There is a widespread misconception that the stock standard vegetarian meal is merely salad and fries. In reality when it comes to a vegetarian cuisine, a whole new realm of choices is readily available. Before touching on this, we should consider why one should follow a vegetarian diet in the first place – Is it just a fad?
Vegetarianism is not merely an alternative to meat eating, but rather a healthy choice. It increases the duration of life, giving strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Apart from these direct benefits to the body, it also impacts the community positively, and may even shape the future of our environment!
Vegetarianism and the circle of life
Cultivating the lifestyle of eating legumes, fruits, and grains means that nature is respected and valued. If there’s anything that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us, it is that nature has an overpowering effect on all living beings including not only humans but animals as well. Mother Nature is not just a fictitious or sentimental concept as it is nature that has and always will be an integral part of our life. Governments always talk about protecting the environment, reducing the carbon footprint and protecting the nation, etc, but it all comes down to the fundamentals of protecting all elements of nature including all types of animals.
If we do this, then nature will reciprocate and naturally the problems that we ourselves have caused will reduce and nature will provide us with all the comforts that we need.
For example, meat production contributes to over 60% of global gas emissions resulting in thousands of pollutant-related deaths in countries all over the world. The livestock and grains needed to maintain these animals, particularly for cows and chickens adds further economic burden on crop prices and demand – if the same grains were used to feed people, an extra 3.5 billion people could be fed!
A meat based diet – is it really your choice?
People who eat meat often insist that they are choosing to do so. However, the reality is that culturally and socially all they are aware of is the meat-based diet. Most of us are afraid to make major changes in lifestyle or diet because we are afraid of social discrimination, added cost of groceries, missing out on favourite restaurants, or afraid of missing out on vital nutrients for good health. However, the reality is that for centuries, billions of people around the globe have been sustaining themselves largely on a plant based diet. Scriptures written since ancient times state that meat is not meant for humans, as we have the discriminatory power to not cause harm to others for the purposes of food. Books from all types of traditions impose restrictions on the types and times for eating meat. It is only in the last fifty years, with the advent of mass slaughterhouses, that meat-eating became more proliferated in human society.
Therefore, a vegetarian diet is not something to adapt to, but rather, quite an intrinsic quality that people need to revert back to. Being compassionate to all aspects of nature is an innate part of human beings; it is why humans find it hard to tolerate watching other people suffer. It is said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we would all chose vegetarianism!
Carnism and its impacts
Ever wondered why we differentiate between pets and food animals? Why do we love dogs but eat cows? Why do we eat chicken eggs but not lizard eggs? These questions are not intended to sound harsh, but they are questions that people should start to consider. These dietary choices are not something individuals make, but rather a part of a wider belief system called carnism. Carnism makes people discriminate between different animal species— conditioning us to protect one animal species but eat another. However, the reality is that all types of conscious life are worth protecting. Within every living being there is a spirit, or consciousness that keeps all our bodies alive. If we situate ourselves on this platform then we can easily see all entities be it man or animal, as equal.
Of course, one may argue that plants have life too. However, as the most intelligent species on the planet, we should not use our strength to destroy the planet but to protect it. It is only the human species that has a conscience and can make moral and ethical choices. Hence, we should choose to do the least harm to feed our bellies. Most crop plants die naturally if not harvested and several fruit trees do not die if we pick the fruit we eat. Besides, more plants are killed to feed the animals that we eat. So, in all aspects, vegetarianism causes the least harm to all of nature. We must sustain ourselves, but not at the cost of pain and suffering to other sentient beings.
Make the switch to vegetarianism today
Humans have the luxury of being able to choose their own food for sustenance. If people can go on a diet for a slimmer waistline, surely, they can also consider eating sustainable food for the betterment of not only our consciousness, but also the global community and the planet at large which we consider as our home?
Reverting back to vegetarianism requires a tweak in mindset so that we can situate ourselves back to the type of lifestyle that people once lived. It also requires education on how tasty vegetarian food is and the variety that it entails. It is not just limited to salad and tofu or “rabbit food” but much more than that. Eating rice, wheat, legumes, fruit, and vegetables with a proper mix of herbs and spices is not only nutritious but has endless tasteful combinations. Such examples of vegetarian food using soy and tofu as meat substitutes include tandoori tofu burgers, vegetable lasagne, spinach tarts, lentil side-dishes, chickpea-salad sandwiches, veggie pizzas, veggie burritos, soy tacos, samosas, noodles, falafel wrap, arancini, and much, much more!
If the reasons for vegetarianism and the plethora of tasty options is still not convincing, why not try a vegetarian dish for dinner tonight? Head down to Radhey’s Chai Bar in Brunswick or the Gopal’s Vegetarian Restaurant, or Crossways in the CBD. Better still, cultivate the habit of cooking your own meals through buying our vegetarian recipe books, and take the next step in revolutionising our world, one bite at a time!