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Vegetarianism: The ethical and ecological imperative
Talk given by Francisco Martín in Thailand and India
IVU News - Issue 1-96

The aggression, competitiveness and materialism of modern living, with its lack of ethical and spiritual values, is as damaging to our health as it is to our environment. Our lives and pleasures are becoming as meaningless and artificial as our social relationships and our food, because we refuse to recognise that to maintain a sound mind and a healthy body we must reject animal foods. Moreover, the production of those foods is an ever-growing threat to the whole fabric of life on this planet, damaging the complex and delicate biological systems on which all life depends and on which we, too, depend for our sustenance and well-being, both mental and physical.

[pic: panda]

The growing number of environmental disasters and the constant ethical and ecological atrocities committed against animals, humans and nature are clear evidence that the generally accepted belief system, based on unlimited exploitation of living organisms and their environment, is not just morally wrong but physically unsustainable and calls for immediate and determined action to stop the massive destruction of life and habitat which is poisoning earth, air and water, disrupting the harmony of natural eco-systems and threatening the very survival of whole human communities.

Fresh air and fibre-rich foods are as essential to our health and well-being as the need to love and be loved and to be accepted by our peers. But we will only enjoy life fully if we develop our full human potential and feed our minds and our bodies with that which is necessary to satisfy all our physiological and spiritual needs. We must also ensure the correct environmental conditions for life on this planet to thrive and evolve unhampered by the massive interference, pollution and destruction currently caused by unnatural and predatory human behaviour.

Irrational divisions based on nationality, race, species or religion cause endless violence and strife and have traditionally provided excuses for dehumanising demonising or arbitrarily classifying fellow sentient beings as friend or foe, comrade or outcast, edible or non-edible, and on this basis according or denying them respect, social status and even life itself. Depending on whether they are regarded as friends, enemies or slaves, humans and non-humans alike may be respected and loved, killed and eaten, traded or trashed. Their whole existence can be categorised at whim as unique and precious or worthless and meaningless according to the irrational concepts of warfare and the merciless exploitation involved in the physiologically unnatural and ethically preposterous exploitation of so-called food animals and the myriad unnecessary and unhealthy products obtained from the numberless victims who suffer and die as a result of human callousness and greed.

Even for the cannibal, however, killing requires some form of religious dispensation or justifi-cation. The victim is categorised as less than human, unclean, unworthy or of inferior social status. So killing is clearly not a natural human act and must originally have been as traumatic an aberration for our species as for any other on-carnivorous animal.

An ever-increasing number of new, exotic and even genetically altered species are now being exploited, with profit as the sole motive. The latest fad in the west is the farming of ostriches, whose flesh and plumage are offered to tempt the depraved appetites and frivolous demands aroused in ignorant and insensitive consumers. The total disregard for the welfare of these sensitive and beautiful beings shows the seemingly inexorable decline in ethical values that is debasing human life and reducing the world around us to a slaughterhouse and a rubbish dump.

When life is regarded as a commodity to be traded according to market forces, human slavery is an inevitable result and adults and children alike are exploited to satisfy the same international market which demands the extermination of whole species such as the tiger, the elephant and the rhinoceros to feed the trade in bits and pieces of dead animals which the ignorant and gullible are encouraged to endow with imagi-nary medicinal properties. In human terms, it is impossible to justify, either ethically or physiolo-gically, the irrational dependence on the slaughter of other beings to satisfy human culinary whims, since neither our minds nor our bodies are adapted to consume the rotting remains of murdered animals.

Like ourselves, the victims of this slaughter suffer the vicissitudes of life and the uncertainty of death, but their lives are not valued by those who cannot comprehend the meaning of love or respect for life. Thus billion upon billion of sentient beings are wantonly exploited, living and dying in misery and fear as their cruel and callous executioners prepare them to end up as un-healthy consumer products in the stomachs of seemingly clean people who prefer to sacrifice their health and spiritual well-being by depending on the exploitation and death of others rather than enjoy health and happiness while defending the right to life and happiness of all their fellow creatures without making ridiculous distinctions based on race, creed or species.

To do away with so much ignorance and greed, to halt the insane biocide of other species, to preserve the complex biodiversity of the tropical forests and other threatened eco-systems and to make peace with our own and other species, we must turn away from our current path, which threatens to destroy not only ourselves but the whole planet and all with whom we share it. To win back our lost sense of respect and compassion, we must free ourselves from the prevailing atmosphere of selfishness and indifference to suffering which distorts our true human potential and blinds us to the cruelties needlessly inflicted on countless millions of living beings and the human misery and violence which stem from our behaviour as false and unrepentant predators.

If we respect the earth's ability to feed all our fellow humans on the plants and fruits for which our bodies are designed, we can do away with deforestation, deserti-fication and the ensuing starvation and territorial warfare. If we respect the right to life and happiness of all the world's inhabitants, human and non- human, we shall do away with the obscenities of slaughter and slavery. Then, and only then, shall we redeem our self-respect, our compassion and our rightful place in the scheme of things.

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