By Rohini Mohan
I am vegetarian and it’s not easy in this world of carnivores. Especially since I was bitten by the travel bug early on in life and spent many days starving in many countries. In the greater interest of not passing out everyday from sheer hunger while backpacking in France, I did that one time succumb to eating meat. I tasted everything from black pudding to pheasant to oyster; to be perfectly honest, there were some creations that I enjoyed. Not so much, however that I could not switch back. I did, and I have been off meat for the last couple of decades.
I could tell you some war stories though. Try South East Asia during Chinese New Year – they consider it infra-dig to serve meatless dishes at restaurants at that time. They also do not categorize sea food as meat (what is the logic?) so they will blithely serve you shrimp or tuna salad if you ask for vegetarian. I vaguely remember that line from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” – “What do you mean he no eat meat???? Ees Ok, I make lamb”! In Europe most soup is cooked with chicken stock as are many rice dishes so that is something to be aware of, if you are particularly picky.
It always amazes me that people who claim to love animals will not hesitate to eat them (and I don’t mean the wit on the internet who claims “I love animals, they taste great!”). Even more puzzling is how they get selective about which meat they will consume. Dog and horse meat are a no-no, but chicken, pig, cow, deer, moose, crocodile, fish, are ok. Not to digress, but this brings to mind British artist Mark McGowan who ate a chunk of (supposed) minced Corgi meat live on BBC radio to, get this, protest the Royal Family’s mistreatment of a fox during a hunt. And his statement to the press started with “We love our animals in Britain”! Granted the Corgi makes a statement to the Queen, but I don’t quite get the loving but eating part…
If Mother Nature had intended man to eat flesh, she would have equipped him with claws and pointy canines to tear into his prey. She would have bequeathed him with a digestive tract that is shorter and more capable of quickly disposing of meat, prone as it is to quick putrefaction. Most of our primate ancestors (monkeys, gorillas and chimps) are herbivorous with the occasional bug or insect eating. Clearly our love affair with meat started very recently in our evolutionary cycle, and nature has had to make allowances to accommodate our new ‘fad’. However, forcing meat on our insides has led to all sorts of complications; excessive protein build up, cholesterol, obesity, cancer, clogged arteries, impotence and arthritis. It’s the price an essentially fruit and plant eating species has to pay for going against nature.
Man does not need meat to have a healthy physical and mental life – quite the opposite. There have been generations of Hindus, Buddhists, Jains and many many others that have strictly adhered to a vegetarian diet and are flourishing. Asian religions consider a vegetarian diet “Sathvik” (according to Ayurveda, Sattva is characterized by equilibrium and is responsible for health and contentment of mind and body and is associated with the mind, consciousness, or intelligence that maintains health*). It does not incite passions which could lead to Type A personalities, who are more prone to health problems.
Hear it from the expert: Malathi Mohan, Food Service Management and Nutrition Professor and Specialist and erstwhile President of the Indian Dietetics Association, has this to say;
VEGETARIANISM FOR HEALTH!
– High in complex carbohydrates, fiber content and poly-unsaturated fats
with less or absent saturated fats (exceptions being coconut, milk and ghee)
– High in minerals and vitamins if judiciously used and consumed;
antioxidants are known to reduce heart disease and cancer
-Low in total fats and cholesterol
-Does lack in B12 and Omega3 fatty acids (for which supplements exist)
-Low in complex carbohydrates and fiber and high in saturated fats
– High in hormones which result in adverse health conditions
– Could contain high levels of mercury( some types of seafood)
– Contains high pesticide residue and is known to cause food poisoning
Convalescent diets are largely vegetarian, as they are easily digested. A veggie diet is also largely used in the treatment of renal diseases as the protein content is more manageable. It is also conducive to weight planning; a salad plate may look huge and bulky compared to a steak or burger but it is so much lower in calories (and tastes terrific!) Many spices and condiments used in the meatless diet have therapeutic and medicinal qualities. Even the Pranic healing system recommends the avoidance of meat and fish to facilitate healing, as their energy content is not as clean as that of vegetables and fruit.
If that hasn’t convinced you, here is another “inconvenient truth”; if the entire world turned vegetarian many of our environmental and energy problems would be solved. The world’s cattle consumes a quantity of food enough to satisfy the calorific requirements of 8.7 billion people** – so we would have enough to feed the world’s population and have some left over. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), “Most of us are environmentalists until we sit down to eat; America’s meat addiction is steadily poisoning and depleting our clean water, arable land, and fresh air. In fact, raising animals for food requires more water than all other uses of water combined, causes more water pollution than any other activity, is responsible for 85 percent of U.S. soil erosion, and requires one-third of all raw materials used in this country (with the air pollution that entails). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, hog, chicken, and cattle waste has polluted 35,000 miles of rivers in 22 states and contaminated groundwater in 17 states.” **
The Baha’i faith predicts that vegetables, food and grain are the food of the future. And research indicates that man will have to come full circle and revert to vegetarianism if wants to preserve his health, his earth and his elevated position in the food chain.
*Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc.
**Quoted from the PETA Website
http://www.peta.org/about/faq-veg.asp ; http://www.peta.org/feat/earthday/index.html