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I have thought and read quite a lot about this issue. In fact, you will be surprised to know that abstaining from meat is more a Buddhist and Jainist idea than a Hindu idea. Even the Bhagavad Gita contains no specific injunction against eating meat. The cows mentioned in the Rig Veda as "aghnya" or not for killing, are milking cows. The Rig Veda does not preclude the slaughter of bulls and cows on a variety of religious occasions. Aitareya Brahmana talks about sacrificing oxen to the gods. In the Griha Sutras, the sacrifice of cows is associated with many religious ceremonies. Even Manu, who was against meat-eating in most of his codes, stated, "One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water while mantras are recited, when Brahmins desire for one to do that, when one is engaged in performing a rite as per the law, and when one's life is in danger" (Manusmriti 5:27). In the Ramayana, Sage Agasthya ate a ram so that he could annihilate the demon Vatapi. In the Mahabharata it is stated that in the palace of Rantideva, about two thousand cows were killed every day to feed the Brahmins. Meat of all sorts appears during the wedding of Panjali in the Mahabharata.

I feel that as per the Puranas written after the birth of Buddhism and Jainism, Hindus are forbidden from the consumption of any meat or meat products. With the problems of heart diseases and cholesterol all over the world, we should propagate vegetarianism and abandon meat altogether.

Vegetarianism - India's Gift to the World

The idea that every living thing has a right to live is the cornerstone of Hindu Philosophy That, meat eating is unnatural and harmful to human beings has been emphasised in our scriptures since time immemorial. The world today is finding out very painfully the error of meat eating and the first and foremost problem with meat eating is health.


Heart Disease
Heart disease is the biggest killer disease in Britain today. In 1984 around 180,000 people died of heart disease in Britain. That equals one death every 3 or 4 minutes. Excessive consumption of meat with its high content of fats is one of the main causes of heart disease. The adoption of a vegetarian diet goes a long way towards combating the risk of coronary heart disease. By eliminating meat from the diet, one automatically cuts out major sources of fat. Apart from this, animals are given drugs to fatten them up artificially. Some of these drugs can be very harmful to the consumer of meat. In 1981, a massive statistical world survey of 41 countries concluded: TOTAL FAT AND ANIMAL PROTEIN STRONGLY CO-RELATE INTERNATIONALLY WITH HEART DISEASE, COLON CANCER AND BREAST CANCER.

Diet is responsible for 35% of all cancers. Cancer of the bowel is a major killer in western countries. High meat consumption and low fibre diets appear to be the main factors. One reason why vegetarians suffer far less from cancer of the bowel may be that the higher proportion of fibre in their diet means a reduced incidence of constipation. The regular and prompt elimination of waste matter from the body is absolutely vital to health as it prevents the build up of toxins in the bowels which may affect the whole system. Meat putrefies in the intestines much more rapidly than vegetable matter and so the dangers of constipation are increased. Chronic constipation also causes a painful inflammation of the colon known as divericular disease. Meat itself often contains nitrates which are used as preservatives by the meat processing industry and are known to be carcinogenic, many cows and chickens themselves suffer from tumours and cancers. Cancerous meat is not always removed at the slaughter house and may end up on the plate of the consumer. It is thus quite possible that one may end up eating a part of an animal that either has cancer or has been exposed to a virus that can cause cancer. Seventh-day Adventists in U.S.A. who are vegetarians due to religious reasons, have a lower cancer incidence generally, including a low incidence of breast cancer and leukaemia.

Arthritis is also associated with meat eating and excessive protein intake. Excessive protein in the blood can lead to a negative calcium imbalance in the body. When calcium is deficient in the bones it leads to arthritis.

Recent evidence seems to suggest that diabetes is more than just failure of insulin production; it would indicate a breakdown of the metabolism as a whole. It is possible that high meat diets over stimulate the system and contribute to the likelihood of diabetes. A survey in 1960 in U.S.A. showed that people on meat free diets were 25% less likely to contract diabetes.

Kidney Disease
Meat eaters require of their kidneys 3 times the amount of work in the elimination of nitrogenous waste than is demanded of those who do not eat meat. While kidneys are young they are able to bear this extra burden so that no evidence of injury appears. However, in advancing age they could fail to work efficiently.

Salmonella Poisoning
Death by food poisoning is an ever present and increasing risk for meat eaters. The term "food poisoning" is applied to acute inflammation of the Gastro Intestinal tract following the consumption of food contaminated by harmful organisms. More than three-quarters of all bacteria poisoning have been identified with animal foods. Epidemics of salmonella infection are usually traced to such foods as meat pies, sausages, beef and poultry. In Britain, notified cases of salmonella poisoning has risen from 10,000 in 1977 to 17,000 in 1983.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of the key risk factors in the development of heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. In the U.K. Over 240,000 people die every year as a result of a hypertension-related disease. There is considerable evidence to show that a meat free, high fibre diet can lower blood pressure while high meat, low fibre diet quite often results in carrying high blood pressure. Meat contains no fibre and a lot of sodium (salt) which, in itself, is a contributory factor in raising blood pressure prevention is the best form of treatment for high blood pressure, thus a vegetarian diet is the best diet

At a time when world population is continuing to grow, meat eating remains the most wasteful form of food. 90% of all agricultural land in Europe and America is used to grow crops, which are fed to animals. The animal itself uses 90% of protein in its growth, leaving only 10% for the consumer. Only 44% of the animal is edible. For every 16lbs of grain fed to animals, only 1lb of meat is produced. A 10% reduction in meat production would result in enough grain to feed 10 million people. Land which is used to produce food crops for direct human consumption feeds 14 times as many people as land used to grow food for animals - used for human consumption. While millions go undernourished, stable crops are fed to cattle for turning into burgers.

I end with a quotation from Gandhiji:

"He is a poor specimen of Hinduism who stops merely at cow protection when he can extend the arm of protection to other animals."

Nitin Mehta, Young Indian Vegetarians.

After working for 32 years in mental health field, especially providing service to the ethnic minority clients, Sudha Chavda have gained a world of experience. During the coming months Sudha will share her knowledge and experience with community members. Introduction

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Last modified: 18th December 2002