|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
LOGIC OF VEGETARIANISM
Physically we belong to the animal kingdom. Whatever we may think about
ourselves spiritually the fact remains that we function in an animal
body and there is very little difference between ourselves and the anthropoids
- the main distinction is spiritual with greater powers of reasoning
through a more highly developed brain mechanism.
Darwin, Baron Cuvier, Sir Charles Bell and others have testified to this assertion. W. E. le Gros Clarke, Professor of Anatomy at Oxford University, states in his History of The Primates : "Man shows such remarkable resemblances to the lower animals that it now seems astonishing to us that his kinship with them should ever have been seriously controverted. His skull and skeleton are composed of the same bony elements his muscular system is made up of identical muscles disposed in the same general pattern, his heart and blood-vessels are constructed on exactly the same plan, and even his brain (though more elaborate) is made of the same basic elements. Anatomically, therefore, Man is simply one of the animals.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. We should be glad for scientific proof of the unity of life and that we find ourselves at the apex of development.
Our remote ancestors are said to have been ape-like creatures, hairy and savage, living in caves and almost entirely on flesh. But very recent discoveries show that Neanderthal Man was preceded by beings more similar to ourselves with an almost equal brain capacity. This fact is revealed by the finding of the much earlier Swanscombe Man in the Thames Valley, and is a fragmentary evidence that the flesh-eating Man may have been a temporary descent inhuman evolution and not a natural evolutionary stage. There is no real evidence that Man has evolved from apes. It is more likely that we have always belonged to a distinct stream of evolutionary development.
A descent to flesh eating could quite easily have been caused by the Ice Ages which devastated all vegetation and compelled the few survivors to turn cannibal and carnivorous in order to exist. It is very significant that in India, which was not touched by the later glacial periods, vegetarianism has survived throughout know history - flesh-eating being probably introduced by Northern barbarians escaping the arctic conditions, or being the end product of degeneration.
If, as is still supposed in scientific circles, we had evolved from a truly carnivorous species we should still have the anatomical make-up of a carnivore, because insufficient time has elapsed for so drastic a structural change to have taken place. There can be no doubt whatsoever that, from time to time immemorial, Man has evolved as a frugivorous creature - the physiological differences between the carnivora and frugivora are so vast and distinctive that no biologist or anatomist could truthfully state otherwise.
The following facts cannot be changed:
We belong to the Order of Mammalia, i.e., we are creatues whose mothers suckle their young with milk, a peculiarity we share with horses, monkeys, whales, cows and sheep among others.
This Order is subdivided into four main groups - the Carnivora and Omnivora (flesh-eaters) which are more nearly akin in habit and structure; and the Herbivora and Frugivora (vegetarian) which share some distinctions. It should be borne in mind that an animal is not classed by observing its eating habits, which may be temporarily unnatural, but by its anatomy - biologists may, to further their own flesh-eating habits, deny this, but their text books state otherwise
In marked contrast, Frugivora :
These, then, are some of the main characteristics of flesh-eaters and
vegetarians - under no circumstances could Man be mistaken for a carnivore.
The fact that a proportion of Mankind has, from time to time
tried to turn omnivorous in habit does does not mean that he
has been successful or that he is omnivorous from an anatomical point
of view. He is a Frugivore.
In Britain, with a population of about 50,000,000 people we spend £600,000,000
annually trying to bolster up the crumbling health of the nation. Flesh-eating
nations have the biggest incidence of cancer and other diseases of degeneration.
The figures are the measure of the success of omnivorism and orthodox
medical practices - most of the money goes to drug manufacturers, doctors,
and surgeons. Nearly 300,000,000 medical prescriptions are sold yearly
by 13,000 chemists This should be contrasted with the perfect health
of the vegetarian Hunzas who have no "civilized" diseases.
There is every justification, on physiological grounds alone, for assuming
that the further we get away from fruit, nuts, whole grains and succulent
leafy vegetables, the less likely we are to be healthy. The practice
of vegetarianism shows that the body responds favourably and immediately
to the restoration of a natural diet. Nature Cure is relatively new
in the West but your healers have practised it for ages, and this is
one of the valuable things you can teach us.
Prior to the Ice Ages we must have evolved for millions of years on a vegetarian diet and experience over the last hundred years or so shows that even in Northern countries the return to it is remedial and a guard against ill-health. In a land with plenty of sunshine, a food in itself, vegetarianism is easier and has produced some of the finest physical specimens found anywhere - to say nothing of unsurpassed intellectuals.
When a Vegetarian Eats Flesh
It is very easy to overlook the real reasons for eating. These are simple:
If we eat too little we suffer from deficiency diseases; too much overburdens the organs of elimination and leads to toxication and the diversion of energy from normal functioning; materials eaten which are not nutritive tent ro be irritants and set up abnormalities like cancer and other diseases.
It is therefore, a matter of intelligence to choose those foods which fulfil normal requirements efficently, economically, and preferably without causing interference with other forms of sentient life. The diet of a frugivore does not destroy life - the fruits, nuts and grains are produced in nature far in excess of the needs of reproduction and the plant is not killed.
When a true vegetarian turns to flesh-eating the following things happen:
1. The type of intestinal flora is changed from fermentative to putrefactive bacteria, yet the long bowel is retained which is specially adapated for the former. Poison elements are therefore absorbed into the bloodstream to the detriment of health.
2. In a vegetarian animal Vitamin B12 is mostly synthesized during digestive processes, though some is found in plant foods. Meat toxins inhibit this natural development and cause anaemia. They also tend to pervert the metabolism of carbohydrates and cause diabetes.
3. Although we do not deny that some second-hand protein may be obtained from flesh it comes to us with other substances, which under no circumstances can be called nutritive.
These include contagious abortion, swine fever, foot and mouth disease, cancer, tuberculosis, mastitis, general catarrhal conditions, etc, In Britain up to 60 percent of carcasses are sometimes condemned from a very cursory examination and many diseases cannot be detected except by a careful post mortem.
4. The presence of greasy animal fats lining the human gut tends to inhibit calcium intake, and although calcium is present in appreciable quantities in most foddstuffs, calcium deficiency is widespread - leading to faulty bones, teeth and general inefficiency.
5. Animal fats also contain cholesterol which is now known to be the chief cause of coronary diseases of the heart - which are increasing among "civilized" people.
We think the foregoing facts make it clear that flesh-foods are not a good source of protein, the main item for which flesh is eaten. The terms first and second class protein, we read in The Extra Pharmacopoeia (the leading medical authority), came into being during the first World War and were based on "incomplete analyses of pure protein and on inadequate experiments on rats... the terms have now become meaningless and should be discarded."
Furthermore, amino acids, which are the componets of protein, can be changed during digestion from one kind to another. So the quasi-scientific argument sometimes put forward that a vegetarian diet might not provide the right kinds of amino acids has no foundation. Creatures of great strength and endurance obtain all their nourishment from a few simple herbs and leaves.
So here again we find that ordinary commonsense should lead us to either become or remain vegetarian.
NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENTS & SOURCES
Proteins - amino acids
Proteins are complex substances conitaining anything up to 20 amino acids. They are needcd for growth and the maintenance of tissues. It is sometimes argued by flesh-eaters that the best source of protein is meat, because it is already in a form suitable for human requirements. To which we answer that the most perfect form is human flesh - why not eat that. This immediately shows that there is a moral question in our choice of food and me are then only confronted with the problem of where we draw the line.
Tho primary source of protoins, and all nutritional material. is in the vegetable kingdom. Whole grains, nuts, beans, peas, (eggs and cheese), are better sources of protein than meat. Not only weight for weight but have none of the disadvantages previously listed.
Proteins are greatly affected by heat cooking but excess tends to alter their natural structure and affects general availability. Cooking, of course, denatures and devitalizes all foodstuffs. About 2 1/2 to 3 ozs. is the maximum daily need from all sources for Europeans. Growing children and athletes need only slightly more than active adults.
Carbohydrates (starches and sugars)
Meat as a source of carbohydrates is negligible. The difficulty is
to avoid their excess use, not to find them. They are found in grains
and food products made with them; in fruit and vegetable.
Most plants store their reserves of food in the form of starch, which
is a chemical combination of glucose units. In cereals it remains as
starch but the process of ripening in the sun turns fruit starches into
sugar. We tend to get too much starch because we cook grains-plants
store it in little waterproof capsules which, if eaten raw, would resist
complete digestion. The process of excessive cooking bursts these capsules
and releases all the starch.
Refined white sugar should be avoided as it is pure carbohydrate, without its balancing minerals and vitamins; and while being a quick source of energy in an emergency is merely catarrh-forming in continual use. Extra energy calls for extra carbohydrates, not protein. Recent experiments with American athletes show that better results are achieved with a low protein diet.
Fats - energy reserves
All the necessary fats and oils are readily available in a vegetarian diet from nuts of all kinds, many fruits like olives, an infinite variety of seeds from which most of our modern cooking fats are made. Milk and its products are also good sources if used. It may be appropriate to state here that dairy producc is not considered to be ideal - but at least it is a progressive step away from ages of flesh-eating and its use does away with most of the exploitation connected with meat-eating.
Vegetable fats do not contain cholesterol and do not, therefore, cause heart diseases.
The main purpose of cating fats is to store up reserves of energy in
the body. Only small quantities are required daily - an excess can quite
easily lead to a comatose condition, and slow down the absorption of
other nutrients. Greasy meat fats always have this effect, thus affecting
digestion and the ability to think.
Minerals and elements
Flesh-foods are a very poor source of essential minerals and generally
speaking the close association of vitamins is necessary for the proper
metabolism to take place.
Minerals maintain the alkalinity of the blood, help in metabolic processes,
and form a basis for the physical structure - bones, teeth, organs and
tissues. Deficiencies soon show in symptoms of degeneration. The main
sources are found in the vegetable kingdom and in dairy produce (secondhand).
The principal minerals and elements are: sodium, potassium, phosphorus,
calcium, magnesium, sulphur, iodine, fluorine, iron, copper, zinc, cobalt,
manganese, silicon, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and a number of trace elements.
All play their various parts in structural maintenance, growth, nervous
and mental activity. They are found in a natural balance in fruit, nuts,
whole grains, seeds, vegetables, and legumes.
The primary source of all vitamins is the vegetable kingdom. Doctors
tell us that the richest source of vitamin A is liver. But we also have
livers which are a rich storehouse for vitamin A if, like the creatures
in question, we have the intelligence to eat the right foods, The liver
of any animal is its own property and was not meant for human use.
Heavy supplementary doses of any vitamin are mostly wasted because
the body only uses what is necessary in conjunction with available minerals
- all vegetable foods present minerals and vitamins in the balance desirable
for animal and human use.
The list of vitamins is far too long to be dealt with here. The vitamins
not found in vegetation are either synthesized in the gut or produced
by photosynthesis by the sun's action on the skin. Meat toxins are known
to inhibit some microbial processes which provide us with certain vitamins.
Vitamins, like minerals, are closely connected with all biological functions
and are essential for health. Slight and persistent deficiencies cause
very distressing illnesses. Plenty of fresh raw foods, all kinds, are
necessary for adequate supplies - not flesh foods.
Even this brief survey of nutrients shows that meat is not a good source
of food and that killing is quite unnecessary for adequate nutrition.
ECONOMICS OF DIET
Since 250,000,000 Indians are dependent on agricultural pursuits for
their livelihood, the economics of food production are of extreme importance.
India imports about £115,000,000 worth of grains, pulses and flour
a year - all of which she could grow herself much cheaper and even export.
Recent announcement by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the
United Nations, and other authorities, indicate that about 70 per cent
of the world population is ill-fed at the present time. At least 100,000,000
extra people will have to be fed in about two years' time with an ever
The world population to-day is about 2,500,000,000. By the end of the century it may be about 5,000,000,000. What then?
Some territories can be developed for increased food production, but this is not so easy in practice as it is in theory, as witness the failure to convert thousands of acres of African territory to groundnut production. The area of the earth's surface which is capable of yielding food suitable for human consumption is strictly limited and encroaching living space will eat into a larger proportion of whatever is claimed. In Britain alone we are losing 50,000 acres of agricultural land per year through building developmcnt-houses, schools, industrial plants, etc.
At tlie prescnt time tho situation is: rapidly increasing populations and decreasing fertile land. Fertility is also decreasing through the indiscriminate use of artificial fertilizers, which may give an increased yield lor a few Years but lead to a loss of fertility and soil erosion.
It is estimated that there is about ONE acre of fertile land per person in the world available for food production of all kinds.
A flesh eater needs 1.63 acres.
A vegetarian needs .5 or .6 acres.
(in a country of low productivity these figures would be slightly higher).
Of the 1.63 acres required by a flesh-eater 1.3 acres are needed solely
to provide flesh foods. The smaller area needed for the vegetarian includes
a certain amount of dairy produce.
So we see that anyone insisting on flesh foods is taking more than his fair share of the land available and is, in fact, condemning some of his fellowmen to a starvation diet. There is a moral even in economics.
It is sometinies overlooked that an animal epecially bred for its flesh needs a much bigger area of land for its food than a human being. Wages are paid to men to act as nurses and midwives to cattle so in total the unseen cost of meat is colossal. India maintains a cattle population of 150,000,000, the biggest in the world.
Meat is especially dear when it is considered that the land/time which
will produce one ton of beef will yield 10 or 20 tons of highly nutritive
vegetarian food suitable for direct consumption by human beings.
The situation from a world viewpoint is not yet desperate (only to those who are starving). But we can well imagine the confusion, famine and disease iri a few year's time unless national governments make a logical effort to tackle the problem and accept the obvious conclusion that a vegetarian diet is inevitable.
There is already competition between animals and human beings for land.
This will be rapidly intensified and the only solution will be to reduce
the breeding of the unnaturally blown up cattle population. We agree
that cattle have a right to live and space in which to live, but man
tampers with natural breeding and perpetuates forms which may well have
served their evolutionary purpose.
Here again the importance of vegetarian societies, with their specialized
knowledge and experience, is emphasized. They could act as advisory
bodies to local governments and help to educate the people to appreciate
that vegetarianism is not something to be feared, but to be welcomed
for its hygiene, economy, and promise of better health for themselves
and further generations.
In Britain we have a "Committee of Vegetarian Interests "
: a Government liaison body drawn from the two big National Vegetarian
Societies, food manufacturers, Health Food stores and catering associations.
A recent report on Meat Marketing from the Indian Ministry of Food
and Agriculture states that the annual value of meats and edible offals
is over 100 crores of rupees and that "Meat is vitally important
to the Indian population because their diet is deficient in first
class proteins and these could easily be obtained from meat."
The world's foremost medical authority has demolished this unscientific
supposition which is being used the world over. A supposition from discredited
and inadequate experiments on rats performed more than thirty years
ago. If reliance is placed on experiments on rats we recommend those
made by Sir Robert McCarrison, who fed two large colonies of them on
the vegetarian food of the Hunzas and the typical food of the English.
The Hunza fed rats thrived, multiplied, had no illnesses and were good
natured. Those fed on the English diet acquired every disease of civilization
including rheumstism, cancer, and turned cannibal. They had miscarriages
and could not breastfeed their young.
The report also states that there is considerable agitation, in a section
of the population (all honour to it) for a complete ban on the slaughter
of cattle in India. May we point out that the purpose of a democratic
government is to represent the wishes of the people.
"The problem," it goes on to say, "requires to be viewed
from a practical economic angle." We are in complete agreement
here, but with respect suggest that the proposed increased breeding
of improved livestock is doomed to failure before it begins, for the
reasons me have already set out.
To emphasize the vegetarian viewpoint, the Ministry admits that India
is already "deplorably deficient" in animal feeding
It states that the 14 millions of unproductive cattle (a small proportion)
eat 8 lbs. per head per day, consume millions of tons of fodder costing
Rs. 102.2 crores annually. We leave the reader to work out how much
the other 136 millions of cattle, which eat more expensive foods (and
probably 80 lbs. per day), and require more attention, will cost; and
where the extra foodstuffs are to be obtained - the only answer would
be highly expensive imports. The same amount of money could be spent
to obtain over twenty times more food for direct human consumption.
For every 100lbs. of dry substances eaten by cattle only 4lbs. comes
back as meat food - of doubtful value.
A further statement is "Meat has not yet received sufficient recognition
as an important food item and has hitherto been regarded as a luxury
for the town dweller, The nutritional importance of meat is also practically
This is very true, but not in the sense intended - the nutritional
value of meat has been fully exposed.
We understand the Central Food Technological Institute at Mysore, is
chargcd with trying to justify the Indian Ministry's recommendations.
We trust the investigations will be unbiased, as befits a scientific
institution of excellent reputation, and that full weight will be given
to the latest scientific knowledge, as herein surveyed. It is apparent
that a programme is being launched based on insufficient and inaccurate
information, together with a disregard for conditions in the near future.
Before leaving the subject of economics it should be stated that the
present day drive for artificial fertilisers is fraught with danger.
There is no objection to moving natural rock sediments from one place
to another where there is a marked efficiency, but harsh chemicals from
commercial laboratories not only tend to produce quickly grown plants
which have not had time to draw up their proper quota of essential trace
elements, but kill soil bacteria and worms which are associated with
healthy growth. Disease-prone crops are produced and this in turn leads
to the use of poisonous pesticides which remain in the plants until
they are eaten -- a vicious circle.
Cornposting as evolved and practised on a commercial scale at Indore
should play its part in agriculture development - the chief part.
To prove the truth and efficacy of organic composting methods The
Soil Association at Haughley, in England, is already well advanced
with long term experiments on a scientifically controlled basis. Already
evidence is coming forward that the organically nurtured crops have
a higher feeding value, that the land is increasing in fertility, while
the mixed section is decreasing ; and that the dairy herds on the organic
section consistently yield more milk and have a better breeding record.
There is also some evidence of a higher vitamin and trace element content
in the crops.
A recent Australian expert from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial
Research Organization claims that much of the Australian wheat belt
may be undergoing a decline of unexpected seriousness because the use
of superphosphates has depleted the nitrogen content of the soil - the
first step towards erosion.
Foods produced with forcing chemicals, treated with poisonous insecticides,
then contaminated by preservatives, colouring matter, deodorants, anti-staling
agents, improvers, and so on, must inevitably lead to ill-health and
HUMANE & AESTHETIC CONSIDERATIONS
The use of flesh-foods means the sacrifice of life in extremely unpleasant
circumstances. It means that a creature is strangled, bludgeoned to
death, or has its throat cut while fully conscious. What follows is
equally revolting - bloodletting, skinning, disembowelling and dissecting.
In modern abattoirs the whole process is done while the animal is still
warm and hardly through its death throes.
Let no one say that an animal has no premonition of death or that the
stench of blood does not fill it with terror. Animals have to be beaten
quite savagely in order to get them into abattoirs. (The word abattoir
comes from the French, abatre, to beat down,)
No sensitive person, with any compassion or feeling, could possibly
share the complicity, let alone do the killing, or endure the agonized
cries of victims. It means that callousness is perpetuated in those
who, for reasons best known to themselves follow the trade of slaughterer
and butcher. In other words the flesheater lets someone else do his
dirty work and keeps his conscience at bay by resolutely putting the
bestiality from his mind.
It has been estimated that 200,000,000 cattle, including horses, are
slaughtered every year - 400,000,000 sheep, 200,000,000 pigs, innumerable
birds and rabbits - the hideous slaughter is stupendous and only a relatively
small proportion of the creatures have the doubtful benefit of "humane"
methods. As the sun rises on each country of the globe a belt of slaughter
moves round creating a hell on earth for our less fortunate brethren.
There are also about 20,000,000 vivisection experiments, designed largely
to offset the effects of wrong living - chiefly flesh-eating - for people
do not want to give up their established ways of life and therefore
seek easy panaceas to take the place of self-discipline.
Compared with vegetarian cookery the preparation of decomposing flesh
is offensive and a butcher's shop has the stench of a charnel house,
for that is what it is.
The dead body of an animal belongs to the forest floor where it returns
the elements it borrowed and renews fertility. To turn the humnn stomach
into an animal cemetery is, to say the least, a very peculiar choice.
It should be stated that vegetarianism was established in both the
East and the West for ethical reasons. It was based on the recognition
of the sacredness of life and that we have no right to kill. The pioneers
in England in the 1840's were not even certain that vegetarianism would
be practical in our climate but they were sure in their hearts that
the taking of life was immoral. As so frequentIy happens, what was right
in principle proved to be right in practice.
Scientific knowledge and medical testimony came much later, and although
the health side may have tended to obscure the essential ethical basis
of vegetaranism, the moral argument is still the more powerful - and
We each have to decirle for ourselves what we consider to be the purpose
of life. Is it for the indulgence of selfish desires or for spiritual
development ? Is life merely a freak of chance with no purpose?
Those of us who think the world is a playground, a venue for the enjoyment
of animal appetites, and an unpremeditated chaos, will not be concerned
with the problem of behaviour. But for those who think there is a possibility
that life is a medium for soul growth, behaviour is extremely important
; for we are exactly as we act. No more no less.
If we behave brutally or selfishly, then we are brutes and selfish. No religious label or outward facade alters the truth.
As the highest development of creature life on this earth, with more brain power and inventiveness than lesser beings, we can either use our poser to destroy or to cherish and guard. It is a personal choice we each have to make and one which pins us accurately and inlpartially.
We must ask ourselves if killing another being before its life cycle is complete is to that creatures benefit. "In happiness and suffering in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as ire regard ourselves, and should therefore refrain from inflicting upon others such as would appear undesirable to us if inflicted upon ourselves," says the Yogashastra, and is echoed down tlie ages by the Masters.
It may be true that until a certain stage in conscious evolution is reached moral considerations are not important, and that behaviour is govcrnecl by instinct. All of us, however, are constantly faced by a series of moral choices - every hour of the day. The chain reactions of each decision shape our future (our own and other people's). You call the results karma.
Let us consider the moulding of forces of flesh-eating, bearing in mind that the only kind of immorality there is lies in making a bad choice deliberately :-
Can any one in their right minds consider that flesh eating is even "The Middle Way" or a step towards Nirvana?
"Ponder it well in your mind and then act as it seems best to you," says Krishna, in the Bhagavat Gita. (World Forum)