To Eat Or Not To Eat Meat
The question of which diet is healthier, one including meat or one excluding meat commonly referred to as a vegetarian diet, has been argued over the years with the supporters of eating meat by far outnumbering the vegetarians. I am a vegetarian myself and became one because I am firmly convinced that it is a more natural diet for human beings.
The word vegetarian is not derived from vegetable as most people think, but from the Latin word vegus which means “full of life”. Some of the world’s greatest thinkers eschewed meat, among them: Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Issac Newton, St. Francis of Assisi and Albert Einstein who said: “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”
Pythagoras, who is generally given credit for its inception, praised vegetarianism for its hygienic nature and the kinship it fostered between man and the animals. In the past most Doctors, nutritionists and those responsible for health education, have in the main stated that a diet which contained no meat, could not be a healthy diet because this kind of diet would be lacking in certain minerals and vitamins, especially the B group of vitamins. In recent years the trend towards eating less meat has increased because the technology that has so successfully increased meat production is an unnatural method. The use of chemicals and the unnatural living conditions the animals are kept in, which in many cases are appalling, are designed to force growth. People are now becoming increasingly concerned about their intake of chemicals and fat via the food chain.
Some scientists believe that the chemicals feed to these animals will lead to an accelerated aging in humans. We are constantly told by our doctors that we must reduce our fat intake to lower cholesterol levels. No food in the plant world contains cholesterol. Using modern technology nutritionists have shown that the body can obtain all it requires to remain healthy without eating meat.
Many people now consider it wrong to kill animals for food when this is not necessary for survival. Perhaps they feel as Leonardo Da Vinci did when he said, “I have from an early age forsworn the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the slaughter of animals as they now look upon the slaughter of men.”
The International Development Research Centre in Ottawa claims meat production in western countries is cheating the rest of the world of much needed food. In view of this, eating meat is a wanton waste of resources. The amount of food an animal eats is out of all proportion to the amount of eating meat it produces. In fact the modern battery chicken which is the most efficient in converting its food to flesh it takes around 12 pounds of food to produce 1 pound of meat (not including the bones). Pigs eat 20 pounds and cows 30 pounds of food to produce one pound of meat. Sheep usually graze on land that is unsuitable for crops and they are fortunate enough to roam free, at least, until market day. Every pound of food that is grown for feeding to animals to produce eating meat is a pound of food less for a person. So whilst we indulge ourselves in eating meat, others must go hungry.
Still we can always send our old clothes and perhaps an old blanket or two via Oxfam to ease our consciences, perhaps even give a little of our hard earned cash. But whilst we try to cure the symptoms instead of the cause, hoping the problem will go away or somebody else will sort it out, more people starve to death. But we are not really interested in tackling the cause because it would involve altering our eating habits and we must have our meat, our selfish greed robs us of our affection and compassion for our fellow man.
Scientific research has shown that children born to vegetarian mothers are as healthy as babies born to omnivore mothers. Still birth, premature deliveries and birth defects occur no more or less frequently in vegetarian women than in any other particular group.
The strongest animals who possess the greatest endurance, the horse, the ox, the elephant, are all vegetarians, as are many of our world class sports people. The physical apparatus of humans is not like that of a natural carnivore. They have sharp teeth and claws for tearing flesh. Our teeth resemble more closely the vegetarian animals who have flat molars for grinding. Furthermore, carnivores have short intestines, usually no more then three times the length of the trunk, so that meat can be quickly eliminated from the body before it has had time to putrefy. Human intestines are huge, up to 12 times the length of the body, giving the meat plenty of time to turn rank inside the intestinal tract and poison the consumer.
Social conditioning plays an enormous part in our eating habits, for instance the thought of eating steak and kidney pie for breakfast may seem ridiculous, yet three hours later it is welcomed. Food snobbery is in evidence when foods like caviar and pheasant are valued not because they are more nutritious foods, but because they cost more or are associated with the upper classes. Food advertiser’s play on our emotions by conjuring up pleasant memories or confirming social images associated with the consumption of their products, all in an effort to sell more. We must resist these temptations for the good of our health.
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, himself a vegetarian, was once very ill. His doctors warned him that unless he began to eat eggs and drink a broth made with a meat base, he would die. Rather than heed the doctors advice, Shaw called for his private secretary. In the doctors presence Shaw dictated his final instructions: ‘I solemnly declare that it is my last wish that when I am no longer a captive of this physical body, that my coffin when carried to the graveyard be accompanied by mourners of the following categories: first birds; second, sheep, lambs, cows, and other animals of the kind; third, live fish in an aquarium. Each of these mourners should carry a placard bearing the inscription: ‘O lord, be gracious to our benefactor George Bernard Shaw who gave his life for saving ours!’ George Bernard Shaw also once said, “Mankind will never have peace until we stop killing and eating animals.” I believe this to be true. For if we cannot show animals love and respect, allowing them to live out their lives naturally. I do not see how we can ever truly learn to love and respect each other. If this is so then we shall never end the continual conflict and misery that we impose upon one another, in our continual struggle for personal prosperity. If we are to live together in peace and co-operation we must first stop eating meat.
Many foods that have beneficial qualities also contain properties that are not good for the human body. Meat which contains many minerals and proteins, also introduces large amounts of cholesterol, high concentrations of which is believed to accelerate arteriosclerosis. Many packaged foods in our supermarkets contain large amounts of sugar which pollute the taste buds masking the true flavour of the food. Our taste buds are educated to expect this sweet pleasurable taste in everything we eat. Our bodies become hooked on sugar and eventually most foods not containing sugar are considered awful in taste and are therefore shunned. Excessive sugar consumption is just as addictive as alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. These substances harm the consumer’s health in the long run. Caffeine is very addictive and when combined with large amounts of sugar, as it is in many canned drinks, is extremely detrimental to the future health of our children. Caffeine is and alkaloid drug, and we should discourage its use by our young children so that they do not grow up dependent on their daily intake to function effectively. This I believe is a very serious matter. In the affluent Western world, we are in great danger of becoming – if we are not already – dependent on our daily intake of these drugs. No wonder we pay scant attention to the natural world and our destruction of the earth’s resources. We are becoming like the drug addict who will do anything to pay for his next fix. Like these poor souls driven out of there minds by a craving they cannot control, we seek only to please the senses by obtaining more and more possession and pleasurable experiences. And, most of us are prepared to turn a blind eye to the suffering that is incurred in the process.
The food we eat is of vital importance to our health both physically and mentally and therefore spiritually. Your perception of the world and conditions surrounding you will be severely coloured by your addiction to the pleasures of eating.
If you eat to live, there is still pleasure in the consumption of your food without the excessive addiction. The body will be nourished adequately without having to deal with excesses that are a burden on the physical system. The mind will be freer from the constrains of the bodies addiction and able to appreciate the realities of the world and its surrounding to a larger degree. The greater harmony of body and mind will ensure that the purification of the spirit is not unnecessarily hindered.
Finally an ascetic approach to diet in my opinion is also incorrect. Food is provided by God that we may nourish our bodies and replenish our energies. I believe we should enjoy these gifts and give thanks. Eat to live and, not over indulge or waste food. If we over indulge and waste food while others go hungry elsewhere, how can man’s spirit become free to soar to new heights. Much more could be said about diet but I think this will suffice for the present. You may agree or disagree with the opinions I have expressed here. You must make up you own mind; take responsibility for your diet. After all if you lived in Iceland or were part of the Bedouin people it would be rather difficult if not impossible to comply with the suggestions made here. However whether you agree or disagree with me I hope I have given you food for thought.
About the Author
By Howard Gibbon, founder of the East-West Taoist Association
Howard Gibbon was born in Hull in 1946 and began training under Chee Soo in 1973. He has been an instructor of both Tai Chi Chuan and Feng Shou Kung Fu since 1976. He lives with his wife and mosaic artist Gisela in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.
Howard’s early fascination for Tai Chi soon grew into a life-time vocation, realizing that Tai Chi went beyond a purely physical discipline, but Tai Chi was also a tool for self-development, spiritual growth, and a way of helping himself and others to achieve holistic health and well-being. Extremely proficient in the Feng Shou self defence arts, Howard nevertheless felt a special love for the various Tai Chi Forms, K’ai Men and Dao Yin. In fact he is famous for being Chee Soo’s only instructor who practiced the Tai Chi form every morning, with the exception of Christmas Day, for 15 years! (And he is still practising the Tai Chi form, with an odd exception, on a daily basis!
Chee Soo had hundreds, perhaps thousands of Tai Chi students who entered his training halls through the years, but in the end there were only four in the country who stayed long enough to gain the highest Master Grade Chee Soo issued in his life time. One of those students was Howard, respected by his peers as the foremost authority on the Lee Family Tai Chi form. Howard’s and Chee Soo’s friendship was legendary and it is a privilege for those who today train under Howard to be shown an art so ancient, taught as he was taught, undiluted by fads and fashions, imbued with love, enthusiasm, precision and quality.
Chee Soo passed away in 1994. In order to safeguard the continuation of the Arts and their philosophy, Howard founded the East-West Taoist Association in 1999. Howard has a weekly Tai Chi evening class as well as taking regular all-day Tai Chi courses and grading days.