You cut the head of a human. You skinned him. It’s all blood and gore. Now you are slicing it, limb by limb, flesh by flesh. You cook it without any spice or herbs. Can you eat it?”, asked a friend from my years past. “Now imagine this human is the fish you eat, is the meat you relish. Would you still like it as much as you do?”
This is a friend from my school. Let’s call him D. We were having a conversation over the phone one monsoon evening some half hour before my dinner. While not all my friends can summon nearly as interesting a conversation as this one, D could. He is different. D was an omnivore until he turned vegetarian about a year ago. By the time I kept the phone, and sat to dine – a simple meal of steaming rice and chicken – my stomach let me know what it thought of the conversation!
Darn! I cursed D my old pal from school and found myself chasing unpleasant thoughts away from my head, lest I cannot eat the chicken curry. What a numb nut, I thought. But then some of D’s words stuck. “Violence on a sentient (live/conscious) being”, “we don’t need to eat meat as we get everything we need from plants and dairy”, “Lord Krishna in Gita said so”, etc. While, I have doubt over the last statement considering eating meat and sacrificing the “sentient beings” were part of the religion and culture as we find in the religious texts and history , I do agree there were food for thought in his arguments as a whole. In fact, the entire world is buzzing with compelling arguments on this. India, no longer is the custodian of vegetarianism as it used to be.
Little above a century ago, people thought trees and plants don’t have life. Though, our mythologies and old wives’ tales ascribed life to vegetation, they lacked the scientific credibility. Then came Jagadish Bose’ discovery , making it all the more morally indefensible for the plant eaters. With the right devices you could now witness the veggies’ writhe in pain! Those that eat vegetables or insects are committing the same kind of cruelty. The only difference is trees’ scream don’t reach our ears. And it does not make anyone a better human being to kill and eat things that are so helpless that they cannot jump or scream louder.
The vegans or vegetarians make it out to be a moral question. But every living being is “sentient”, even the microbes inside your mouth that you brush daily and flush out. The millions of insects that are crushed under the tyre of your car. The inescapable cycle of nature makes sure every living being partakes in the primitive and, yes, violent act of killing to remain alive. The vegans, the meat eaters – are not very different from one another than the beef eaters are from the pork eaters. It’s true that nature can provide us with all the necessary nutrients, and it is also true there are raging debates over (mis)use of resources to cultivate a batch of cattle, environmental cost of preservation and transportation of meat etc. but there are deserts where people are bound to depend on meat. There are tribal people in the nooks and corners of my country, who cannot buy rice or lentils and have to depend on the birds and rats, insects and ants. What about them? Are they all heartless?
Neither do I live in a desert nor do I lack the means to buy grains and vegetables, but the problem lies somewhere else. While I am all for campaigning against unnecessary animal cruelty, I don’t understand why some vegetarians resort to making others feel guilty when they are guilty of the same vice? It can very well be asked if it is eco-friendly to eat vegetables. But it’s hardly a moral choice. You cannot blame a certain food chain just because you have a different one.