Are there any logical reasons to choose vegetarianism?

by Chaitanya Charan dasJanuary 13, 2012

Answer: Yes; there are many. Let’s discuss four logical reasons here based on scientific research in terms of an acronym that encapsulates the benefits of vegetarianism: HELP (Health, Environment, Livestock, Poverty). When we choose vegetarian food instead of non-vegetarian food, we help the world in four ways: by improving our own health, by preventing unnecessary harm to the environment, by stopping murderous violence against the livestock and by decreasing global hunger and poverty.

1.   Health:

Cows’ stomachs are made to digest grass, not grains. Still, most slaughterhouses feed grains to their captives in order to avoid the costs associated with providing for grazing land. Due to this unnatural change in their diet, the poor animals become afflicted by many diseases. To counter these diseases, they are routinely administered antibiotics, which lead to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their bodies. When we humans eat their flesh, those resistant bacteria enter our bodies and render ineffective the antibiotics we take. Referring to these resistant bacteria, food researcher John Robbins, author of the widely-acclaimed Diet For A New America: How Your Food Choices Affect Your Health, Happiness, and the Future of Life on Earth, states, “These are the new ‘superbugs’ that are increasingly rendering our ‘miracle drugs’ ineffective.”

 

Anatomy:

The following is an extract from the table The Comparative Anatomy of Eating[1], prepared by Milton R. Mills, M.D.

1 -Facial Muscles 2 – Jaw Type 3 – Jaw Joint Location 4 – Jaw Motion
Carnivore Reduced to allow wide mouth gape Angle not expanded On same plane as molar teeth Shearing; minimal side-to-side motion
Herbivore Well-developed Expanded angle Above the plane of the molars No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back
Omnivore Reduced Angle not expanded On same plane as molar teeth Shearing; minimal side-to-side
Human Well-developed Expanded angle Above the plane of the molars No shear; good side-to-side, front-to-back

 

5 – Mouth Opening vs. Head Size 6 – Teeth (Canines)
Carnivore Large Long, sharp and curved
Herbivore Small Dull and short or long (for defense), or none
Omnivore Large Long, sharp and curved
Human Small Short and blunted

 

7 – Teeth (Molars) 8 – Chewing 9 – Saliva
Carnivore Sharp, jagged and blade shaped None; swallows food whole No digestive enzymes
Herbivore Flattened with cusps vs complex surface Extensive chewing necessary Carbohydrate digesting enzymes
Omnivore Sharp blades and/or flattened Swallows food whole and/or simple crushing No digestive enzymes
Human Flattened with nodular cusps Extensive chewing necessary Carbohydrate digesting enzymes

 

10 – Stomach Acidity 11 – Stomach Capacity 12 – Length of Small Intestine 13 – Colon
Carnivore Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract 3 to 6 times body length Simple, short and smooth
Herbivore pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach Less than 30% of total volume of digestive tract 10 to more than 12 times body length Long, complex; may be sacculated
Omnivore Less than or equal to pH 1 with food in stomach 60% to 70% of total volume of digestive tract 4 to 6 times body length Simple, short and smooth
Human pH 4 to 5 with food in stomach 21% to 27% of total volume of digestive tract 10 to 11 times body length Long, sacculated

 

14 – Liver 15– Kidney 16 – Nails
Carnivore Can detoxify vitamin A Extremely concentrated urine Sharp claws
Herbivore Cannot detoxify vitamin A Moderately concentrated urine Flattened nails or blunt hooves
Omnivore Can detoxify vitamin A Extremely concentrated urine Sharp claws
Human Cannot detoxify vitamin A Moderately concentrated urine Flattened nails

 

Mother Nature could hardly have made a clearer statement about what sort of diet is natural for humans than what she has already done through the features of human anatomy.

Nutrition

Let us now examine the common notion that if humans don’t eat meat, they will suffer from protein deficiency.

Commenting on this idea, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. and comprised of 4,500 medical doctors, state,“High protein diets are unhealthy. However, adequate but not excess amounts of protein to maintain body tissues, including muscle, are still important and can be easily achieved on a vegetarian diet.” PCRM[2] points out that the excess proteins resulting from a meat-centered diet contribute to osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, and impaired kidney functioning. For adequate protein intake, PCRM recommends the following vegetarian protein sources:

Healthy Protein Sources (in grams)
Black beans, boiled (1 cup) 15.2
Broccoli (1 cup) 4.6
Bulgur, cooked (1 cup) 5.6
Chickpeas, boiled (1 cup) 14.5
Lentils, boiled (1 cup) 17.9
Peanut butter (2 tbsp) 8.0
Spinach, boiled (1 cup) 5.4
Whole wheat bread (1 slice) 2.7

And yet, we may still have a residual doubt: Will a vegetarian diet give us sufficient physical strength? Why not? If a vegetarian diet gives elephants, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses their super-human strength, why would it not provide us with our normal human strength?

Disease

In his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book How to Survive in America,The Poisoned, Lewis Regenstein writes,“Meat contains approximately 14 times more pesticides than do plant foods. . .Thus, by eating foods of animal origin, one ingests greatly concentrated amounts of hazardous chemicals.”

Naturally, these chemicals cause many diseases in meat-eaters. Let’s look at just two of them.

Heart disease:Numerous studies have confirmed that heart disease is initiated or aggravated bya meat-centered diet. This verdict is so unequivocal and unanimous that that William Castelli, M.D., director of the Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running clinical study in medical history, declared, “If Americans[3] adopted a vegetarian diet, the whole thing [the heart disease epidemic] would disappear.”[4]

Cancer:  Dr. T. Colin Campbell, one of the world’s foremost epidemiological researchers, announces, “Human studies also support this carcinogenic effect of animal protein, even at usual levels of consumption. . . .No chemical carcinogen is nearly so important in causing human cancer as animal protein.” [5]

The medical costs of meat consumption – based on 1992 data, but inflated to 2011 dollars and accounting for increases in medical costs –are estimated at approximately $60 billion to $130 billion annually. If only five percent of these costs were saved, it would amount to $30 billion to $65 billion over a ten-year period.[6]


2.   Environment:

Assembly-line meat factories (a euphemism for hi-tech slaughterhouses) cause enormous pollution of water-bodies. In a New York Times article (2008/01/27), specialist food writer Mark Bittmanstates stated, “In Iowa [USA] alone, hog farms and hog factories produce more than 50 million tons of excrement.”

Moreover, these meat factories also generate alarming amounts of greenhouse gas. Eminent environmentalist R K Patchauri, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reports in The Impact of Meat Production and Consumption on Climate Change, “A Japanese study estimated that 2.2 pounds of beef emits as much carbon dioxide as is emitted by the average European car every 155 miles.” He further points out, “The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.”

The environmental fallouts of assembly-line meat factories don’t end with water and air pollution; they extend far beyond to include the consumption of enormous amounts of energy and the consumption of ever-increasing amounts of grain, thus leading to staggering deforestation.

3.   Livestock:

Researcher Arthur Poletti, author of God Does Not Eat Meat,states, “The average American consumes in a 72-year lifetime approximately 11 cattle, 3 lambs and sheep, 23 hogs, 45 turkeys, 1,100 chickens and 862 pounds of fish. . . In the United States alone approximately 660,000 animals are killed for meat every hour.

Our meat diet causes not just death, but also torturous suffering. Here are just three examples of the terrible torture that is typical in slaughterhouses.

Hens: Hens are so tightly packed in battery cages that they cannot move an inch during their encagement. The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) recommends giving each hen four inches of ‘feeder space.’ In this little space the birds cannot stretch their wings or legs, and cannot fulfil normal behavioral patterns. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions. They are forced by chemical manipulation to lay about 200–220 eggs every year, leading to weakened bones and several other painful maladies.

Male chicks: Because male chicks can’t lay eggs, they are of no economic value. They are ruthlessly disposed of by being tossed into trash cans or plastic bags, where they undergo excruciating deaths by suffocation or by being crushed under the weight of other chicks. In some cases they are mercilessly ground to powder while still alive so that their remains can be made into manure.

Veal: Newborn calves are, within twenty-four hours of their birth, taken away from their mothers to veal factories. There, they are locked up in small boxes where they don’t even have enough space to stand. This is where they are confined for the full duration of their lives. As if this were not bad enough, the calves are injected with hormones and antibiotics to artificially fatten them more and more – until the day they are slaughtered.

Even in pre-modern times, eminent thinkers have spoken out against flesh food due to the cruelty it involves. For example, renaissance artist Leonardo Da Vinci stated, “Truly man is king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds theirs. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat.” But in modern times, the setting up of meat factories has aggravated the cruelty to such hideous levels that thinker William Ralph compared humanity with the Devil: “We have enslaved the rest of animal creation and have treated them so badly that, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”

4.   Poverty:

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 930 million people on our planet live in such poverty that they suffer from hunger or malnutrition. This starvation is not due to shortage of land, but due to misuse of land; more land is used for growing fodder for livestock than for human food. According to Dr David Pimentel, as quoted in The Vegan Sourcebook, the percentage of all cereal grains grown in the US that goes to feed livestock and not people is a scandalous seventy-two percent.

Such use of land is inherently inefficient, as is explained by researcher George Stanley McGovern in his book Food and Population: A World in Crisis.
When animals eat grains and then humans eat their flesh, the nutritional value that humans get is around one-fifth of what they would get if they ate the grains directly.

Land taken by vegetarians vs non-vegetariansA meat-centered diet is inefficient not only in nutritional value, but also in land utilization. The US Department of Agricultural Economic Research Service reports that 16 kg of grain are needed to produce 1 kg of beef. Consequently, as is depicted in the adjacent diagram, the average amount of grain required to feed one beef-eater can be used to feed ten grain-eaters.

The Appeal to Conscience

In our present times, we have scores of statistics like the ones quoted above to make the logic of vegetarianism compellingly clear. But even without these statistics, the resonance of vegetarianism with our essential human conscience and intelligence is so intuitively strong that eminent thinkers throughout history have not only chosen but also championed vegetarianism. To illustrate, here are the quotes of just a few reputed vegetarians:

“As long as man massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love…Those that kill animals to eat their flesh tend to massacre their own.”

– Pythagoras

“Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat.”

– Leonardo Da Vinci

“Flesh eating is unprovoked murder.”

– Benjamin Franklin

“The flesh eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to moral feeling- killing. By killing man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity – that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself – and by violating this his own feelings become cruel.”

– Leo Tolstoy

“When a man wants to murder a tiger, he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him, he calls him ferocity…While our bodies are the living graves of murdered animals, how can we expect any ideal conditions on earth?”

– George Bernard Shaw

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind….Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet. ”

– Albert Einstein

“A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of a carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher’s stall passes as food.”

– J. H. Kellogg.

“We have enslaved the rest of animal creation and have treated so badly that, if they were to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”

– William Ralph

Breaking free from moral cowardice

The foregoing statistics-based analysis demonstrates that the acronym HELP is not just a mnemonic; it conveys the encouraging reality that helping the world is within the power of each one of us. It begins by choosing vegetarianism.

To help people evolve to vegetarianism, Mark W Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute calls for “a stronger public relations campaign in the reduction of meat consumption – one like that around cigarettes – emphasizing personal health, compassion for animals, and doing good for the poor and the planet.”

Unfortunately, information alone doesn’t seem to be enough. Many meat-eaters, even when they are informed about the harms of meat-eating, become angry and brand the call to vegetarianism as an infringement on their freedom of choice. American author Matthew Scully unmasks such pretentious calls to freedom unceremoniously: “When he [the meat-eater] gets angry at being reminded of animal suffering that his own daily choices might help avoid, that is moral cowardice.”

Of course, the cause of this moral cowardice in most cases is not an innate evilness but an unspoken fear of losing the pleasure of eating good-tasting food. Krishna consciousness allays this fear by providing a lifestyle that makes moral courageousness easy and enjoyable. Let’s see how.

1. Spiritual food: Vegetarianism naturalizes our diet; Krishna conscious culture goes further to spiritualize it by sanctifying the vegetarian food.As recommended in theBhagavad-gita (3.17),Krishna conscious cuisine comprises numerous delicacies offered to Krishna and taken as His remnants (prasada). These offer such immense satisfaction to our taste buds that we can soon reject and even forget the taste of flesh and blood. Moreover, prasada goes beyond satisfying our material senses to whetting our appetite for spiritual happiness.

2. Spiritual happiness: Prasada is just one of the many aids offered by Krishna consciousness to re-connect with Krishna, who is the reservoir of unlimited spiritual happiness. This re-connection helps us reclaim the spiritual happiness that is our right as beloved children of Krishna. Once we experience just a fraction of that happiness, we can eschew harmful sensual indulgences like meat-eating that were earlier irresistible – not reluctantly, but joyfully (Bhagavad-gita 2.61). Just as the candle that was indispensable at night becomes entirely dispensable once the sun has risen, the tastes that were irresistible during our night-like spiritual unawareness become entirely dispensable once we are spiritually illuminated. Self-restraint no longer remains an exercise in self-denial; it becomes a welcome choice for catapulting us to further spiritual happiness. The easiest way to experience this happiness is by regularly chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra as a spiritual discipline and additionally as a spiritual defense mechanism at those times when we feel tempted by our previous habits.

To conclude, objective logical analysis provides a clinching case for vegetarianism, and Krishna consciousness helps us clinch the case.


[2] All PCRM references are from http://www.pcrm.org

[3] I have focussed on American statistics in this article because, firstly, the most systematic and extensive research on this topic has been done in America and, secondly, America is the trend-setter for most of the world.


About The Author
Chaitanya Charan das
16 Comments
  • Joshi Parth Chandrakant
    January 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    amazing article;i am planning to send it to all of my known peole

  • Pranab Modak
    January 14, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Eye opening blogs !!

  • Vaibhav Sharma
    January 14, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    Hare Krishna Prji, Amazing article and specially the acronym HELL. Also can we replace Krishna-tarianism with Krishna-etarianism that sounds more like Prasad.
    Your Student

  • Birendra
    January 16, 2012 at 4:27 pm

    Just a wonderful article. Hope this is convincing for non-veg people whose number is on the rise even in a country like India.

  • Anand Naidu
    January 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    As usual an eye opener, with the statistical data, thi article is a must convincing one

  • Devesh
    January 18, 2012 at 6:53 pm

    Dear Friends,
    I have question. i am basically from science background, and as title of your website suggest you are dealing with spirituality from scientific point of view. The main basis of science is putting hypothesis and defending it on the basis of proofs, citation, research data etc.
    As your citation has plenty of claims can i have refernce fro these claims. For eg you are saying “The unnatural change of diet for cattle from grass to grains causes many diseases in them. So they are routinely administered antibiotics, which lead to the formation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria being formed in their bodies.” Do you have any refernce for the scientific article or research published stating this finding?? If yes please send it to my email id.

    • Chaitanya Charan das
      January 21, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      Thank you for pointing this out; i have added references to all the points in the article. I thank Siddhartha, USA, for help in research. I also request all readers to refer to the revised article and to forward this version to their friends.

  • Lajjavati dd
    January 19, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Hare Krishna, prabhuji. Pamho. Agtsp.

    Thank you for presenting the facts so cogently. One more point of difference between carnivores and herbivores: carnivores have the ability to see in the dark and an enhanced sense of hearing to enable them to hunt stealthily, while herbivores lack this ability.

  • Harendra Modak
    January 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm

    Thank you for this elaborated answer. I was searching this only.

  • Shubham
    January 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    HK
    Excellent article.
    Thanks a lot for all the data, and the article as a whole.
    Will be making my non-vegetarian friends read this.

  • administrator
    March 12, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    (Submitted by email)

    Thank you very much. This article must go places. I have never seen a more scientifically and dispassionately written article on the subject with such simplicity that can connect with people.

    Subramanian K.S

  • Ashish
    January 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Researchers Gordon Hodson and Kimberly Costello recently published their work ‘The link between devaluing animals and discrimination’… It says that by being cruel towards animals, humans psychology becomes more prone towards being cruel to other humans. This piece of work further supports vegetarianism.

  • Keshav
    January 27, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Some Quotes on Vegetarianism I Found On Facebook,
    some of them are already present in the article .

    These great vegetarians, such as Pythagoras, Plato, Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, George Bernard Shaw, Nikola Tesla, Shopenhauer, Thoreau, Leonardo Da Vinci, Voltaire etc. knew there could be no spiritual advancement while attaining ones nourishment from cruelty and the exploitation of others.

    Albert Einstein:
    “Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”

    Leonardo DaVinci:
    “I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.” DaVinci claimed that flesh eaters were using their bodies as “grave yards.”

    Charles Darwin:
    “The love for all living creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”

    Thomas Edison:
    “Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.”

    George Bernard Shaw:
    “We pray on Sundays that we may have light to guide our footsteps on the path we tread; We are sick of war we don’t want to fight. And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.”

    Percy Bysshe Shelley:
    “Let the advocate of animal food force himself to a decisive experiment on its fitness, and as Plutarch recommends, tear a living lamb with his teeth and, plunging his head into its vitals slake his thirst with the steaming blood.”

    Henry David Thoreau (1817-62), U.S. philosopher, author, naturalist. Walden, “Economy” (1854):

    One farmer says to me, “You cannot live on vegetable food solely, for it furnishes nothing to make bones with”; and so he religiously devotes a part of his day to supplying his system with the raw material of bones; walking all the while he talks behind his oxen, which, with vegetable-made bones, jerk him and his lumbering plow along in spite of every obstacle.

    Henry David Thoreau:
    I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.

    Mark Twain:
    It is just like man’s vanity and impertinence to call an animal dumb because it is dumb to his dull perceptions.

    Benjamin Franklin:
    Flesh eating is “unprovoked murder.” On the subject of vegetarianism, Franklin noted that one will achieve “greater progress, from the greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension.”

    Thomas A Edison, 1847-1931:
    “The Doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.”

    Francis of Assisi:
    “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission-to be of service to them wherever they require it.”

    Mahatma Gandhi:
    “To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”

    Abraham Lincoln:
    “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.”

    Thomas Paine:
    “Everything of persecution and revenge between man and man, and everything of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty.”

    Henry Salt:
    “The emancipation of men from cruelty and injustice will bring with it in due course the emancipation of animals also. The two reforms are inseparably connected, and neither can be fully realized alone.”

    Albert Schweitzer:
    “…the time is coming when people will be amazed that the human race existed so long before it recognized that thoughtless injury to life is incompatible with real ethics. Ethics is in its unqualified form extended responsibility to everything that has life.”

    George Bernard Shaw:
    “Vivisection is a social evil because if it advances human knowledge, it does so at the expense of human character.”

    Leo Tolstoy:
    “If a man aspires towards a righteous life, his first act of abstinence is from injury to animals.”

    Alice Walker:
    “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women created for men.”

    President Abraham Lincoln:
    I care not for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.

    Pythagoras:
    Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul.

    Pythagoras:
    The earth affords a lavish supply of richness of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter; only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and not even all of those, because horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass.

    George Bernard Shaw:
    A man of my spiritual intensity does not eat corpses.

    George Bernard Shaw:
    All great truths begin as blasphemies.

    George Bernard Shaw:
    Animals are my friends; I don’t eat my friends.

    John Robbins (p. 49 Diet for a New America):
    Our understanding of what constitutes intelligence is utterly relative. If an aborigine drafted an I.Q. test, for example, all of Western civilization would probably flunk. We have a very convenient and self-serving way of defining intelligence. If an animal does something, we call it instinct. If we do the same thing for the same reason, we call it intelligence.

    Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi:
    “To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”

    “I was a cannibal for twenty-five years. For the rest I have been a vegetarian.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

    In addition to his writings on non-violence, Leo Tolstoy’s advocacy of vegetarianism led to his friendship with Mohandas Gandhi. He wrote several essays about vegetarianism, but perhaps never more compellingly than when he said:
    “flesh eating is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act, which is contrary to moral feeling: killing.”

    Nikola Tesla was a humanitarian who loved animals. He argued that animal slaughter was “wanton and cruel” and eventually became a vegetarian.

    Voltaire was an advocate of civil rights and freedom. He also believed in the virtues of vegetarianism. He once wrote that “men fed upon carnage, and drinking strong drinks, have all an impoisoned and arid blood which drives them mad in a hundred different ways.” This sounds like an early precursor of the phrase “you are what you eat.”

  • Vikas Sandhan
    February 13, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you for the valuable information .
    Quantity of water required to produce one kg. meat is many times to produce one kg. foodgrains.

  • Shreyas
    June 22, 2013 at 7:07 am

    Hare Krsna Prji! Wonderful article, It would really be an eye opener for those who aren’t following vegetarianism.

  • October 7, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    very nice article.
    plz send me few more

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