Avoiding meat, poultry, and fish is only the first rung on the vegetarian ladder. What then is a more precise definition of vegetarianism? In the popular mind, it is usually portrayed as some kind of boring diet followed by pale, colorless types, perverts who prefer to gnaw carrots and crunch cabbage leaves instead of eating juicy, vitalizing steak, savory salami or melt-in-your-mouth cutlet.
This stereotype of perception has its roots in a misunderstanding of the word itself. “vegetable” – vegetable. This term comes from the Latin “vegetable”, meaning “capable of growth, revitalization, giving strength.” Vegetable – means belonging to the flora, whether it be root, stem, leaf, flower, fruit or seed. Everything that we eat, in one way or another, comes from plants or animals that are themselves herbivores and, therefore, vegetarians. But to assimilate plant foods not by ourselves, but by eating herbivores, is not only wasteful, but also makes us indirect accomplices in murder.
Vegetarianism includes many different diets. Thus, some, in addition to vegetables and fruits, eat cereals, nuts, seeds, milk, cheese, butter, sour-milk products, but at the same time refrain from eating eggs on the grounds that they are produced in a poultry farm with all the cruelties that follow from this, or however, in the case of natural fertilization, they are the embryonic form of a living being. Such people are called “lacto-vegetarians”. Those who include eggs in their diet are called «lacto-ovo-vegetarians».
They are followed by “XNUMX%” vegetarians – those who, in addition to the flesh of slaughtered animals, also abstain from milk and eggs on the grounds that the exploitation of living beings that provide these products is not at all more humane than that which falls to the lot of meat breeds of animals. They are also known as “vegans” vegans, strict vegetarians. Most of them also prefer to refuse clothes and shoes made of leather, fur and other materials that involve killing an animal in order to obtain them.
It must be emphasized that Ideally, a vegetarian lifestyle goes beyond a purely nominal refusal to eat the flesh of slaughtered animals or other non-vegetarian foods. This is a kind of philosophy that professes humanism and non-violence, a way of life that rejects the antediluvian anthropocentrism of man in favor of the enlightened truth that all forms of life, including animals, are based in the Primordial Mind – this is our common property. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, just a touch of vegetarianism makes the whole world your family. This truth has been revealed at various times by many of the greatest minds of mankind.
Before the advent of the modern era, at a time when Buddhism was still a real factor in the life of Chinese and Japanese societies, meat-eating in these countries was revered as a sign of backwardness and barbarism. The following testimony from an impressionable Chinese traveler who visited America at the dawn of the XNUMXth century and took part in a typical feast of the time is as informative as it is amusing:
“This famous Chinese scholar, who had just returned from his first trip to America, was asked “Are Americans civilized?” replied: “Civilized!? They are far from this definition … At the table they consume the flesh of bulls and sheep in incredible quantities … The meat is brought into their living rooms in huge pieces, often uncooked and half raw. They torment, shred and tear it to pieces, after which they greedily devour it with knives and special forks, the horrifying sight of which makes civilized man shudder. It was difficult at times to resist the thought that you were in the company of fakirs – sword swallowers.