Vegetarianism: Going the Healthy Way

‘Live and let live’- this is the simple yet significant dictum that Jain saints have preached since ages. It gives you the right to enjoy your life bur also respect the lives of others, be it other humans, animals or any other living creatures. For this reason, Jain tenets hold vegetarianism not only as a way of life, but also as a means of attaining higher salvation by respecting God’s every creation.

While the modern man may banish this ideology for convenience, he certainly will not sideline health for taste.

Today, vegetarianism is catching up as a popular and healthy trend. The world is slowly turning veggie these days – From health conscious film stars to ideology driven animal rights’ activists.

While vegetarianism activists abroad hold demonstrations in a bid to prevent innocent animals from being butchered, health conscious Indians high on a conscience are promoting vegetarianism by turning vegetarian. The ideology put forward is twofold: slaying another living being for man’s delight is not acceptable to many. Many try to oppose this by putting forward the theory of survival of the fittest. In nature too, the stronger animal kills the weaker prey for its food. So why not man, who is the strongest animal? But, that is primarily, I think, the basic difference between man and animal. While an animal has to hunt down its food, man has been bestowed with great intelligence enough for him to grow his own food.

The need for him to hunt down animals was when he lived in caves, where animals were the only source of food for him. This is not to say that non-vegetarians are uncivilized people. It’s just that the need has vanished, what now prevails is only greed.

As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “There is space in this world for man’s need , not for his greed.”

And the ideology is not all words and principles, vegetarianism is as healthy and eco-friendly a trend as it is ideologically.

According to the 10% law of energy transfer put forth by biologists, there is a 90% loss of total energy at each level of the food chain. Each organism when consuming food from a lower tropic level, absorbs only 10% of its energy- The longer the chain, the greater the energy loss. The minimum energy loss occurs in food chains which stop at just two levels i.e. producers and consumers, in other words, of all herbivores (or vegetarians for humans). It has been said that if all humans convert to vegetarianism, the net energy conservation in the environment would be huge.

Apart from energy conservation, the biggest boon of being a vegetarian, is the health factor.

It is a well proven fact that most non-vegetarian dishes are excessively high in cholestrol and fat content. Non –vegetarian food is not prescribed for heart patients and those suffering from obesity. Although there are many other factors for obesity, but a heavy non-vegetarian diet is one of the main reasons for protruding bellies.

Non- vegetarians dishes like those made from chicken, pork, and meat are especially high in spices and are thus, cooked in excess of oil and butter, thereby furthering the unhealthy effect if the food. Cholesterol, heart-ailment etc. are very common in those who take a heavily non-vegetarian diet.

Apart from fat content, non-vegetarian food is a big source of infections and diseases pertaining to animals. Animal diseases like bird flu (which created a huge scare among many nations) can be easily transmitted to humans consuming non-vegetarian food from the infected source. Although food infections can flourish anywhere, even in vegetarian food, non-vegetarian preparations are especially at a very high risk. In developing countries like India, non-vegetarian food cooked in local eateries is at a lot of risk with lack of cleanliness and refrigeration facilities. Non-vegetarian preparations can spell a doom for the middle class consumer. From mild dysentery and diarrhea to fatal infections such as tapeworm manifestation (from pork), there are a number of infectious diseases caused by non-vegetarian food .Also areas where animals are reared and slaughtered on a mass scale are havens of infections and diseases . They may even be likened to concentration camps organized by the Nazis.

Another argument which is also put forward by those defending non-vegetarianism is that many non –vegetarian items are essential for health. Fish is a good source of cod liver oil which is highly beneficial for the skin and eyes. Sea food is also supposed to be in good source of minerals and vitamins and some items even have medicinal properties.

Although it may prove to be a valid point, I would rather we extract the useful products from animals (if necessary) and leave them to be free for their own good.

We consume many animal products like milk, wool, honey etc. To obtain them we rear animals and the same can be done with others too. There are bottles of cod liver oil and fish available in the market. One doesn’t necessarily have to eat all kinds of animals only to gain a few useful products from some.

It’s true that not everybody in this world can turn a vegetarian, but we can at least stop the slaughter of animals on such a large scale. People can start limiting their non-vegetarian diets to bare minimum or to only essential items because gorging on living creatures is not only a cruelty towards animals but also cruelty towards our own bodies.

Nishi Jain

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