Is Vegetarianism A Hoax?

Via on Jun 8, 2010


I am not a proud omnivore.

“I have stopped fighting the basic algebra of embodiment: For something to live, something else has to die. In that acceptance, with all its suffering and sorrow, is the ability to choose a different way- a better way.” – Lierre Keith

My mom started us out on macrobiotics when I was a wee one, though we were eating an array of meat at the time as well. Later it was Vaidya Raju’s Ayurvedic fare: simple daal, rice and veg. accompanied with whipped cream and honey as our pre-meal dessert and a shredded beet, carrot parsley salad/chutney with the main course. I loved these easy edible delights, and still do. I credit these early culinary experiences (among others) with my love of noshing. Food has always been a big deal in my family.

I made a solid leap to vegetarianism in high school and later went vegan. It was a clearly sensible thing to do for anyone with an iota of consciousness. That lasted well over fifteen years, until trouble set in. My health deteriorated, my energy levels were pitiful, my yoga practice was suffering. Life felt dreadful. Even being a serious foodie and making smart eating choices, I wasn’t able to sustain this extreme diet. I was told over and over again that I had to eat meat. I refused. I denied. I continued to get weaker.

Then my trusted Vaidya, Rama Kant Mishra, gave me some valuable advice: You need meat for your health and your spiritual practice. The Charak Samhita (the Ayurvedic Bible if you will) mentions eating meat and many other “yogic taboos” which helped me to start piecing things together. Life doesn’t make sense sometimes.

For the last four years, I have been on a psychological roller coaster with this phenomenon. I eat meat now (chicken, fish, turkey) and know that I need it. Am I a yogi? Am I a fraud? Am I subject to many more lives as a human because of these actions? How much fear, anger, and misery am I knowingly partaking in? And yadda yadda….

But some things are making sense now.  First of all, there are no easy solutions or universal answers that fit everyone. Not even for yogis. Secondly, death is life. I’m not suggesting we kill like we kill now. That factory farming is acceptable. That massive slaughter can ever be sanctioned. I’m not even suggesting killing is ever wonderful. What I’m suggesting is that life happens and death happens. And death happens for life to happen. This is a universal truth. Something that I may ever be entirely o.k. with.

Lierre Keith, author of The Vegetarian Myth, featured this month in Mother Jones, offers further explanation of these cycles and shares a similar story to my self. I identified with her values, her internal struggle and her reconciliation. She points to the wide-spread destruction that agriculture has had on our land for hundreds of years- ever since agricultural based societies surfaced (remember Ishmael?) This is also murder and the beginning of “living out of balance” with our earth.

“What’s looming in the shadows of our ignorance and denial is a critique of civilization itself. The starting point may be what we eat, but the end is an entire way of life, a global arrangement of power, and with no small measure of personal attachment to it.”

The only reality that I can come up with is that balance looks different for different individuals. Depending on the angle. Balance is different for a cow or a cat, a human or a beetle. Are these needs and desires any less than the other? No.

If we were all consciously involved with our own balance, we’d be keeping the Earth’s balance in check as well. The grass would get her needs met, so would the cow and so would the human. Maybe we are beyond ever finding this true sense of balance. Perhaps it’s impossible at this point. But as a spiritual Being, my balance looks different now then it did fifteen years ago. And I expect this change to continue. Which might very well be the only thing I can be certain about.

About Saraswati J.

Saraswati J. is a Jyotish Coach and Consultant, bridging ancient Jyotish wisdom with Embodiment and Expressive Art Therapy resources. Her Jyotish work is especially well suited to the extra sensitive artists, mystics and healers—and those who need insights for their dharmic path and personal transformation process. Check out her website and find her on Facebook. You can join her newsletter for special astrological insights or register for her weekly Jyotish Basics classes for an extra dose of healing wisdom. Additionally, she creates unique adornments with the urban goddess in mind. Check out her jewelry at Swati Jr* Jewelry and also on Facebook.

3,493 views

73 Responses to “Is Vegetarianism A Hoax?”

  1. Trish says:

    Thought-provoking. I have gone back and forth in my heart and head with these issues for 25 years. I am not drawn to meat, I am for the most part repelled by it, but bits of it occasionally find their way into my body and I do not feel I suffer because of it. I have been horrified by what I have seen in regards to how most animals are treated before they come to our homes in their packages. That is simply not the way life is meant to be. Thank you for touching on the subject of balance. I am in full agreement with you – health would be easier and more vibrant if we all made more conscious food choices for BALANCE!

  2. Glenn says:

    Uhhh. I don't disagree with your concept of stewardship and balance and even that killing may be necessary, although I do think that is a slippery slope, so to speak. And I do eat some meat, as you do. We can get all of our nutritional needs from plants if we are conscious and educated about it. But calling vegetarianism a hoax is just a bit sensationalized. It is possible to write a well informed article without fishing for comments using loaded and fallacious headlines.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    When one can relish the taste of shit as much as the taste of ice cream….then that one will be a Yogi.

  4. Blake Wilson blake says:

    I'm going to say that I agree completely. We are mired in death and killing. Every bit of food that passes over our lips is or was once alive and/or carries the seed of life within. For me the focus isn't so much on the death of what we consume but rather the life. Of course knowing what your body needs is of utmost importance! Some can live without meat and some cannot. And for those who say such things as, "You can get all of your nutritional needs from plants," all I can say is, really? Are you sure? Because honestly, nutritional science is still in the dark ages. We don't understand the entire process enough to say that each and every person can access and utilize every bit of nutrition from each type of food. Try living on an Inuit diet of whale blubber.

    The best we can do is study our own bodies and learn what we need. Personally? I can suck the nutrition out of a rock so meat is not on my menu.

  5. Adam says:

    Vegetarianism is a hoax??? What’s up with the sensationalist headline that has nothing to do with this article??

    That aside, I’m in agreement that the veg diet isn’t for everyone, and while I do care deeply for all the animals that suffer to expand our waistlines, I’m not going to demand everyone go veg. Militant anything (even vegetarianism) isn’t sensible.

    The only meat I eat now is what is leftover from what I feed my son. He’s a ridiculously picky 18 month old, so when we find something healthy for him to eat, we go with it. But I’m concsious of where it came from, so I leave nothing to waste.

  6. Christy Morgan Christy says:

    I hear this argument a lot. The "I need meat for my health" argument. Then I'm reminded of the thousands and thousands of people that have been vegetarian with no health problems whatsoever. It really makes me think you aren't doing it right if you are sick. And you aren't doing it for long enough. I think it's a cumulative thing.

    I've been vegan for 8 years now and I went to have my blood work done. My cholesterol was 88, my vit B12 was perfect. My hemoglobin was especially right on target. Before I went vegan my white blood cell count was abnormally low, now it is normal, and I never get sick even when surrounded by sick people. I'm I just special and have good genes? I think not. I eat a well balanced diet with very little sugar, stopped drinking alcohol 4 years ago and started a spiritual practice. I have protected myself on all sides. The fact that spiritual practice supports my vegetarianism (it's our #1 tool) I really don't have to worry about my health anymore as long as I do my best.

    There is A LOT of collective karma surrounding killing animals for food. Our collective consciousness could change if we all moved toward a plant-based diet. And less people would get sick or feel like they need meat to survive. It's interesting to think about. Can you even imagine a loving, peaceful, conscious society that doesn't kill other living creatures and thrives? I believe it is possible. :)

  7. your cholesterol number is dangerously low by many standards – there are as many health risks associated with very low cholesterol as with very high cholesterol (see http://tinyurl.com/2faoay6 for lots of studies) – among the risks: cancers, depression, anxiety, suicide, cerebral hemorrhage, infertility – of course, there are many other variables – considering that all sex hormones are made from cholesterol, anything below a total of 130 is generally considered undesirable, with HDL preferred to be around 60 mg/dL (1.5 mmol/L) or higher for women, 75 mg/dl or higher for men

  8. Randall Smith says:

    Swati Jr., you are practicing mindfulness in your diet by the virtue of the fact that you took the time to share your thoughts with others. I have been through a lot of different "diets" that have all had a physical (and mental) impact on me. My favourite was and still is raw vegan, which is best practiced in a place with a lot of variety of locally grown food. I was living in SoCal when I practiced that. Now I've moved into a more macrobiotic diet with just a little animal now and then. Being aware not only of the effect on the body and mind but also on the path that food traveled to your plate is healthy or harmful. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Padma Kadag says:

    If our universal view of the world is one which categorizes all living beings as being equal to a right to a happy life and that one's exisitence is not more important than another's life, no matter how small or large the brain or whether there is an actual brain or larger bodied vs. smaller bodied then we are moral in our thinking.
    Farming kills millions of living beings every hour daily. Yes they are small and for the most part out of sight. But we as moralists who are deeply concerned for all living beings equally are not being honest with our selves and the killing which farming inflicts. We cannot deny the millions of insects and ground animals which are killed everyday for our vegetables and grains. We have seen the butchering and killing of livestock and it is gruesome in factories. Is this more reprehensible than the killing of insects at the blade of a plough or cultivation disc or hoe? The drowning of insects for rice. The drying out and burning of water bugs established in rice fields when those field are drained?

  10. Padma Kadag says:

    So what do we do? Not eat? Is the killing of millions of smaller animals less karmic than the killing of larger animals?
    In our self satisfaction of our moralist green lifestyles i think we should consider that, in regard to morality and karma,
    we are not very different than the meat eater.

  11. LCK says:

    @Padma: Your first post I'm afraid is a perfect example of the apathy and reasoning we use to avoid taking responsibility. To think that there is a grand tally sheet for karmic debt is ridiculousness. It's like saying: "I held the knife, but he jumped onto it, so I'm innocent." I don't eat meat because I know too much about how it gets to my plate, and, of course, because it is not necessary for a being to die for me to live. Now, I don't sit and preach at my carnivore friends, but I think if you choose to eat it, you take responsibility for your role in the destruction of a life and all of the carnage and destruction created in the process. @Swati Jr.: We as humans have the unique ability to justify any act, therefore the meat-eater's justification of his lifestyle makes as much sense as the vegetarian's. OK, so if you REALLY NEED/WANT IT, it's cool. Truth is, protein is available from many plant sources, and meat is not a necessity. If you are going to justify your lifestyle to the world, be true and fair with your reasoning. You decided to eat meat again because you wanted to eat it.

  12. Charlotte says:

    I've been vegetarian since 1978 and have absolutely no desire to eat meat. Even as a child I didn't like meat. I tolerated chicken and turkey, but all red meat made me feel awful. Since I quit eating meat, I've never been the least bit tempted to go back, and the few times I've inadvertently eaten beef broth or some other form of meat my body has rejected it violently. That said, I'm in no position to judge anyone else's diet. There are places humans live in this world where meat is the only viable option, and the bodies of people indigenous to those areas have likely evolved and adapted to eating what's available. I think the spirit of ahimsa is that we do what causes the least harm in our own individual ways. For me, it is not eating meat; for someone else, not eating meat may compromise his/her health. I don't think there's one universal way that applies to everyone.

  13. Ria says:

    Why do people, even those who consider themselves yogis or yoginis, seem so eager to jump at someone? The true title of this piece is "IS vegetarianism a hoax?". It is a question, not a statement. Perhaps people should practice breathing before they respond. Many of these statements are very defensive. The author is describing what happened to HER body while SHE ate a vegetarian diet. No one has the right to tell her how her body reacted to that diet. You may suggest to her to try it again. I feel the lack of compassion from many of these responses, even those claiming to have compassion. It's not an easy debate – except for the self-righteous on both sides.

  14. LCK says:

    Ria, the aggressiveness of voice witnessed here is passion, not judgment. Nowhere do I see any of the posts condemning others for their choices, and each participant is sharing highly personal experiences. It is an open and healthy debate, where each respondent is speaking their mind. It truly is impossible to be completely objective about what we put into our bodies, our sustaining philosophies. This is what makes human nature great, and I am grateful for the opportunity to weigh in. I think if we all cared less, this might be a rather boring exchange. :-)

  15. Shannon Wenger says:

    There once was a farmer who needed to slaughter a goat in order to feed his family. He was so distraught at the thought of incurring a karmic debt for killing the goat that he was almost in tears. As he walked toward the goat with knife in hand, the goat started laughing. The farmer asked the goat why it was laughing, saying "Do you not know why I come toward you with this knife?" The goat replied, "Yes, I know why you come toward me with that knife. This is my last incarnation as a goat. Tomorrow I will be reborn as a man. This is a happy moment for me. Please, come slit my throat."
    We do not know what actions will incur a karmic debt. What we perceive as helping someone may be hurting them by not allowing them to learn their own lessons. If the author states that she needs meat, accept it. I have issues with my health that make a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle impossible. People evolved differently all over the world. Just because you are perfectly healthy being vegan doesn't mean that everyone will be. Horror movies give some people nightmares. I have pattern nightmares that I can only get rid of by watching something scary a couple of hours before going to bed. We are all different, thank the powers that be. It is by cherishing that difference that we learn and grow. That is the path to enlightenment. The world is only a beautiful place because we are all different.

  16. Eric says:

    I would like a address a few key issues here. Firstly, the title of the article "Is Vegetarianism A Hoax?" 'A hoax is a deliberate attempt to deceive or trick people into believing or accepting something which the hoaxer (the person or group creating the hoax) knows is false.' (Wikipedia) 'Vegetarianism is the practice of following a plant-based diet including fruits, vegetables, cereal grains, nuts, and seeds, with or without dairy products and eggs.' (wiki) Vegetarianism has been practiced and well documented for well over 2000 years. It has stood the test of time despite what the critics have said. This article is another such criticism in the form of a personal testimonial based on the authors health uncertainty. I will now counter this criticism with a quote from one of the greatest minds that has ever graced our planet.

    "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
    Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel Prize 1921

  17. Eric says:

    Secondly, the author makes mention of some health concerns, "My health deteriorated, my energy levels were pitiful, my yoga practice was suffering. Life felt dreadful. Even being a serious foodie and making smart eating choices, I wasn’t able to sustain this extreme diet. I was told over and over again that I had to eat meat. I refused. I denied. I continued to get weaker." There is no mention of any cause or diagnosis for your health issues. A treatment prescribed without a cause is simply trial and error, not Ayurvedic medicine.

  18. JenniferKH says:

    I've been vegan for years. I've never felt better and have never been healthier… both physically and spiritually. I firmly believe that if you are a smart vegan – which is not easy – you will have no problems staying healthy while adhering to your spiritual beliefs.

    Of course, every body is different… some people process foods differently. Emotionally I know that I could never eat meat or animal products. I feel like I know too much to perpetuate that cycle so I choose to not participate. I think the best advice is to listen to both your heart and your body. Since it effects both, they need to be in a sort of agreement. Luckily, mine were in accordance once I got past the superficial cravings. Only you know what works best for your spiritual and physicaly wellbeing.

  19. Jessica says:

    "First of all, there are no easy solutions or universal answers that fit everyone. "

    Your article invalidates your title. This is sloppy rhetoric and writing if your entire argument can be broken by your exact sentence. How can you say that vegetarianism is a hoax, denounce it, and then say but everyones different? Maybe instead of denouncing vegetarianism because it didnt work for you, you should be looking inward and not throwing the blame. If you want to say that you really have problems with vegetarianism-like your title implies, dont hide behind PC nonsense. You arent saying, everyones different. Youre saying, vegetarians are wrong and your right- no ego there…

  20. elaine says:

    I tried earlier to post a comment and it never worked. Here is try #3…

    The title is provocative, but no more than the title of the upcoming vegan book, "Meat is for Pussies." Frankly, if you're going to go with provocative, I prefer the title of this article to the title of that book.

    There is so much passion in the vegan/vegetarian camps, particularly the vegan one since it is truly an entire philosophy. The passion makes it hard for some people to hear the fact that *some* people seem to do better than *some* meat in their diets. I, for one, cannot criticize people for the choices they make IF they do TRY veganism or vegetarianism — and this author certainly did. Do we know if she was careful "enough" with her diet? No. Is it possible that her health problems could have been solved while remaining meat-free? Maybe. But we don't know.

    The title brings people to the article, so in that sense, it's terribly effective. It is misleading, however: vegetarianism isn't a hoax, but it may, indeed, not work the same for every BODY. What IS a hoax is the claim that it CAN work for everyone.

  21. Patrick says:

    Vegetarianism IS a hoax…..GO VEGAN.

  22. Gynna says:

    Believing that your health issues are only caused or cured by the foods you eat I feel is missing the point of body mind and soulful healing. Yes you should be conscious of WHAT you feed your temple… but you should also be aware of HOW you are feeding your temple… when eating are you consciously absorbing all the nutrients from the whole body mind and soul of the food that you have chosen or are you just eating to eat? Are you stressed when you eat? Do you breath between gulps? Are you thankful for the energy that has been provided to you? Are you eating with the expectation that this food will FIX you like the western medicine magic pill? Are you allowing your subtle energy body to accept the subtle energy of the food you are eating? Are you judging yourself, others or the food that you are eating? Are you eating with love, light and life?

    You could truly choose one food and eat with intention of healing and it really doesn't matter what that food is. I have a friend who cured his bronchitis by smoking cigarettes in a very intentional way…

    now asking the question "Is vegetarianism a hoax?" also begs the question… is there only one correct way to eat?? Are we not individuals that know what are needs are? Have you asked your body mind soul what it needs and do you listen and hear and accept what she is saying?

  23. Reader says:

    "We should look upon all beings as our kind parents, and in order to repay the goodness they have shown us, we must meditate daily on loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta.
    Let us not be stained by this evil food, the flesh and blood of our very parents!"
    Shabkar
    ("Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat ")

    About Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol you may read "The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin "

    Amazon Review
    "Regarded by many as the greatest yogi after Milarepa to gain enlightenment in one lifetime (…) as source of inspiration to Buddhist practitioners and general readers alike." HH Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche: "As one reads it, one's mind cannot resist being turned toward the Dharma."
    This autobiography is full of humor, wit and playful joy, intense self-discipline as well as magnificant flights of imagination. An accessible book full of telling stories, a must-read, must-own for those interested.

    "Man –
    If you have any self-respect,
    A heart in your chest,
    Brains in your head, and
    Some sympathy for yourself,
    Regret your past actions and
    Improve your whole behavior.
    It's time! It's very late! "
    – Shabkar

  24. Reader says:

    "What I’m suggesting is that life happens and death happens. And death happens for life to happen. This is a universal truth. Something that I may ever be entirely o.k. with."

    Except your own death, maybe.?

    Eatin meat will not save us from death. We will die anyway. All of us.
    So there is another question to ask, maybe, then.
    How will a live my life? What for?
    Myself or others?
    If you consider others: who others, just people or animals too?

  25. Tom Swiss says:

    Ah. Nothing like superstition and pseudo-science to justify cruelty.

    It is a fact that human beings do not need to eat animal flesh to be healthy. Anyone telling you otherwise is ignorant. I refer you to the position statement of the ADA: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” [ http://www.eatright.org/about/content.aspx?id=8357 ]

    There are, of course, many ways to eat poorly on a vegetarian or vegan diet, just as their are on a diet containing carcasses; but that does not change the biochemical facts of the matter. Nor will appeals to Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine principles — principles that not only lack scientific rigor, but have often been misrepresented and contaminated both by the hierarchies of their native cultures and by colonialism.

    The science, as well as thousands of years of examples from India, China, Japan, and even Greece (Pythagoras was definitely vegetarian, Socrates may have been) is quite clear that humans can thrive without eating the corpses of our fellow animals.

    It is a fact that mammals and birds are capable of feeling pain and experiencing suffering, fear, and grief; even fish can feel pain and experience anxiety. Any so called “spiritual leader” telling you that you must inflict deliberate pain and suffering, or have it inflicted by your order, in order to further your spiritual progress, is a fraud.

    This would be immediately apparent if your “leader” were to tell you “go do deliberate harm to another human being, it will help your spiritual progress!”; it is only our irrational ethical anthrocentrism that prevents us from seeing the same in the more general case, “go do deliberate harm to another sentient being, it will help your spiritual progress!”

    (We all, of course, inflict some amount of incidental and accidental pain and harm on each other in the course of our lives.)

    I’m sure that the blatherings of Lierre Keith, a well-known crank who misrepresents nutritional science and thinks that billions of people should die so that humanity can abandon agriculture and resume a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, are comforting to those who find it hard to break their addiction to consuming animal flesh.

    But in the end, embracing illusions and lies can only increase one’s suffering.

  26. I’m thrilled with just how you’ve dealth with this issue in such a succinct strategy. I found your web page whilst searching by means of Google and I’ll need to admit that I’ve subscribed to it already.

  27. kimisgoa says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with us Sarah, certainly stimulated a spirited debate. As everyone on this page I have my own beliefs and embrace the Ayurvedic path for myself. I strongly feel that I can only say what's right for me and that's only in this moment as I believe it is 'subject to change'…and even THEN I can be prone to getting it wrong!! I have no desire to bludgeon another into submission with my own beliefs and actually think some of the energy so fiercely evident (borderline attacking actually) on this page could be channeled elsewhere into reducing karmic debt. Two of my favourite phrases are 'when you point the finger count how many are pointing back at you' and 'do everything with love'.

  28. This is really fascinating, You are an overly professional blogger. I’ve joined your feed and sit up for in quest of more of your fantastic post. Additionally, I have shared your site in my social networks

  29. Manmath Dhage says:

    Hopefully this will help. This is the divine knowledge received by seekers during their active spiritual practice and meditation directly from deities.

    http://www.spiritualresearchfoundation.org/articl

    Thank you

Leave a Reply