The quoted caption above is from a print advertisement series that appeared on the subway system in Toronto, Canada. It was part of an awareness campaign supported by the Vegetarian Association. On the “love” side, it presented a family pet, and under the “eat” section, an animal that was commonly known as “dinner”. Then, the poster proclaimed the characteristics of the “dinner” animal that in many instances is superior in intelligence to and equally docile as a family pet. The poster was eye-catching, thought provoking, and to some extent controversial.

Over the years, I have kept improving my dietary habits by incorporating more and more vegetarian options. Initially, this was mainly due to health reasons and later for ethical reasons. It became more valid since we have Missy and Oreo, two cute cats that came into our lives. They give us company; they entertain us, and show unconditional love. They changed my outlook and accelerated my transformation to vegetarianism.

According to a Mayo Clinic study, “A well-planned vegetarian diet can meet the needs of people of all ages, including children, teenagers, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. The key is to be aware of your nutritional needs so that you plan a diet that meets them.” The only caveat is the need to have a balanced diet including a wide variety of foods that meet nutritional requirements. A research review by a joint team of Japanese and American doctors published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a vegetarian diet could help lower blood pressure.

These days, there is a gradual switch in dietary habits in the western world. More people are choosing a diet rich in complex carbohydrates, fibres, greens, fruits, plant-based proteins, and healthy oils. While the western society is changing over to a more sustainable, healthy and compassionate diet, I found in India we are moving in the opposite direction by adopting a diet rich in animal meat and fat. Traditional Indian food was predominantly vegetarian with plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, and rice. However, as the cultures are merging, and as the global culinary influence is on the upswing, Indian diet is leaning more and more towards meats and processed foods.

During a recent trip I saw roadside meat stalls and butcher’s shops where animals are callously killed for our dinner pleasures. I see emaciated cattle on transport trucks en route to slaughter houses. I see in front of toddy shops and restaurants, boards with lengthy lists of dishes, meat, poultry, wild animals, sea creatures, to entice passers-by. These sights were seldom seen some years ago.

Our food habits evolved along the human evolutionary path. Man’s affinity towards meat is an acquired habit, perhaps forced on us by circumstances. No matter, it is appalling to realise that man is the only species that finds pleasure in killing other living beings for food and fun.

It is only humane to treat all living things, creatures big and small, with love and compassion. That does not mean that they can run amok and create havoc, and contribute to diseases. Controlling their population in a humane way is the best way to provide a better quality of life for the rest of them.

A long time ago I realised that a vegetarian diet is a guilt-free diet. Thus, if we can sustain a healthy life by consuming a vegetarian diet, then I ask, “Why eat them, animals?” Why compromise on our loka samastha, sukhino bhavanthu mindset? Why not rejuvenate our ethos of compassion, and live and let live ideology?

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