DO VEGETARIANS CARE ABOUT PEOPLE TOO?

Vegetarianism is a natural outcome of a feeling of self-reverence.  The reverence which begins with oneself gradually extends outward to include one’s family, friends, the whole human race, and all living beings.  Ethical vegetarians are aware of the vast range of suffering, whether it happens to humans or animals.  It does not make sense to be working to end discrimination against minority groups, for example, while neglecting the right to live of animals, a majority treated as a minority.  We want our voices to be heard when we call out for peace; at the same time, we have no right to condone the bloody business of slaughterhouses through our eating habits.

Because animals are helpless and voiceless, without recourse to courts of law, many vegetarians speak out for them.  “We are Nature’s eldest sons and daughters,” says Shree Chitrabhanu.  “It can be our joy to care for  other forms of life as we would care for our own younger brothers and sisters.”

If more people knew how listless, neurotic, and diseased animals become in overcrowded factory farms, without access to fresh air, sunlight, space, or exercise; and how much physical and psychological pain they suffer at the slaughterhouse, they would  be more understanding of this point of view.  Rather than avoid the issue, we need to become educated as to the realities of food production.

The choice of a vegetarian diet is an expression of a sincere consideration for the ecology of the planer as well. It suggests a more equitable means to produce, share, and distribure food among all nations.  The growing of plants produces more food per person on less land.  It takes seven acres of grazing land and ren pounds of vegetable protein to end up with one pound of meat, whereas only one acre of land can harvest  four hundred fifty pounds of soy protein

Millions of aces of land throughout the world could be brought under the plough and tilled while the practice of breeding animals diminishes.  Then, soil erosion due to overgrazing can be halted, and high-quality foods such as corn, wheat, rye, and soybeans which are forced fed to cows and pigs in an effort to fatten them quickly could be used directly to feed starving people.

Even the amount of water needed to produce one pound of meat is at least twenty times and some times one hundred times as much as is needed to produce one pound of wheat or rice.  Slaughtering animals requires hundreds of millions of gallons of water everyday.  The wastes in these places, estimated at about two billion tons a year, mostly  end up in waterways, polluting and killing thousands of fish, and creating a human health problem.*

The Jain practice of Aparigraha or non-hoarding is part of the way of Reverence for All Life.  It encourages people to think of other people’s needs, to place a limit on their own, to treat planetary resources with respect and frugality, to end habits of profiteering and consumer greed, and to develop ways for everyone to receive adequate nutrition.
 

* The information on ecology and health hazards was gleaned from Vegetarianism A Way of Life, by Dudley Giehl, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1979.

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