‘Vegetarianism’ is now a movement the world over. Many even associate it with animal rights. Indeed, a large number of people consider the consumption of meat and other non-vegetarian products as a violation of animal rights.
Islam enjoins mercy and compassion for all living creatures. At the same time Islam maintains that Allah has created the earth and its wondrous flora and fauna for the benefit of mankind. It is upto mankind to use every resource in this world judiciously, as a ‘niyamat’ ( Divine blessing ) and ‘amanat’ ( trust ) from Allah.
Let us look at various other aspects of this argument.
1. A Muslim can be a pure vegetarian
A Muslim can be a very good Muslim despite being a pure vegetarian. It is not compulsory for a Muslim to have non-vegetarian food.
2. Qur’an permits Muslims to have non-vegetarian food.
The Qur’an, however permits a Muslim to have non-vegetarian food. The following Qur’anic verses are proof of this fact:
a. “O ye who believe! Fulfil (all) obligations. Lawful unto you (for food) are all four-footed animals with the exceptions named.” [Al-Qur’an 5:1]
b. “And cattle He has created for you (men): from them Ye derive warmth, and numerous benefits, And of their (meat) ye eat.” [Al-Qur’an 16:5]
c. “And in cattle (too) ye have an instructive example: From within their bodies We produce (milk) for you To drink; there are, in them, (Besides), numerous (other) Benefits for you; and of their (meat) ye eat” [Al-Qur’an 23:21]
3. Meat is nutritious
Meat is rich in protein, iron, vitamin B1 and niacin. Non-vegetarian food is a good source of excellent protein.
4. Humans have Omnivorous set of teeth
If you observe the teeth of herbivorous animals like the cow, goat and sheep, you will find something strikingly similar in all of them. All these animals have a flat set of teeth i.e. suited for herbivorous diet. If you observe the set of teeth of the carnivorous animals like the lion or tiger, they all have a pointed set of teeth i.e. suited for a carnivorous diet. If you analyze the set of teeth of humans, you find that they have flat teeth as well as pointed teeth. Thus they have teeth suited for both herbivorous as well as carnivorous food i.e. they are omnivorous. One may ask, if Almighty Allah wanted humans to have only vegetables, why did He provide us also with pointed teeth? It is logical that He expected us to have both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian food.
5. Human beings can digest both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods
The digestive system of herbivorous animals can digest only vegetables. The digestive system of carnivorous animals can digest only meat. But the digestive system of humans can digest both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. If Almighty Allah wanted us to have only vegetables then why did He give us a digestive system that can digest both vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian foods?
6. Hindu scriptures give permission to have non-vegetarian food
a. There are many Hindus who are strictly vegetarian. They think that it is against their religion to consume non-vegetarian food. In fact the Hindu scriptures permit a person to have meat. The scriptures mention Hindu sages and saints consuming non-vegetarian foods.
b. It is mentioned in Ayodhya Khandam, verses 20,26 and 94 that when Rama was sent for Banavas he told his mother that he would have to sacrifice his tasty meat dishes. If Rama had to sacrifice his tasty meat dishes it meant that Rama had likeness for meat. If Rama can have meat, why can’t the Hindus have meat?
7 Hinduism was influenced by other religions
Though Hindu Scriptures permit its followers to have non-veg foods, many Hindus adopted the vegetarian system because they were influenced by other religions like Jainism.
8 Even plants have life
Certain religions have adopted pure vegetarianism because they are totally against the killing of living creatures. If a person can survive without killing any living creature, I would be the first person to adopt such a way of life. In the past people thought plants were lifeless. Today it is a well established universal fact that even plants have life. Thus their logic of not killing living creatures is not fulfilled even by being a pure vegetarian.
9 Even plants can feel pain
They further argue that plants cannot feel pain, therefore killing a plant is a lesser crime when compared to killing an animal. Today science tells us that even plants can feel pain. But the cry of the plant cannot be heard by the human being. This is due to the inability of the human ear to hear sounds that are not in the audible range i.e. 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz.
Anything below and above this range cannot be heard by a human being. A dog can hear up to 40,000 Hertz. Thus there are silent dog whistles that have a frequency of more than 20,000 Hertz and less than 40,000 Hertz. These whistles are only heard by dogs and not by human beings. The dog recognizes the master’s whistle and comes to the master. There was research done by a farmer who invented an instrument which converted the cry of the plant so that it could be heard by human being. He was able to realize immediately when the plant itself cried for water.
10 Killing a living creature with 2 senses less is not a lesser crime.
Once a vegetarian argues his case by saying that plants only have two or three senses while the animals have five senses. Therefore killing a plant is a lesser crime than killing an animal.
Suppose your brother is born deaf and dumb and has two senses less as compared to other human beings. He becomes mature and someone murders him. Would you ask the law to give the murderer a lesser punishment because your brother has two senses less? In fact you would say that he has killed a ‘masoom’, an innocent person and you should give the murderer a greater punishment. Islam is not based on such logic.
In fact the Qur’an says: “O ye people! Eat of what is on earth, lawful and good” [Al-Qur’an 2:168]
11 Over population of cattle
If every human being was a vegetarian, it would lead to overpopulation of cattle in the world, since their reproduction and multiplication is very swift. Allah (SWT) in His Divine Wisdom knows how to maintain the balance of His creation appropriately. No wonder He has permitted us to have the meat of the cattle.
12 Cost of meat is reasonable since all aren’t non-vegetarian
I do not mind if some people are pure vegetarian. However they should not condemn non-vegetarians as ruthless. In fact if all Indians become non-vegetarians then personally I would be a loser since the prices of meat would rise.
( The author is the president of Islamic Research Foundation, Mumbai, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.irf.net)