If we are actively engaged in conscious personal growth and evolution or if we embrace an authentic path of spirituality, then at some point we are likely to face the immense moral considerations that come with eating animals and their products. For some people, as soon as a shift in consciousness and spiritual awakening happens, the choice to remove animal foods from their diet is obvious and automatic. Why continue to take part in the killing, torture, and enslavement of animals when we don’t have to? Why stay with an eating habit that is contributing to the destruction of the Earth? Why add to an industry that causes severe emotional pain and mental suffering to other human beings who are expected to kill the animals and process their body parts? For others, however, the choice is not so obvious and is riddled with various fears, excuses, and justifications. These most often revolve around health and nutrition concerns, but may also relate to social constructs, traditions, addictions, and other limiting conditioned beliefs.
In my 15+ years of research and education in the field of human health and nutrition, it is safe to say that I have heard it all when it comes to the different justifications used and opposition presented against plant-based and vegan lifestyles. Some people are prone to react with automatic hostility when this topic is raised; others are resistant to change their habits, while others yet are just honestly unaware of what is possible and how easy it can be. I empathize, for I was once there too. Before my 20s I had not even heard of the word vegan, nor would I fathom that people could choose not to eat animals, and even more so, be better off for it. Thanks to my interest and studies in health and nutrition, I began to understand that not eating animals is not only possible but even better for our health and wellbeing. And thanks to my spiritual awakening, which began in 2006, I was able to open my mind and heart wider than they ever had been before. Step by step, everything fell into place, and the path for me was clear. While I am not in the business of convincing anyone of anything, as I know that we each get to where we need to when the time is right, I am dedicated to inspiring and educating people. Whether from a health perspective or a spiritual perspective, today I can say with utmost certainty that there is no other food more ideal and intended for humans than plants — specifically real, whole plants as created by nature. Through this essay, I intend to raise awareness about the most significant moral, spiritual, and health considerations of veganism and inspire you to take action that is in alignment with your heart and soul.
Eating Without Killing: Choosing Food Without the Violence
One of the most common arguments used against veganism is that there is no way to live without killing something. In other words, many people believe that something has to die for us to live. However, this is a faulty belief that neglects to understand the basic biology of plants and animals. For starters, animals have a very clear-cut and obvious life and death process whereas plants do not. Plucking a leaf from a plant, for example, neither kills the plant, nor the leaf. The plant continues to live, while the leaf begins to lose its life force over a period of time. In fact, most plant foods can be consumed without destroying the original plant and are offered readily by the plant. This most specifically applies to their botanical parts known as fruits, but also to any other parts that they readily produce and release, namely seeds, which include most nuts, grains, and beans. However, it can even apply to leafy greens and other plant foods, depending on how they are harvested. For example, we can easily pluck leaves from a plant without destroying the organism itself, as shared above, and the plant continues to produce more.
Regardless of what our individual perspectives may be about the various plant parts, farming, and harvesting methods, the message is undeniably clear when it comes specifically to fruits and their purpose as a deliberate and perfect food source for us. Everything about a fruit — its color, odor, and flavor makes itself appealing to us. Fruits are abundant in all areas of the Earth most suitable for human life, minimal effort is required to obtain them, and they are perfect for eating in their raw form, where no cooking is required. When we consume a fruit, we are not NOT killing it; instead, we are integrating it with our body and honoring its life purpose.
If you don’t eat the fruit, it breaks down and decomposes on the ground. If you don’t eat an animal, on the other hand, they continue to carry on with their own choices, activities, desires, and purpose.
Of course, one of the first rebuttals to this is that we cannot live on fruits alone. While this is debatable, especially when one becomes acquainted with fruitarianism, the reason why most people think it is not possible is that they don’t know what counts as a fruit. Many of us will only think of our usual apples and bananas, and a few other sweet fruits, but in truth, there is so much more to fruits. First, there is a vast collection of common fruits, which include all kinds of sweet, sour, melon, citrus, acid, and sub-acid fruits. There are also vegetable fruits, like tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and bell peppers. There are also starchy fruits, like pumpkin, butternut, buttercup, acorn, spaghetti, and all kinds of other squashes. Finally, there are also fatty fruits, like avocados, coconuts, palm fruits, and olives. Most fruits are naturally and perfectly high in carbohydrates, the body’s primary fuel, and their protein content ranges from about 3 to 13% of their total calories. For reference, human breast milk is around 6% protein; safe and healthy protein guidelines advise for about 10% of protein in our diet. When we include the fruits containing fat, it creates an even more robust and nutritionally-balanced diet. However, I am not advocating through this article that you should only eat fruit. The point is just that it is possible, but as you will further come to see, not necessary. Either way, I wish to raise awareness and expand our consciousness about this topic because too many people have a very narrow understranding of fruits.
Another common rebuttal against fruits is our misguided modern fear of eating too many fruits. This is quite ironic, given that most people in our society do not eat enough fresh fruits for optimal health, weight, healing, and prevention. Industry sugar wars have also left people very confused with regard to the types of sugars and their amounts that may or may not be healthy for us. However, fruits have never been, nor will they ever be the problem responsible for our health and weight woes. Fruits are the most energizing, cleansing, detoxifying, healing, and nourishing foods available to us and the most easily digested by the human body. Fruits and other whole, plant foods rich in sugars or starches may only become a problem when our bodies are already stressed by diets high in fat, from animal foods, processed foods, and oils. What most people also do not realize is that diets high in fats are at the root of insulin resistance and diabetes, not carbohydrates. Wholesome fruit sugars readily supply our body with an optimized form of fuel — glucose, which our brain depends on and human body is perfectly suited for. Unfortunately, we’ve mistakenly equated the destructive human-made, isolated, and refined sugars with the natural sweetness of fruits. Fortunately, times are changing, and we have increasing amounts of enlightened information, even backed by quality science, coming to the forefront. Even standard diabetes guidelines are no longer recommending against fruits for people with diabetes, but advising fruits as part of optimal health, healing, and prevention of diabetes.
Still, as shared above, the point of this exploration is not to suggest that the only food we can eat for spiritual and dietary purity is fruit. Even a true fruitarian, who follows the biological diet of frugivore animals, which highly reflects the natural human diet, consumes leafy greens and nuts/seeds, along with the fruits. In actuality, all plants can be considered as our food, and most of them can be obtained without destroying the original plant and letting it carry out its natural life cycle. We can easily choose food without the violence that accompanies all animal foods. While animals used for meat have to be outright killed, animals used for dairy and eggs endure lives of extreme cruelty and torture before they are killed when no longer profitable.
A final consideration here that some people bring up pertains to killing insects, whether it be to eat them or their destruction as a consequence of farming methods to grow plants. With regards to the first concern, yes, there is good evidence that the diet of early humans contained insects, and we too have that choice today depending on where we stand with our values, preferences, and priorities. While insects are incredibly abundant on Earth and seem less significant than other animals to some, insects are animals too and have the right to carry out their particular life purpose. Given that we have an abundance of plant food choices easily accessible today, it would seem rational to avoid harming insects too if we don’t have to. When it comes to the second consideration, whether it is farming, construction, or just living on this Earth, there are some inherent risks that we cannot avoid. I can intend to walk consciously on a forest path and may still miss stepping on a tiny insect under my feet. However, we can significantly decrease the risks associated with the harm and killing of any other species by being mindful and intentional in our actions. Our choices may not always be easy to avoid harming insects, but they are very easy when it comes to avoiding harming other animals.
You have to understand, before we go any further, that the goal of a good moral and spiritual life is not some elusive and paralyzing state of perfection, but doing the best we can. What dietary and lifestyle choices will cause least harm? Yes, the very process of tilling a field to grow plant food is likely to kill some insects, but animal farming is exponentially worse. It results in the destruction of species both large and small when fields and forests are cleared for animal agriculture, which kills billions of animals in addition to billions of insects. Unfortunately, many people are prone to very polarized “black-and-white” thinking, which sabotages them from moving forward in any positive direction: If I cannot have things a perfect way then why bother trying at all. This kind of pessimistic and complacent thinking, however, helps no one; you are only stagnating your growth and unable to move forward. Strive, instead, to always do your best, as every single action matters. As the beautiful Starfish story teaches when the boy throws one out of thousands of stranded starfish back into the ocean, “It made a difference to that one!” Every life matters, and the more we become mindful of our choices and actions, the less damage we cause to ourselves, other humans, and all living beings with whom we share this Earth.
Living in Alignment: Eating Food Best Suited for the Human Body
First, we struggled to survive. Then, we pushed the boundaries of excess with no regard for the consequences of our actions on ourselves, others, and our Earth. Now, we are learning how to live in balance with the Earth, how to live with peace, compassion, and consideration, and how to thrive as human beings.
As we look across our Earth, the natural world is full of plants. Yes, there is water, air, soil, and rocks, but in between and around these exist plants. Most of the animals that we share this Earth with rely entirely on plants to both survive and thrive. Every single animal knows how to feed itself correctly when left to its own natural devices. The human-animal has, unfortunately, deviated tremendously from its innate guidance system. As far as we know and are told, for much of human history we were in a state of survival, especially when we tried to inhabit parts of the Earth that do not provide ideal habitats for humans. Such geographic changes forced us to shift towards a higher reliance on animal foods in order to survive. As our societies evolved, we also embraced animal domestication and herding, which brought about new mentalities, beliefs, economies, and prejudices. Status and wealth became associated with owning, trading, and eating animals. By the time the industrial revolution and post-war eras came about, it was ingrained in most people’s belief systems that we both need and should seek to eat animals regularly, if not daily.
However, when we strip all this away, a completely different picture is painted. Let’s work our way backward. Today, we are influenced by multi-million and billion-dollar animal industries that heavily market animal foods. We have an entire society built around cheap, processed foods made from animals and destructive factory farming has ravaged almost every part of the Earth. We have medical and nutrition professionals who have become highly biased and conditioned to see animal foods as a standard and essential part of the human diet. Only a few decades ago, people were eating significantly fewer animal foods than they are today. Americans eat the most meat, after Australians and next to Argentinians, at nearly 200 pounds per person per year! The average in the world is 75 pounds per person, and that is already exceptionally high. Many people hold the idea that Latin and Native American cultures, for example, have always been heavy on meat, as reflected by their current cuisines and food choices. The reality is that the opposite is true. The extreme meat influence came when the Europeans colonized the Americas, whereas prior to this, most Native American diets were highly vegetarian. Much of the Indian and Asian cultures, from antiquity to this day, eat heavily plant-based diets. Throughout the ages, we also see a hierarchial division based on dietary choices. Plants were the staples in the diets of commoners; animal foods were rare or reserved for special occasions, and prevalent in the diets of royalty or the wealthy.
Past aside, we need to do some present-day reflecting on the foundation of our human existence. As already alluded to above in our fruit discussion, our human biology and research from anthropology show that human ancestors were nearly all vegetarians. While this may be a surprise for some, it really shouldn’t be. You can quickly and easily conclude for yourself what food—plant or animal, is meant for you and your body with the following exercise:
Clear your mind to disengage your Ego identity. Perhaps close your eyes for a moment and take a few slow conscious breaths. Now, look at your body, from your feet up to your torso with mindful awareness. Examine your hands and fingers. Look in the mirror and look at your head, face, and mouth. Open your mouth, examine your teeth, and observe how wide your jaw opens. Be an observer; avoid making any judgments or bringing in any preconceived ideas. Now, imagine yourself in an area of the Earth that is most hospitable for humans to live, without needing to rely on any heating. It can be a part of the southern United States, Central America, the upper part of South America, the Mediterranean, or any similar part of Asia. Imagine being in a field or forest just as you are, with no grocery stores, homes, or any human-made structures around. Imagine being there alone with no tools or weapons of any kind. Look at your body again and imagine what you would be eating. The hands we have are perfectly designed for picking, pulling, grabbing, handling, and peeling plant matter. We can most naturally walk for long distances, run for short distances, and climb to some degree. We can bend, and we can reach. We don’t, however, have the natural ability to chase and catch animals with our bare hands, tear, rip, or chew through their flesh. Our jaws only open so far, and our mouths, contrary to popular belief, do not house any actual canines. Our teeth are best suited for biting, chewing, and grinding plant matter. We neither have claws, nor are we well-suited to handle anything with feathers, fur, or scales without some kind of tool.
Given how severely detached from nature most people are today, many hold unrealistic fantasies of how they would be catching rabbits and fish by the dozens if they were stranded in the wild. With ample practice and some basic tools, sure, we would catch some small animal eventually, but this will neither be easily or frequently achieved. We are more likely to survive off of insects and amphibians if we want animals than anything remotely bigger. We are routinely told that early humans were “hunter-gatherers,” but this approach was neither fifty-fifty nor was it in favor of the hunter part. The majority of the food humans ate always came from gathered sources, predominantly plants. This, too, should not surprise us one bit, especially when we remove our conditioned beliefs and think logically. As you hopefully saw in the exercise above and as any human who visits any kind of wild area quickly learns, animals sightings are rare, and animals avoid humans as much as they can unless we are their prey. They are not easy for us to find or chase, and even harder for us to catch and kill, especially without any tools or weapons. If all we did was wait around to find, catch, and kill them, our human species would have gone extinct by now.
The idea of “Man the Hunter” is the generally accepted paradigm of human evolution. It developed from a basic Judeo-Christian ideology of man being inherently evil, aggressive, and a natural killer. In fact, when you really examine the fossil and living non-human primate evidence, that is just not the case.”
Robert W. Sussman, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology, Washington University
Of course, theories from the past can be debated indefinitely, because in truth, we were not there, and we do not know for certain what early humans or their lives were like. The Earth and its species have changed so much in just the last 200 years, and it is safe to say that they were even more drastically different 2000 years ago, never mind even more. Human development is estimated to be 150,000 years old, and most dietary theories focus on just the last 10% — 15,000 years. There are numerous reports of how different our Earth has been throughout the ages, where even dessert areas and the antarctic were tropical. This is why my approach is to look at what has stayed the same, like the general design of our human body, what is timeless, most accessible, most logical, and clues from what our closest animal relatives eat.
Fortunately, today we have even more proof beyond what ancient spiritual traditions taught and beyond what our history assumes. We have the science of health and nutrition pointing in the same direction for the best outcomes. When you look beyond the sensationalized fad diets, remove the distractions and contradictions, and look at what most experts are unanimous about, it is that fruits and vegetables, along with most other plant foods, are the best and most helpful foods for us to eat for health, healing, and prevention. You will not find (unbiased) studies that claim meat, eggs, or dairy are able to prevent or heal or common acute and chronic diseases, like cancer, heart disease, or diabetes. What you will find are studies that one after another show the power of plant foods to prevent, stop, or reverse the growth of cancer cells, heart disease, inflammation, insulin resistance, and the list goes on. When studied rationally, one can conclude that nothing in meat, eggs, or dairy is necessary for us to survive, let alone thrive. Yes, they can be possible survival foods if no plant foods or not enough plant foods are available, as has been proven throughout the ages. Still, they are neither necessary nor better for us to eat if we have enough of a basic variety of plant foods. Today, it is well-documented that whole-food, plant-based diets are the way to go if we want optimal health, weight, energy, longevity, and the most potent disease healing and prevention. Plants provide us with the right quantity and quality of protein, fat, carbohydrates, and are the most abundant in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the unique-only-to-them phytonutrients.
Living Without Killing: Choosing a Life Path of Peace
Veganism is about so much more than just food, and there is a reason why most spiritual traditions point to the same thing — Ahimsa — non-violence toward all living beings. Yes, all life is sacred, and this means we respect plants and fungi and even bacteria too! However, the biological clues plants give us, and their very different biological nature and makeup allow them to feed animals, including us, and continue living and giving. Fruits aside take even an acorn tree, or any similar seed or nut plant. Nature provides an abundance of acorns (seeds) to start a new life, much more than is required for the continuity of that species, and the excess will either go to waste (decompose) or be eaten. The acorns are just laying there, and no violence is involved in eating them. Either we pick them up and use them, or they go to waste. The same cannot be said about eating any animal parts, where some degree of violence is always involved in consuming their flesh or secretions.
If we have an honest and authentic desire to eat without contributing to the torture, cruelty, and violence against animals, today we can do that more easily than ever before. The health evidence is there, not only is it better for the animals, it is better for you. The environmental evidence is there, not only is it better for the animals, it is better for our entire Earth. And the spiritual implications are clear. All religions and spiritual paths claim to promote love and peace, yet only a few actually put it into real practice. As we all know, there is a big difference between talking the talk and actually walking the walk. This is also why the question is often raised why all spiritual people are not vegan.
Traditional Judeo-Christian verses point to vegetarian eating, and an increasing amount of people who identify as Christian are considering the path of veganism. However, Christianity is also the religion that is most riddled with contradictions and opposing views. While some clearly see the Christian basis for veganism, many others hold the belief that animals are on Earth to serve humans, be that for food or for work, and humans can possess and control animals as they wish.
Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit contains seed. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ~ Genesis 1:29-30
Eastern spiritual traditions are more clear and observant of not using animals for food. The traditional path of yoga is rooted in ahimsa, which teaches compassion and non-violence towards all living beings. Ayurveda prescribes the Sattvic diet for the development of higher consciousness, spiritual growth, life enhancement, and balance of the mental and emotional body. Finally, both Buddhism and Hinduism promote vegetarianism and peace in various ways.
All beings tremble before violence. All love life. All fear death. See yourself in others. Then whom can you hurt? What harm can you do?
One who, while himself seeking happiness oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
He, who injures living beings, is not Noble. He is called Noble because he is gentle and kind towards all living beings.
Naturally, one may be wondering here about humane meat, dairy, and eggs. After all, clever marketing has convinced many of us that we can have our animal foods and not feel bad about them. Here too, however, it only takes a receptive mind, open heart, and some basic logic to see why there is no such thing as humane meat. As long as we force our will on another living being, especially for no good reason, we are not acting humanely. While any reference to humane eggs and dairy is deceptive, there is no worse use of the term “humane” than when it refers to meat, as it kills animals which did not need to be killed. If one encounters a hurt animal in the wild and knows that there is no way to save it, then yes, killing the animal would be the humane thing to do. However, when an animal is living out its life freely, creating relationships and families, we do not have the right to end its life based on our whims and desires. It doesn’t matter if you gave it grass to eat, a large pasture to live in, or if you killed it quickly. At the end of the day, that being had its own life purpose and right to live, and for no good reason, other than satisfying our own addictions and taste buds, we took that away. Our elevated sense of superiority over other animals and self-centered worldview has greatly skewed our ability to be human, to be loving, to act with compassion, and to see how our actions may be contributing to the oppression and suffering of others, humans and animals alike.
A Matter of Personal Choice
Another consideration to explore here, which follows in the footsteps of what we just covered, is the often-cited aspect of choice about what we choose to put on our plates. Some people claim that it is a matter of personal choice, that they have the right to choose if they want to consume meat, dairy, or eggs, and that others should not impose their choices on them. However, it is no longer a personal choice when something impacts the health and wellbeing of all people, animals, and ecosystems on Earth. A person addicted to alcohol may try to claim that it is their choice to drive while under the influence, but it is obvious to see why this is not acceptable; other people’s lives are now at risk. The same is true here. A person may claim that it is their choice to eat meat, but the production of that meat puts the health, wellbeing, and lives of other people, animals, and our Earth at risk. We are actually forcing our choice on the animal who did not choose to be killed, on the community next to a factory farm who did not choose to be polluted, and on the many people on Earth who are not choosing the increased severity of climate change that is threatening their homes, health, and lives.
When we make a choice to consume meat, dairy, or eggs we are also making a choice to support the harmful and cruel industries that not only impose violence on animals but also destroy our Earth by causing deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, toxic waste accumulation, endangerment and extinction of other species, and pollution of our air, water, and soil. As long as we are diverting food away from poverty-stricken areas in the world to feed animals so that the privileged can have animal foods while the poor have no food, such choices are also contributing to social injustice. As long as we rely on others to do the dirty work for us, namely raising, killing, and processing the animal flesh and secretions, these choices are also contributing to the creation of an industry which comes with high physical, mental, and emotional risks for its workers. Factory farm workers, slaughterhouse workers, and butchers are at increased risk for psychological disorders, including traumatic stress disorder, aggressive behavior, and pathological sadism. This, in turn, spills over to negatively affect the families, relationships, and communities of these workers.
It doesn’t stop there, and it does not only apply to mega or factory animal farming, either. This choice impacts all farms that breed, use, and kill animals for food to some degree. This choice affects the pharmaceutical and medical industries, and the rising risks of antibiotic resistance, which further put our environment and human health at risk. This choice impacts food safety for people, specifically where water or soil contaminated with animal-borne bacteria is used for growing plant foods.
The sooner we move away from selfish “what I want” thinking and transition to “what is best for the greater good of all” mentality, the sooner we will have real solutions on this Earth. This is why, as you no doubt already see at this point, there is a huge moral component to what we eat and how it affects not just us, but all with whom we share this Earth.
If you live in a country and within a region that provides you with access to a grocery store or equivalent market of some sort, where you can attain some fresh fruits and vegetables, dry grains, fresh, dry, or canned legumes, some nuts or seeds, and other possible plant staples, then you can benefit your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health by choosing a diet made of these plant foods. You can benefit financially, too, as dry grains and beans are amongst the most nutrient-dense and cheapest foods we can ever eat. Many fruits and vegetables are also very cost-effective and nutrient-dense, like bananas, potatoes, squashes, and root vegetables.
By choosing plants, you choose to eat most in alignment with your human body. By choosing plants, you choose the path of peace, non-violence, and compassion. By choosing plants, you choose not to participate in the torture, cruelty, and killing of animals. By choosing plants, you choose not to create the demand for industries that oppress and harm other humans. By choosing plants, you choose to heal our Earth and provide a higher quality of life for you, others, and future generations. By choosing plants, you choose to consciously exercise your moral and ethical decision-making skills and enrich yourself spiritually.
As I shared with you at the beginning, this has not always been my path, and I could hold a lot of shame, anger, and regret about that. However, I know that none of that will help me today; such states only block us from moving forward. This is why today, I hold utmost gratitude for allowing this awareness to penetrate through my mind, my beliefs, my ideas about food, and my conditioning when it did. Sure, I wish it happened earlier, but as I mentioned at the start, we all arrive where we need to at just the right time. When this message came to me, over ten years ago now, I instantly began my journey to remove animal products from my life. I took the next year to learn empowering and liberating information and unlearn the faulty and limiting things I was taught. It was time to dispel the ignorance I lived with up to that point and expose all the parts that we normally keep hidden and don’t want to face due to our own discomforts, fears, and habits. This allowed me to make the full transition from a vegetarian to a vegan lifestyle in the most sustainable ways. Needless to say, it has been one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. The degree of inner peace that comes from this choice, never mind health and other direct benefits are unimaginable until personally experienced. This is why today I speak with certainty and passion in hopes that this message inspires you too on some level, to consider how you wish to live and define yourself consciously. We can create a better life and a better world for all, and it all starts with what is on our plates.
May all beings be happy and free.
Video: Protein in Plant Foods