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Food for Thought

For many people, the act of stopping at a fast food joint, for a quick bite of a hamburger is commonplace. Rarely does the thought cross one’s mind that what is being eaten, was once alive, like us, breathing and feeling. The end-product is so expertly dressed and processed, that linking it to a gentle, brown-eyed cow gazing peacefully in a meadow, or a chirpy, bright-eyed, soft furred chick, is almost impossible, if not repugnant.

The past few decades have witnessed a dramatic increase in the world’s consumption of meat, fuelled by several myths and few facts about the potency of meat eating. Only now have some forward looking thinkers, doctors and researchers, with the courage to buck a multi billion dollar industry, begun to take a hard look at the efficacy of meat eating as opposed to the incredible damage it does to the nation’s health, wealth, environment and moral fiber. Let us examine some of them briefly:

Is meat the only source of protein?
No. There are several vegetable products like tofu, soybean, lentils (to name a few) that are a rich and easily digestible source of proteins with no harmful side effects. In fact, meat provides proteins far exceeding the body requirements, This causes what is known as “protein intoxication”, in which the renal system of the body have to work extra hard to flush the excess proteins from our body. This not only puts an enormous strain on the kidneys, but also causes lethargy and energy depletion in the body.

Are we anatomically suited for meat eating?
The human anatomy is not at all suited for meat consumption. The fact that our digestive juices have only 1/20th of the acid compared to that in carnivores, allows many harmful bacteria and viruses, abundantly present in the flesh of dead animals, to survive. Our intestinal tract is three times longer than that of carnivores, which leads the semi-digested meat to rot and fester inside our bodies, providing a fertile breeding ground for the existing and new parasites. The metabolism of our body is not suited to digest meat based fatty acids, which results in creation and deposit of cholesterol inside our arteries.

What does meat do to our body?
It causes killer diseases. Modern scientific research has conclusively established the link between several killer diseases and a meat based diet. Heart attacks due to cholesterol buildup, renal failures due to protein intoxication, colon cancer, ulcers, chronic heartburn, poisoning from meat contaminated with virus and bacteria – all these have been clearly identified as being caused by eating meat. In addition to this, the commercializing of the meat industry has resulted in a frantic race to get the most meat per animal. To achieve this, the animal is pumped with hundreds of drugs, chemicals and antibiotics, all aimed at fattening the animals to the fullest in their short, misery filled lives. When the meat of these animals is consumed, so are all these chemicals and drugs, creating havoc in the body of the consumer.

Then why are we living longer?
Statistical analysis has indicated that people are now living longer than they used to a hundred years ago, when meat eating was a limited luxury. However, this increased longevity has been caused by factors other than a meat eating. Primary amongst them is advances in the medical research, technological advances and greater accessibility to health related resources. And, are we actually living longer, or simply surviving longer? The intense technological treatment simply prolong the inevitable result of killer diseases, when a person should be actually relishing and enjoying a vibrant, active life.

Are there enough veggies for everybody?
Meat production is very wasteful. Its takes 16lbs of grains to produce 1lb of meat. Less than half of the carcass of the animal is actually consumed, the rest is waste. Currently 80% of all the grains grown in the country are used for livestock feed. Switching to a meat free diet will immediately solve the global problem of food scarcity and hunger. Re-deploying the millions of acres used to grow live stock feed will result in an abundant supply of fresh, healthy vegetables for all varieties.

Why are veggies expensive?
Clearly the numbers do not add up. If meat production is so expensive then why is relatively cheaper to have a full meal of meat as opposed to fresh vegetables. The fact is that we are all paying for the meat industry through our tax dollars. The meat industry and its ancillaries are heavily subsidized by the government, in terms of direct grants, free inspections, funded subsidies etc. All these millions of tax dollars will be freed up with the decline of the meat industry. Once the economies of scale kick in the fresh vegetable production and distribution industry, its cost will plummet to a mere fraction of what they are now.

How does meat eating effect our consciousness?
Eating the carcasses of innocent, dead animals gradually hardens one’s feeling of tenderness and mercy. We know that carnivores are aggressive, merciless and hostile, not only to their preys but also to one another. Similarly, eating meat excites the baser instincts in man, making him easily susceptible to violence, passion, anger and aggression. Whereas the animals are able to expend these baser instincts in their hunts and defense, man living in a controlled environment has to suppress all these within themselves, till the pent-up emotions become too strong to deal, resulting in violent, uncontrolled emotional blowups.

Is it religious to eat meat?
No religion in the world condones meat eating. The most ancient, Vedic scriptures, clearly recommend against meat eating, pointing out the severe karmic reactions one would have to suffer because of it. In fact, all major religions fully endorse a diet of vegetable and herbs, recommending meat eating only as the last resort in a matter of survival.

Then why eat meat?
There is no sound viable reason for meat eating. It is bad for the body, for the mind, for the environment, for the economy and for the consciousness. We are inflicting unimaginable miseries on innocent animals who bear no enmity to us. We en-cage them, fatten them on drugs and chemicals, forcing them to lead lives of physical and mental anguish, and then mercilessly slaughter them. All for our sense-gratification.

As you well wishers at the Hare Krishna temple, we humbly beg you to seriously consider the potential risks of meat eating and weigh them against the abundant benefits of a vegetarian diets. With the proper ingredients and guidance, several tasty vegetarian preparations, pleasing to the tongue, healthy to the body and purifying to the consciousness can be prepared and relished. We strongly recommend the following books, and would be glad to supply them to the interested readers:

1. The Higher Taste by Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
2. Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman
3. Diet for Transcendence by Steven
4. Vegetarian Cooking by Kurma Das