Say No to rotting flesh

1335661956000 » Tagged as: Buddhism , Tagged as: hunter-gatherer , Tagged as: vegetarian , Tagged as: Wesak

Say NO to Rotten Flesh

daya dissanayake

This is Wesak. The day symbolizing Buddha's Birth, Enlightenment and Nirvana. Today is a day we could contemplate on Ahimsa, and why there should be a need for the rotting flesh of animals and fish in our diet, which leads to direct or indirect violation of the First Precept.

A recent myth promoted by meat vendors in our country is that Buddhism does not say anything against eating meat, but only about killing animals. But animals are killed because other people eat them. It is not just the killing, the meat eaters are responsible for, but the lifetime torture of the animals. In today's meat factories, the chicken, the pigs or the cattle would never see the light of day, never breath fresh air from their birth to premature death. A pig lives in six square feet, a cow in 14 sq.ft. but a chicken only 130 sq. inches! The chickens are made to grow so fast, that hearts and lungs cannot support their bodies, so if they are not slaughtered they would die of heart failure.

In our country for a year we consume over 25,000 tons of beef, 45,000 tons of chicken and over 100,000 tons of fish. (Based on Sri Lanka socio-economic data)

I have always believed that man had originally been a vegetarian, that the myth of pre-historic hunter-gatherer had been created by the anthropologists from the West, who had grown up on a diet of rotting flesh, who could not believe that human beings could survive on a vegetarian diet. My belief was strengthened when I learnt of the forthcoming book by Prof. Raj Somadeva about Sri Lankan pre-historic cave art. Prof. Somadeva says that he had not found any cave paintings depicting hunting scenes in our country. He had found only two caves with drawings of bow and arrow, but there were no signs of any animals as targets. Our ancestors did not hunt their food, but only gathered fruit and vegetables and yams. They were true Buddhists even then.

When did our ancestors become carnivorous, we may never know. At least in other countries, it could have been at times of famines, when there was no vegetable food available, and when animals began to die too. Then man could have been compelled to eat the flesh of dead animals, as sometimes in more recent history too, man had been driven to even cannibalism.

The first recorded 'vegetarian' from the West is said to be Pythagoras, and until the term 'Vegetarian' was coined, those who abstained from meat was known as a Pythagorian. Pythagoras had believed not only that it was wrong to kill another being, but that meat eating disturbed the humors inside the body. Plutarch wondered why man does not eat lions and wolves, but only innocent defenseless animals. He challenged, "If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax."

Vegetarianism in Asia is a historical fact, but we should appreciate when people become vegetarian in the West. When they begin to think like Thomas Edison, who said, "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages." And Jean Jacques Rousseau, who declared a universal truth, meat-eating animals are generally more cruel and violent than herbivores, Leonardo Da Vinci considered the bodies of meat-eaters to be graveyards for the animals they eat.

The myth that meat contains a high nutrient density and provides high quality proteins and vitamins for child growth is easily debunked, when we consider India. A majority of the Indian population had never consumed any form of meat during their entire life, for thousands of generations. Their children did not receive their nutrients and proteins from animal flesh. Yet India produced the Buddha, Mahavir, Valmiki, Kautilya, Tagore, and the world IT industry is a modern example of intelligence and technical capabilities of the Indian youth.

A few decades ago the haematinic syrups for iron deficiency contained animal liver extracts. But today the Pharma industry is able to manufacture haematinics without liver extract, which simply proves that man does not need any animal based products.

Since we should all practice what we preach, perhaps the first step to be taken by all environmentalists and eco-friends is to abstain from consuming any flesh of animals. They have to realize and accept that all meat-based diet is BAD for the environment. Even after prehistoric man began to consume animal flesh, the environmental damage caused by their livestock would have been minimal, because villagers would have used only locally available resources without exploitation. Like with all other forms of 'development' there is no possibility of 'sustainable development' in meat factories. There is only destruction. Commercial scale livestock contribute to climate change, by emitting green-house gasses, feed production process and effluents and deforestation. Oregon State University agriculture professor Peter Cheeke calls factory farming "a frontal assault on the environment, with massive groundwater and air pollution problems." John Robbins, in his book 'The Food Revolution' says, "you'd save more water by not eating a pound of California beef than you would by not showering for an entire year."

Today there are no animal farms. We only have meat-producing factories, where we measure development in terms of output. 330 eggs per year with a feed conversion ratio of 2 kg of feed to give 1 kg of eggs. broilers weight 2.5 kg at 39 days with a feed conversion of 1.6 kg per 1 kg body weight. in 2005, a total of 741 million tons of cereal had been fed to animals, with a total of 1250 million (brans, pulses etc) to produce about 250 million tons of meat. One argument by the meat eaters is that the cereals and other food, even if available to all the people, some may not have the ability to acquire the food, because of the cost. But if the demand for meat production dropped, the prices for other food items should drop and become more accessible.

All socialist minded comrades should give up meat and fish, because it contributes to a widening gap on food distribution among mankind, and contributes to greater inequality in food consumption and nourishment. In 2005, when the "developed" countries recorded 82.1 kg per capita meat consumption, South Asia was only 5.8 kg. But in South Asia too there could have been a few families who consumed even more than 82 kg, because majority of people in India did not consume any meat. In the developed countries, each person consumes about one ton of grain indirectly through the meat they eat. Frances Moore Lappe estimates that the cost of an 8 ounce steak could fead 45 to 50 hungry human beings. Harvard nutritionist Jean Mayer estimates that reducing meat production by 10 percent in the U. S. would free enough grain to feed 60 million people. Today people in Ethiopia are starving not because there is a worldwide shortage of food, but because of inequality in food distribution and food consumed by livestock. In the developed countries, each person consumes about one ton of grain indirectly through the meat they eat.

The Senior members of the World Food Program should abstain from consuming meat, because meat production AGGRAVATES global hunger. According to the FAO report for 2009, there were over One Billion human beings on earth suffering from chronic hunger, that 4 - 5 billion people are suffering from iron deficiency. The report admits, "the rapid growth of the livestock sector means that competition for land and other productive resources puts upward pressure on prices for staple grains as well as negative pressures on the natural-resource base, potentially reducing food security." FAO is worried about food shortages, while reporting that "Livestock grazing occupies 26 percent of the earth’s ice-free land surface, and the production of livestock feed uses 33 percent of agricultural cropland". In other words livestock is the world's largest user of land resources, with almost 80 percent of agricultural land used for animal feed production.

Even in the U. S. where there are only less than 5 million vegetarians, The American Dietetic Association says in a position statement, "Appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, are nutritionally adequate and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

The officials of the World Health Organization should set an example by saying NO to meat, because it compromises the health of all human beings. The meat-factories are the cause of many human diseases, spreading even to those who do not consume meat. Before WHO worries about anemia and other health problems, assumed to be due to non-consumption of meat, they should concentrate more on health problems created by the production and consumption of meat and the hormones, antibiotics and chemicals (including Arsenic) fed to humans through the meat they consume. There are diseases that arise in animals but are passed onto humans , like influenza. Food borne diseases are salmonella and E. coli. WHO is the first organization which should practice Preventive Healthcare. The FAO report continues to tell us, "At least half of the 1,700 known causes of infectious disease in humans have a reservoir in animals, and many new infections are zoonotic diseases. More than 200 zoonotic diseases have been described, caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses, fungi and unconventional agents (e.g. prions). About 75 percent of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past ten years are caused by pathogens originating from animals or from products of animal origin."

There used to be a theory of measuring economic growth by the increase in sugar consumption. Since man realized the harm of excessive sugar consumption now they have identified sugar as a killer and do not talk about it. In the same manner till to-date we talk about increasing meat consumption in the developing world as an indication of their economic growth, while in the developed countries, people are beginning to realize that they are committing slow suicide by consuming rotting flesh of other animals.

The increasing consumption is mostly because of the demand created by food suppliers for their junk food, the ready to eat or ready to cook meat products. For almost 90 per cent of the junk food they use meat, to add "value" as they claim, but in reality to add "higher profits". Most of the food we eat today, is decided by their availability. In our consumerist culture, an artificial demand is created by the supplier, who dictates to the producer and the consumer. Eric Schlosser in his book 'Fast Food Nation' says, "Americans now spend more money on fast food—$110 billion a year—than they do on higher education. They spend more on fast food than on movies, books, magazines, newspapers, videos and recorded music—combined."

All animal lovers and members of organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals should abstain from meat because there is no humane way to rear and slaughter animals for human consumption. Free range farm animals are a thing of the past. Today the meat factories do not consider the animals as living creatures, but as raw materials to produce meat. The producers are not concerned, if the animals never get a chance to lie down, to rest, or to play around. They are not concerned if the animals are in continuous pain, both in mind and in body. They are not much concerned if some of the animals die before they are processed. Such animals would be the 'factory rejects'. When the time comes for processing the meat, the only concern is the maximum production at minimum cost. Human beings are using inhuman methods to provide food for other human beings, which they can do without.

Let us show loving kindness to all living creatures, not by abstaining from meat on this Wesak day, but everyday.

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