Of all the great religions, only Jainism has always preached strict vegetarianism and absolute nonviolence toward animals. This religion, which originated in the sixth to fifth centuries B.C.E., was very widespread in ancient India. It still has around five million followers and often exerts a major influence on Indian society.
Following their ideal of nonviolence, or ahimsa, the Jains denounce sacrifices, arranged animal fights, hunting and fishing, and also the consumption of meat. They have built numerous shelters for animals and run a charity-supported hospital for birds in Delhi—the Birds Charitable Hospital—which can accommodate as many as six thousand birds. There, a doctor in an impeccable white frock, a volunteer like all the others, can be seen treating an old rooster suffering from pneumonia; another might be cutting out a cancerous tumor or setting the broken bone of a kite or a pigeon. If a bird cannot be cured and released, the hospital hospice will keep her until she dies.
They regard it as their duty to avoid treading on insects or other crawling creatures when they walk. Jain monks tie a cloth over their mouths in order to avoid swallowing insects that might be in the air they breathe. For similar reasons, they filter the water they drink. They even avoid eating vegetables that grow under the earth (potatoes, carrots, etc.) for fear of injuring subterranean fauna such as worms and insects. In all conservative Jain homes, fires for cooking are not lit in the morning until forty-five minutes after sunrise so that insects will not be drawn into the flame. For the same reason, cooking fires are put out forty-five minutes before sunset.
A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion
by Matthieu Ricard
By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.
Being cruelty free is not nearly as hard as explaining why I’m cruelty free. People don’t want to hear about animal suffering, they want to hear if I miss cheese, but, to me, they are related. I don’t miss causing animal suffering, therefore I don’t miss cheese.
I’m a pretty good cook. I can whip up some fancy meals, grill a steak like a pro, bake my own bread and cakes and some fancy desserts. I love all of the sensual pleasures and cooking a healthy meal for my family is a joy to me. However, if one needs or desires to break the attachment to food then the answer is bland but healthy food. That is to say food which provides all of the essential nutrients but which does not excite the senses.
People who visit monasteries are often dismayed by the food. It is usually vegetarian with an emphasis on vegetables, fruit and grains, usually rice or millet, but very plain without a lot of spices. In short, it is boring food. After a time of eating such food we stop craving food. Our bodies are receiving healthful nutrition and we are satisfied but we lose the attachment. Soon we see food as nothing more than fuel and we make sure that we get the right kind of fuel.
Now, this advice is not for everyone. It is for people who have a problem with food cravings or who wish to dine simply and cheaply.