The question whether one should go vegetarian encompasses a number of related questions and lines of argument. Vegetarianism, in general, connotes abstaining from eating meat, or more precisely, refusing to eat meat regularly, for in exceptional or extreme cases say in starvation one's belief system or ethical code may be overridden temporarily. A stricter form of vegetarianism is veganism, i.e., total abstinence from animal products, including dairy products. Limiting focus primarily to vegetarianism in this paper, it is worthwhile to look at three main approaches to diet and where they stand on the scale of ethical conduct.
Apparently the oldest and most prevalent, followed by hundreds of millions around the world is the theocentric approach to diet. Based on one's belief system, the theocentric approach follows the will of god or a higher being that allows eating meat or otherwise. Several versions of Hindu religion, for example, allow only vegetarian diet while on the other hand, Islam not only allows eating meat but makes it mandatory for its followers and among them those who can financially afford so to sacrifice at least one kosher animal annually and eat as well distribute the meat derived from it among the poor. In stark contrast, a few belief systems, like Jainism, don't even allow many kinds of vegetables but only fruits and some other plant foods. Whatever the belief system, it is based primarily on pleasing the god(s) or higher beings: since the higher being allowed it, it is okay to eat it; if not, abstain from it.
[...] Fortunately, it can be to a great degree by following what may be called the empathetic approach. An empathetic approach places intrinsic value on all life and views animals as friends, not food. One acting empathetically acts out of compassion for life. In the presence of plant foods available, the empathetic approach would regard killing animals for food as unnecessary killing, or even cruelty. Essentially, the empathetic approach to diet allows the human will to detach from its self-centered viewpoint and view all life as one, including plant sources. [...]
[...] Vegetarianism as an empathetic approach to diet The question whether one should go vegetarian encompasses a number of related questions and lines of argument. Vegetarianism, in general, connotes abstaining from eating meat, or more precisely, refusing to eat meat regularly, for in exceptional or extreme cases say in starvation one's belief system or ethical code may be overridden temporarily. A stricter form of vegetarianism is veganism, i.e., total abstinence from animal products, including dairy products. Limiting focus primarily to vegetarianism in this paper, it is worthwhile to look at three main approaches to diet and where they stand on the scale of ethical conduct. [...]
[...] The vegetarian does not only have to worry about the physical and psychological health but equally, or even more, about moral health, for physical health is the health of an individual, affecting a unit; moral health, on the other hand, relates all life and affects life in entirety. Vegetarianism is only the first step in adopting a larger, more compassionate philosophy of life, the first lesson in eternal joy and peace. Works Cited 1. de Silva, Lily. Buddhist Attitude Towards Nature.” Buddhist Perspectives on the Ecocrisis. Klas Sandell. Kandy, Sri Lanka: Buddhist Publication Society Albert Schweitzer. [...]
[...] Such attempts would lead instead to the question of what belief system is more ethical, which again would require assessment of those belief systems on one or more specified criteria. But does that mean all theocentric approaches can be exempted from ethical evaluation simply because they let humans surrender their will to some abstract, higher entity? By no means! Just like a religious decree that allows a cruel form of punishment for some arguably harmless act can be challenged on ethical grounds, approach to diet can also be gauged on the ethical scale by using the useful tools of intrinsic versus instrumental value. [...]
[...] Vegetarianism, when based on empathetic approach to diet, stems from following one's own sense of responsibility toward all life. It sees each meal not as a fiber-and-vitamin-rich episode for personal benefit, but success in saving a life that would otherwise be wasted. Such an approach to eating marks the boundary of the limits underscored by Schweitzer. From the brief comparative discussion about the three approaches to diet, it follows that only the empathetic approach qualifies for a truly ethical position whereby a human individual can act on their own will and on the inner the call of compassion toward non-human life. [...]
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