International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

Published by the South Indian humanitarian League under title "Should Meat Eating be Abjured?"

'He who desires to attain Supreme Peace should on no account eat the flesh of any animal in the world." (Maha. Anu 115-55)

Although the number of people in the world who take meat is very large, yet on a careful consideration, it will be proved that meat-eating is altogether harmful. This habit is detrimental to life in this world as well as to life hereafter. There are many people who, though they realize that meat-eating is harmful, cannot give it up, because they are addicted to the bad habit. There are some, on the other hand, who support meat-eating, because they love comfort and enjoyment, but in the company of thoughtful men they feel abashed by the consciousness of guilt. Readers of this article are humbly urged to give their best thought to the subject, and such of them as might be in the habit of taking meat, are requested to be gracious and give up the habit. There is no end to the evils emanating from meat eating. Some of them are shortly enumerated as follows :

  1. Meat-eating is an obstacle to God-realization.
  2. Meat-eating brings about the displeasure of God.
  3. Meat-eating is a heinous sin.
  4. Meat-eating brings misery in the other world.
  5. Meat is an unnatural diet for man.
  6. Meat-eating leads man to animality.
  7. Meat-eating involves man's usurpation of unwarranted power.
  8. Meat eating involves dire cruelty.
  9. Meat-eating tells adversely upon health.
  10. Meat-eating is deprecated by the Sastras.

Now let us briefly analyze the aforesaid ten points one by one :

1. Attainment of the state of complete Fearlessness is otherwise termed as Mukti, attainment of the Supreme State, or God-Realization. This state of Fearlessness is attained only by one who imparts Fearlessness to others. He who is a terror to animals, an enemy to animals, who hardheartedly kills or induces others to kill animals with a view to fill his stomach or give some sensation of pleasure to his palate, how can it ever be possible for him to reach the Fearless state? The Lord, when he described practicants striving to reach the Formless Absolute as 'devoted to the welfare of all beings' and Bhaktas as "bearing ill-will to none, friendly and compassionate" ... laid down the duty for man of showing compassion and friendliness to all. The attainment of the Supreme State is extremely difficult without the cultivation of compassion and the spirit of welfare to all creatures. Therefore, it is the duty of all who desire the liberation of their soul that they should not at any moment give the least trouble to any creature. For the meat-eater, God-Realization is a far-off ideal, indeed, because even the attainment of heaven is denied to him. Our great Law-Giver, Manu, says:

"Flesh cannot be obtained without killing creatures, and Heaven cannot be attained if creatures are killed. Therefore, flesh should be discarded." (Manusmriti, 5.84)

2. In the eyes of God, the creator of this world, all beings are equal; in other words, all of them having been created by Him are His progeny. It is because of this fact that a devotee treats all creatures with brotherly affection. A devotee, who has learnt this secret, cannot hurt a brother-creature even in the slightest degree, far less kill him. Those who, without realizing this truth, kill other creatures in their own selfish interest, and yet look for the mercy of God and long for His realization, labour under a great delusion. How can God be ever pleased with hard-hearted men addicted to killing creatures? Even as a son. who. out of greed, tortures or kills his other brothers, incurs the anger of his father; so the torturers of other creatures become the objects of displeasure and wrath of God.

3. In the realm of Dharma, paramount importance has been given to the practice of Ahimsa (non-injury to creatures). Other practices are the auxiliary limbs of Dharma, but "Ahimsa is the supreme Dharma." (Maha. Anu 115-25). The meaning and purport of Dharma lies in Ahimsa. All the followers of Dharma praise Ahimsa and Renunciation. The Dharma which turns the faculties of man towards Ahimsa, Renunciation, Tranquility, and Self-Control is Dharma in the true sense of the term. A Dharma which is judged by these standards, falls short is an incomplete Dharma. Meat-eaters violate the Ahimsa aspect of Dharma and violation of Dharma is a sin. It might be argued by some that, inasmuch as they do not themselves kill animals nor directly get them killed by others, but simply purchase and eat the flesh of animals which have been done to death by others, there is no reason why they should be held sinners, guilty of the crime of killing. The answer to this objection is clear : Animals are killed for supplying the need of meat eaters. Slaughter-houses have been built to supply their demand. If meat-eaters give up their habit of meat eating, why should killing of animals be resorted to at all? It should, again, be realized that Himsa is not confined to the act of killing with one's own hand. Maharishi Patanjali has defined Himsa to be of twenty-seven kinds. He says:

"Personally to kill creatures, to cause creatures to be killed by others, and to support the killing of creatures - these are the three main forms of Himsa. Greed, anger, and ignorance being the motives of such Himsa, there become nine types of Himsa (3x3=9). These again may be differentiated as mild, middling, and acute, thus making the number twenty-seven (9x3=27). Evils like lying, etc. may be similarly classified into 27 types. To reflect that Himsa and the allied evils are the root causes of never-ending sufferings and ignorance, is called meditation on reverse aspects." (Yoga. 2.34)

These twenty-seven types of Himsa, again, assume eighty-one forms, according as they are practised by body, speech and mind. Therefore, a man who does not kill animals himself, but eats the flesh of animals killed by others is also, truly speaking, a killer of animals. The great Law-Giver, Manu, says:

"He who gives counsel or order (to kill), he who cuts off any limb, he who actually puts an animal to death, the purchaser of flesh, and he who eats flesh, all of these are to be styled as killers." (Manu, 5.51)

This opinion of Manu finds support in the Mahabharata, which records:

"The purchaser of flesh performs Himsa by his wealth; he who eats (flesh) does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does Himsa by tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of animals, he who purchases or sells or cooks flesh and eats it - all of these are meat-eaters (killers of animals)." (Maha. Anu. 115.40)

Therefore, meat-eating being in every way destructive of Dharma, is the greatest of sins. The relinquishment of Himsa is the first step for a person desiring to abide by the injunctions of Dharma. He who does not entertain the sentiment of Ahimsa in his heart, how can it be possible for him to cherish Dharma there?

4. The old Kaurava warrior Bhisma addressing king Yudhusthira, said :

"O Yudhisthira, 'He eats me, therefore, I shall eat him - know this to be the derivative meaning of the word 'maamsa' (meat). (Maha Anu 116, 53)

Manu also corroborates this meaning when He says:

"That creature, whose flesh I eat in this world would eat mine in the next world. This interpretation of the word "maamsa" (meat) is made by the learned." (Manu. 5.55)

The animal whose flesh a person eats will with a view to take its revenge becomes in its turn the eater of his flesh some time or other. The man causing suffering to any creature is bound, in course of time, to experience a still greater amount of suffering, by way of reaping the fruit of his own actions. His suffering becomes the greater, because he has to pay off the debt with interest. Over and above this, it is quite in the fitness of things, that even as we are pained by being tortured by others, so others should feel distressed when similarly tortured by us. To inflict suffering on others is an atrocious sin. How can happiness be the outcome of sin? Therefore, the great Bhisma has said :

"Meat-eaters take repeated births in various wombs and are put every time to unnatural death through forcible suffocation. After every death they go to the Kumbhipaka Hell where they are baked (on fire). (Maha. Anu, 115. 31). The Kumbhipaka is a particular hell where the wicked are baked like the Potter's vessel.

5. God has in this world made many varieties of food-stuff in keeping with the variety of creatures He has created. On a comparison of man's bodily formation, teeth, jaws, claws, nails, bones, etc., with those of carnivorous animals, like the lion, the dog, the wolf, etc, it becomes abundantly clear that grains, milk, and fruits are the food-stuffs meant for man ... The Mahabharata says :

It is a matter of pity that the wicked in this world, discarding the many varieties of pure food, hanker after meat like demons, and do not like the many varieties of sweet-meats, vegetables, and other preparations of sugar to the same extent as meat." (Maha. 116.1-2)

All this proves that meat is not the natural diet for man.

6. The mind of man is formed from the food he takes. "The character of one's mind is determined by the character of his food," says an Indian proverb. Man acquires the characteristics and behaviour of the animal whose flesh he eats, and gradually even his look assumes that animal form. That is why in many cases he is found to lose his human character in this very life, to lead a cruel and undignified animal life. After death, in conformity with his thoughts and to reap the consequences of his actions, he takes birth in the womb of animals and suffers the greatest affliction. In the Mahabharata, Bhisma says :

"To reap the consequences of his actions in a previous birth, man assumes a body in his next birth, so that he may be done unto as he had done unto others." (Maha. Anu. 116.37)

This proves that a meat-eater in course of time has to assume the form of the species of animals whose flesh he takes in his human birth.

7. When we are powerless to impart life to any creature, we have no right to deprive it of its life. But when, in spite of that, man does so, it is nothing but an atrocious and high-handed act, and a grave sin on his part. A meat-eater, even if he does not kill himself, is nevertheless guilty of killing, because it must be clear from what has been said above, that he is indirectly responsible for the act of killing.

8. A meat-eater becomes cruel; and a man devoid of kindness is without doubt irreligious. A meat-eater forgets this broad fact that by eating the flesh of another creature, he is perpetrating a dire cruelty. He simply satisfies his hunger for the time being, but the poor animal or bird loses its life for ever. There is no agony in the world more painful than the agony of death. All creatures of the world fear death. The Mahabharata says :

"O Bharata ! death is regarded as undesirable by all creatures. All creatures tremble at the time of death" (Maha. Anu. 116.7)

The man who is possessed of kindness, shudders at the sight or of the hearing about the agonies of others, and takes upon himself the duty to remove their sufferings. But the hard-hearted sinful man, who, in order to satisfy his sense of taste, takes the lives of other creatures, is, by nature, cruel. A cruel man cannot claim mercy at the hands of God or other creatures.

It is only the man possessing a kind heart, who can. when in distress, be the recipient of mercy from God or other creatures. Much to be regretted is that man who gets perturbed on being put to the slightest trouble by others and raises a hue and cry against it, yet does not feel the
least pinch of conscience in taking the life of mute creatures and eating their flesh through the greed of their senses, owing to bad habits, or simply out of fun.

Man is, by nature. supposed to be the wisest and the most beneficent of all creatures. If he, in utter disregard of his nature, continues to behave cruelly towards beasts and birds, it would be quite difficult for the latter to maintain their existence on earth. Therefore, it is man's duty to be kind-hearted. The Mahabarata says :

"Nothing is dearer than life in this world, hence a man should be kind to others even as he is kind to himself." (Maha. Anu, 116.21)

9. Meat-eating naturally spoils health. Even the scientists and medical men of Europe have begun to subscribe to this view. Over and above this, among beasts and birds, whose flesh is consumed by man, some are diseased, so that a man by eating their flesh infects himself with disease... The Scriptures say that the life of meat-eaters gets shortened.

"The sins generated by Himsa curtail the life of the perpetrator of Himsa. Therefore. those who are anxious for their welfare should abstain from meat-eating." (Maha. ,Anu.115.33)

10. Although there are passages in the scriptures with reference to the use of meat as human food. yet it will be found that much stress has been laid there in forcible language on abstinence from meat-eating. Almost all the Hindu scriptures deprecate meat-eating and eulogize abstinence from the same as best for man. There are thousands of injunctions to this effect in the scriptures and only a few of them are quoted here for the benefit of the reader. The: Manusmriti says :

"Those who for their personal pleasure take the life of harmless creatures do not attain happiness in this life, or in the life hereafter. In view of the method through which flesh is acquired, and considering the suffering to creatures in fastening with cord and killing them, man should give up meat-eating of all sorts.'' (Manu. 5. 45,49)

The Yamasmriti records :

"Prajapati says that eating meat of any sort is a great evil and abstinence from doing so is highly meritorious."

The Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, says:

"The intellect becoming alloyed with greed, or with the company of the sinful, man develops the inclination to do impious deeds (Himsa, etc.) for the aquisition of strength and power.

"He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species of beings he may take his birth.

''The base and ignorant man who commits acts of Himsa by killing creatures under the pretext of worship of gods, or performance of Vedic sacrifices, goes to hell.

"No man is more debased than the man who wishes to increase his flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures; he is hardhearted to the core.

"O Child, there is no doubt about this fact that flesh grows out of semen. (Therefore it is highly detestable.) Flesh-eating is thus a great evil, and abstinence from it is a virtue.'' (Maha. Anu. 115. 35-6, 47. 116.11,13)

Gains derived from abstinence from Flesh-Eating

The Manusmriti says :

"Abstinence from flesh-eating has been said to be productive of virtue equal to that of the yearly performance of Aswamedha Yajna continuously for a hundred years." (Manu. 5.53)

The Mahabharata says :

"He who abstains from flesh-eating and is kindly disposed towards all creatures becomes an object of shelter to them and gains their confidence. He never harasses anybody in the world nor is ever harassed himself.

"Nobody can frighten him ; he lives long and always remains healthy. The virtue gained by abstinence from meat-eating is so great that it cannot be equalled by the virtue of making gifts of even, gold, cow, or land." (Maha. Anu. 115.30)

It should be quite evident from the above discussion that meat as an article of food should be abjured by all. It is my humble submission to those, who through an error of judgment may have formed the habit of taking meat, that they should give their best thought to the question and try to renounce the habit in the name of humanity, in the name of kindness and justice, as also for the sake of health and the preservation of Dharma, and for courting the favour of God, and thus gain the qualification of attaining the Fearless state through the removal of the fear of other creatures on their account. The Mahabharata thus records what Mahatma Tuladhar, addressing Japali Muni said :

"O Prince of Ascetics, he who does not inflict even the least affliction on any creature has nothing to fear from any creature. Even as by the fear of submarine fire, all the animals of the sea gather on the sea-shore, so, O Wise One, the man who is dreaded by others like the wolf is himself similarly terrified.

"The virtue gained through offering of protection to all creatures is the same as gained through practice of austerities, performances of sacrifices, and charities, and the hearing of words of spiritual wisdom.

"He who makes all the creatures of the world fearless about him, may be supposed to have performed all the Yajnas, and, in turn, becomes fearless about other creatures. Hence, there is no Dharma greater than the practice of restraining oneself from causing affliction or suffering to any creature." (Maha. Santi. 262.24-5,28-30)

Swami Ramakrishna Paramahasa says:

"Look at the anvil of a blacksmith - how it is hammered and beaten, but yet moves not from its place. Let men learn patience and endurance from it.

"Do you talk of social reform? Well, you may do so, after realizing God. Remember, the Rishis of old gave up the world in order to attain God. This is the one thing needful, all other things shall be added unto you, if indeed you care to have them. First see God, and then talk of lectures and social reforms.