Vegetarianism & Jesus Christ
Laws Ordaining Food : Nature's law is that one living being exists by eating another. The scriptures give regulations for human life and set aside certain foods for human beings. That quota is divided into six categories, namely vegetables, fruits, milk products, grains, sugar and nuts. With these six ingredients we can maintain our health very well, far better than meat eaters maintain their health. Vegetarians are more healthy than meat eaters, and their endurance is greater, although they may not have brute strength. Just consider that the elephant is a powerful animal, yet he never eats even a scrap of meat.
Principle of Non-violence : The Bible says, "Thou shalt not kill," but everywhere people are slaughtering animals and eating them. All religious scriptures promote non-violence as the first principle of religious life. Whatever we see is created by God. No one has the right to kill anything or anyone, because no one can create anything. We cannot create an animal. We cannot create even a mosquito, so we should not kill even a mosquito. Spiritual life means non-violence. Animals should be protected. This is confirmed in the Bible:
Whatever you do unto the least of my brothers, you do it unto me. (Matthew 25:40)
You shall not eat the fat of any ox or sheep or goat. Although the fat of an animal that has died naturally or was killed by wild beasts may be used in any other way, you may under no circumstances eat it. For whoever eats the fat of an animal offered as a sacrifice to the Lord, he shall be cut off from his people. Moreover, wherever you dwell, you shall not eat any blood, whether of bird or animal. Whoever eats any blood shall be cut off from his people. (Leviticus 7:22-27)
And God said, "See, I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit to be your food. And to all the animals of the land, birds of the air, and living things which crawl on the ground, I give them all green plants as food." Then God looked at everything He had made and found it to be good. (Genesis 1:29-31)
To kill an ox is like slaying a man; sacrificing a lamb, like breaking a dog's neck. (Isaiah 66:3-4)
Exceptions to the Rule : Question: Jesus himself ate fish and drank wine and called it his own blood.
Answer: Jesus did not eat ordinary fish. With two fish and seven loaves of bread he fed five thousand people, and afterwards there were seven basketfuls left over. These were not ordinary activities. We should follow Jesus's instructions not imitate his activities. Jesus walked on the water, but we cannot do that. On the coast of the Sea of Galilee in the desert of Palestine, there was not anything else to eat. They ate fish out of necessity. However, we are not in that situation. We have so many fruits, vegetables, grains, milk, sugar and nuts. If it is a matter of survival, we can eat anything. But if the situation is plentiful, we have to follow the order of the scriptures. Even in civil law, if it is a matter of saving someone from danger, we may do something illegal. We may break the speed limit or go down a one-way street. We may even break into another man's house to wake him up or to get something to put out a fire. That is an emergency. Under normal conditions, we have to accept the scriptural injunctions.
Man's Superiority and Responsibility
The Bible describes Adam and Eve living in harmony with the animals in paradise. There were lions, tigers and every species of living creatures, but there was no envy or dissension. The creatures were living in harmony. After Adam and Eve were cast out of paradise, the situation changed. If we want to return to our original spiritual life, we shall have to give up our enmity with the animals. We shall have to stop killing animals.
Animals are also God's creatures. They may be less intelligent, but they are also enjoying life by the grace of God in their own way. They eat, sleep, defend themselves, have sex and produce offspring. The animals have a right to life. No one has a right to kill them. In the Old Testament Job points out that the animals are more intelligent than materialistic men, because they understand the laws of nature. In the beginning of Genesis, the Lord Himself says:
Let man have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and the cattle, over all the wild animals and all he creatures that crawl on the ground. (Genesis 1:26)
Sometimes Christians interpret this verse to mean that God has given us everything, but the word dominion means to dominate. The king has dominion over his subjects, for example, but that does not entitle him to kill them and eat them. Nor does it entitle him to exploit them. The king, being stronger, is supposed to protect the citizens who are weaker. Human beings, who are certainly more intelligent and developed in consciousness, are supposed to protect the animals--not kill and eat them. The animals have a right to live. Every living creature is born by the grace of God. Therefore we should not interrupt their lives. Let them live and be happy.
Question: Animals are not of the same spiritual basis as the spirits that inhabit human beings. Animals have no souls.
Answer: The souls are the same, but they have a different relationship with God. However, that does not mean you can kill them. Suppose your wife's children are born deaf, dumb and blind. Will you throw them down a well? No! You will love those children regardless. Everything has come out of God, and as such, you have no business infringing or encroaching upon another's life. Sometimes when a dog's master dies, the dog is so heartbroken that he will stand by the grave and die on the spot. Is that not sentiment? Have you ever seen an animal being slaughtered? Have you heard its screams? The animal is in tears. It screams in terror, just as a human being screams in terror when he is about to be killed. We have become so callous. The Bible says:
A righteous man takes care of his beast, but the heart of the wicked is merciless. (Proverbs 12:10)
Karmic Reactions : There is also the problem of karma. The Bible confirms: "As you sow, so shall you reap." The Lord is not pleased with people who are so heartless as to directly or indirectly slaughter innocent animals. The Lord said: Of what use are all your sacrifices to Me? I have had enough of the roasted carcasses of rams and of the fat of fattened beasts. I take no pleasure in the blood of calves, lambs and goats . . . When you spread out your hands, I close My eyes to you; despite however much you pray, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood! Wash yourselves clean! Put away your misdeeds from before My eyes and stop doing evil. (Isaiah 1:11, 1:15-16)
How can anyone say animals have no soul? It is such people who have no soul.
First Offer to God : In order to eat something, we have to kill it, but the Lord is so kind that He gives us certain types of foodstuffs to prepare, and if we offer them to Him, there will be no reaction. Even a vegetarian is sinful, because he has to kill a cauliflower or a lettuce plant, which is also living. If he kills it and eats it without offering it to Krishna, he has to take the sinful reaction. He is stealing, because the cauliflower, lettuce and potatoes belong to Krishna. Everything belongs to the Lord. Since every living being lives by eating another living being, Krishna has set aside certain foodstuffs: "These you may eat. You may prepare them, offer them to Me and then you may take." There will be no reaction--in fact, you will receive spiritual benefit!
Question: If a person can eat without actually killing the roots, isn't that better? Isn't it better to eat the fruit of a tree or the leaves of a plant without killing it?
Answer: Even within that fruit and leaf there are living cells. First of all, the fruit belongs to Krishna. It does not belong to you. You cannot create an orange, a mango or a potato. You can only water the root of the tree; you cannot create the water. You cannot create anything; you can only combine what is already created, and by the mercy of the Lord, you may get wonderful results. Krishna consciousness means being positively convinced that everything is the Lord's property. As tenants, we have to pay the Landlord Krishna His dues. If you follow this principle, your life will be successful, both materially and spiritually.
People often say, He is very pious, because he is vegetarian." Vegetarianism is not a sign of piety. The sign of piety is preparing food for the satisfaction of Krishna and then, after offering it, partaking of the remnants. Bhagavad-gita says:
The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins, because they eat food that is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin. Bhagavad-gita 3.13.