In the animal world we find animals that feed on plants
(herbivorous), animals that eat meat (carnivorous) and some animals that
eat all types of food, especially both plants and meat (omnivorous).
Human beings who are supposed to be superior to animals belong to two
categories: those who eat only vegetables (vegetarians) and those who
eat both meat and vegetables (non-vegetarians).
Unlike animals, human beings are difficult to understand. Those who
eat meat, fish an eggs are quite happy with what they do. On the other
hand, there are others who do not consume meat and fish but relish eggs.
But they call themselves vegetarians.
One day, I met an Australian woman who was eating eggs and vegetables
at a posh hotel. I casually asked her whether she was a vegetarian.
“Yes, of course,” she said.
“As a vegetarian is it OK to eat eggs?” I asked.
“Yes, eggs give me the proteins not found in vegetables. And, mind
you, eggs are not animals.”
At the other extreme you meet people who do not eat any kind of
animal food - meat, fish or eggs. They also avoid drinking milk or
wearing shoes made of leather. The late Dr. E. W. Adikaram refused to
eat cakes and biscuits because eggs had been used to make them. These
extremists are called vegans.
According to Dr. Dean Ornish, Founder and President of the non-profit
Preventive Medicine Research Institute and clinical professor of
medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, a vegan low fat
diet combined with yoga and exercise can help fight prostate cancer.
A vegan diet is low in fat because they eat a lot of vegetables and
fruit. The research findings show that such a diet can switch on genes
that fight disease, blocking others that might promote cancer.
I have met a number of vegans during my trips to India. They say they
have become vegans by choice. They do not eat meat, fish or poultry.
They also do not use other animals products such as eggs, dairy
products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics and soaps derived
from animal products. As a result, almost all vegans walk bare-footed.
The logic behind being a vegan is simple and straight. Vegans claim
that they do not want to promote the meat industry by consuming eggs and
dairy products. How does this happen? Once the dairy cows and
eggs-laying hens become too old to be productive, they are sold to the
butcher. They believe that the lifestyle of a vegan is humane.
Whether you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you should not try to impose
your standards on others. Vegans and vegetarians, no doubt, have a right
to be heard. They can educate the people on the health-giving qualities
of a vegetarian meal. For instance, even non-vegetarians should
occasionally experience a vegetarian meal that includes plenty of
vegetables, fruit, leafy greens, whole grain products, nuts, seeds and
For more than six decades I used to eat meat, fish and eggs. However,
after reading many books and newspaper articles written by erudite
writers such as Dr. D. P. Athukorale, Dr. E. W. Adikaram and listening
to Buddhist sermons delivered by Ven. Bandarawela Amithananda, I became
a vegetarian a few years ago. If you want to be a vegetarian, you have
to do so through conviction.
Medical opinion is that vegan diet is free of cholesterol and is
generally low in fat. Therefore, those who stick to a vegetarian diet do
not run the risk of major chronic diseases such as heart disease and
cancer. However, a medical specialist tells me that vitamin D is not
found in the vegan diet. He suggests that anybody can get vitamin D by
exposing themselves to sunlight for 10-15 minutes a day.
Meanwhile, there are those who condemn meat eating wholesale.
Sometimes, they refuse to sit at a table with cooked “dead bodies” lying
in dishes. Then there are others who lose their temper if they find a
piece of maldive fish in one of the curries. These are matters to be
regretted because everybody has a right to eat what they like.
Once we were having meals at a restaurant in Colombo, my vegetarian
friend got up at once and started shouting at the waiter. On closer
examination I found a tiny sprat on his plate.
In hotels which serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food, such
situations can crop up every now and then. If you are a vegetarian,
avoid patronising such hotels.When you attend a wedding you cannot
expect a vegetarian meal. The majority of the guests will look for meat,
fish or eggs to titillate their taste buds.
However, there will always by choice vegetables curries for vegans
and vegetarians. When you sit at a table to enjoy your vegetarian meal,
do not be upset if another guest sits beside you with a plate full of
non-vegetarian food items. It is against etiquette to leave the table
simply because you cannot bear the smell of meat! A lot of research has
been done on body odour of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
In one such study conducts at the Department of Anthropology, Faculty
of Humanities, Charles University, Czech Republic, it was found that the
body odour of men fed with a vegetarian diet was “significantly more
attractive, more pleasant, and less intense.” It is common sense that
what you eat affects your body odour. For instance, you can feel the
difference after eating a garlic curry.
The popular saying that you are what you eat is loaded with meaning.
If you regularly eat meat, you cannot possibly be an animal lover.
However, meat-eaters argue that they do not kill animals but simply buy
the meat at a stall. If you apply deductive logic, their claim appears
to be fallacious. If people do not eat meat, nobody will kill animals
and sell their flesh at stalls.
Meat eating and Buddhism appear to be another controversial subject.
Some Bhikkus consume meat when offered. Others shun meat eating. The
Buddha was a great humanitarian and an animal lover. Therefore it is not
proper to offer meat for alms. By doing so we are spoiling the very
essence of Buddhism.
The world’s great spiritual leaders had been vegetarians. The Buddha
was a notable vegetarian although there are claims that he had consumed
meat offered by a devotee. Pupul Jayakar’s biography of J. Krishnamurti
says that the great sage too was a vegetarian. He was not a vegan
because at times he had drunk milk. Sathya Sai Baba too is a vegetarian.
His food is especially prepared in a certain household and is sent to
his ashram every day.
According to a recent news item even Veddahs have given up eating
meat. Meanwhile, vegetarianism is gaining ground in the West as well.
Despite man’s inhumanity to man, it is heartening to note his compassion
Human society is so complex that nobody should expect everybody to be
vegetarians or vegans. It is by choice and conviction that you become a
vegetarian. But vegetarians should not treat non-vegetarians as social
outcasts. They too are children of the earth which is home for both
humans and animals.
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