Today, we celebrate the birth of a non-violent way of life, symbolized by the coming to our world of M.K. Gandhi. Considered as the father of the nation, his doctrine of non-violence steered the mode in which the British government was eventually overthrown. Gandhi talks about the type of relationship that should ideally exist between man and animals: mutual aid.
Us: Herbivores or Omnivores?
When it comes to vegetarianism, I am always faced with the primary question: What is it that human beings have naturally evolved to consume? Today, the answer is between herbivorous and omnivorous. A 2009 Huffington Post piece on human evolution talks about how human beings are naturally vegetarians. Stripping away any bias one might have because of being an animal rights activist, the safest reply would be to say that we are omnivores. Our ability to eat plants and animals arose as an evolutionary asset to increase our chances of survival in a wide range of geographical conditions.
Fixing the Food Chain: Not Linear but Interdependent Matrix
The school-book notion of food chain is a linear movement: the grass to grasshopper, to the frog, to the snake, to the hawk and so on. However, a deeper understanding of ecology reveals that there is not a linear but an interdependent web of food chain.
The ecosystem comprises of a series of inter-related connections between the different living and non-living things. Such an understanding will keep away objections which point out that- “If I do not eat chicken, then their population would increase exponentially.” or “What would happen of the prey if we don’t eat the predator (chicken or cow or goat)?”. In eating any particular animal, we are not only dealing with a prey-predator relationship but a matrix of relationships in which the animal is embedded.
Ethic of Eating Animals
Today, it is scientifically proven that animals can suffer. They are conscious beings who have complex nervous systems that exhibit structures of pain and suffering. The reasons mentioned for why one should ethically choose vegetarianism are:
- Growing scientific research shows that it is possible for the human body to live healthily on plant-based balanced diet. Provided this is the case, then would you choose to eat living beings for the pleasure of your sense organs alone?
- Pragmatically, the amount of money spent on livestock industry- the growth and maintenance of the slaughter houses and farms leads to repercussions which far outweigh the transient pleasure a person gets from eating of the meat. Animal agriculture has been found to be the leading cause of species extinction, water pollution, ocean dead zones, and habitat destruction.
- For those who believe that the eating of animals is only for its nutritional value and not solely the sensual pleasure will have to face the question: Would you eat human beings who have equal mental capacities as animals which we generally consume?
Arguments against vegetarianism also posit the suffering of plants to hint at the hypocrisy of vegetarians. However, the point remains: even if plants do suffer and we move towards a type of living where we cause minimal pain, would it be justified to eat animals? Regardless of plants suffering or not suffering, the case of animal suffering stands.
Coupling together yet another Gandhian doctrine, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” (to counter the argument, “What will happen if only I do it?”), we drop the ball in your lap: What do you think? Do you eat animals and why?