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Diet and Nutrition > Vegetarianism

Meat or No Meat? A discussion on vegetarianism

sheep1There are people who argue that we should avoid eating the flesh of other animals for a variety of reasons and there are modern medical scientists and dietitians who prescribe eating meat. While diet should always be something of a personal choice, it is impossible to avoid being exposed to other people’s ideas.

If we leave out the ‘should’ and look at how people come to an understanding and decide on the diet, then perhaps you can come to a more balanced decision for your life.

We must accept that we are mammals and that we have a capacity to eat almost anything that grows on this earth be it plant, fish or animal. But when we delve into what we are fundamentally, we know we are mammals and like all of life we are composed of the five elements of earth, air, fire, water and ether.

Although we identify ourselves as being our ‘body and mind’, in fact our body is composed of approximately 70% water and 30% of the soil or the earth that we live on. If you think of the food chain, plants absorb water and nutrients from the earth which we then eat and there is a creative process within our body that turns plant matter into body parts and energy for activity.

When you look at our ability to convert plants into new body parts and energy, fruits which are higher in natural sugars are undigested more rapidly and pass through our digestive system typically within 3 to 6 hours. Next are the vegetables from which we get the bulk of our essential nutrition. Vegetables are processed and passed through a digestive tract typically within 4 to 12 hours.

When we eat meat, the time for digestion takes a lot longer and it can take several days to digest a heavy meat meal and for it pass through our system. Of the meats, fish is the easiest to digest followed by white meat and red meat.

Typically we grow into life habituated to the diet about family and community, and many people do not even think about what they eat. However there are large numbers of children who have a natural aversion to eating meat, but this is usually overcome when parents remain insistent that the kids should eat their meat.

In modern medical science, there is an insistence that meat should be a major part of our diet for many reasons. It is claimed that meat helps to build strong muscles and provide endurance for physical activity. This is partly true, but the other side of this is that modern medical science is part of the corporate establishment in which agribusiness is an important financial part, so there are vested interests at play.

This remember here that modern medical science cannot identify the nature of any illness or disease, and it cannot cure any illness or disease. All it does is relieve the symptoms. In contrast, natural medical systems that have been with us for thousands of years focus more on strengthening the body so that it can fight off illnesses and diseases.

The vegan diet

This is a diet devoid of any animal products which takes considerable effort to ensure that one’s body gets sufficient nutrition. However people who have successfully worked out a vegan diet do not suffer in any way. They can be as strong and as fit as any Olympic athlete, but of all the dietary systems, vegans live longer and suffer less disease than those on other diets.

The primary sources of nutrition are fruits, vegetables, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds.

The vegetarian diet

There are variations on this theme that may or may not include dairy products. But vegetarians typically live longer than meat eaters and they suffer from less disease. The vegetarian diet is more mixed than the vegan diet as it may include dairy products and sometimes eggs.

But the primary sources of nutrition are fruits, vegetables, legumes and pulses, nuts and seeds.

The semi vegetarian diet

As with the vegetarian diet described above, the principal components are the same however they may also include eggs, fish and a very small amount of meat. This type of diet is traditional over some parts of Southeast Asia where meat is actually a rare luxury. So what meat is available is used as a flavouring to the main dish and constitutes less than 10% of the diet.

The people who follow the semi vegetarian diet live longer and suffer less disease than those on the meat-based diet.

The Western/British/American meat-based diet

Meat was often the mainstay of the hunter gatherer diet and with the establishment of agriculture some 15,000 to 20,000 years ago, it has remained central but only to the modern diet, but also to the modern economy.

It is possible as we know from the people who live above the Arctic Circle to live almost entirely on meat. In such a cold climate much of the meat is eaten raw and the entire animal is consumed apart from the bones, hair and skin. Typically those Northerners had a relatively short life expectancy although this has improved today as they had imported foods and medicines to supplement their diet.

When eating red meats that include land, goat, deer, cattle, pigs, horses and other mammals, it can take several days to process or digestive and eliminate meat as a food product. As such there is a slow release of energy that does help people to endure strenuous physical activity, but it comes at a cost.

The cost of having meat digesting over several days in one’s digestive tract is that the digestive process is one of controlled rotting. Not only is one prone to letting out more smelly farts, but there was a general buildup of toxicity in the body that supports or may even cause health problems.

If we think of the idea of a meal being a large piece of meat with either potatoes or rice and a small quantity of fresh vegetables either cooked or uncooked, this is referred to in some communities as a recipe for colon cancer and other diseases. In essence the digestive tract is overloaded with decomposing material.

We are very adaptable species and we can learn to live with anything if we have to. But we are also creatures of habit and once established in a routine of diet or other activity, there is often little incentive to even question what one is doing. So even when people are diagnosed with colon cancer, it is rare for them to consider that their diet could be the cause of the disease.

Because animals have an intelligence and a desire to live, like us when they are threatened their bodies produce large amounts of adrenaline and other chemicals which act in the same way within our bodies. Therefore like drinking an excess of caffeine, eating meat causes a subtle imbalance in body chemistry that results in anger and defensiveness. This irrationality in modern humans is one of the reasons we just cannot live peacefully together.

As health systems around the world are being privatised, the doctors who should know better are likely untrained and nutrition and so they do not even advise patients that they should modify their diet. As far as the for-profit medical system is concerned, only sick people are profitable and around the world there are vested interests at work ensuring that people remain sick.

Therefore people who can adapt to a vegan or vegetarian diet will remain healthier and live longer than meat eaters. Within spiritual traditions it is all so preferable to be vegetarian because a vegetarian diet is said to be more conducive to the expansion of perception or divine recognition. However the churches do not want this because then they would be out of a job, so apart from the Seventh-day Adventists’s, no religious organisation will advocate vegetarianism.

Diet and ecology

Over the past few centuries we have cut down most of the world’s forests to create grazing land for farm animals. We seem to have forgotten that we need trees to produce oxygen so that we can breathe and stay alive yet the oxygen level in the atmosphere continues to fall as CO2 and methane increases.

Next to industry and motor vehicles, farm animals are large producers of CO2 and methane that we definitely do not need. If we continue to consume the amount of meat per person as is used today, with our continuing increase in population we will need another continental landmass the size of the USA to feed enough livestock for everyone to maintain their meat-based diet.

Conversely, if meat production was maintained at its current level, with more people becoming vegetarians and improvements in agriculture, we can survive for another hundred years without cutting any more forests for food production. However if everyone was to become semi-vegetarian, we could reduce global livestock numbers and replant some of the forests.

To take that even further, if the human population was to become completely vegetarian then we could reduce livestock numbers by 90% and replant vast areas of forest because many experts believe that we could feed a population of 10 billion unless than half of the land currently given to agriculture.

Modern agriculture or agribusiness is one of the most damaging activities to the environment. The livestock pollute waterways as does the use of agricultural chemicals and pesticides. Antibiotics that are widely and often indiscriminately used the world over which contributes to the rise of antibiotic resistant viruses and bacteria that are claiming more and more human lives.

Livestock and agrichemicals also impact our oceans causing algal blooms and mass die offs of fish and other sea creatures. Many experts also believe that it is actually the agricultural chemicals which are responsible for the worldwide increase in allergies and food sensitivities such as the reaction to gluten.

Humanity has really come to a crossroads. We had arrived to the point in our history where we have luxury and convenience as never before, yet experts are warning that unless we do something different, all life on earth may be extinct within the next 100 years.

The probable causes of our extinction are pollution and the resultant global warming, or our inability to get along with each other resulting in world War.  However from a spiritual perspective we need to remember that we are part of life and although eating plants is killing or taking life to transform it into a human being, it is more beneficial than taking the lives of other mammals.

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