Why Be Vegetarians?

“Violence in any form is evil and to kill innocent animals is tantamount to blatant savagery” said Bhagawan talking against the bestial act of humans, just to appease his taste buds. At a time when the effect of Kali age it at its peak, when man often forget his true nature, falls to behave like beasts, takes to meat eating, Ms Mercini Sheratt debates on, focussing on the suffering of the animals that are destined to decorate man’s lunch and dinner trays, appeasing their beastly taste buds…


“It is a fact that plants have life like animals.  But animals are endowed with mind, and nervous systems too while the plants do not possess the same.  The animals cry and weep when they are being killed.” (Sri Sathya Sai Baba in ‘The Avatar of Love’)

Sathya Sai Baba urges us to become vegetarian for more reasons than one, but in this article, I shall focus only on the one related to the suffering of the animals people eat and the cruelty involved; this one is reason enough in itself to abstain. As He tells us:

“When you kill an animal, you give him suffering, pain, harm.  God is in every creature… how can you give such pain?  When someone beats a dog, he cries, he feels so much pain.  How much more pain then in killing?” (from ‘Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba’ by John Hislop)

We now know that farm animals, just like any other creature, are truly sentient beings who feel a whole range of feelings just as we humans do and are capable of great suffering. Cows, for example, are very emotional creatures though outwardly placid. They truly suffer when their babies are torn away from them at only a few days old; they have best friends for life and can even bear grudges for life towards other cows or humans who have mistreated them!  Pigs are known to be highly intelligent, sensitive and very affectionate.  They are easily trainable. Who remembers the lovely BABE?  As for sheep, goats, chickens and turkeys they are just as interesting though some may find this hard to believe…

Even fish have pain receptors and a nervous system akin to humans and where it was once believed that they didn’t suffer pain, it is now known that it is excruciatingly painful for them when they are hauled out of the deep and left to die in the open air.  When it comes to tuna, please note that dolphin friendly labels are not to be completely trusted because masses of dolphins, especially baby dolphins, are still dying as a result of tuna fishing. Because it is usually the babies who get caught in the fishing nets, their mothers then go into the nets with them. Fishermen have reported that the mothers can be heard singing to their babies as they both slowly die.

The factory farming of animals causes suffering enough and their eventual violent demise in the slaughterhouse is too horrible and heartrending to describe. As long as one eats animals, one is instrumental in causing their suffering, so must bear some of the burden of that karma.

“You take this meat eating.  Many people have to kill animals because of your non-vegetarianism.  You are responsible for the death of those animals.  They are killed because you eat them.  That is a sin.  What a sin to kill innocent animals and eat them.” (Sathya Sai Baba, Divine Discourse, 21st November 1995)

For those who find it difficult to give up eating meat – and this is understandable if they have been brought up and sustained on that kind of diet since birth, it helps to remember that the meat on one’s plate was not long ago a writhing, terrified, sentient creature who struggled desperately to escape from its impending death and suffered agonies on its death-bound journey. As long as one habitually eats any kind of flesh, it is very easy to become blunted to this fact. It would also help to remember that animals feel the very same emotions as we do and to take to heart the following true story recorded in “Kill Cow” by Dr Sahadeva Dasa of the Hare Krishna movement:

A Buddhist monk who taught meditation at a prison in Australia was surprised when one day a fearsome looking prisoner with a violent record arrived to learn meditation.  He seemed like a most unlikely candidate… However, his life had just been completely changed and this is how… he had worked in the prison slaughterhouse and daily killed lots of cows, sheep and pigs.

These creatures would cry, moan and scream in their own ways and desperately try to escape from the moment they arrived at the slaughter house. They knew what was coming and it was hard to aim accurately at them because their terror and anxiety would not allow them to keep still. One day, however, a certain cow walked slowly, purposefully and voluntarily to the slaughter point with her head down without trying to escape in any way. She stood silently, then lifted her head and stared fixedly at her executioner without moving. The slaughterer, totally disconcerted, stared back, unable to act… the cow’s gaze did not waver and as he stared back at her, he noticed that her left eye was filling with water. As the water increased, it overflowed and trickled down her cheek, forming a shining stream of tears. Then, he noticed the same thing happening with the right eye and tears started to trickle from that. The cow was crying. He broke down and cried himself. He could not kill the cow and to cut a long story short, became a vegetarian from then on. The cow that cried totally changed his life.

As Sathya Sai Baba says:

“Anything that has life tries to stay alive. No living creature would give itself up as food for another living being. Animals, birds and fish also feel the desire to live just as humans do. They too would struggle, cry and feel the pain in being hurt, just like the way we would if we were captured and threatened to be killed. The only difference is that animals cannot verbally express to us the agony that they feel. It has been reported that pigs that are being slaughtered cry in a manner similar to the way humans scream.” (Summer Showers, May 1996)

To conclude:

“Violence in any form is evil and to kill innocent animals is tantamount to blatant savagery.” (Sathya Sai Baba, Divine Discourse, 24th November 1994)

II Samastha Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu II