Thinking Beyond: Vegetarianism Possibilities and Prospects

Anoop Swarup

Photo by Buenosia Carol on

“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.” Indeed as Thomas Edison asserted, the theme, ‘Vegetarianism Possibilities and Prospects’, presents the moral dilemma that I have myself faced over the years, shifting my own thoughts, beliefs and also the sense and sensibilities for a new normal in a post-Covid world. Well, the first question is – how do we define vegetarianism? “The simplest definition of vegetarianism is a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh”. I found this on google guru and immediately could grasp that it is now an evolving trend, to include those who are pescatarians, who eat fish and seafood; and lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products but not eggs. The vegans and even the fruitarians follow a dietary regimen that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant food.”

I did glance through the Wikipedia where, Vegetarianism is defined as “the practice of abstaining from the consumption of meat (red meat, poultry, seafood, and the flesh of any other animal), and may also include abstention from by-products of animal slaughter. A vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy.” The types of of Vegetarianism in Wikipedia too include, Vegan, Lacto Vegetarian, Ovo Vegetarian, Lacto-ovo vegetarian, Pescatarian (Pescetarian), Pollotarian, Flexitarian and the list is ever expanding. Human reverence and empathy towards all life is indeed a evolving consequence of its own existential paradox but more importantly the need of the hour in a post covid world. Yes this is what Albert Einstein had to say,“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.”

Before we even deliberate on the question of being Vegetarian or even Vegan, let us at the outset, study the rationale if any only on scientific lines.

In a 2018 Oxford University study the most comprehensive to date of the damage animal farming does to the planet revealed that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as it provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

In another Harvard University report in 2019, it was claimed that if everyone in the UK went vegan, humans would still have enough food for everyone to eat. If the UK returned meat, dairy and egg farms back to forest and grew health-promoting crops for human consumption, humans would be able to sustain calorie and protein needs in place of feed grown for animals.

Ethical vegetarians believe that killing an animal, like killing a human, especially one who has equal or lesser cognitive abilities than the animals in question, can only be justified in extreme circumstances and that consuming a living creature for its enjoyable taste, convenience, or nutrition value is not a sufficient cause. Another common view is that humans are morally conscious of their behaviour in a way other animals are not, and therefore subject to higher standards. Jeff McMahan proposes that denying the right to life and humane treatment to animals with equal or greater cognitive abilities than mentally disabled humans is an arbitrary and discriminatory practice based on
habit instead of logic. In contrast, opponents of ethical vegetarianism do argue that animals are not moral equals to humans and so consider the comparison of eating livestock with killing people to be fallacious. However, this view does not excuse cruelty, but maintains that animals do not possess the rights a human has.

Is there a religious basis, of course driven more by moral, ethical or value based beliefs and virtues. As an instance, Jainism teaches vegetarianism as moral conduct as also some major sects of Hinduism. Buddhism in general does not prohibit meat eating, while Mahayana Buddhism encourages vegetarianism as beneficial for developing compassion. Other denominations that advocate a vegetarian diet include the Seventh-day Adventists, the Rastafari movement, the Ananda Marga and the Hare Krishna Movement. Christianity, as also Sikhism, does not equate spirituality with diet and does not specify a vegetarian or meat diet.

The post Coronal world harmony with nature instead of exploitation and indiscriminate killings of animals leads us to another scientifically documented and ecologically sensible defence of vegetarianism.

In conclusion, it is projected that by 2040 only 40% of the global population will be consuming meat, with 35% consuming lab grown meat and 25% vegan meat replacements. Between 2012 and 2016 there was a 185% increase in the number of vegan products launched in the UK alone.

Indeed, if the world went vegan or vegetarian, it may save 8 million human lives by 2050, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and lead to healthcare-related savings and avoided climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

In the end, we indeed will do well, not to forget what Mahatma Gandhi had to say, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” The shape of things to come!

Professor (Dr) Anoop Swarup, Founding Vice Chancellor JLU, Chair, Governing Council, Center for Global Nonkilling


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Jain, Champat Rai (1917), The Practical Path, The Central Jaina Publishing House This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

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