Why Vegetarianism? - A Spiritual Primer

Why Vegetarianism?

Each year thousands of acres of rainforests are burnt to prepare them for cattle farming. Big, strong and beautiful trees are chopped down in order to plant pastures to raise livestock. This is done on such a large scale that it is already affecting the weather of the world. Moreover, in areas where water is scarce, the meat industry takes away thousands of gallons of water daily to raise cattle and fowl. Similarly, to meet the market demand, the fish industry is dramatically affecting the ecosystem of the oceans. Each year thousands of dolphins die in the nets that are used to trap tuna. An unknown number of aquatic species have already become extinct while others are on the verge of extinction. Ecologically and socially the price we pay is very high. It is morally wrong, unnecessary from a health point of view, and much more expensive to feed ourselves on cattle, fish, fowl and their eggs. We could meet our needs for protein from foods of vegetable origin more simply and economically, and not have to tax so heavily the animals, the forests, ourselves and the planet.

The toxins and disease organisms in the flesh of animals transmit illness to humans. The concentration of uric acid in animal food places a burden upon the human body that is very hard to eliminate and is the cause of all types of health-related problems. If we study our bodies closely, we will see that we were not genetically engineered to eat meat. Our teeth and nails are not like those of carnivorous animals, and our intestines are long – unlike those of meat-eating animals – which makes our capacity to eliminate animal toxins dangerously slow.

Ponder over the fate of millions of cows, goats, fish, sheep and chickens that are butchered every year for us to cook and eat! We kill them without so much as a thought – mercilessly – or at best we have others butcher them on our behalf. How unmindful and unconcerned we remain about their suffering! Do we ever face these facts? It is senseless that all this pain is inflicted, and these economic, ecological and social problems are caused, to give pleasure to our taste buds for a few short minutes. What we do not realize is that when we base our happiness on the suffering of other beings, we bring upon ourselves negative and undesirable consequences.

One can be a vegetarian for health, social, humane, economic, ethical or ecological reasons. However, the reason saints advise us to abstain completely from taking meat of any kind is spiritual. It is based on the law of karma or compensation which can be summed up in the Biblical saying: “As ye sow, so shall ye reap” (Gal. 6:7). The burden we carry of destructive actions we have done in the past is already heavy and weighs us down; we should stop adding to this load we have unknowingly put upon ourselves. If we sow suffering, one day we have to reap suffering. If we kill for our food or pay others who have killed on our behalf, we are responsible for every iota of suffering we cause. We are inviting pain on ourselves in amounts equivalent to the pain we inflict. Even if it means we have to come back to the creation in another life, we have to meet the consequences of our actions one day. This law of equivalent compensation, just as Newton’s law in physics, is precise, unavoidable and unchanging.

It is very difficult to leave this plane of consciousness if we are responsible, directly or indirectly, for the killing of animals. The debt is just too big and will have to be paid. It is for this reason that true spiritual teachers advise us to stop feeding ourselves with the blood and pain of other beings. They want us to stop adding weight to our already heavy load of karmas.

A needle is naturally attracted towards a magnet, but if we put a heavy weight on the needle it cannot be pulled to the magnet. In the same way, if we keep putting heavy weights on ourselves that keep us at the lower levels of creation, it will be impossible for us to make spiritual progress.