On vegetarianism

This is the edited post. Upon retrospect (and after a few cold stares), I felt that the original post may have come across as too strong, seeming a bit too aggressive, bordering on angry. That was not the purpose of the post. Passion, perhaps, has its side-effects, but anger is never the way to get across a point. Also, the Facebook post linking this post got some people to think that this was some kind of a separatist anti-non-vegetarian movement. No, this post was not that (for heaven’s sakes)!

Anyway, water under the bridge. But before we proceed, let me make a few things clear.

What this post is not

What this post is

So here are a few of the questions addressed. Let’s begin!

The questions

Are vegan and vegetarian the same?

Nope. Veganism is a more thoughtful (and more difficult) form of vegetarianism. There are a few slabs of food orientation, if it may be called so (LOL). I’ll list the most common ones here:

Fruitarians are those who eat only fruits and vegetables plucked out of plants or trees, without harming the plant or tree in any way. They don’t eat things that are technically branches, roots or stem or any part of the plant life, plucking of which harms it in any way. So a fruitarian would not eat potatoes or onions or garlic. And they live on the product of the plant or tree, and not on a part of them. Apples, tomatoes, cucumber, etc. are eaten by fruitarians. Fruitarians do not consume milk or dairy products either.

Vegans eat all parts of plants including their product, hide, stem, branches, leaves … But they don’t consume milk or milk products. Nor do they consume things such as honey. Their ideology is that animals should be left to live without any sort of disturbance. So a cow’s milk is for its calf, and humans should not take that away from them.

Lacto-vegetarians consume all plants, plant parts and plant products, and consume dairy products. I am a lacto-vegetarian. Ovo-vegetarians are those who consume egg (more explanation on why they are still vegetarian, later). They do not consume milk or milk products. Needless to say, everybody other than fruitarians consume every part of plants or trees. Ovo-lacto-vegetarianism can now be easily understood.

Non-vegetarians are those who consume food consumed by all forms of vegetarians, and consume meat as well, except human flesh.

Now that the definitions are clear. Let’s move further.

How do you justify killing plants when they are living beings too?

By far, this is the question we vegetarians have heard the most, in this context. And this one scores the top rank not just for the number of times it’s been asked, but also for its nature. Most people say, ‘Trees feel pain, too.’

Vegetarians choose not to eat sentient beings—not all living beings are sentient. Sentient beings are those living beings who can feel emotions and pain. Sentient beings have a nervous system, they have a brain. They can feel things such as compassion, fear, and joy. Vegetarians see other sentient beings as comparable to human beings. So we don’t harm them unless they attack us first. Vegetarians (who have understood vegetarianism) don’t pelt stones at dogs, shoot deer, wear wool, or use leather goods. Yes, it’s true that it is not necessary to kill sheep to get wool, but removing their coat is still painful for them.

Trees, on the other hand, are not sentient. Yes, there’s response to stimulus, like the branches turning towards sunlight, or closing of leaves upon touch. But that’s not “feeling”. If we go by that logic, even a microphone is sentient.

How is egg non-vegetarian (or vegetarian)?

OK, so whoever has the basic idea of reproduction would know that an egg has to be fertilised to produce a living organism. So that, apparently, puts egg in the grey area. And yes, that argument is acceptable. Technically speaking, an egg that has not been fertilised should not be considered non-vegetarian food. Because, again, it is not sentient—yet. Granted.

But lacto-vegetarians say, ‘How do we know which egg is fertilised and which isn’t? A fertilised egg is almost an embryo. Embryos probably can feel pain. Yes, today’s poultry industry has pretty decent rules and standards, but I’m sure nobody can guarantee that a certain egg was not fertilised, without examining it in a lab.’ That is because, apparently, there’s no difference in the physical form, or the taste, or other physical properties, between an egg that is fertilised, and an egg that isn’t.

To avoid stepping on the ethical mat, fruitarians, vegans and lacto-vegetarians avoid egg.

Vegetarians eat bread. Bread has yeast. Yeast is bacteria. Bacteria are living beings. So bread contains living beings.

Excellent. And so does buttermilk. And every organic eatable in this world. But then if you think about it, they’re not complex organisms, they do not have a nervous system, they cannot process feelings, they cannot feel pain.

How is mushroom vegetarian?

OK, this one is probably the most debated question in this context, and it is obvious that this is the case. There are some trolls on the Internet that claim eating mushrooms equal to killing. Well, this is mainly because of the classification of mushrooms—they’re fungi. But again, they’re not complex organisms, they don’t have a central nervous system, they’re not sentient … well, you know the drill now, don’t you?

The myth

Humans were made to be vegetarians

This was an interesting one, actually. The WhatsApp message that I read, said that humans were supposed to be herbivores, and that it is wrong that we eat meat. The argument given was that herbivores, such as cows, can move their jaws sideways, while carnivores can only move their jaws vertically. The message went ahead to say that humans, since we can move our jaw sideways, should be herbivores, and that our bodies are not designed to process meat at