Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The immorality of vegetarianism

Growing up in a Brahmin household in India, I became habituated to ritual vegetarianism, based on concepts of hygiene and the separation of food groups, as well as the exclusion of complex non-vegetarian diet in a tropical climate. As I went to college, I had the freedom to partake of animal proteins and I slowly grew used to this in moderation. Indian cuisine is varied and there is such a great variety of vegetables, fruits, and dairy products that the eating of non-vegetarian food is moderate.
These days, many people who are progressive have turned to vegetarianism. That is not a bad thing, considering its positive effects on the human body, as well as the relatively low levels of energy used in the production of non-vegetarian food, particularly animals.
A sub-segment of these vegetarians however claim a sense of moral superiority compared to meat consumers and hence shun non-vegetarian food completely, not necessarily due to enlightened self-interest but as a dogma or caste ritual. There is an implication that consuming vegetables is better than killing animals for food.
I actually think that all types of food -- animal and vegetable -- should be eaten in moderation. Vegetables are as much part of the sentient universe as are animals and involve the same level of cruelty, more or less, to process for human consumption.
Climate, relative personal health, physical age, and the availability of animal vs. plant life should determine, in addition to taste, the mix of these foods in our daily diet. A novel idea in Hinduism, is the absence of non-vegetarian food in kitchens on particular days of the week. Some clever sage must have thought of this idea to discipline the amount of animal protein intake among the weak-minded.

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