The Writings of
Vasu Murti


Animal Rights and Vegetarianism
in the Western Religious Traditions

Copyright 1995, 1999

Chapter 14

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise

The health advantages of a vegetarian diet are well-known in the American medical community, but are just beginning to gain acceptance in the popular culture. The ethical, nutritional and environmental arguments in favor of vegetarianism have been well documented by author John Robbins in his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated book, Diet for a New America, which makes ethical vegetarianism seem as mainstream as recycling.

It’s healthier to be a vegetarian. During the period of October 1917 to October 1918, war rationing forced the Danish government to put its citizens on a vegetarian diet. This was a "mass experiment in vegetarianism," with over three million subjects. The results were astonishing. The mortality rate dropped by 34 percent. The very same phenomenon was observed in occupied Norway during the Second World War. After the war, heavy consumption of meat resumed, and the mortality rate shot back up.

The populations consuming the highest levels of animal flesh—the Eskimos, Laplanders, Greenlanders and Russian Kurgi tribes—also have the life expectancies, averaging about 30 years. Nor can such a short lifespan be attributed to harsh climate. The Russian Caucasians and Yucatan Indians, for example, live mostly on vegetarian foods and have life expectancies of 90 to 100 years.

The populations with the longest lifespans include the Vilacambans of Ecuador, the Abhikasians of the former USSR, and the Hunzas of Pakistan. The most remarkable feature of all these people is that they live almost entirely on plant foods. The Hunzas, for example, eat a diet that is 98.5 percent plant food.

Studies done at Yale University by Professor Irving Fisher demonstrated that flesh-eaters have less endurance than vegetarians. A similar study done by Dr. J. Ioteyko of the Academie de Medicine in Paris found that vegetarians have two to three times more stamina than flesh-eaters and they take only one-fifth the time to recover from exhaustion.

In recent years, there has been widespread concern about osteoporosis, which is epidemic in America, especially among older women. The popular myth has been to solve the problem by consuming more calcium. Yet this doesn’t attack the root of the problem.

Osteoporosis is caused by excess consumption of protein. Americans overdose on protein, getting 1.5 to 2 times more protein than their bodies can handle. The body can’t store excess protein, so the kidneys are forced to excrete it. In doing so, they must draw upon calcium from the bloodstream. This negative calcium balance in the blood is compensated for by calcium loss from the bones: osteoporosis. The calcium lost in the bones of flesh-eaters is 5 to 6 times greater than that lost in the bones of vegetarians.

Excessive protein intake also taxes the kidneys; in America, it is not uncommon to find many over 45 with kidney problems. A strong correlation between excessive protein intake and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas and colon has even been observed.

It must be pointed out that meat, fish, and eggs are the most acidic forming foods; heavy consumption of these foods will cause the body to draw upon calcium to restore its pH balance. The calcium lost from the bones gets into one’s urine and often crystallizes into kidney stones, which are found in far greater frequency among flesh-eaters than among vegetarians. Studies have found that vegetarians in the United States have less than half the kidney stones of the general population.

The high consumption of saturated fats and cholesterol leads to artherosclerosis—more popularly known as "hardening of the arteries." Plant foods contain zero cholesterol and only palm oil, coconuts and chocolate contain saturated fats. Lowering the cholesterol and fat intake in one’s diet lowers the risk of heart disease—America’s biggest killer.

As far back as 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that "A vegetarian diet can prevent 97% of our coronary occlusions." Much has been said about the advantage of polyunsaturated fats as a means of lowering cholesterol in the blood. Unfortunately, this also has the adverse side effect of driving the cholesterol out of the blood and into the colon; contributing to colon cancer. The best way to prevent heart disease is to avoid foods high in fat and cholesterol.

Up to 50 percent of all cancers are caused by diet. Meat and fat intake are primarily responsible. The incidence of colon cancer is high in regions where meat consumption is high and low where meat consumption is minimal. A lack of fiber in the diet also contributes significantly to colon cancer.

It’s important to remember that unprocessed plant foods are high in fiber and carbohydrates, while animal flesh has none. The highest incidence of breast cancer occurs among flesh-eating populations; meat eating women have a four times greater risk of developing breast cancer than do vegetarian women. There is also a greater risk of cervical, uterine, and ovarian cancer—all linked to diets high in fat. Men who consume large quantities of animal fat also have a 3.6 times greater risk of getting prostate cancer.

Diabetes is known to be treatable on a low fat, high fiber diet. Incidence of diabetes balloons among populations eating a rich, meat-based diet. Hypoglycemia is caused by the excessive consumption of meats, sugar and fats. Multiple Sclerosis is also treatable on a low-fat diet. MS is prevalent among populations where consumption of animal fats is high and is least common where such consumption is low. A brain tissue analysis of people with MS found a high saturated fat content.

Ulcers occur most frequently in diets which are acid forming, low in fiber and high in fats. Meat, fish, and eggs are the most acid forming of all foods, and animal flesh has no fiber and excess fat. Low fiber, high-fat diets are the principle cause of hemorrhoids and also diverticulosis—which affects 75 percent of Americans over the age of 75. Similarly, 35 percent of Americans are afflicted with some form of arthritis by the age of 35. Over 85 percent of all Americans over age 70 have arthritis, yet it is treatable on a fat free diet.

The United States Public Health Service estimates that some 60 million Americans are overweight. Exercise is beneficial, but so is proper diet and nutrition. Foods high in fiber, low in fat and moderate in protein are most conducive to maintaining proper body weight.

Excess cholesterol forms gallstones. Gallstones, as well as gallbladder disease and gallbladder cancer are usually found in people with low-fiber, high cholesterol, high fat diets. Hypertension is virtually unknown in countries where the intake of salts, fat and cholesterol is low. At the University Hospital in Linkoping, Sweden, even severe asthma patients were found to be treatable on a vegetarian diet. Flesh foods in America are also contaminated with coliform bacteria and salmonella. Much healthier alternatives exist.

"I have no doubt that it is part of the destiny of the human race in its gradual development to leave off the eating of animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came into contact with the more civilized."

---Henry David Thoreau

Human beings differ completely from the naturally carnivorous species such as wolves or tigers. Carnivores have a very short digestive tract—three times the length of their bodies—to rapidly consume and excrete decaying flesh. Their urine is highly acidic and they possess hydrochloric stomach acid strong enough to dissolve muscle tissues and bones. Because they are night hunters who sleep during the day, carnivores don’t sweat. They perspire through their tongue. Their jaws can only move up and down and their teeth are long and pointed, in order to cut through tendons and bones.

The carnivores are quadrupeds with keen eyesight and sense of smell. They possess not only the necessary speed to overtake their prey but also have sharp, retractable claws which enable them to pull their victims to the ground and hold them fast. The anatomy of natural omnivores, such as the bear or raccoon, is almost identical to that of the carnivores, except they possess a set of molars to chew the plant foods that they eat.

Herbivorous creatures such as sheep and cattle have a digestive tract 30 times the length of their bodies; they have several stomachs, which allows them to break down cellulose—something humans are unable to do. This is why we can’t graze or live on grass. The urine and saliva of the herbivores are alkaline, and their saliva contains ptyalin for the predigestion of starches.

The frugivores (gorillas, chimpanzees and other primates) have intestinal tracts twelve times the length of the body, clawless hands and alkaline urine and saliva. Their diet is mostly vegetarian, occasionally supplemented with carrion, insects, etc.

Flesh-eating animals lap water with their tongues, whereas vegetarian animals imbibe liquids by a suction process. Humans are classified as primates and are thus frugivores possessing a set of completely herbivorous teeth. Proponents of the theory that humans should be classified as omnivores note that human beings do, in fact, possess a modified form of canine teeth. However, these so-called "canine teeth" are much more prominent in animals that traditionally never eat flesh, such as apes, camels, and the male musk deer.

It must also be noted that the shape, length and hardness of these so-called "canine teeth" can hardly be compared to those of true carnivorous animals. A principle factor in determining the hardness of teeth is the phosphate of magnesia content. Human teeth usually contain 1.5 percent phosphate of magnesia, whereas the teeth of carnivores are composed of nearly 5 percent phosphate of magnesia. It is for this reason they are able to break through the bones of their prey, and reach the nutritious marrow.

Linneaus, who introduced binomial nomenclature (naming plants and animals according to their physical structure) wrote: "Man’s structure, external and internal, compared with that of other animals shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food." Dr. F.A. Pouchet, 19th century author of The Universe, wrote in his Pluralite’ de la Race Humaine: "It has been truly said that Man is frugivorous. All the details of his intestinal canal, and above all his dentition, prove it in the most decided manner."

One of the most famous anatomists, Baron Cuvier, wrote: "The natural food of man, judging from his structure, appears to consist principally of the fruits, roots, and other succulent parts of vegetables. His hands afford every facility for gathering them; his short but moderately strong jaws on the other hand, and his canines being equal only in length to the other teeth, together with his tuberculated molars on the other, would scarcely permit him either to masticate herbage, or to devour flesh, were these condiments not previously prepared by cooking."

The poet Shelley, in his essay, "A Vindication of a Natural Diet," wrote:

"Comparative anatomy teaches us that man resembles the frugivorous animals in everything, the carnivorous in nothing...It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion, and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite loathing and disgust...

"Man resembles no carnivorous animal. There is no exception, unless man be one, to the rule of herbivorous animals having cellulated colons. The orang-outang is the most anthropomorphous (manlike) of the ape tribe, all of whom are strictly frugivorous.

"There is no other species of animals which live on different foods in which this analogy exists...The structure of the human frame then, is that of one fitted to a pure vegetable diet in every essential particular."

Professor William Lawrence, FRS, in his lectures delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons in 1822, said:

"The teeth of man have not the slightest resemblance to those of the carnivorous animals, excepting that their enamel is confined to the external surface. He possesses, indeed, teeth called canine; but they do not exceed the level of others, and are obviously unsuited to the purposes which the corresponding teeth execute in carnivorous animals. Thus we find, whether we consider the teeth and jaws, or the immediate instruments of digestion, that the human structure closely resembles that of the apes, all of whom, in their natural state, are completely herbivorous (frugivorous)."

Professor Charles Bell, FRS, wrote in his 1829 work, Anatomy, Physiology, and Diseases of the Teeth: "It is, I think, not going too far to say that every fact connected with the human organisation goes to prove that man was originally formed a frugivorous animal. This opinion is derived principally from the formation of his teeth and digestive organs, as well as from the character of his skin and the general structure of his limbs."

Professor Richard Owen, FRS, in his elaborate 1845 work, Odontography, wrote: "The apes and monkeys, whom man nearly resembles in his dentition, derive their staple food from fruits, grain, the kernels of nuts, and other forms in which the most sapid and nutritious tissues of the vegetable kingdom are elaborated; and the close resemblance between the quadrumanous and the human dentition shows that man was, from the beginning, adapted to eat the fruit of the tree of the garden."

"Behold! I have given you every plant-yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food."

---Genesis 1:29

"Man, by nature, was never made to be a carnivorous animal," wrote John Ray, FRS, "nor is he armed for prey or rapine, with jagged and pointed teeth, and claws to rend and tear; but with gentle hands to gather fruit and vegetables, and with teeth to chew and eat them." According to Dr. Spenser Thompson, "No physiologist would dispute with those who maintain that men ought to have a vegetable diet." Dr. S.M. Whitaker, MRCS, LRCP, in Man’s Natural Food: An Enquiry, concluded, "Comparative anatomy and physiology indicate fresh fruits and vegetables as the main food of man."

More recently, William S. Collens and Gerald B. Dobkens concluded: "Examination of the dental structure of modern man reveals that he possesses all the features of a strictly herbivorous animal. While designed to subsist on vegetarian foods, he has perverted his dietary habits to accept food of the carnivore. It is postulated that man cannot handle carnivorous foods like the carnivore. Herein may lie the basis for the high incidence of arteriosclerotic disease."

In The Natural Diet of Man, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg observes:

"Man is neither a hunter nor a killer. Carnivorous animals are provided with teeth and claws with which to seize, rend, and devour their prey. Man possesses no such instruments of destruction and is less well qualified for hunting than is a horse or a buffalo. When a man goes hunting, he must take a dog along to find the game for him, and must carry a gun with which to kill his victim after it has been found. Nature has not equipped him for hunting."

According to Dr. Kellogg, "The statement that man is omnivorous is made without an atom of scientific support. It is true the average hotel bill of fare and the menu found upon the table of the average citizen of this country have a decidedly omnivorous appearance. As a matter of fact, man is not naturally omnivorous, but belongs, as long ago pointed out by Cuvier, to the frugivorous class of animals along with the chimpanzee and other anthropoids.

"The hog is a truly omnivorous animal. Although he thrives best upon a diet of grass or clover, tender shoots, seeds, and succulent roots, he will eat animal flesh, raw or cooked, with avidity when hungry, and he does not hesitate to regale himself upon carrion, after his taste has been cultivated in this direction.

"Man is not omnivorous. He cannot subsist upon grass or raw grain. Taking his food from the hand of Nature, without the aid of cookery, he must confine his dietary to fruits, nuts, soft grains, tender shoots, and succulent roots...It is true he can acquire an appetite for meat, especially when cooked, but practically all animals can do the same. Hunters sometimes teach their horses to eat broiled venison and cows have been taught to eat fish with avidity. Du Chaillu found in the Island of Magero...that sheep and goats were fed daily on fish both raw and cooked."

Dr. Kellogg insists, however, that "cookery is no part of Nature’s biologic scheme, and hence the fact that man is able to eat and digest cooked meat is no more evidence that he is carnivorous or omnivorous than the fact that he can eat and digest cooked corn is evidence that he is to be classified with graminivourous animals, like the horse, which are eaters of raw grains.

"The bill of fare which wise Nature provides for man in forest and meadow, orchard and garden, a rich and varied menu, comprises more than 600 edible fruits, 100 cereals, 200 nuts, and 300 vegetables—roots, stems, buds, leaves and flowers...Fruits and nuts, many vegetables—young shoots, succulent roots, and fresh green leaves...are furnished by Nature ready for man’s use."

Dr. Kellogg further notes that "the human liver is incapable of converting uric acid into urea," and this is "an unanswerable argument against the use of flesh foods as part of the dietary of man. Uric acid is a highly active tissue poison...The livers of dogs, lions, and other carnivorous animals detoxicate uric acid by converting it into urea, a substance which is much less toxic and which is much more easily eliminated by the kidneys.

"Flesh foods are not the best nourishment for human beings and were not the food of our primitive ancestors," observes Dr. Kellogg. "There is nothing necessary or desirable for human nutrition to be found in meats or flesh foods which is not found in and derived from vegetable products."

Although writing in 1923, Dr. Kellogg’s words confirm a recent statement by the American Dietetic Association, that, "most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near vegetarian diets."

"The human race in general has never really adopted flesh as a staple food," explains Dr. Kellogg. "The Anglo-Saxons and a few savage tribes are about the only flesh-eating people. The people of other nations use meat only as a luxury or an emergency diet. According to Mori, the Japanese peasant of the interior is almost an exclusive vegetarian. He eats fish once or twice a month and meat once or twice a year."

Dr. Kellogg writes that in 1899, the Emperor of Japan appointed a commission to determine whether it was necessary to add meat to the nation’s diet to improve the people’s strength and stature. The commission concluded that as far as meat was concerned, "the Japanese had always managed to do without it, and that their powers of endurance and their athletic prowess exceeded that of any of the Caucasian races. Japan’s diet stands on a foundation of rice."

According to Dr. Kellogg, "the rice diet of the Japanese is supplemented by the free use of peanuts, soy beans, and greens, which...constitute a wholly sufficient bill of fare. Throughout the Island Empire, rice is largely used, together with buckwheat, barley, wheat, and millet. Turnips and radishes, yams and sweet potatos are frequently used, also cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. The soy bean is held in high esteem and used largely in the form of miso, a puree prepared from the bean and fermented; also to-fu, a sort of cheese; and cho-yu, which is prepared by mixing the pulverized beans with wheat flour, salt, and water and fermenting from one and a half to five years.

"The Chinese peasant lives on essentially the same diet, as do also the Siamese, the Koreans, and most other Oriental peoples. Three-fourths of the world’s population eat so little meat that it cannot be regarded as anything more than an incidental factor in their bill of fare. The countless millions of China," writes Dr. Kellogg, "are for the most part flesh-abstainers. In fact, at least two-thirds of the inhabitants of the world make so little use of flesh that it can hardly be considered an essential part of their dietary...The ancient vegetarian races of Mexico and Peru had attained to a high degree of civilization when discovered by Cortez, and were certainly far more gentle and amiable in character than were their flesh-eating conquerors, whose treachery and cold-blooded atrocities so nearly resulted in the complete extinction of a noble race."

Dr. Kellogg reports that the South American bark-gatherers live "almost wholly upon bananas and other equally simple vegetable food...Certain tribes of South American Indians who subsist wholly upon a non-flesh dietary, are remarkable for vigor and endurance...the natives of the great plateau of the Andes subsist almost wholly upon corn and potatos...the old Peruvians...were practically vegetarians." Dr. Kellogg quotes Charles Darwin as having described the laborers in the mines of Chile living "exclusively on vegetable food, including many seeds of leguminous plants."

Concerning Central Africa, Dr. Kellogg admits, "It is true that practically all the natives eat meat on occasion, but...the chief sustenance of the naive is obtained from the products of the earth, which are most abundant in this fertile region. Maize, yuma, manioc, coconuts, palm cabbage, bananas, and a great number of fruits and nuts afford ample variety and sufficient nourishment without flesh foods."

Dr. Kellogg cites a Mr. Sarvis of the Boston Transcript, who wrote: "The Bantu race, who inhabit the great part of Central Africa, are almost entirely vegetarian... Generally, their food consists largely of a kind of millet, which is almost tasteless... Bananas and sweet potatos also form a very important part of the diet of the African races of the central parts...The natives also eat vegetables and salads of many kinds. In a few districts cattle are kept for the milk and butter, but the natives do not kill the animals for food...The Kavirondos wear no clothing whatever, and they are absolute vegetarians, the banana forming the base of their food."

The Ladrone Islands were discovered by the Spaniards around 1620. There were no animals on the islands except birds, which the natives did not eat. The natives had never seen fire, and they lived entirely on plant foods—fruits and roots in their natural state. They were found to be vigorous, active, and of good longevity.

Dr. Kellogg gives an account of the "Silesians, Roumanians, and many Oriental people," all of whom he says "are almost exclusively vegetarians, and enjoy a degree of vigor, vitality, and longevity not found among flesh-eating nations."

In his 1583 text, Anatomy of Abuses, Stubbes wrote that previous generations "fed upon graine, corne, roots, pulse, hearbes, weedes, and such other baggage; and yet lived longer than we, were healthfuller than we, of better complexion than we, and much stronger than we in every respect." A century later, Macauley noted that, "meat was so dear in price that hundreds of thousands of families scarcely knew the taste of it," while half the population of England, "ate it not at all or not more often than once a week."

Writing in the 1840s, Sylvester Graham observed: "The peasantry of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, a considerable portion of Russia and other parts of Europe subsist mainly on non-flesh foods. The peasantry of modern Greece...subsist on coarse brown bread and fruits. The peasantry in many parts of Russia live on very coarse bread, with garlic and other vegetables; and like the same class in Greece, Italy, etc., they are obliged to be extremely frugal even in this kind of food. Yet they are (for the most part) healthy, vigorous, and active. Many of the inhabitants of Germany live mainly on rye and barley, in the form of coarse bread.

"The potato is the principle food of the Irish peasantry, and few portions of the human family are more healthy, athletic, and active...That portion of the peasantry of England and Scotland who subsist on their barley and oatmeal bread, porridge, potatos, and other vegetables, with temperate, cleanly habits (and surroundings) are able to endure more fatigue and exposure than any other class of people in the same countries. Three-fourths of the whole human family, in all periods of time...have subsisted on non-flesh foods; and when their supplies have been abundant and their habits in other respects correct, they have been well nourished."

Dr. Kellogg also found a vegetarian lifestyle to be the norm in much of Europe: "An official report shows that the diet of the Swiss peasant includes little or no meat. ‘In the Schwyz canton, the people have long lived on plant food, without flesh. They are a fine set of independent mountaineers, and from this canton the freedom of the Swiss was born.' The peasants of northern Italy eat meat twice a year. They are remarkably robust and hearty.

"The hardy Scotch have never been great meat eaters. In the remote districts kailbrose, shredded greens and oatmeal over which hot water is poured, is eaten with or without milk...According to Douglas, writing in 1782, the diet of the Scotch of the East Coast was then oatmeal and milk with vegetables. He says: ‘Flesh is never seen in the houses of the common farmers, except at a baptism, a wedding, Christmas, or Shrovetide.’"

Faced with the fact that apes can be trained to eat flesh foods, Sylvester Graham responded, "But if this proves that animal to be omnivorous, then the horse, cow, sheep, and others are all omnivorous, for everyone of them is easily trained to eat animal food. Horses have frequently been trained to eat animal food, and sheep have been so accustomed to it as to refuse grass.

"All carnivorous animals can be trained to a vegetable diet, and brought to subsist upon it, with less inconvenience and deterioration than herbivorous or frugivorous animals can be brought to live on animal food," acknowledged Graham. "Comparative anatomy proves that man is naturally a frugivorous animal, formed to subsist upon fruits, seeds, and farinaceous vegetable."

Dr. Gordon Latto notes that carnivorous and omnivorous animals can only move their jaws up and down, and that omnivores "have a blunt tooth, a sharp tooth, a blunt tooth, a sharp tooth—showing that they were destined to deal both with flesh foods from the animal kingdom and foods from the vegetable kingdom...

"Carnivorous mammals and omnivorous mammals cannot perspire except at the extremity of the limbs and the tip of the nose; man perspires all over the body. Finally, our instincts; the carnivorous mammal (which first of all has claws and canine teeth) is capable of tearing flesh asunder, whereas man only partakes of flesh foods after they have been camouflaged by cooking and by condiments.

"Man instinctively is not carnivorous," explains Dr. Latto. "...he takes the flesh food after somebody else has killed it, and after it has been cooked and camouflaged with certain condiments. Whereas to pick an apple off a tree or eat some grain or a carrot is a natural thing to do: people enjoy doing it; they don’t feel disturbed by it. But to see these animals being slaughtered does affect people; it offends them. Even the toughest of people are affected by the sights in the slaughterhouse.

"I remember taking some medical students into a slaughterhouse. They were about as hardened people as you could meet. After seeing the animals slaughtered that day in the slaughterhouse, not one of them could eat the meat that evening."

Author R.H. Wheldon writes in No Animal Food:

"The gorge of a cat, for instance, will rise at the smell of a mouse or a piece of raw flesh, but not at the aroma of fruit. If a man can take delight in pouncing upon a bird, tear its still living body apart with his teeth, sucking the warm blood, one might infer that Nature had provided him with carnivorous instinct, but the very thought of doing such a thing makes him shudder. On the other hand, a bunch of luscious grapes makes his mouth water, and even in the absence of hunger, he will eat fruit to gratify taste."

Some argue that human intelligence has enabled man to transcend his physical limitations and function as a "natural" flesh-eater. If this is true, then we must also classify napalm, poison gas, and nuclear weapons as "natural," too, because they are also products of (misused!) human intelligence. Agriculture and cookery aren’t found in nature, either. One might therefore argue if human technology is "natural," then human ethical behavior is equally natural.

"I am the very opposite of an anthropomorphizer," says writer Brigid Brophy. "I don’t hold animals superior or even equal to humans. The whole case for behaving decently towards animals rests on the fact that we are the superior species. We are the species uniquely capable of rationality, imagination and moral choice, and that is precisely why we are under obligation to respect the rights of other creatures."

The myth that humans are naturally a predator species remains popular: "The beast of prey is the highest form of active life," wrote Nazi philosopher Oswald Spengler in 1931. "It represents a mode of living which requires the extreme degree of the necessity of fighting, conquering, annihilating, self-assertion. The human race ranks highly because it belongs to the class of beasts of prey. Therefore we find in man the tactics of life proper to a bold, cunning beast of prey. He lives engaged in aggression, killing, annihilation. He wants to be master in as much as he exists."

The fact that predators exist in the wild does not imply man must automatically imitate them. Cannibalism and rape also occur in nature. Robert Louis Stevenson, in his book, In the South Seas, wrote that there was little difference between the "civilized" Europeans and the "savages" of the Cannibal Islands: "We consume the carcasses of creatures with like appetites, passions, and organs as our own. We feed on babes, though not our own, and fill the slaughter-houses daily with screams of pain and fear."

Moreover, the popular argument that it is ‘natural" for us to utilize murdered animals as a source of food does not (ecologically) justify factory farming and raising livestock as we know it today. It justifies hunting. The Native Americans, the Eskimo and other hunter-gatherer tribes have traditionally lived more in harmony with their environment than does modern man in urban civilization.

Half the water consumed in the United States, for example, goes to irrigate land growing feed and fodder for livestock. Huge amounts of water are also used to wash away their excrement. In fact, U.S. livestock produce twenty times as much excrement as does the entire human population; creating sewage which is ten to several hundred times more concentrated than raw domestic sewage. Animal wastes cause ten times more water pollution than does the U.S. human population; the meat industry causes three times as much harmful organic water pollution than the rest of the nation’s industries combined. Meat producers are the number one industrial polluters in our nation, contributing to half the water pollution in the United States.

The water that goes into a thousand-pound steer could float a destroyer. It takes 25 gallons of water to produce a pound of wheat, but 2,500 gallons to produce a pound of meat. If these costs weren’t subsidized by the American taxpayers, the cheapest hamburger meat would be $35 per pound!

The burden of subsidizing the California meat industry costs taxpayers $24 billion annually. Livestock producers are California’s biggest consumers of water. Every tax dollar that the state doles out to livestock producers costs taxpayers over seven dollars in lost wages, higher living costs and reduced business income. Seventeen western states have enough water supplies to support economies and populations twice as large as the present.

Overgrazing of cattle leads to topsoil erosion; turning once-arable land into desert. We lose four million acres of topsoil every year, and 85 percent of this is directly caused by raising livestock. To replace the soil we’ve lost, we’re chopping down our forests. Since 1967, the rate of deforestization in the U.S. has been one acre every five seconds. For each acre cleared in urbanization, seven are cleared for grazing or growing livestock feed. One-third of all raw materials in the U.S. are consumed by the livestock industry, and it takes three times as much fossil fuel energy to produce meat than it does to produce plant foods.

Ecological arguments in favor of vegetarianism can be found in the Bible; arguments supporting vegetarianism are as old as mankind. The Bible contains numerous cases of conflicts directly caused by the practice of raising livestock. These include contested water rights, competition for grazing areas, and tension between agriculturalists and nomadic herdsmen.

The settled agricultural communities resented the intrusion of nomadic tribes with their large herds of cattle, sheep, and goats. The animals were considered a menace. Besides the threat to the crops themselves, huge herds of livestock caused damage to the land through overgrazing.

For this reason, the Philistines (whose primary agricultural pursuits were corn and orchards), discouraged nomadic herdsmen from using their territory by filling in many of the wells in the surrounding area. One of the earliest accounts of conflict among the herdsmen themselves in found in the story of Lot and Abram:

"And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents. And the land was not able to bear them, that they might dwell together; for their substance was great, so that they could not dwell together. And there was a strife between the herdmen of Abram’s cattle and the herdmen of Lot’s cattle." (Genesis 13:5-7)

Abram moved westward to the region known as Canaan, while Lot journeyed to the east; settling in Sodom. Peaceful resolutions, however, were not always possible. There are several references in the Bible to clashes between the Israelites and Midianites. The Midianites were wealthy traders who owned large numbers of livestock, as did the Israelites, who brought their herds with them when they left Egypt. Livestock require vast areas of land for grazing. They also need water, which has never been abundant in that part of the world. The strain placed on the land’s resources is mentioned in Judges 6:4: "And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth."

The depletion of resources created by the people and their livestock moving into this territory is described in Judges 6:5 with this analogy: "For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers." Another passage states that after a vicious battle with the Midanites the Israelites increased their herds with the livestock of their slain captives. This included 675,000 sheep and more than 72,000 beehives.

Vegetarianism is relevant to both our modern world and its religious teachings. The livestock population of the United States today consume enough grain and soybeans to feed over five times the entire human population. American cows, pigs, chicken, sheep, etc. eat up 90 percent of our wheat, 80 percent of our corn, and 95 percent of our oats. Less than half of the harvested agricultural acreage in the United States is used to grow food for human consumption. Most of it is used to grow livestock feed.

In The Wealth of Nations, economist Adam Smith noted the advantages of a vegetarian diet: "It may indeed be doubted whether butcher’s meat is anywhere a necessary of life. Grain and other vegetables, with the help of milk, cheese, and butter, or oil, where butter is not to be had, afford the most plentiful, the most wholesome, the most nourishing, and the most invigorating diet. Decency nowhere requires that any man should eat butcher’s meat."

Ronald J. Sider, in his 1977 book, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger pointed out that 220 million Americans were eating enough food (largely because of the high consumption of grain fed to livestock) to feed over one billion people in the poorer countries.

The realization that meat is an unnecessary luxury, resulting in inequities in the world food supply, has prompted religious leaders in different denominations to call on their members to abstain from meat. Paul Moore, Jr., the Episcopal bishop of the Diocese of New York, made such an appeal in a November 1974 pastoral letter calling for the observance of "meatless Wednesdays."

A similar appeal had previously been issued by Cardinal Cooke, the Roman Catholic archbishop of New York. The Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, former head of the World Council of Churches and founder of Bread for the World, has encouraged everyone in his anti-hunger organization to abstain from eating meat on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

"Is this not the fast I have chosen? To loosen the chains of wickedness, to undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the oppressed go free?  Is it not to share thy bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless?  Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own?"

---Isaiah 58:6-8

What does the future hold? If the world population triples in the next century, then meat production would have to triple as well. Instead of 3.7 billion acres of cropland and 7.5 billion acres of grazing land, we would require 11.1 billion acres of cropland and 22.5 billion acres of grazing land. But this is slightly more than the total land mass of the six inhabited continents! We are already desperately short of groundwater, topsoil, forests and energy.

Even if we were to resort to extreme methods of population control—abortion, infanticide, genocide, etc.—modest increases in the world population during the next century would make it impossible to maintain current levels of meat consumption. On a vegetarian diet, however, the world could support a population several times its present size. The world’s cattle alone consume enough to feed 8.7 billion humans. Father Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest, author, and founder of the Riverdale Center for Religious Research in New York, wrote in 1987 that "vegetarianism is a way of life that we should all move toward for economic survival, physical well-being, and spiritual integrity."

Would it be unusual for a Christian teacher to teach compassion towards animals to the point of vegetarianism? Abstinence from meat as nonviolence and as asceticism has its place in the Christian tradition. Some of the most distinguished figures in the history of Christianity have been vegetarian.

The early Christian fathers followed a meatless regimen. Until the 1960s, the Roman Catholic Church had ruled that Catholics observe certain fast days and abstain from eating meat on Fridays in remembrance of the death of Christ. After 1966, the rule was relaxed, so that Catholics need only abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent.

There is nothing, therefore, in Scripture or the Christian tradition that would prohibit Christian denominations from admitting that the concession to kill animals granted by God in Genesis 9:3 along with the prohibition against consuming animal blood which is repeated again in Acts 15 does not represent His highest hopes for humanity (Genesis 1:29; Isaiah 11:6-9); recognizing God’s love and goodness towards the animals; citing the lives of the saints and religious leaders in Christianity who taught compassion for all living beings; and recognizing the virtues of vegetarianism.

In his book, Animal Rights: A Christian Assessment of Man’s Treatment of Animals, the Reverend Dr. Andrew Linzey writes with regret: "It has, I think, to be sadly recognized that Christians, Catholic or otherwise, have failed to construct a satisfactory moral theology of animal treatment."

Vegetarianism is ethical, healthier, "environmentally correct," and economical. It’s been said that if everyone had to kill animals every day for his or her own meat, most of us would choose vegetarianism. The vegetarian way of life is consistent not only with human anatomy, the Bible, and Christian tradition and theology, but with Western spirituality in general.

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THEY SHALL NOT HURT OR DESTROY is available in print copy from Vegetarian Advocates Press, PO Box 201791, Cleveland, OH 44120, at a cost of $15.00 US per book including shipping and handling.

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