Food habits, vegetarianim and eating meat

This post is inspired by a fellow blogger's blog about some food practices in the society(Click here) which seems not so relevant to the present situations. Below are my views on the issue.

Abstaining from meat eating or eating a vegetarian diet has been given many interpretations in the light of religious, ethical, moral and medical reasons. For a moment lets step away from these traditional and contemporary view points and approach this issue from a rather different and interesting angle, which looks more compelling. (at least to me)

Mankind is absolutely dependent on vegetation to meet the entire nutritional requirements. Plants are the only producers of energy. The produce their food by means of a photochemical process called as photosynthesis. All other living creatures in this earth are dependent on this energy either directly or indirectly and the same energy flows through different levels.

As a thumb rule, when energy flows across different levels, only 10% of it is transferred to the next level. The graphic below represents what is known as an ecological pyramid showing the energy transfer rates across various levels.

The amount of energy possessed by the primary consumer for instance, a goat is 1/10th the energy possessed by the producer i.e. the plants. In other words, if a given amount of plants could support 100 people and if people are eating goats instead, only 10 people can survive because the energy transfer from plants to goats is only 10%. To make it even simpler one can say that if 1000 calories are available from plants directly, only 100 calories are available from the goats, which feed on the 1000 calories. If people are vegetarians or dependent on plants alone then a larger number of people can be supported with the available resources.

This could be the true rationale behind having vegetarian food habits or abstaining from eating meat, given the fact the human body and the biological systems within it are well adapted for meat eating.

If eating meat was not good for human health, why in the first place is our digestive system equipped to digest them and why do we have ‘canines and incisors’ tooth that are designed for cutting and tearing meat? Often people fail to differentiate between eating and over eating.

On the other hand we need to take into account the scientific advances which mankind was able to achieve. From a subsistence agriculture that was largely dependent on the forces of nature for water and essential nutrients, agriculture today has gone to different levels. Even barren lands can be cultivated these days. Commercial and intensive agriculture has its downsides too but thats a different story altogether. The fact of the matter is that dependency on plants has been brought under control, at least in theory.

The second but not so important reason for avoiding meat could be the disruption in the food chain it might cause. The food chain is an intricate inter-linkage between different organisms in the process of energy flow. Even if one component of the food chain is altered in numbers, then the upper levels might not get enough food while the lower levels might over grow thus leading to chaos. Given the fact that consumable meat is grown on an industrial scale the problem of disrupting the food chains seems to be invalid.

Its all about the individual's choice and conscience when it comes to the question of eating meat because both the arguments seem valid. Evolution of species guided by the survival of the fittest theory is the one which has shaped all the living organisms and one of the basic principles of the survival of the fittest story is meeting the nutritional requirements. Deer, which is long believed to be a herbivores (yes thats what most of the schools teach, at least i was taught so) may not be one anymore. There are evidences caught on camera about the Red Deer in the Scottish Island of Rum eating the head and legs of live sea birds to meet the calcium requirements so that it can grow its antlers better, which is the sign of a healthy male. The size of the antler plays a significant role in the choice of mate/healthy male for reproduction. If this practice gets coded in their genes, there may come a time when the deer eating the sea birds would become a part of their food habit and it may not be called a herbivore.

PS: The dear story is true. If interested, it may be checked here.


S Ramanathan said...

spot on.. ;)

anyways, i do think it is right when the doctors say that 'too much' non veg is bad for the health. but as u said, personal choice at the end of the day.

Sakhi said...

Completely agree with you on the nutritional value of vegetarian against non-vegetarian food.
Did you know that archaeologists believe that humans started eating meat (hunted) and fruits/veggies (picked from their habitat) initially...but the concept of 'civilization' is considered to have started, when we learnt agriculture...Post the stone-ages, humans started living in societies, growing food and helping each other with the community chores (which, later become the concept of 'occupation').
Also, now that we are a 'civilized', 'cultured' and 'educated' species, I don't understand why we still need to kill a being (which can walk or move), for our food...when we can cultivate it on farms?...animals have a right to live , as much as we do.
Nice space you've got out here Suren.
Until the next time now...S m i l e

Sakhi said...

oh! I forgot to add that;
Non-veg food has always had a higher tendency to get contaminated (the way you can lightly wash vegetables, before cooking/eating is never recommended, as sufficient in case of meat/eggs), rather than veg-food. This has also been scientifically proven.
And then, meats take longer to cook too; making veg-food, much more energy-efficient.
Besides, veg is also found to be medically healthier, and nutritional (like you mentioned)...the first thing, when you get ill (with anything), doctors would ask you to get off meat!...the variety of nutritions available in veg food (energy, calcium, minerals, proteins, vitamins, etc.), lack highly in non-veg.
Cheers...S m i l e

suren said...

welcome shaki :)

these problems or issues do exist but not something insurmountable medical, cleanliness or scientific....

ethical issues are again individual specific... even our scriptures recognize a butcher by saying though he is killing an animal he is doing his karma....

Gauri Gharpure said...

hi there,
ws around sometime back, had a read at this post, but ws in a hurry, so left w/o dropping a comment.. now it's the time.. urs is a very balanced, well informed article, so ws a pleasure going thru it.. I feel that at the end of it, veg or nonveg consumption is an entirely personal choice, it has been so since ancient times and so this personal preference should not be unduly cornered with judgemental ideas.. Also, at the same time, following a sense of ethics and values, which do play a role in decisions to stick to vegetarian food, are a mark of someone with immense willpower and moral strength, so I also appreciate and respect my completely veg friends a lot..
to end it on a philosophical note, here's something tht Kahlil Gibran has said in his book 'The Prophet':

When you kill a beast say to him in your heart:

'By the same power that slays you, I too am slain; and I too shall be consumed.

For the law that delivered you into my hand shall deliver me into a mightier hand'

Regards, and again a nice read...

suren said...

well... i agree .... i just wanted to highlight that there is something beyond these ethical, religious and medical reasons, something which is the underlying reason for this practice :) :)

sunny_raju said...

It is in ones' mind set n the environment in which he lives which governs the food habits of an induvidual. have we noticed the difference b/w the dental arangement of cow n tiger, human dental arrangement is in b/w both... well nice blog dude i appreciate ur comment on my feedback

suren said...

thanks sunny for stopping by... precisely thats wat i too meant but worded it differently .... pls visit again

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Drew Filler said...

"Non-veg food has always had a higher tendency to get contaminated (the way you can lightly wash vegetables, before cooking/eating is never recommended, as sufficient in case of meat/eggs), rather than veg-food. This has also been scientifically proven." I agreed with that idea.