Through the ages, many arguments have been presented in favor of plant-based diets. While these arguments have varied depending on time and culture, the fundamental reasons have remained unchanged. These reasons can be divided into several broad categories including, religious, ethical, environmental, social, and health issues.
Depending on the culture you grew up in, you may not realize it. However, if we take a look at the major world religions, we find that almost all of them teach some form of dietary restriction. Whether it be the distinction between ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ meat, as found in the Abrahamic religions, or a strict vegetarian diet as found in Buddhism, Hinduism, and many others. Many people of all faiths, including evolutionists, believe that the vegetarian diet was not only the original diet for mankind, but also the ideal diet for us today.
The concept of non-violence towards all forms of life has prevailed in many traditions. St. Francis of Assisi said, “If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.” Such a statement hits directly at the roots of who we are as people. Can we really live peaceful, loving, and self-sacrificing lives when when we are constantly taking the lives of animals for food? Does violence towards animals perpetuate violence towards our fellow man? Leo Tolstoy believed so, saying, “As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields.”
Considering the appalling conditions in which many animals are raised today, these words are brought to life. King Solomon said, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Gone are the days of the family farm where livestock roamed free and grazed on their natural food. Today, animals are fed unnatural fodder and constantly drugged; not only to prevent rampant disease, but also because farmers have found that certain drugs accelerate tissue growth and milk production. Gandhi claimed, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If his words are true, what have become of our morals?
In today’s society, we can see that the ethical implications of an omnivorous (including meat) diets stretch far beyond the cost of animal life. The fact is clear, if the world were to give up the practice of eating meat, we would have accomplished the greatest step possible toward ending starvation across the globe. David Pimentel, professor of ecology at Cornell University, reported, “If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million.” The words of Albert Einstein ring true. He said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
On top of these ethical considerations, we have a host of scientific research to consider. Study after study is now showing the huge benefits to be gained by switching to a plant based diet. However, this information is not new, we simply seem to have forgotten. It may surprise you to know that the biblical book of Daniel contains the first ‘study,’ if you will, on the effects of plant-based diets versus regular diets. Daniel and his friends, who were following the plant-based diet, were found by the king to be 10 times healthier and wiser than all their classmates.
Besides this, the healing properties of healthful diets had been widely recognized by the ancient Greeks and Romans. Hippocrates, who is considered to be the founder of western medicine, famously admonished us to, “Let food be your medicine”. We know that many of the ancient philosophers were vegetarians, or at least ate very little meat. In fact, until a couple hundred years ago, the vegetarian diet was actually referred to as the Pythagorean diet in honor of Pythagoras, a Greek philosopher, mathematician (remember the Pythagorean theorem?), and promoter of vegetarianism.
In addition to physical health benefits, people have found that plant-based diets benefit their brains. Many people report clearer heads, improved mental capacity and performance, as well as a heightened awareness of spiritual issues. Benjamin Franklin stated that he was frequently chided for his vegetarian diet, but that he was rewarded with, “Greater clearness of head and quicker comprehension.”
When considering the above-mentioned motivations, it is essential to recognize their interconnected nature. It is not enough to simply pick one reason from the list and embark on a new diet. Those who switch to plant-based diets simply for the sake of ethics, the environment, or religion are often found to be nutritionally deficient. The aspects of nutrition and health cannot be left unexamined; nor should the ethical considerations be ignored.
Consider this, an Indian proverb likens everyone to a house with four rooms. These rooms include a physical, a mental, an emotional, and a spiritual. Every day—the proverb tells—we need to spend some time in each room, even if we only to give it some air. This concept is paralleled in the Gospel of Luke. Luke records that Jesus, “Increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.”
In like manner, a plant-based diet is multifaceted. Oftentimes, we see only a sliver of the world around us, but it would behoove us to consider the greater consequences of our actions and choices. A plant-based diet is about being conscientious and compassionate, as well as healthy. It is more than a diet. It is a lifestyle and its benefits are many and far-reaching.
We wish you blessings on your journey towards a better life to come.