Monday, December 17, 2007

An year since I turned vegetarian

It was exactly an year before today that I switched to vegetarianism. People who knew me were not entirely surprised given my liking for Gandhian principles but they kept on asking me as to why I did that. They put forth several possible reasons why I took that decision. I didn't say yes, neither did I say no. So why did I take that decision?

There are several reasons one can come out with for supporting vegetarianism. I can cite a few here. One plain and proven fact is that vegetarian foods are healthier than non-vegetarian foods. Vegetarian food is also much lighter on the digestive system and leads to much smoother digestive processes. It has been said that humans are more adapted to eat vegetarian food than non-vegetarian food. Interestingly vegetarian food is also much cheaper than non-vegetarian food.

There is also one not-so-obvious benefit to vegetarianism. Vegetarian foods exert much lesser pressure on the environment than non-vegetarian food. Pound for pound, calorie for calorie, vegetarian foods require much lesser area of cultivation, much lesser environmental resources than non-vegetarian food. The per acre output of vegetarian foods are much higher than that for non-vegetarian foods.

The pressure exerted by non-vegetarianism is not limited to land but also to aquatic ecosystems too. A news report that came out recently in the news papers indicated that human pressure on the biodiversity in the oceans through excessive fishing has brought several species of fish to irrecoverable levels.

Given a choice I would stick to this environmental pressure advantage of vegetarian foods as my favorite. But none of these were the real reason why I shifted to vegetarianism. Not that these did not affect my decision making. They did, but the one main reason was my abhorrence to smoking and drinking (alcohol).

Some of my friends have had taken to the habit of consuming alcohol, and some others smoking, some to pan, and some to combinations of these. I have always been a big opponent of both these habits. I have always fought against these habits because of the obvious reason of them being unhealthy and the not so obvious reason for my loathe to these because of the way these substances affect human psyche.

Alcohol consumption results in a decrease in a persons control over his rational self. Smoking results in a uncontrollable dependence on tobacco to maintain normal life and additionally to control the persons psychological sensations of sadness, happiness, fear etc. I feel that both these are acts of surrender of ones rational self. This is the aspect that I totally dislike about these habits.

Of course these habits also increases the probability of an earlier death to a person addicted or used to these habits. Earlier than it otherwise would have been if they had not been used to these habits. I have seen highly educated people take to these habits in spite of knowing this danger. I guess it is like mountaineering for these people. Mountaineering, like smoking and drinking, increases the probability of an earlier death, for the people engaged in that. Only difference would be that the moment you stop the hobby the probability vanishes while it doesn't for these habits.

It was during last December that I had another set of heated discussions with a few of my friends to persuade them to stop these habits. As usual I couldn't make them change their decisions. I realized then that, I probably did not really feel how these guys felt, having to stop something that they like, and, having no real reason to stop, other than the risk factor I mentioned before, which they had probably decided to accept.

This is where Gandhiji's principle of Satyagraha influenced my decision making. Gandhiji always took to renouncing things that he liked as a way of coercing his opponents into agreeing to his terms or as a way of teaching people around him the values and principles like his fast at the Tolstoy farm as a penance for the children's mistake. There is another of Gandhiji's findings that I would like to cite as an influencing factor for my decision. It is his conclusion that control over food is the first step to control over will.

So I had to give up something that I liked and something that I would have to struggle to give up. That is where I came up with this idea about giving up non-vegetarianism. So en-route to a hotel to have a massive non-vegetarian dinner I announced my decision to my friends without citing the reason. I had to eat non-vegetarian food that night as my cousin with whom I was staying was caught unawares but since then I have stayed clean.

I did not announce the reason why I took the decision because I did not know how long I would be able to stick to the decision. Like my other experiments with my life this is a work in progress as I am never sure when I will fail in this pursuit or when I will change my decision. For an year I have held on to this decision. I had a tough time initially resisting the temptation but now I think I have got used to it. The smell of fish is probably the only thing that still tempts me.

Interestingly two other people in my family have taken to vegetarianism recently for their own reasons. One is my sister who took to it around 3 years back and another is my cousin Thomas(Appu) who took to it a few days before I did.


  1. Wow, never know this, but I guess you never wanted anyone to know:)

    Well, just to set the record straight, I drink to support the millions employed by the beer industry:D

  2. If you don't already know there are quite a few people employed in other industries like smuggling, drug trafficking, terrorism and other illegal activities. :). Do you have plans of extrapolating your kind gesture :).

  3. I don't consider them legitimate industries..;)

  4. Thank goodness you are not a citizen of Holland or erstwhile Afghanistan where some of the above items would indeed have been legal :)

  5. Hi Anoop,
    Really you are a "minking than"! Now do you know there is a custom that whenever somebody takes a pilgrimage to Kashi, One has to leave some item which one likes so much at the banks of River Ganges? It was supposed to temper and train the mind. I see something similar is taken up by you.
    Okay, I have not had that fortune till now. Good that you have started it.


  6. Hi Anoopcha,

    I was forced to become a vegetarian after I caught chicken pox...
    But yesterday I was tempted to have the fish fry(its the smell like you said) and evening chicken..

    It was really good being a vegetarian for a month!!

  7. If it felt good then perhaps you should try for longer stints than the one month you did recently :)

  8. why turn to vegetarianism ? There are lots of fors and againsts proposed and preached by several people since man kickstarted his thinking faculties, probably from the time when Descartes said "je pense, donc je suis". Interestingly, there is an IT firm in Bangalore with the abbreviation of the English translation of the original French quote. ITTIAM.

    Anoop points out that humans are endowed with a digestive system that suits vegetarianism. I did a "wiki read" on this and found that only a small community are vocal with this argument. Probably, in colder climes where the diverstiy of flora and fauna is considerably lower, man had to resort to eating fellow-organisms. Why did he exempt the homosapiens? Due to kindness? I dont think so! The savage and brutal acts of slavery dont point to this attribute in humans. Maybe it is a natural phenomenon. No specie hunts members of its own specie for food.

    It is always to better to take the approach of laissez-faire. The natural balance of the earth will be preserved. Else, the food chain may get stretched or squeezed to cause instability. Imagine the scene, where the earth is full of vegetarians. Also, the urge to do something has to come from within. Else, it will not sustainable in the long term.

    Everyone agrees with the fact that vegetarian food is healthier. But, many of these folks eat non-veg food also. Maybe, because the temporal alimentary pleasures are far more discernible for the "brain/I/Aham" to the not-so-tangbile long term health benefits. You dont appreciate good health when you are healthy, you always appreciate it when you dont have it. But, alas it would have become too late to go back and repair. Maybe, you can do better in your next life. But, do you really believe in rebirth?

  9. If you do a google search on the following words:-
    human intestine length vegetarian
    You will get some interesting results. The following is an interesting link that I found.
    I must agree that you will probably be able to find similar arguments from the opposite perspective too.

    Most animals don't kill their own species for food. It must however be noted that most animals wouldn't mind killing their own species and most do. Even some innocuous looking ones as ground squirrels do that.

    Yes if all humans stop eating non-vegetarian food the world will overflow with the animals(cattle and poultry primarily) that we have been cultivating for millennia. But we will never have a problem of overflowing fish and wild game. But if we phase out non-vegetarian food I doubt if there would be a problem as mentioned above.

  10. Dear Anoop Achachan,

    Happy to read your writing on vegetarianism. I do not know whether you are aware about my inclinations too to become a vegetarian. On 1 June,2008 while travelling with my father to Palghat from Kannur, I took a decision to be a vegetarian. I am unable to present my reasons to become so. But after reading your writing, let me put forward the points of debate that I had with my father while taking such a decision. My father had a decade long period of ' strong vegetarian life' from 1982 to 1992. Though he does not relish non-veg food, he takes it if the situation demands.
    Let me write the following points of my father for your possible responses:
    1. All non vegetarian animals have well developed canines whereas in humans, canines are not fully developed. But, Man has developed a better canine by evolving the art of cooking. My father is very sure that, if a Tiger is given cooked meat for a longer period of time, he will essentially develop some sort of a mechanism to have frequent forest fires!
    2. Now, the next point: World has produced many number of saints who were non-vegetarians. It said, the most compasssionate of all, Lord Budha was a non-vegetarian! Lord Mahavira is the only saintly figure who advocated the greatness of vegetarianism.
    3. The next argument that my father placed was, the human incapability of feeling the emotions of a plant while being killed doe not give give any logical base to argue for not killing 'red' blooded living beings who can cry and look into your eyes.
    4. My father asks another question, what should a man of desert eat?
    5. I am a vegetarian now, suppose I get stranded in a desert, whether I should opt for starving to death which again is killing of a living being happened to be myself.

    Even after all these arguments, my father feels happy about my decision to become a vegetarian because, idealism only made human life b'ful on earth.



  11. @adi,
    I am very happy to know that you have turned vegetarian and you are following the path of logically identifying the benefits of vegetarianism. I am really proud of you.

  12. Hamazing!
    Did it influence anyone? Convinced anyone to give up alcohol?

  13. @ms cris
    I have never succeeded in converting anybody by preaching. I don't know whether this action has converted anybody. I have not received any feedbacks on this (yet).