Vegetarianism: a nonviolent way of life
23rd June 2008
This week Annette Pinner of the Vegetarian Society of UK came to interview me at Schumacher College. I explained to her that Schumacher College is one of the few entirely vegetarian educational establishments.
I said to her half seriously and half jokingly that I have been vegetarian for 1600 years! My family was of a warrior caste and were soldiers in the service of the king. Then a Jain teacher came to our village in Rajasthan and he converted the entire village to nonviolence, pacifism and vegetarianism. The Jain tradition puts non-violence above all else: to do no harm to other humans, animals, nature or yourself.
Vegetarianism is a holistic and nonviolent philosophy, not just a dietary choice. Meat consumption is causing climate change that is leading to the ice caps melting, sea level rise and flooding – and all just for our palette. I welcome recent work at the United Nations such as the Livestock’s Long Shadow report. It shows that Pragmatic, hard nosed policy makers are starting to see that the non-vegetarian diet is a major cause of global warming and that we have to go vegetarian if we are to sustain growing population of the world. It’s no good just changing our light bulbs when so much of our carbon footprint comes from how we grow, distribute, store, cook and eat our food. If we can reduce and, if possible, eliminate meat consumption then we will be looking after our planet and solving the problem of global warming.
A vegetarian diet is a healthy one and that human beings have no need of meat. I’m 72 and have no lack of energy. We should have no fears about nutrition and lack of protein and is concerned that agri-business uses its economic power to perpetuate these myths simply to bolster their profits. I advise people to cut down their meat consumption so they can adjust their habits gradually rather than try to go vegetarian in one go. You cannot arrive at a place without making the journey and every journey begins with one step. Begin to reduce your meat consumption – that’s the first step. If you are eating meat three times a day, reduce it to once a day. If you are eating meat once a day reduce it to 2 or 3 days a week. Start by reducing meat consumption and learn to make delicious, nutritious, and celebratory vegetarian meals.
We must have an ecological worldview and vegetarianism represents, fundamentally just that. Vegetarianism is not so reductionist as to be just about what’s on our plates – it is a holistic philosophy, a nonviolent way of life and of thinking. And if we do not go vegetarian then the planet will be in peril.