herbivore

I’m often asked why I am a vegetarian – is it for health reasons, moral reasons, or both? For me, it is both, and very difficult to separate one from the other. A principle of yoga is ahimsa, or non-violence/non-harming/non-injurious. Along with the concept of karma, and the adage “you are what you eat,” I think the violence that is inflicted upon modern animals who are raised for food is directly ingested into the body. In that way, health concerns and moral concerns are one – I don’t want the bodily karma of violence.

But after listening to this debate on “World Have Your Say” and reading these articles, another moral reason has popped up. Another principle in yoga is aparigraha, or non-hoarding. Basically it means to not take more than you need, resisting a lifestyle of excess in favor of one of necessity. I don’t need meat to survive. I feel much better when I don’t eat meat. So if I were to eat meat, I’d be taking more than I need. So my vegetarianism is also an attempt to not be greedy – leaving things that I could take but choose not to in the spirit of leaving more for others.

In this way, I believe that vegetarianism is one of the things I can do to end world hunger, at least in principle. People all over the world are dying from hunger. Hunger. As a mother, it is something I cannot bear to think of  – a child going to bed hungry. The debate on WHYS generally does not argue against the idea that vegetarianism is the way to go, on a global level, except for the woman who makes the point about exploding animal populations. The argument against it is largely practical, in that people just won’t do it. In the West, it’s like a right to be able to eat meat. In developing countries, eating meat is a luxury, a sign of prosperity that people will not want to give up after only having it for a short while.

But something like 16 pounds of grains are used to produce 1 pound of meat. In that way, grains that could be used to feed people are being used to feed animals which are then being used to feed people in rich parts of the world, like the United States. I have no delusions that people will give up meat completely; I attest that it’s a difficult thing to totally change your diet. But eating meat just a little less – like giving it up one or two days a week – could feed hundreds of people. Of course, the causation has to work just so – decreased demand for meat in the West leads to decreased production of meat leads to increased grains for people. And I’m not sure that vegetarianism does anything about the rising cost of all foods. Grains will still be expensive. It’s clearly not a one-fits-all solution. Just a small piece. (And I can’t even start talking about biofuels – that’s another issue all together that is probably larger than the issue of eating meat.)

This summer, my family is embarking on a vegetarian experiment. I’ve been a vegetarian for several years, although I find it very difficult to maintain during pregnancy. And I know it’s not for everyone – during pregnancy, I have such a craving for meat that I think it’s something my body needs, so I eat it. My husband and kids don’t eat meat that often, so I think this experiment will work. If it ever appears that there are negative health consequences, like weight loss in my kids, I’ll stop. But for now, I pledge to cook or otherwise make available a healthy, vegetarian dinner every night this summer. This won’t totally clear the meat from my son’s diet – he goes to a family day care and it may be too much to ask her to not serve him meat, esp. if I am not totally committed to it yet. But at home, this is a meat-free zone.

11 thoughts on “herbivore

  1. This was an interesting blog as I have been a Vegatarian going on 3 months and practice Yoga. I actually do not find it hard because I only ate Fish and Chicken and did not each much of that. I to am a Vegetarian for moral and health reasons and the more that I read about it that list continues to grow. I eventually want to be a Vegan, however thats a lot harder than I imagined. If you have any good recipes that you would like to share please do. Thanks

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  2. Great post! My wife and I have been vegetarians for nearly 18 years. We always explain that we do it for equal parts health, moral/animal cruelty, and environmental reasons (the grain fact you mention gets crosses the boundaries of a couple reasons, obviously), which only seems to leave people more puzzled.

    I’m reading “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” at the moment, and just finished a chapter on how much oil, fuel, and corn go into making beef. It made me glad that I’m a vegetarian.

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  3. Good luck! I feel inspired by this post to try pseudo-vegetarianism with my family. I’m in charge of the cooking, so they have to eat whatever I serve, muahahahahaha!

    I was a vegetarian for ten years, but fell off the wagon about ten years ago. Perhaps we can go back to at least a few nights a week without meat, and see how it goes from there.

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  4. can you still be considered a herbivore if you eat a little amount of fish meat?

    or how would you call that?

    nice entry..

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  5. Balakniloloy – A herbivore eats plants, which rules out any animals, including fish. I do know some people who call themselves vegetarians and do eat fish, but personally I do not.

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  6. Nicely said! With my kids, I started with cutting out all processed foods. Allowing them to eat meat if they chose to, but it had to be organic, non-processed stuff. I actually lie to my son’s preschool teachers telling them he’s allergic to food coloring, so that pretty much limits all the crap they normally feed the kids.

    I’ve been a vegetarian going on about a year, and I feel great. I fell off the wagon a few times when I first started, but felt horrible after I indulged. Its nice to see another gradschool mommy!!

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