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Religions that Promote Vegetarianism: Uncovering the Ethical Foundations

Throughout history, numerous religions have encouraged or even required their followers to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. In this article, we will delve into the ethical underpinnings of these religious beliefs and practices. Understanding the motivations behind these choices will provide greater insight into the values that drive millions of individuals worldwide to embrace a meat-free diet.

Buddhism: A Path of Compassion and Non-Harm


Buddhism, one of the world's oldest and most widespread religions, strongly encourages its followers to practice a vegetarian lifestyle. Central to the Buddhist philosophy is the concept of ahimsa, or non-harm, which advocates for compassionate and non-violent actions towards all sentient beings, including animals. By abstaining from the consumption of meat, Buddhists aim to cultivate an attitude of kindness and respect towards all living creatures, ultimately leading to a more peaceful and harmonious existence.

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Vegetarianism as Religious Observance:

A Comparative Study of Maitreya Buddhists and Adventist Christians

maytreya buddha and jesus

The practice of vegetarianism in Maitreya Buddhism and Adventist Christianity is a fascinating study of how religious beliefs can shape dietary habits. The article explores the reasons behind these dietary choices, the challenges faced by adherents, and the impact of these practices on their health and lifestyle.

Maitreya Buddhists and Vegetarianism

In Maitreya Buddhism, vegetarianism is a significant part of religious observance. Adherents believe that consuming meat is a violation of the vow of non-harming. The monastery advises and guides its followers towards vegetarianism, but the decision ultimately lies with the individual. The diet primarily consists of vegetables, with a variety of menus such as vegetable soup, tamarind vegetables, and boiled cassava leaves. Some Buddhists even create mock meat dishes out of vegetables. The monastery also provides banquets after every service to accustom people to vegetarianism.

Adventist Christians and Vegetarianism

In Adventist Christianity, vegetarianism is recommended but not compulsory. The diet is based on the belief that the human body is a temple of God that must be cared for. Therefore, the food consumed must be healthy. Adventist Christians consume a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Some Adventist Christians also consume animal products like milk and eggs. The church holds a joint meal for vegetarians once a month, encouraging the practice of vegetarianism among its members.

The Sociological Expressions of Vegetarianism

Both Maitreya Buddhism and Adventist Christianity have communities that support and promote vegetarianism. Maitreya Buddhism had a group for vegetarians in the 90s called the Maitreya Indonesia Vegetarian Family (KVMI), which was later replaced by the Indonesia Vegetarian Society (IVS) and the Vegan Society Indonesia (VSI). Similarly, the Naripan Adventist Christian church has a health club that promotes a vegetarian lifestyle.

The Impact of Vegetarianism

The practice of vegetarianism in these religious groups has various impacts. Adherents report feeling healthier, controlling their appetite better, and experiencing a stable weight. Some also believe that being a vegetarian can reduce the risk of certain diseases. However, the transition to vegetarianism can be challenging, with some individuals reporting difficulties in finding suitable food options and adjusting to the new diet.

In conclusion, the practice of vegetarianism in Maitreya Buddhism and Adventist Christianity is a reflection of their religious beliefs and teachings. It is a lifestyle choice that has significant implications for the health and well-being of the adherents. As the world grapples with issues like climate change and animal rights, the practice of vegetarianism in these religious groups offers valuable insights into sustainable and ethical living.

pdf Vegetarianism as religious observance: Comparative Study of Maitreya Buddhists and Adventist Christians (405 KB)

The Seventh-day Adventist Church: Health, Spirituality, and Moral Responsibility

vegetarian jesus

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is a Christian denomination that promotes vegetarianism as a means to achieve optimal health and spiritual well-being. The church's teachings emphasize the importance of a balanced, plant-based diet as part of God's original plan for humanity. Furthermore, the church believes that the moral responsibility to care for the environment and other living beings extends to the choices we make in our diets, leading many of its followers to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.

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>> The Seventh Day Adventist Church's Impact on Vegetarianism and Veganism

Christian Vegetarian Association, USA

Christian Vegetarian Association UK

Promoting Vegetarianism in Spiritism: Insights from André Luiz, Ramatís, and Emmanuel

aquarela de chico xavier vegetariano

Spiritism, a religious and philosophical doctrine that originated in France in the mid-19th century by Allan Kardec, is widely followed in Brazil today. It is a system that embraces the belief in the survival of the spirit after physical death, reincarnation, and spiritual evolution through multiple lives. Spiritism also encourages moral development and emphasizes the importance of practicing good deeds. Brazil is home to the largest Spiritist community in the world, making the country a vibrant hub for Spiritist thought and practice.

Vegetarianism is a topic that has been increasingly highlighted within Spiritism, particularly emphasized in the teachings of different Spiritist authors and mediums, such as André Luiz, Ramatís, and Emmanuel.

In the "Nosso Lar" series, authored by the spirit André Luiz and psychographed by Chico Xavier, one of Brazil's most revered mediums, it is explained that the consumption of meat brings about negative consequences for both the physical and spiritual body. André Luiz explains that the ingestion of meat generates toxins and impurities that affect human balance and health. Moreover, he emphasizes the importance of compassion and respect for all life forms, thus advocating against animal exploitation and suffering.

Ramatís, a spirit author known for his thought-provoking teachings, presents vegetarianism as an urgent necessity, both for ethical and spiritual reasons. In his psychographed books, Ramatís discusses the importance of ceasing meat consumption for the well-being and spiritual evolution of humanity.

Emmanuel, a guide spirit who worked with Chico Xavier, mentions in one of his books that humanity is evolving and moving towards a future where meat consumption will be set aside, replaced by a vegetable-based diet.

Spiritism, through the views of André Luiz, Ramatís, and Emmanuel, promotes vegetarianism as a practice that benefits humans, animals, and the environment. The adoption of a vegetarian diet is seen as an important step towards spiritual elevation, harmony, and peace among all beings.

Increasingly, followers of Spiritism are embracing vegetarianism, motivated by the teachings of these authors and mediums. This optimistic trend indicates that compassion and respect for life are becoming central values in spiritual practice, leading to a greater connection between ethics and spirituality, and inspiring more conscious actions regarding consumption and animal treatment.

Hinduism: Reverence for Life and Karmic Consequences


Vegetarianism is deeply rooted in Hinduism, as the majority of its adherents practice this dietary choice for both religious and ethical reasons. Hindus believe in the sanctity of all life and the interconnectedness of all beings. This belief extends to the doctrine of karma, which dictates that an individual's actions in this life will affect their future lives. Consuming meat is considered to have negative karmic consequences, as it involves the taking of a life and contributes to the cycle of suffering. As such, many Hindus choose vegetarianism to uphold their reverence for life and to minimize negative karmic repercussions.

Jainism: A Commitment to Non-Violence and Environmental Stewardship

Among the world's religions, Jainism is perhaps the most steadfast in its commitment to vegetarianism. Jainism promotes an extreme form of non-violence, even going so far as to avoid harming insects and plants. This strong emphasis on ahimsa leads Jains to adopt a strict vegetarian diet, which often excludes root vegetables due to the potential for harm caused during their cultivation.

In addition to non-violence, Jains are committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability. A vegetarian diet aligns with these values, as it generally has a lower environmental impact than a meat-based diet. This holistic approach to ethics and ecology showcases the interconnectedness of all aspects of life and the importance of making conscious choices to minimize harm.

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Food for Life Global

Rastafarianism: The Ital Diet and Spiritual Purity

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Rastafarianism, a religion that originated in Jamaica, emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clean and natural lifestyle. Adherents often follow the Ital diet, which consists mainly of plant-based, unprocessed foods, with the goal of achieving spiritual purity and a stronger connection with the divine. This dietary choice is rooted in the belief that consuming meat is detrimental to one's spiritual health, as it introduces impurities into the body and mind.

The word "Ital" is derived from the English word "vital," with the initial "v" removed to emphasize the importance of unity with nature and the divine.

The Ital diet emphasizes natural, unprocessed, and often organic foods, as Rastafarians believe that consuming pure and clean foods contributes to spiritual purity and a stronger connection with the divine. While some Rastafarians may include small amounts of fish in their diet, many choose to follow a strict vegetarian or vegan diet, avoiding all animal products. The Ital diet also typically excludes additives, preservatives, and artificial ingredients, as well as foods that are high in salt and sugar. The focus is on consuming fresh, whole foods that nourish the body and promote physical and spiritual well-being.

Judaism: The Roots of Vegetarianism in Jewish Tradition

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While not a central tenet of Judaism, vegetarianism has found a significant following among certain Jewish communities. The original diet prescribed by the Torah, as described in the Garden of Eden, was plant-based, reflecting an ideal state of harmony between humans and other living beings. Additionally, the Jewish concept of tza'ar ba'alei chayim—the moral obligation to prevent animal suffering—encourages some Jews to choose a vegetarian lifestyle.

Kashrut, or Jewish dietary laws, also plays a role in the adoption of vegetarianism. These laws outline strict guidelines for the slaughter, preparation, and consumption of meat, leading some Jews to forgo animal products altogether to ensure compliance. Furthermore, the prophetic vision of a future Messianic era, characterized by peace and the absence of violence, inspires some Jews to pursue vegetarianism as a way to embody these ideals in their daily lives.

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Jewish Vegetarians of North America

Islam: Compassion and Ethical Concerns in Islamic Vegetarianism

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Though not explicitly required in Islamic teachings, vegetarianism has been embraced by a number of Muslims due to ethical concerns and compassion for animals. The Qur'an and Hadith promote the humane treatment of animals and discourage causing unnecessary harm. Consequently, some Muslims interpret these teachings as a call to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle.

Islamic dietary laws, known as halal, also contribute to the choice to adopt a vegetarian diet. These laws outline strict requirements for the slaughter and consumption of animals, leading some Muslims to abstain from meat in order to adhere to these guidelines more easily. For those who choose this path, vegetarianism becomes an expression of their commitment to compassion and ethical living.

Exploring the Intersection of Islamic Ethics and Vegetarianism: A New Perspective on Animal Rights in Islam

The article titled " pdf An Islamic framework for animal ethics: Widening the conversation to include Islamic ethical vegetarianism (691 KB) " by Mohamed Mukhtar and Mary-Justine Todd explores the intersection of Islamic ethics, animal ethics, and the varying perspectives on the ethical treatment of animals within Islamic scholarly discourse. The authors argue that the current literature often focuses narrowly on the topic of halal slaughter, and they propose a broader conversation about the relationship between Muslims and nonhuman animals in the era of industrialized factory farming.

The authors suggest that an ethical-vegetarian lifestyle might more accurately uphold the Islamic principles of compassion and mercy, as well as the Islamic practice of intellectual effort, ijtihad. They believe that this reconceptualization deserves serious consideration within Islamic scholarship, moving the debate beyond just the moment and manner of an animal’s death.

The paper also explores the potential justifications for expanding the debate within Islamic studies circles by challenging the morality of Islamic animal killing altogether, rather than merely scrutinizing the moment and methods of halal slaughter. The authors assess the possibilities for an Islamic framework for ethical vegetarianism that could preserve the lives and well-being of animals based on the teachings of Islam, utilizing an Islamically informed ecofeminist theoretical framework.

The authors also highlight the significant role Muslims have played in the development of human society, contributing to areas such as science, math, literature, art, ethics, and philosophy. They note that while some modern Islamic scholars have questioned the permissibility of meat-eating in Islam, these positions are in the minority, and the issue of Islamic vegetarianism and the lives of animals in Islam remains uncommon as a topic for Islamic ethics.

In conclusion, the authors argue for a wider conversation about Islamic morality and Muslims’ obligations toward animal beings within the Islamic ethics discourse. They seek to highlight the framework for an Islamic ethical vegetarianism and increased compassion toward animals that "are communities like yours," as described in the Quran. They ultimately aim to understand if an Islamic vegetarianism can be forged from the broad Islamic principles of compassion and mercy, the many teachings embedded in Islamic sacred texts, or the creative tool of 'al ijtihad almaqasid', intellectual effort and reasoning.

Download the paper here:  pdf Mukhtar todd 2023 an islamic framework for animal ethics widening the conversation to include islamic ethical (691 KB)

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Vegetarianism Across Religious Traditions


Religions that promote vegetarianism do so primarily due to ethical considerations. The common thread among these faiths is a deep respect for all living beings and the environment, which transcends into the dietary choices of their followers. By abstaining from meat consumption, adherents to these religions strive to minimize harm, cultivate compassion, and promote a more peaceful and sustainable existence.

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What is the connection between vegetarianism and religion?

Many religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism, have advocated vegetarianism as a way to show compassion and non-violence towards animals. Some Christian groups also promote vegetarianism based on the belief in the peaceful Garden of Eden.

How does Buddhism view vegetarianism?

In Buddhism, vegetarianism is seen as a way to practice compassion and non-violence. While not all Buddhists are vegetarians, many follow a vegetarian diet to align with the principle of not harming living beings.

What is the Jain perspective on vegetarianism?

Jainism strongly emphasizes non-violence, and as a result, vegetarianism is a fundamental practice in Jain faith. Jains believe in avoiding harm to all living beings, including microorganisms, leading to strict dietary practices.

How is vegetarianism viewed in Hinduism?

Hinduism promotes the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence, and many Hindus follow a vegetarian diet to align with this principle. The belief in the sacredness of the cow also contributes to vegetarian practices among Hindus.

Are there any Christian groups that advocate for vegetarianism?

Yes, some Christian groups advocate for vegetarianism, drawing inspiration from the peaceful Garden of Eden. The Bible Christian Church in the 19th century and the Seventh-day Adventists are examples of Christian groups that have promoted vegetarianism.
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