Here’s an article that explains it all.

Back in April, under the auspices of a campaign titled No Meat No Heat, around a million people in Taiwan – including the speaker of parliament, the environment minister, and the mayors of Taipei and Kaohsiung – vowed to never again touch flesh nor fish. Given that Taiwan’s Buddhist traditions mean around 1.2 million of its people are already vegetarian, this was perhaps not such a bold move as it seemed, but still: the organisers of the mass pledge cited the often overlooked contribution of livestock farming to greenhouse gas emissions, and presented it as an environmental move par excellence.

The decisive arrival of the current food crisis must be making them feel even more righteous. As daily news reports now remind us, there are three key factors behind the rocketing price of the most basic foodstuffs: the rising cost of oil, swathes of agricultural land being given over to biofuels, and the fact that the increasing affluence of China and India is spearheading an explosion in the demand for meat and the feed needed to produce it.

From there, it is only a small step towards an argument that is rapidly gaining ground: that with more than 850 million people going hungry, using huge amounts of water, grain, energy and land to rear livestock is a luxury now officially beyond us. This may suggest the arrogant west once again telling the rest of humanity to refrain from what we have happily done for years, but there is another way of thinking about it: à la the contraction and convergence model for tackling climate change, if we are to accommodate other countries’ increased demand for meat, we will have to drastically reduce our own.

As the Alcoholics Anonymous mantra would have it: my name is John Harris and I am a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat or fish since Christmas 1984, when I had my share of the Christmas turkey, and then quit. I can faintly recall arguments about the inbuilt inefficiencies of meat-eating, but the decision of this particular hard-bitten 14-year-old was based on two different considerations: first, a belief that it was wrong to kill sentient creatures to eat them; and second, that living without meat was an integral part of the 80s counter-culture that set itself against the adult world, international capitalism, and Margaret Thatcher. With the arrival of the Smiths’ album Meat Is Murder in 1985, everything became clear.

If only for reasons of space, we’ll have to leave vegans out of this – but in the intervening 20-odd years, it’s been strange to watch vegetarianism ooze so easily into the culture. The great post-PC backlash that began in the mid-1990s seemed to briefly threaten its quiet ascendancy – but though avowed British herbivores still form a pretty tiny minority (between 2% and 8% of us, according to polling), their influence is obvious. The recent story of British meat consumption may essentially be one of fish, chicken and processed meat supplanting our appetite for beef, pork and lamb straight from the butcher’s block, but the parallel growth of vegetarian food has been astonishing: after well over a decade of year-on-year surges, the research firm Mintel reckons that the annual value of the British “meat-free” market is about to reach £780m.

In the midst of such progress, there has only been one drawback: the ongoing and inevitable association of vegetarianism with a very British piety (with the onset of age, one begins to understand Orwell’s very reasonable distaste for the people he described as “vegetarians and communists”), and the mixed-up morals of the hardcore animal rights lobby. In 1999, I went to see Morrissey in concert, and heard him compare the meat industry’s transgressions with slavery and the Nazi genocide; down the years, I’ve regularly confronted the assumption that refusing meat and fish somehow puts you in tight alliance with the people who seem to think that medical vivisection is a bigger problem than, say, human hunger.

Now, thankfully, there comes this new vegetarian(ish) agenda, and the chance to make the case against meat-eating on more level-headed grounds: that even if meat will remain part of most people’s diet, they are going to have to eat less of it; and that right now, this is actually more about human lives than those of animals.

Newsnight recently ran an item on the arguments for cutting down, stuffed with the requisite statistics; for example, whereas it takes 20.9 square metres of land to produce 1kg of beef, to come up with the same weight of vegetables, the figure is 0.3 square metres. In the ensuing studio discussion, even the pro-meat contributor agreed that the world would now “have to value meat more highly”, and Gavin Esler enthusiastically quizzed the vegetarian advocate, rather than trying to tear him to bits. By the end, one got the impression that they were discussing something almost unanswerable.

In the short-to-medium-term, it may well be the price of meat rather than high-minded ethics that sends sales of Quorn through the roof. Nonetheless, something is up: the possibility of a decisive sea-change that, back in the days of Smiths albums and endless lentils, would have been unimaginable. Millions of Britons following the Taiwanese and pledging en masse to go herbivorous may seem unlikely – but then again, I wouldn’t rule it out.


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Categories: DietHealth


Heena Modi · August 3, 2008 at 8:42 am

I went to an event recently and was told about how Bhupendra Pandia replied to why he doesn’t eat meat and his reply was ‘because my stomach is not a graveyard.’

I found this really powerful in explaining the possible reasons for vegetarianism in another way! 🙂

Heena Modi · August 4, 2008 at 10:11 am

Wenda sent me this link which discusses whether we must kill in order to live

I. Must We Kill in order to Live?
Vegetarianism, known in Sanskrit as Shakahara, was for thousands of years a principle of health and environmental ethics throughout India. Though Muslim and Christian colonization radically undermined and eroded this ideal, it remains to this day a cardinal ethic of Hindu thought and practice. A subtle sense of guilt persists among Hindus who eat meat, and there exists an ongoing controversy on this issue on which we hope this humble booklet will shed some light.

For India’s ancient thinkers, life is seen as the very stuff of the Divine, an emanation of the Source and part of a cosmic continuum. They further hold that each life form, even water and trees, possesses consciousness and energy. Nonviolence, ahimsa, the primary basis of vegetarianism, has long been central to the religious traditions of India-especially Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Religion in India has consistently upheld the sanctity of life, whether human, animal or, in the case of the Jains, elemental.

The Sanskrit for vegetarianism is Shakahara, and one following a vegetarian diet is a shakahari. The term for meat-eating is mansahara, and the meat-eater is called mansahari. Ahara means “to consume, or eat,” shaka means “vegetable,” and mansa means “meat or flesh.” The very word mansa, “meat,” conveys a deep appreciation of life’s sacredness and an understanding of the law of karma by which the consequence of each action returns to the doer. As explained in the 2,000-year-old Manu Dharma Shastra, 5.55, “The learned declare that the meaning of mansa (flesh) is, ‘he (sa) will eat me (mam) in the other world whose flesh I eat here.’ ”

There developed early in India an unparalleled concern for harmony among life forms, and this led to a common ethos based on noninjuriousness and a minimal consumption of natural resources-in other words, to compassion and simplicity. If homo sapiens is to survive his present predicament, he will have to rediscover these two primary ethical virtues.

“Is vegetarianism integral to non injury?” In my book, Dancing with Siva, this question is addressed as follows: “Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings, for to consume meat, fish, fowl or eggs is to participate indirectly in acts of cruelty and violence against the animal kingdom. The abhorrence of injury and killing of any kind leads quite naturally to a vegetarian diet, shakahara. The meat-eater’s desire for meat drives another to kill and provide that meat. The act of the butcher begins with the desire of the consumer. Meat-eating contributes to a mentality of violence, for with the chemically complex meat ingested, one absorbs the slaughtered creature’s fear, pain and terror. These qualities are nourished within the meat-eater, perpetuating the cycle of cruelty and confusion. When the individual’s consciousness lifts and expands, he will abhor violence and not be able to even digest the meat, fish, fowl and eggs he was formerly consuming. India’s greatest saints have confirmed that one cannot eat meat and live a peaceful, harmonious life. Man’s appetite for meat inflicts devastating harm on the earth itself, stripping its precious forests to make way for pastures. The Tirukural candidly states, ‘How can he practice true compassion who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh? Greater than a thousand ghee offerings consumed in sacrificial fires is not to sacrifice and consume any living creature.’ ”

Amazingly, I have heard people define vegetarian as a diet which excludes the meat of animals but does permit fish and eggs. But what really is vegetarianism? Vegetarian foods include grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and dairy products. Natural, fresh foods, locally grown without insecticides or chemical fertilizers are preferred. A vegetarian diet does not include meat, fish, fowl or eggs. For good health, even certain vegetarian foods are minimized: frozen and canned foods, highly processed foods, such as white rice, white sugar and white flour; and “junk” foods and beverages-those with abundant chemical additives, such as artificial sweeteners, colorings, flavorings and preservatives.

In my forty years of ministry it has become quite evident that vegetarian families have far fewer problems than those who are not vegetarian. If children are raised as vegetarians, every day they are exposed to nonviolence as a principle of peace and compassion. Every day they are growing up they are remembering and being reminded to not kill. They won’t even kill another creature to eat, to feed themselves. And if they won’t kill another creature to feed themselves, they will be much less likely to do acts of violence against people.

Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

Thanks Wenda 🙂

Heena Modi · August 4, 2008 at 10:14 am

Wenda sent me this link which states five reasons to be a vegetarian

In the past fifty years millions of meat-eaters have made the personal decision to stop eating the flesh of other creatures. There are five major motivations for such a decision.
Ahimsa, the law of non injury, is the Hindu’s first duty in fulfillment of his religious obligations to God and God’s creation as defined by Vedic scripture.
All of our actions including our choice of food have karmic consequences. By involving oneself in the cycle of inflicting injury, pain and death, even indirectly by eating other creatures, one must in the future experience in equal measure the suffering caused.
Food is the source of the body’s chemistry, and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. If one wants to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then he cannot eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. By ingesting the grosser chemistries of animal foods, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion and a terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the flesh of butchered creatures. For these reasons, shakaharis live in higher consciousness and mansaharis abide in lower consciousness.
4) The HEALTH reason
Medical studies prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider range of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body. Vegetarians are less susceptible to all the major diseases that afflict contemporary humanity, and thus live longer, healthier, more productive lives. They have fewer physical complaints, less frequent visits to the doctor, fewer dental problems and smaller medical bills. Their immune system is stronger, their bodies are purer, more refined and skin more beautiful.
5) The ECOLOGICAL reason
Planet earth is suffering. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rain forests to create pasture lands for livestock, loss of topsoils and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet. No single decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision to not eat meat. Many seeking to save the planet for future generations have made this decision for this reason and this reason alone.

Thanks again Wendy

Sagar · August 4, 2008 at 10:36 pm

When faced with the question of what is wrong with organic meat, my argument normally has several prongs. I would still commend the person for being concerned about animal welfare and health.

1) Economic

Meat is incredibly inefficient as a source of food. Producing 1 kg of beef requires almost 14kg of grain and a great deal of water, most of which could be used for human consumption. In this world, there are many millions of people who struggle to get enough food to eat everyday, particularly the poor people working in urban areas in developing countries. By eating meat, one diverts food away from these people, and increases the demand for grain relative to supply. Increased meat consumption in developing countries in recent years (i.e. China and India) has helped contributed massively to the inflation on basic food prices – exacerbating the poverty of millions worldwide. By becoming a vegetarian – you automatically become a humanitarian – helping the world’s poorest make sure they can make end’s meet. It should be noted, however, that the impact is much worse for red meat than white meat.

2) Environmental.

In the same way that meat consumption can be damaging for some of the world’s poorest people. Meat consumption is also far worse for the environment than a vegetarian diet. The rationale boils down to the efficiency of production. In order to an animal to produce meat from the grain it eats, it must keep istelf warm (energy gets dissipated into heat), and it must breathe (which converts oxygen into carbon dioxide), and must also produce dung (which releases gases such as methane into the evnironment, which is 24 times as potent at contributing towards climate change as carbon dioxide). Cows are are particularly big releasers of methane. The result is that meat and dairy consumption, in aggregate, contribute as much to green house gas emissions and thus to climate change as global transport (UN Environmental and Agriculatural Report, 2006 – can’t rememebr the exact name of the paper). By becoming a vegetarian – you are also becoming an environmentalist.

3) Animal Welfare

The primary characteristics of Organic meat production are:

* 1. It is a legally defined standard
* 2. There is a registered, documented and inspected trail from “farm gate to dinner plate”;
* 3. It operates to the very highest levels of animal welfare;
* 4. No routine drugs, growth promoters, animal offal or any other additives fed to animals (sick animals may of course he treated);
* 5. At least 70% of animal feed must he grown to organic standards;
* 6. No use of artificial fertilisers or pesticides on feed crops or grass
* 7. No use of Genetically Modified Organisms.

This of course is much better than factory produced or other types of meat. However, there are a number of things which are still cruel in this process. For example, animals are social creatures. The disappearance / slaughter of any of its family members / friends causes pain and suffering. For example, at the Huggletts Wood Farm, it was observed that a cow (Dustin) continued to mourn for a long period of time following the death of his mother (Yola – which was of natural causes). It has also been noted that cows that have had their young taken away from them often stare endlessly, bellowing, at the last point at whihc they saw their young, and often run away, looking for their young.

Even if the animal is reared in a good way, the process leading to slaughter is unquestionably cruel. Normally an animal will have to travel for sevral hours to reach a slaughterhouse. This is undoubtdly a distressful time for any animal.

4) The food chain

People often ask – what about the food chain?. Yes, it is true that species of animals, such as lions, consume other animals. But the way in which they do this is different. When a lion catches a zebra, it does the species of zebra a favour, by catching the weakest one, and thus by contributing to the evolution of the species. When humans eat animals, they do so by weakening them first. This, is not nature, and this is not evolution.

5) Health

I often use health as an argument. But am not sure about the spefiic arguments. I would probably agree with the meat eater, that a balanced omnivorous diet is likely to be healthier than a balanced vegetarian / vegan diet, just because of the fact that the latter is a subset of the first. But because a vegetarian/vegan diet automatically gives discipline whcih means that a standard veg diet, is much more likely to be balanced an healthy than a standard omnivorous one. For example, since turning vegan, I have removed nearly all processed foods from my diet, and eat a lot more food that I have prepared myself – automatically reducing the number of preservatives and articiual ingredients I consume.

Heena Modi · August 5, 2008 at 1:24 am

Thanks for this Sagar. 🙂

Like you I have also found that since turning vegan, I have removed nearly all processed foods from my diet, and eat a lot more food that I have prepared myself. I have also found it easy, as opposed to a challenge. Less choice is often easier, rather than, more difficult! 🙂

Have you found that at all?

Anon · September 18, 2008 at 2:36 pm

This site explains the many issues associated with livestock. Please have a look.

Chapters included are: –

Livestock in geographic transition
Livestock’s role in climate change and air pollution
Livestock’s role in water depletion and pollution
Livestock’s impact on biodiversity
Policy challenges and options
Summary and conclusions

Ian · November 14, 2008 at 6:03 pm

I give you Benjamin Zephaniah’s “The Little Book of Vegan Poems”

Suraj · July 14, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Its true that a lot of resources are used in getting the same amount of meat as veg food items. But I think everything in moderation is always healthy. A veg diet will have a lot lesser proteins and more carbs than a non veg one.

    Heena Modi · July 14, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Thanks for commenting.
    I’m not sure though.
    I don’t think that everything in moderation is OK but then I guess, what one classes as ‘OK’ is determined on things that aren’t always objective. Thus we have people believing and doing different things. Mind you, it doesn’t stop there does it? There are people who think things but do not live by their beliefs for whatever reason, so there’s a mixed bag, if you like! 🙂

Anon · October 20, 2009 at 1:33 pm

I have removed nearly all processed foods from my diet, and eat a lot more food that I have prepared myself.

    Heena Modi · October 22, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    Is it helping?
    Do you feel better for it?

Comments are closed.