A couple of days ago I was having a conversation with my Yoga instructor about vegetarian diets. I asked him if all yogis were vegetarian. He said that vegetarianism is an important part of the study of yoga.
Then he told me a story.
When he was a yoga student in an Ashram in Kerala India in the late 80s, one of his classmates said to their guru that he’s happy being vegetarian but he’s having a hard time explaining why he’s vegetarian to the people around him who keep asking him!
So Swami Sathyananda Saraswathy (a monk who lived well into his 90s) answered his question by asking him to use common sense. He said you can decide for yourself if you should be vegetarian or not by analyzing the human body and what it was made for (compared to other creatures). These are the argument points he used (as recounted):
- Birth – Herbivores have babies that can open their eyes immediately after birth. Carnivore babies cannot.
- Height – Carnivores (lion, cat) are shorter when compared to herbivores (elephant, giraffe, etc.)
- Jaws – Herbivores have a lower jaw that moves side to side (for chewing). Carnivores’ lower jaw doesn’t move (they need to catch their prey, tear, and swallow)
- Teeth – The structure of the teeth of herbivores is made for chewing not tearing. Herbivores have flat teeth and flat back molars to grind their food. Carnivores have long, sharp and pointed teeth for tearing, not chewing.
- Drinking – Herbivores drink through their lips. Carnivores use their tongue to slurp/drink.
- Walking – Carnivores do not produce any sound when walking; they are hunters (e.g. lions, panthers). Herbivores walk with sound.
- Nails – Carnivores have nails that come out when needed, for hunting. Herbivores cannot move their nails in and out and they are not sharp.
- Saliva – Herbivores’ saliva is alkaline, containing carbohydrate digestive enzymes to pre-digest plant food; and large salivary glands in their mouth. Carnivores have small salivary glands and their saliva is acidic and does not contain digestive enzymes.
- Tongue – Herbivores tongues respond pleasurably to sweets (carbohydrates) but have lost the taste for amino acids.
- Mouths – Herbivores have little mouths in relation to their head size, unlike carnivores.
- Vision – Carnivores can see clearly in the dark (for hunting); Herbivores cannot
- Intestines – Carnivores have small intestines that are 3-6 times the length of their trunk; this is designed for rapid elimination of food that rots quickly. A herbivores intestine is 10-12 times the length of its trunk (as in humans) and winds itself back and forth in random directions, so that the food stays longer for extracting the valuable nutrients and minerals. Large intestines of carnivores are short and simple, so fatty waste and cholesterol can slide out before it putrefies (that’s why it’s impossible for carnivores to get cancer or heart disease from clogged arteries). In herbivores, the large intestine runs in 3 directions (ascending, traversing and descending) designed to hold wastes until fluids and nutrients are extracted.
- Stomach – Carnivores can eat rotting raw flesh without getting sick because they have stomach acids that kill germs and allow them to digest it. The stomach of carnivores secretes powerful enzymes and about 10 times the amount of hydrochloric acid than than of humans or herbivores.
- Kidneys – Carnivores have kidneys that are 3 times bigger than herbivores to be able to eliminate the uric acid produced to break down proteins. “That’s why lions are not coming to hospitals for dialysis.”
- Sweat – Carnivores perspire through their tongues (no skin pores); herbivores perspire through their skin.
- Sleep – Carnivores tire easily and sleep the most. Herbivores sleep the least. All the animals that are used for high-energy work (camels, donkeys, buffalo, etc.) are herbivores.
- Hunger – Carnivores have the ability to survive long without food (e.g. lion) while herbivores need frequent meals.
- Instincts – Carnivores find the smell of blood and dead animals attractive; they are quick, like cats, hawks or other predators.
- Health – plant-eating creatures (Herbivores) have the longest lifespan (e.g. elephants, horses). Humans have even longer lifespans than that.
- Vit C – Carnivores make vitamin C internally in their body. Humans and herbivores don’t
- Nature – Herbivores are calm and quiet; carnivores are ‘roaring’ and angry
These are the argument points he made. They are worth pondering as most of them seem to imply that we are meant to be herbivores / vegetarians.
I’m sure there are exceptions to these points, and I’m sure many carnivores would like to argue otherwise.
Are humans meant to be carnivores (meat-eaters), herbivores (plant-based) or omnivores (a bit of both)?
Tough question! What do you think?