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Location: Home arrow Library of Articles arrow Compassion / Vegetarianism arrow Vegetables vs Meat

Vegetables vs Meat   E-mail 

Q.    Flesheaters often say to vegetarian Sikhs, if you eat only vegetables you are also taking life. What, then is the difference between taking the life of, say, a pig and that of a vegetable?

A.    All the difference in the world. Does a potato cry out when it is taken from the earth the way a calf does when it is taken from its mother? Does a stick of celery scream in pain and terror when it is picked the way a pig does when it is being led to slaughter and is having its throat cut? And how sad, lonely, and frightened can a head of lettuce feel?

We don?t need a polygraph to demonstrate that plants have consciousness of a sort, but this consciousness is obviously of a rudimentary kind, far different from that of mammals with well developed nervous systems. Nor do we need tests to prove that fowls and pigs and sheep experience pain to the same degree as human beings, for it is common observation that animals wince, howl, wail, and show terror when abused or injured and make every effort to avoid pain.

Actually many fruits and vegetables can be picked without killing or even harming the plants. These include berries, melons, legumes, nuts, seeds, pumpkins, and many other vegetables. Potatoes are taken from the ground after the plant has died. Most vegetables are annuals, harvested at or near the end of their natural life.

In fact, there is considerable scientific evidence that the human physiology, like that of our closest living creatures - the great apes, is vegetarian in design. The structure of our skin, teeth, stomach and bowels, the length of our digestive system, the composition of our saliva, stomach acids and urine, etc. are all typically vegetarian. There is also a mountain of evidence proving that a meat-based diet contributes to a whole range of diseases. Many scientists now concede that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains appear best suited to the human body.

Finally, we know that we cannot subsist for long without food, and all food is matter that was once alive. But since we can subsist well and even thrive without meat, why take animal life in addition to the plant life we need to survive?

Among certain spiritually oriented persons one will often hear this strange rationalization: ?Sure, we eat meat,? they say, ?what of it? What is most important is not what enters the stomach but what comes out of the mind.? Although it is true that ridding oneself of one?s delusions, breaking out of the prison of the ego-I into a life of sympathy with all sentient beings is paramount, how can we establish a sympathetic rapport with non-humans while we are feasting on them?

"Do not cause pain to any creature,
Go back to your Home with honour."
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg 322


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