Vegetarians avoid participation in killing sentient creatures. They remain sensitive to the fact that conventionally presented meat dishes are comprised of body parts of animals that were once free to enjoy a natural life in the open air and sunshine. Those who have decided upon a meatless diet may have arrived at such a decision motivated by different factors but all would share the same sense of satisfaction that their own life is not sustained and dependent upon the killing of innocent animals.
Most people once having visited an abattoir begin to see the viewpoint of the animals and the cruel methods of husbandry that we employ in the production of livestock for human consumption. The fate of a fluffy little yellow chicken that is to spend its entire life in wire cages, enclosed in sunless sheds, being artificially fed to produce flesh but suffering disease in the process, is a shocking sight. As a result of these cruel methods its instincts are perverted and it becomes cannibalistic when it has the opportunity. Such food production methods that are motivated by greed rather than need can only be judged as inhumane in the extreme. Those farmers who are genuine ‘free range’ in their philosophy and their husbandry are beginning to receive greater public support as awareness of the industry grows. And it takes only a few seconds in observing the adult chickens suffering the last indignity of being trussed by the legs, head down on a conveyor belt to those who have to slit its throat, to realise that we are in error and that something must be done.
Do we think that we have to kill and eat, or allow others to eat, the beautiful eyed cattle, led in their fear to the slaughter house with its smells of slaughter, blood and to meet their cruel fate? There are hundreds of examples of our callous methods, unfeeling attitudes and cruel ‘necessities” in farming animals for food. Do we really believe that there is no other way than this? We should all be aware of how our food is produced and that there are alternative, more compassionate methods.
In some cases such slaughter has been reduced in the under-developed countries where to eat any meat is considered a luxury and one they cannot afford. Many of them may be vegetarian by default and many are so because of their religious principles. So the people have had to find their nutrients in the vegetable kingdom instead.
In other countries where the people are vegetarian by religious faith, it is the millions of Buddhists and Hindus who are aware of the vegetarian way of life. They have been taught in their religions, as we Christians have, to refrain from killing and try to live to the teachings. The oriental imaginative culinary arts are famous and demonstrate the wide range of tempting dishes that can be made totally free of flesh foods.
The fact that vegetarian diet is on the whole, one that promises greater health and longevity, greater vitality and endurance and a greater range of interesting nutrients makes it an attractive alternative diet for many.
Some vegetarians become so through their rational decision that to get healthy they can eat foods directly from nature instead of waiting for animals to eat the fresh produce and then for them to eat the animals. This is a wise choice when once it is realised that animals also have their illnesses and often pass on disease to consumers in one form or another, as recent examples of worldwide epidemics are showing.
Some people are shocked into becoming vegetarians by thinking about the flesh of an animal they are handling and through sudden realization of what they are doing, change their nutritional habits instantly.
Most vegetarians, after having followed this philosophy for a period of time, will decide to continue when they discover that their choice has led to greater economic advantage. As quality improves, there is less need for quantity.
Meats are difficult to digest when compared with fresh fruits, nuts and salad vegetables and so some become vegetarians because they are more comfortable in their digestion and feel more vital and healthier when they make the change.
Some children are born with a sensitivity beyond the average and refuse to eat meat in spite of persuasion. One child is recorded when only a few years old as saying to her mother that she would not ‘eat anything that has a face’ which was quite astute! If we have an aversion to killing our pet dog or cat, skinning it, preparing it and then eating it demonstrates that we have some sensitivity ourselves and some higher emotion than the heartlessness which allows such wholesale killing of millions of animals, even though they may not be domestic pets. But what indeed is the difference? should we not be just as sensitive to all animals?
Some semi-vegetarians eat fish. Some vegetarians will not eat eggs. Others refrain from dairy produce. Some will only eat fruit and nuts. All have their own reasons for doing so. However the majority of modern vegetarians will eat a wide range of vegetables, salads, nuts and grains and include seaweeds, sprouted seeds and many fruits in their diet.
Because a huge range of foods are available to consumers in the developed countries today, the task in finding an interesting appetising and healthful ingredients for ones’ food is relatively easy when compared with a time when a vegetarian was labelled a freak. There was a time when a vegetarian was ridiculed in company and when no restaurant was capable of providing satisfying dishes for vegetarian clients. It was only 50 years ago that a café salad consisted of a faded lettuce leaf, a piece of tomato and a stick of celery!
So why not take advantage of the wonderful array of fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheeses, grains and sprouts and seaweeds in our local stores and enjoy with new zest, food preparation that looks good and offers a wider range of exciting tastes? There are plenty of wonderful recipes available but remember that foods that require cooking should be lightly steamed or baked and served undercooked rather than overcooked.