If God wanted us to be vegetarian, then why has he given us canine teeth?
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1. Our canine teeth are not entirely like the canine teeth of carnivorous animals
2. Our canine teeth are only 4 out of 32, indicating thereby that meat, if at all it is taken, should be a small part of our diet.
3. God gives us free will and the facility to execute that free will. One such facility is canine teeth for those who want to misuse that free will. He indicates the right use through the scriptures as well as through our conscience and sensitivity.
Translation by Shalini Ahluwalia Mataji
If God wanted us to be vegetarian then why did he give us canine teeth?
God has given us only 4 canine teeth out of a total of 32 which means that its only a small portion its only 1/8th of the total number of teeth. And even among these four canine teeth – two are in the upper arch maxillary and two are the lower arch mandibular – even these canine teeth are more matter of nomenclature of canine rather than being canine like the canine teeth of meat-eating animals. Our teeth don’t protrude out, they don’t have as much strength to rip apart flesh as the teeth of dogs or lions. Yes, they are a little stronger than the other teeth, they can grip and tear slightly more so the name is given to them – canine teeth. So because they slightly resemble the teeth of the meat-eating animals that is why they are called as canine. But the degree of similarity is much lesser than the degree of dissimilarity. And even if we grant the point that we have four canine teeth as I said, because they are a small portion at best meat should only be a small portion of our life. Throughout human history people at different places in different times ate meat but when humans had to hunt and eat meat we humans were more often the hunted rather than the hunters. It is only in recent times that we have created systematic slaughterhouses where we grow and feed and fatten animals as if they were crops and then we kill them and have their meat as a main part of our diet. So dieticians especially those who are aware of the history of diet of human society, will tell us that this sort of predominance of meat in human diet has few if any precedents in human history. Because these sort of organized slaughterhouses don’t have much precedence in human history and that is why the way people are eating meat – practically morning, afternoon and evening – in hamburgers and other fast food which are not at all fast to digest – we are courting enormous amount of diseases. In fact, when people get heart problems one of the first recommendations that a doctor gives is to try to switch over to a vegetarian diet and American Cancer Association and other heart doctors have told as is written in this article with this mail about why we should adopt vegetarianism. Many typically modern diseases like heart diseases and cancers can be countered by switching to a vegetarian diet.
So the second point in the answer is that even if we are to eat meat and we justify that by saying that we have four canine teeth, meat should only be a small, small portion of the diet. Not a major portion, not a regular helping as it is nowadays because the number of canine teeth is very small. And if we look at the overall system of the human body, the length of the elementary canal is more similar to that of vegetarian creatures than of non-vegetarian creatures. Similarly the acid composition in the human body is also similar to the vegetarians rather than non-vegetarians and overall our health is promoted more, this is more or less universally agreed by doctors that vegetarian diet is more healthy than non-vegetarian diet.
But the question may still remain – if vegetarian is better for us then why has God given these canine teeth? That is because we human beings have free will and God wants us to make intelligent and responsible choices. We are meant to choose what we should do in our life and choose using our intelligence based on what is the best for us in the long run for our moral and spiritual growth. So yes meat is not intrinsically incompatible with our diet like say flesh is for cows or grass is for lions but meat is unsuitable. And that’s why if we look at the scriptures of the world whether it is Vedic literature or the Quran or the Bible, they generally encourage vegetarianism. They do not insist on vegetarianism but they encourage and recommend it and the insistence becomes more and more strong when we come to the highest religious principles. So the Srimad Bhagavatam among the Vedic literature gives the highest principles, it rejects all subordinate religious principles and that is why it says that meat-eating is one of the foundations of sinful life and must be given up if one wants to advance in God-consciousness.
So if we use our moral and spiritual sense, our conscience will ourselves see that causing the least pain to others is the most natural, the most sensitive, the most intelligent way of living. And as animals suffer a lot of pain due to their developed nervous system and we can avoid that pain to them and by avoiding that pain to them we can avoid pain to ourselves also, therefore it is best that we eat meat only rarely if at all we have to and even better if we can eschew if completely.
According to Srimad Bhagavatam, in Kaliyug because Kali has taken residence in these four places where gambling, intoxication, illicit sex and meat-eating take place so that’s why the Bhagavatam recommends strongly that meat-eating should be given up completely.
So to summarize, we have canine teeth but they are more dissimilar to the canine teeth of meat-eating species than similar, secondly we have only four which indicates that we should eat meat only in small quantities if at all we have to and that was how it was historically and lastly God does not force us to take a particular diet, he has given us free will especially in the human form the free will is developed so that we can make intelligent choices. So he allows us the facility to eat meat but he recommends in the scriptures our own conscience within our hearts that we should prefer and stick to vegetarian diet.
God doesn’t want us to be vegetarian. He wants us to enjoy ourselves separately from Him, as per our desires.
Vegetarianism has nothing to do with it unless we clearly state our desire to reunite with Him, in which case vegetarianism starts to matter.
Then yes, our canine teeth give us the test of our determination, we can swing both ways, so to speak.
But then again – temporarily, everyone hearing Krishna’s name is going to get rid of his anarthas “soon”. We can’t hold interest in meat eating against people attracted to Krishna’s name in any way, be it listening to our preaching or reading a single line from our books.
We can’t judge these people by their temporary behavior, they are already vaishnavas, Krishna’s Name is already working on their purification.
We can only beg them.
Just tell them the presence of canine teeth isn’t necessarily a characteristic of a meat eater. The great apes have much larger canine teeth and they only eat vegetation.