What Is Vegetarianism?
What Is Vegetarianism?
Minimally, being a vegetarian means nothing more than abstaining from the flesh of warm-blooded animals. But in practice, there are many different approaches to vegetarian eating. Here a few definitions:
live on plant foods alone, eating vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes. This regimen omits all animal foods, including meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products, fish, and honey (because it is made by insects). Vegans also abstain from all products derived from animals, such as leather or even wool and silk.
include dairy products in their diet in addition to vegetables.
consume eggs along with dairy products and vegetables.
add fish to their diet. Hundreds of millions of Asians live on the staples of rice, fish, and vegetables.
eat poultry (chicken, duck, game, birds) but omit red meat.
A Brief History of Vegetarianism
As indicated by the Latin root of vegetarianism- vegetare, "to enliven" - this practice has always offered a healthful approach to both diet and life. The health benefits are one of the main reasons that people choose to become vegetarian. Throughout much of human history, in many parts of the world, meat also has been relatively unattainable, causing people to get their nutrients primarily from plant foods. The practice of vegetarianism also is connected with religious disciplines that espouse a meat-free diet and respect for animal life. Vegetarianism also has roots in the early history of the East, where ancient religious beliefs held that the human soul transmigrated to "lower" life forms. Followers maintained a vegetarian diet out of respect for the animal life that may be housing human souls. Buddha later commanded: "Do not butcher the ox that plows thy field," and "Do not indulge a voracity that involves the slaughter of animals." Buddhism quickly spread eastward from India, becoming the state religion of China around 500 AD and arriving in japan a century later.
For Japanese Buddhists, vegetarianism included the belief that
Eating animal flesh polluted the body for 100 days.
In the Hindu religion of India, vegetarianism is founded on health standards formulated in the Hindu epic poem Mahabharata: "Those who desire to possess good memory, beauty, long life with perfect health, and physical, moral and spiritual strength, should abstain from animal foods." It has been estimated that 20% to 42% of India's 1.1 billion population is vegetarian. Some Egyptians also were vegetarian, according to analysis of TOWNSEND LETTER - JULY 2011 the intestinal contents of mummies. Some of these ancients have earned the modern nickname "the eaters of bread." Much later in the Middle East, Mohammed's holy book of Islam, the Koran, prohibited the eating of "dead animals, blood, and flesh."
Philosopher Henry David Thoreau dedicated pages to the ideals of vegetarianism. He felt that "it is a part of the destiny of the human, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized."26 Like Shaw, Thoreau thought that avoidance of meat improved his work In his masterwork, Walden, he wrote, "I believe that every man who has ever been earnest to preserve his higher or poetic facilities in the best condition has been particularly inclined to abstain from animal food." His abstinence from meat, coffee, and tea was not so much for health reasons as because "they were not agreeable to my imagination."
- Ann Larson