masters across many cultures have promoted a vegetarian diet, stressing that a meat based diet is detrimental to ones well being (mental, physical, and spiritual). It is only in this last decade people have come to acknowledge many health problems as directly related to the consumption of meat (such as cardiovascular diseases, colon cancer, kidney stones, liver disorders, blood poisoning,…).
Humans are by and large herbivores. In the 6 million years of human evolution, it is only relatively very recently that humans adapted to eat meat under certain conditions (such as in regions where it was difficult to cultivate crops). This doesn’t change 6 million years of human evolution: the body still is essentially fit for only vegetarian food as will be shown in this article.
Early humans started off as vegetarians (having evolved from small tree dwelling primates), cultivating crops, gathering roots and berries. Humans became hunters only after mastering the first stone weapons – this also allowed them to survive in in harsh/cold climates (where cultivation wasn’t possible, and they had to rely on meat). Also, there is substantial evidence that the first civilizations (like the Saraswati-Harappan Civilization) were predominantly vegetarians, through abundant evidence of cultivation, farming, irrigation, and granaries (with scarcely any evidence of hunting or butchering tools).
“If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax. [i.e. use your claws, teeth, and muscles to kill the animal]”
Evolutionary evidence #1: Humans, like herbivores have intestinal tract that is about 6 times the body length, in contrast to carnivores whose intestines are much shorter, only 3 times their body length. The reason for this is because meat putrefies (decomposes into toxic waste) very rapidly. Plants take much longer time to decompose (even then it is hardly toxic; it is usually easily de-toxified by our body). That is why in animals that are largely herbivores (cows, deers, monkeys, etc) the intestinal tract is at least 6 times longer than the body length. The longer length and longer time in the intestinal tract in herbivores is needed to efficiently break down the grass, roots, etc. and extract the nutrients. Carnivores (lions, tigers, leopards, …) have shorter intestines – only 3 times longer than body length because meat putrefies rapidly producing complex toxic waste that the body cannot handle – hence the shorter length to flush it out.
Evolutionary evidence #2: Humans, like all herbivores have stomach acid which is about ten times weaker than carnivores.
Evolutionary evidence #3: Humans, like all herbivores have alkaline saliva and has the enzyme ptyalin. In carnivores the saliva is acidic, with no ptyalin.
Evolutionary evidence #4: Humans, like all herbivores have well developed pre-molars and molars to assist in chewing stems, roots, leaves, grass, … they have poorly developed incisors flat and very small blunted canine teeth. Carnivores have well developed incisors and canine teeth to assist in biting into and grasping a running prey, and tearing and shredding flesh.
Evolutionary evidence #5: Humans, like herbivores don’t have claws. Carnivores have sharp claws for tearing shredding into the meat/skin of other animals.
Evolutionary evidence #6: Humans, like herbivores perspire through millions of pores in their skin to keep their body cool. Carnivores perspire mainly through nose or tongue to keep cool.
Evolutionary evidence #7: Humans, like herbivores have poor night vision. Carnivores have excellent night vision.
Evolutionary evidence #8: In front of a human baby, place a small animal (like a small bird, a fish, squirrel, or a rabbit) and a fruit (almost any fruit) or raw vegetable (like carrot, lettuce, cucumber, tomato,..). The baby will most likely consider the fruit as food and eat the fruit. However, if you place the same in front of a baby carnivore, the carnivore will invariably eat the animal, and not the fruit.
If a meat-eater were to not camouflage his meat (meat products are all factory processed, hiding the gory details), if one were to hunt his own food – such as taking a stone and bashing the life out of a chickens head, then skinning it, he/she would recoil from the suggestion of eating chicken.
Even better, demonstrate being able to kill a live animal placed before him, with his teeth (like a carnivore would when it hunts), and eating it raw.
The truth of animal slaughter is not at all pleasant. Commercial slaughterhouses are like visions of hell. Screaming animals are stunned by hammer blows, electric shock, or concussion guns. They are hoisted into the air by their feet and moved through the factories of death on mechanised conveyor systems. Still alive, their throats are sliced and their flesh is cut off while they bleed to death. Why isn’t the mutilation and slaughter of farm animals governed by the same stipulations intended for the welfare of pets and even the laboratory rat?
Many people would no doubt take up vegetarianism if they visited a slaughterhouse, or if they themselves had to kill the animals they ate. Such visits should be compulsory for all meat-eaters.
The “Plants Also Have Feelings Too” Argument
One might argue, “but plants have feelings too…”. Every living organism has pain in proportion to its level of evolution. For example, for a protozoan (single-celled organism), if you poke it with a needle, it triggers a reaction in the cell membrane which in turn triggers a chain of events that causes it to react. For it, pain is a very simple chemical reaction that triggers its cell walls to contract/move away. As organisms become multi-cellular and more complex, they develop more complex reactions to pain. They develop complex neural networks, which go on to developing different levels of pain. Then different categorizations and interpretations of pain. These interpretations then go on to developing complex relations, social behaviors, paternal/maternal instincts, empathy, attachment, pain, sadness, suffering, longing, separation, awareness of life/death, expressions of joy, jubilation, playfulness, etc. One can observe this by separating a calf, baby elephant, baby chimpanzee, or baby whale from it’s mother.
One can also observe that, the more eggs or offspring an organism has, the less developed it is in terms of feelings, etc. Let’s go up the ladder: insects lay thousands of eggs, fish lay hundreds of eggs, birds even less. Cats, lions, tigers, bears, meerkats, lemurs, pigs, dogs have just a handful of offspring at most. Other mammals like cows, whales, sheep, monkeys, apes, usually bear only one offspring. The higher up (the lesser the number of offspring), the more likely they will have strong feelings, paternal/maternal instincts of nurturing, grooming, playing, playmates, etc. They will mourn their deaths, feel pains of separation from family, etc. All in proportion to the complexity of the animal.
People are subconsciously aware of this, that’s why people moving to vegetarianism by choice tend to stop eating animals higher up in evolution like monkeys, elephants, cows, whales, pigs, sheep,… and work their way down to stop eating chickens, fish, crabs, shrimp, oysters, clams. The later not having the level of complexity found in animals higher up. A fish is not likely to mourn the loss of another fish, but still will suffer the pain of being speared and killed. Oysters and clams even less, because of their level of neural networks is very small (almost no brain).
Applying the above reasoning to plants, the “neural network” of plants are not that evolved (you know that plants don’t have a brain right?). They also do not have complex relations (for example, no paternal/maternal social behaviors towards its young). The closest behavioral pattern we know of is that plant stems grow/move in direction of sunlight and roots in direction of water, and some are known to grow around/avoiding high-voltage power lines. The closest social pattern that we know of is that they are known to communicate (roots of tree that is under duress sends out signals sensed by neighboring trees). But these are very linear cause-and-effect simple chemical reactions, with no further exhibition of complex social behavior.
Furthermore, plants are designed/evolved to be eaten. For example, plants in the course of evolution have evolved attractive flowers, fruits, vegetables, specifically to attract animals to take/eat them for seed dispersal. Without which plants will not be able to spread out and survive in a competitive environment.
So, it is really not about whether something has “feelings” or not, but really has to do with the complexity of the organism (its feelings, social behavior, maternal and paternal instincts) to approach that of humans. It is all about where you draw the line. People do unconsciously draw the line. For example, not many people in a civilized society would eat domesticated animals (even if they “tasted good”) nor eat other humans either for that matter. If a whale could talk (or conversely if you could understood its language) would you brutally harpoon it, drag it half alive for miles in blood, screaming, slaughter it, and eat it? It would be almost cannibalistic. Would you do that to a domesticated animal? So, people do have a good sense of ethics or compassion, but it is overridden by their lust for taste. So it is we who conveniently (and quite hypocritically) draw the line to suite our tastes (literally).
But Then Why Does Meat Taste Good?
If we are by and large herbivores, then why does meat taste good to so many people?
As mentioned above, very few people will find raw meat to taste good. I’d ask anyone who says meat tastes good, to eat the meat raw, without cooking it, with all its blood and fat. I doubt it will taste good. One will not even be able to chew and swallow it, or even digest it. It might even prove toxic.
So when you say meat tastes good, is not the meat itself, but that by the time it arrives on your plate most of the “animal” has been “cooked out of it”, it becomes a fibrous material with ability to absorb the flavors/spices/curry and release it with every bite in juicy amounts, with just a hint of flavor indicating type of meat. If it did not do that, if it was just fibrous and unable to absorb and release the taste of spices in such outbursts, it would be like chewing bland rubber or chewing gum.
No doubt various meat do have distinct taste, but it is a minor role compared with texture and flavor absorption and release. The meat flavor is easily simulated these days. In fact many soups and broths in the USA have artificial meat flavoring; and even “real” meat in fast food restaurants are flavored with artificial flavoring, including adding enzymes like plant-based papain and bromelain to help the meat digest easily.
Utilizing these discoveries in the science of the palate, we are able to now produce vegetarian meat alternatives, with same texture and ability absorb/release flavors, with a touch of flavor of its own to distinguish type of meat. In the past 10 years meat alternatives have made such advancements that they make very specific vegetarian meats like tuna, chicken, beef, pork, etc. Even my non-vegetarian colleagues in the USA get a surprise, compared with when they tried it a few years ago.
Having said that, there are a few Caucasians who almost uniformly relish the taste or smell of raw meat. Obviously there is nature vs nurture at play here. The argument I have for this is that it depends on culture and environment. My theory is that, in some European and Arctic zones (with freezing climates with very little sunlight, with very little edible vegetation), humans were forced to turn to other sources of nutrition, like meat. As in such regions there wasn’t enough vegetable life (compared with rich variety of fruits and vegetables in tropical climates) to sustain them in cold climates. So over time those humans acquired a taste for meat. But still, just a mere 40,000 years of evolution in cold climates is not enough to change 6,000,000 years of evolution of our body physiology and chemistry. As evidence that it hasn’t changed, refer to the experiment in Evolutionary Evidence #8 above. This is why whenever a person gets colon cancer (or most any cancer), doctors first advise is to stop red meat (or meat all together). Same when advise is given when a person developers chronic heart disease.
In spite of the above reasoning, meat-eaters bring up the following common (and lame) arguments:
- “Meat is an important source of protein.”
One need only take a look at how muscular (and protein-packed) cows and elephants are. Or take a look at Eastern masters of martial arts who have exceptionally fit bodies, and they are pure vegetarian (in fact, with very simple vegetarian diets). Not to mention there is close to 500 million vegetarians globally (if you include the growing number of vegetarians by choice, as well as the number of vegetarian Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains). Not only are vegetables a better sources of protein (with less long-term side-effects) but also have vital micro-nutrients that are not even found in meat (like rich in anti-oxidants).
- “Vegetarians have health problems too.”
With processed foods and environmental toxins, health issues are there for everyone. Both meat-eaters and vegetarians have health problems. But meat consumption adds a host of additional diseases and ailments. In that regard, vegetarians are significantly healthier and at less risk for health problems than meat-eaters. Vegetarians are far more likely to be trim, fit, healthy, and live longer than meat-eaters.
- “Vegetarian food is not tasty.”
Well, vegetarian foods when prepared properly is definitely tasty (Hindus have been masters of a rich variety of very tasty and nutritionally dense vegetarian preparations, thanks to the array of spices they have in their cuisines).
- “There is hypocrisy everywhere.”
Yes, but this is no small hypocrisy when one actual kills a sentient social being for a most petty thing as satisfying one’s lust for the taste of meat. Having said that, this is not really about hypocrisy, but about one’s sense of ethics or compassion.
As mentioned in the Evolutionary Evidence #1, the digestive tract of carnivores are 3 times the body length versus the 6 times the body length of herbivores (and humans). So, what happens is that when we eat meat, the meat rots and putrefies in our intestines before it gets flushed out – harboring very toxic chemicals in the intestine – for a long time. This is why meat eaters have the highest risk of colon cancer, and also why doctors advice meat eaters to avoid red meat whenever there are any intestinal conditions. The human body was never meant to be bombarded with these foreign and toxic chemicals from meat, which the body just cannot and does not know how to handle/detoxify.
The animals are kept alive and fattened by continuous administration of tranquilizers, hormones, antibiotics, and 2,700 other drugs. The process starts even before birth and continues long after death. Although these drugs will still be present in the meat when you eat it, the law does not require that they be listed on the package.
– Gary and Steven Null, in Poisons in your Body
The above quote includes adding preservatives like nitrates (which also gives meat its “fresh” bright red color – otherwise it would turn a corpulent grayish color by the time it reaches the shelves in grocery stores). It also includes the “fright/fight or flight” hormones that are rapidly released by the animals body into the blood stream of the animal when it is under extreme stress, duress, fear, or panic – which is the typical case in a slaughterhouse where each animal hears the wailing terrified cries of the animal before them or the sight of the animal being slaughtered, or for that matter when it itself is slaughtered/mutilated alive piecemeal at a time. These hormones don’t disappear. They remain in the meat that is consumed by humans. Because of the close similarity of animal hormones these same hormones trigger similar symptoms in human beings. Hence why you see a higher level of stress, anxiety, depression, aggressive behavior, short temper, impatience, etc. in meat eaters (especially the more raw you eat the meat). There is some truth in the saying, “you are what you eat”. This can be easily put to test: try switching to a healthy vegetarian diet for few months, and you’ll see a significant improvement in your mental well being.
The only justification for killing of other sentient beings for food is the sensory gratification of ones taste buds. There are no health benefits. The same goes for fur, leather, and animal-tested cosmetics. I find it particularly amusing when a meat-eater says he or she “loves animals”. I’m tempted ask them, “you mean on your plate?”.
It is a semi-personal choice about being meat-eater or vegetarian. I would only hope one takes time to reflect on the ethics of it at least once in a while as opposed to trying to rationalize it. A time comes when one draws the line or sets the bar higher, and starts to become a vegetarian.
Note: I don’t believe in pressuring anyone to become vegetarian (even more so people in climatic conditions where vegetation is sparse). The change does come from within. Hopefully this article and articles like this help at least make people more aware and get them to start thinking/questioning.
So do a favor (to the cruelty against animals and to people health), and pass this article on. Or read this article a few times to give you enough arsenal to defend yourself against irrational arguments of meat-eaters. Not to mention, start by using the term “meat-eaters”, why use euphemisms like “non-vegetarian”?
Number of animals per year, killed for their meat (not including aquatic animals – which can put the number even higher):
- USA: 42 million cattle, 115 million pigs, 4 million sheep, 9 billion chickens, 300 million ducks, 300 million turkeys, 26 million ducks.
- Worldwide: 232 million cattle, 1.1 billion pigs, 470 million sheeps and goats, 17 billion chickens, 1.1 billion turkeys.