Many people think that Hindus can’t eat because their “religion” prohibits them. Often the question is asked, “so you can’t eat meat?” or “he can’t eat meat”. No, it’s not that I can’t, but I don’t.
For me as well as most Hindus it is a conscious decision (as opposed to blindly following some religious doctrine), for there are no religious injunctions in any of the Hinduism. If at all there is, it is would be ahimsa (non-violence). More specifically, ahimsa means doing the least (minimal possible) harm to living beings. For example, when there is an abundance of fruits and vegetables around you it is unconscionable to kill an animal for meat, it goes against ahimsa. But for a person living in an arctic zone with no plant life, he has to rely on fish for food it is not does not go against ahimsa, it is not adharmic for them. But even there it may be adharmic to kill animals that are higher up the evolutionary ladder than a fish (like a seal).
I’d say the reason why many Hindus are vegetarian is even more fundamental. It is that of the quest for truth. This quest, to know and to understand, starts with thinking on ones actions and the consequences of those actions. With knowledge comes awareness, and with awareness comes understanding and empathy, and with understanding comes compassion.
This is why over an estimated 40% of Hindus are predominantly vegetarian, not by any religious doctrine, but by conscious choice to be a vegetarian.
More than 70% of Hindus are predominantly vegetarian if you include those who eat only one meat item (like fish-only, or chicken-only) and those who eat meat only on certain one or two days of the week. These 70% of Hindus can be equated to the 3.2% Americans who are turning to vegetarianism slowly (i.e. a good number of them not totally cut out meat). While Hindus are predominately vegetarian, most Americans are predominantly non-vegetarian, as meat fills the primary portion of their dish, and is a must 3 times day, breakfast, lunch, dinner. Most cannot imagine a dish without meat. In that regard, even the most non-vegetarian of Hindus are predominantly vegetarian.
It is also ironic how the left liberal post-modernists project vegetarianism as part of “post-modernist thought” (or sustainable and cruelty-free living), when Hindus have been practicing it for over 5,000 years.
Not to mention, the fact that vegetarianism is picking up in the USA can also be attributed to dazzling variety of Hindu cuisines “to make vegetables taste good” to the American palette. Prior to this most Western cuisine was primarily just steaming with salt and pepper, or at most with tomato sauce — not enough to win people over from meat-eating.
In the end, it becomes a conscious choice – out of compassion, morals, or the ethics of eating meat. Any Hindu vegetarian will tell you he will not eat meat not out of fear of breaking some religious injunction (for there is none), but out of the thought of killing another sentient being for no other lowly reason than gratification of ones taste buds. One of the things that make man different from other animals is that he can feel that compassion or sense of ethics and he can make that choice.
Hindu culture as a whole, recognizes the role of a vegetarian diet as essential for spiritual progress and healthy life – in mind, body, and spirit, and sustainable living. But how you do it or if you do it is up to you.
In fact, the only country on the planet where you don’t have to go searching for a tasty vegetarian meal is India. It is a heaven for vegetarians. There are thousands of varieties of cuisines. Even most of street vendors are restaurants are vegetarian. There are 28 States, and each has its own rich flavorful variation of Indian cuisines (to mention regional variations within the State). I would have included multicultural cities in the USA also, where it’s pretty easy to find a Indian restaurant… but almost every Indian restaurant I’ve eaten in, the food is just so oily (not to mention they use very unhealthy GMO soybean or GMO canola oil, not sesame oil or coconut oil).
See also the case for vegetarianism in general.