Among the major religions of the world, Buddhism ranks first in promoting peace and respect for life. For more than 2,500 years, not a single drop of blood has been shed or anyone killed in the name of Buddhism. The Buddhist emperor Ashoka (3rd cent BCE) was the most celebrated ruler of ancient India because of his love, tolerance and benevolence to the people and animals. The Dalai Lama, leader of Tibetan Buddhism, was awarded the 1989 Nobel Peace Price for conducting a peaceful struggle to regain Tibet's independence from the Chinese invaders whom he still calls "brothers". Wherever Buddhism flourishes, we can see love, tolerance and compassion.

Although the monks of certain forms of Buddhism are not vegetarians, the Buddha’s teachings lead, logically, towards vegetarianism, firstly, because of Compassion, one of the Four Perfect Virtues (Loving-Kindness, Compassion, Appreciative-Joy and Equanimity). How can we go on eating meat when we think about the suffering and agony of animals at the hands of butchers? Moreover, according to the concept of Rebirth, those butchered animals might have been our relatives in previous lives.

Many people think God created other kinds of creatures to serve mankind, so it is alright for us to eat them. This is a case of "might is right", but it is totally unjust and unreasonable. We know that even the tiniest creatures, like ants, have a fear of death. Animals suffer, can love and help each other and other species. They also have families and societies as we do. If God exists, He would not have allowed animals to be treated this way while proclaiming universal love and justice. Animals therefore should have the right to live safely in their natural environments and not be subject to man's exploitation.

Modern science has learned that many animals suffer and have a form of intelligence similar to ours. And in many cases, their senses are much more acute than ours. For example, a German shepherd has a sense of smell 40 times more sensitive and a sense of hearing at least 10 times more acute than ours. The biologist Richard Serjeant in his book 'The Spectrum of Pain' writes: "Every particle of factual evidence supports the contention that the higher mammalian vertebrates experience pain AT LEAST AS ACUTE AS our own. Apart from the complexity of the cerebral cortex (which does not directly feel pain) their nervous systems are ALMOST IDENTICAL to ours and their reactions to pain REMARKABLY SIMILAR...". Concerning the structure and function of the human brain compared to other animals', scientists have also found that they: "...differ in fewer ways than we may think, the similarities are greater than the differences. A dog, for example, has the same states of activity as man, its EEG patterns being almost identical in wakefulness, quiet sleep, dreaming and daydreaming. As for the chemistry of the central nervous and endocrine systems, we know that there is no difference in kind between human and other animals. The biochemistry of physiological and emotional states (of stress and anxiety, for example) differs little between mice and men".

Those who look down on animals and condone the mistreatment and exploitation of them, will know that they are so wrong when they learn of the loving-kindness, the gratitude and the intelligence of animals in the following true stories:

Animals have proved they deserve to be our "little" brothers and sisters, they resemble us in more ways than we think. Regrettably, because of the habit of eating meat, man has become the deadliest creature on Earth and has caused other animals untold sufferings.

Let us now discuss this habit of meat eating. Is it as healthy as many people believe or are led to believe? Science has found that man is basically a vegetarian by nature, for the following reasons:

Therefore in theory, human vegetarians, because they follow nature, can be healthier and longer-lived than meat-eaters. But in reality, are they healthier? Many people still believe vegetarians risk lack of proteins, iron, etc., thus making their bodies weak and prone to disease. But this fear is unfounded, because according to the latest research on nutrition:

Then why do some people feel lethargic when they eat a vegetarian diet and feel stronger and better when they revert to a meat diet? It could be for one of the following reasons:

Recent experiments on physical endurance have proved that:

In sports and track and field, vegetarians have also gained high levels of achievement and set records that have made the meat-eaters green with envy:

Besides strength and endurance, vegetarians also enjoy health and longevity more so than meat-eaters. Take for example the Hunzas, who live in the Himalayas in Northern Pakistan. Meat and dairy food intake accounts for only about 1.5 pc of their diet. "They work and play at 80 years of age and beyond -- most of those who reach their 100th birthday continue to be active, and retirement is unheard of. The absence of excess protein in their diets engenders slow growth and slim, compact body frame. With age, wisdom accumulates but physical degeneration is limited so the senior citizens of these remote societies have something unique to contribute to the lives of others. They are revered". Similarly, the Vilcambas who reside in the Andes of Ecuador, the Abkhasians who live on the Black Sea in the Trans-Caucasus region of the USSR, also have the highest life expectancies in the world. These groups, although scattered in different parts of the world, have one thing in common: they are vegetarians or near full vegetarians and all enjoy health and longevity.

Let us now discuss the economic side of vegetarianism. According to economists, to provide food for a vegetarian we need 0.167 acre (700 square metres) of cultivated land, compared to 3.25 acres to provide food for a meat-eater by the US standard. In other words, for the same acreage required to provide food for meat-eaters, we can provide food for almost 20 times more vegetarians. Moreover, the saving on water and fuel is also tremendous:

Let us now look at the meat-eaters. Do they have any advantages over vegetarians? Many people still think animal protein is superior to vegetable protein, based on the fact that laboratory rats raised on animal protein grow faster than rats raised on vegetable protein. But this concept is now obsolete because more thorough examination shows that the meat-eating rats are also less healthy and shorter-lived than the vegetarian ones. Nowadays, excess animal protein and fat intake is the biggest killer in the industrialised nations in the world, where people eat mainly meat and other animal products (milk, eggs, butter, cheese, etc). They generally suffer the following diseases:

Mankind is paying a high price for its taste buds and the industries of death are confusing the minds of consumers by hidings facts and creating misconceptions about nutrition. But first let us discuss the unbelievable suffering of animals raised for food. For financial gain, some people have committed cruelty at a scale unimaginable. Each year, billions of animals are detained in modern farms, stripped of all their rights to live in their natural environment. They are fattened in the shortest possible time to be killed in the meat-packaging factories, or exploited for their ability to provide milk and eggs and later, when exhausted they have to meet their fate at the hands of the butchers. On these modern farms, the animals are kept in a completely artificial environment, in space so small the chickens have to be de-beaked, the pigs' leashes have to be cut off, so that they cannot hurt and cannibalise each other in a crazed frenzy. In the Provimi method of veal raising, the baby calves are removed from their mothers immediately after birth. Then they are kept chained in stalls so tight they can hardly move, and fed a no-iron diet to induce anaemia so that they can gain more of the pinkish white meat that consumers appreciate. In such conditions, the products from these poor sick animals usually contain, in addition to the hormones and pesticides, their fear and anger in the form of harmful endocrine chemicals. No wonders these products have proved disastrous on the consumers' health.

Each day in the US alone, about 9 million animals (chickens, pigs, cow, sheep, etc.) are slaughtered. Imagine what the number would be for the whole world. We can say animal blood has flowed as rivers and their bones would stack up as mountains from our deadly habit of eating meat. In the meantime, billions of acres of jungle have been cut down to grow animal feed and turn into Mac Donald's hamburgers. Millions of tons of pesticides have peen sprayed on our lands and in our air. For financial gain, people are stupidly poisoning our food, our land, even the air we breathe. The Earth's resources are being wasted on a grand scale, while in the world 40,000 children die of starvation each single day. Each year, about 1,000 species of animals become extinct as their environments are destroyed. The Earth is becoming arid because of soil erosion, its rivers and oceans slowly poisoned by animal wastes and toxic chemicals. Typhoons, floods (and earthquakes) are becoming more frequent due to the destruction of the precious tropical jungles. The ozone layer in the stratosphere is getting thinner, the Green House effect is becoming a more serious threat. And what we humans get in return? Millions of people died of heart disease, cancer and other degenerative diseases, due to excessive meat and fat intake. Along with our poisoned environment, the cells in our bodies are slowly dying. The future of humankind is very bleak if we cannot stop the deadly habit that is destroying the Earth, its animals and the lives of humans ourselves.

Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner, strongly believed that: "Any religion which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion... Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace".

The Indian Chief Seattle, when it was suggested that he sell his people's land to the white men, posed only one condition: "The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected". Before such wisdom and eloquence, dare we say he was an ignorant savage and we are now more civilised than he was?

We should have the courage to discard wrong theories and wrong dogmas, no matter where they come from. Let us face the fact that mother Earth and our own very existence are in danger, and the greatest contributing factor to this is our habit of eating meat. We can most certainly improve the situation and our own plight by returning to Mother Nature, putting ourselves among other living things in the spirit of love and mutual help. By returning to a green diet, we can diminish the suffering of other species, save the resources (top soil, water, fuel, etc.) of the Earth, protect our environment (from the deadly trend of self-poisoning) and be able to help the needy people of the world. Like John Robbins, we have a dream in which the Earth is greener, world-famine is totally eradicated, peace reigns everywhere and all other animals rejoice because finally man has dropped his butcher's knife.

The green diet is certainly the one for a more-civilised humankind and a much better world.


[ Compiled by Tri Huynh of Sydney, Australia, based on John Robbins' book "DIET FOR A NEW AMERICA", and revised by Abhinyana. ]