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Culture

Should Spiritual People Eat Animals?

Margaret Tash | Sep 2, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES Spiritual Nutrition

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Margaret Tash | Sep 2, 2014

PART 2 IN SERIES Spiritual Nutrition

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

…man’s food is intended to be grain and not meat. When mankind is more fully developed, the eating of meat will gradually cease. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 170

In several different places throughout the Baha’i teachings, Abdu’l-Baha speaks about the bodily differences between carnivores and humans. He points out that human teeth are shaped to grind grain or to bite into fruit, not to tear meat apart. Unlike a lion or an eagle, humans do not have to eat animals to survive. Our digestive tracts are also very different from carnivores, and aid us to break down and absorb food thoroughly.

SuperfoodsSo how does this diet Abdu’l-Baha suggests – simpler, less meat, more grains and fruits and vegetables – connect to the spiritual principles of the Baha’i Faith? In my view, the major Baha’i principles relate directly to this style of eating that Abdu’l-Baha encourages. Let’s take a look.

One of the fundamental principles of the Baha’i Faith is the independent investigation of truth. As intelligent, responsible human beings, we have a duty to investigate and search for truth our whole lives, so we can integrate what we learn in the material world into what we know from spiritual laws and principles.

We, especially those of us in the Western world, live in a meat-heavy society. But the Baha’i writings encourage us to move forward, away from current societal standards. Are we willing to investigate the truth as it relates to ourselves, our individual lives, and not simply reflect the values of society around us?

Another Baha’i principle–unity and the oneness of humanity—asserts that all of us belong to one family. What does that have to do with what we eat? It means that our food choices have a profound effect on other people, often with negative results.

If we really accept all people as one people, and we believe in the unity of the human race, then we would not want our actions to harm our brothers and sisters around the world. In fact, we would do everything we can to protect and assist them, wherever they live. In all our actions, including what we eat, we must consider how our actions can promote the oneness of humankind.

The Baha’i writings also ask us, as citizens of one world, to show kindness to all creatures, especially including animals. Consider what happens to animals “produced” in our farm factories. Raised in overcrowded and inhumane conditions from birth, they end their lives in horrific slaughterhouses. We even buy our meat in “pieces” so we don’t have to think that some living creature died, often under terrible conditions, for us. Remember that, then listen to these words of Abdu’l-Baha:

Regarding the eating of animal flesh and abstinence therefrom, …he [man] is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it. Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy. …Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts… it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a letter written to an individual Baha’i, Lights of Guidance, p. 295.

Does this mean Baha’is always refrain from eating meat as a hard and fast rule? No, it doesn’t:

…eating meat is not forbidden or unlawful, nay, the point is this, that it is possible for man to live without eating meat and still be strong. Meat is nourishing and containeth the elements of herbs, seeds and fruits; therefore sometimes it is essential for the sick and for the rehabilitation of health. There is no objection in the Law of God to the eating of meat if it is required. So if thy constitution is rather weak and thou findest meat useful, thou mayest eat it. – ibid, Lights of Guidance, p. 295.

Do science and religion agree in respect to these new dietary recommendations? Science has definitely caught up with what Abdu’l-Baha first taught in the early 1900’s. But sadly, since that time, our diet has worsened regarding the consumption of meat. After World War II until the present time, our meat intake has skyrocketed–and a number of health problems now plague us as a result. Science has proven that a diet which contains less meat and has more grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables, results in less obesity and a decrease in heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer, among other illnesses.

What does your body look like on the inside? How are you nourishing it? This is more important than your physical appearance. Taking good care of our health enables us to serve humanity more fully, as Abdu’l-Baha tells us.

  

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Comments

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  • Lynn Eury Capps
    Dec 29, 2017
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    You didn't go into it about how are food choices affect our brothers and sisters in the world but seeing as how and some places there is food shortages it doesn't make sense for people to grow food for animals when they could eat the food themselves their resources would go a lot further. Isn't that correct?
    • Margaret Tash
      Dec 30, 2017
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      Dear Lynn, Thank you for writing! I think the next article in the series - "Poverty, Food and the Environment" - will answer your question. I definitely agree with everything you wrote!
  • Dec 21, 2014
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    `Abdu'l-Bahá said "The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten….our natural food is that which grows out of the ground."
    In the future we will also have; a world government, universal education, the elimination of racial and religious wars, the elimination of extreme poverty, the equality of women and men, and the elimination of disease, to list just a few.
    Baha'is are NOT WAITING for the future to express belief in these 'future' benefits to mankind. So why wait for the future of a ...plant-based diet for mankind? Are we not hiding behind a loophole, so to speak, for the sake of our tastebuds, by saying meat-eating is not forbidden? You could also believe poverty is OK and get away with it…it's not 'forbidden' to believe that.
    Read more...
  • Dec 21, 2014
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    A more recent comment from the Guardian:
    "In regard to the question as to whether people ought to kill animals for food of not, there is no explicit statement in the Bahá'í Sacred Scriptures (as far as I know) in favor or against it. It is certain, however, that if man can live on a purely vegetarian diet and thus avoid killing animals, it would be much preferable. This is, however, a very controversial question and the Bahá'ís are free to express their views on it."
    (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, July ...9, 1931)
    Read more...
  • The grain we feed animals would go a lot further if it was consumed by people. World hunger could be eliminated. If you can't give up animal products entirely, try a few vegetarian meals every week to start. You will be healthier without hormone- and antibiotic-laden meat.
  • Oct 18, 2014
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    This part from one of Abdu'l-Baha's tablets addresses this subject from yet another angle:
    "I have read thy letter, wherein thou didst express astonishment at some of the laws of God, such as that concerning the hunting of innocent animals, creatures who are guilty of no wrong.
    "Be thou not surprised at this. Reflect upon the inner realities of the universe, the secret wisdoms involved, the enigmas, the inter-relationships, the rules that govern all. For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening ...whatever. In the physical realm of creation, all things are eaters and eaten: the plant drinketh in the mineral, the animal doth crop and swallow down the plant, man doth feed upon the animal, and the mineral devoureth the body of man. Physical bodies are transferred past one barrier after another, from one life to another, and all things are subject to transformation and change, save only the essence of existence itself -- since it is constant and immutable, and upon it is founded the life of every species and kind, of every contingent reality throughout the whole of creation.
    "Whensoever thou dost examine, through a microscope, the water man drinketh, the air he doth breathe, thou wilt see that with every breath of air, man taketh in an abundance of animal life, and with every draught of water, he also swalloweth down a great variety of animals. How could it ever be possible to put a stop to this process? For all creatures are eaters and eaten, and the very fabric of life is reared upon this fact. Were it not so, the ties that interlace all created things within the universe would be unravelled.
    "And further, whensoever a thing is destroyed, and decayeth, and is cut off from life, it is promoted into a world that is greater than the world it knew before. It leaveth, for example, the life of the mineral and goeth forward into the life of the plant; then it departeth out of the vegetable life and ascendeth into that of the animal, following which it forsaketh the life of the animal and riseth into the realm of human life, and this is out of the grace of thy Lord, the Merciful, the Compassionate.
    "I beg of God that He will assist thee to comprehend the mysteries that lie at the heart of creation, and will draw away the veil from before thine eyes and thy sister's, that the well-guarded secret may be disclosed unto thee, and the hidden mystery be revealed as clear as the sun at noonday; that He will aid thy sister and thy husband to enter the Kingdom of God, and will heal thee of every ill, whether physical or spiritual, that assaileth one in this life."
    (Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 156)
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    • Aug 22, 2015
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      Anisa Woodall , it is wonderful that you are studying to be an RD and thinking about these things in realtion to the writings and in relation to science. If you continue studying, you will find that the vast majority of people can live totally healthy lives on a whole food plant based diet. Studies and studies show this to be the case. And even more important is the cultivation of a culture of compassion and kindness for other people for whom the raising and killing of animals harms, for the environment which affects us all, and ...not the least for the animals themselves. To that animal, her life is as important to her as ours are to us.
      Read more...
    • Aug 2, 2015
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      Anisa Woodall But what about the teachings on compassion and kindness and mercy? What is a loving way to kill an animal?
    • Dec 2, 2014
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      I really love this quote and refer to it regularly when explaining the "circle of life". As a future RD myself, I find "independent investigation of the truth" as a critical responsibility. The evidence supports that red meat, when consumed in moderation, is perfectly healthy (meaning it doesn't contribute to disease). Sadly, the increase of disease is also correlated with the increase in sugar and refined grain consumption. I promote the intake of whole foods rather than restricting animal foods, since the lack of whole foods in the diet appears to be the real problem. If one observes the laws ...of nature as Abdul-Baha describes, we will find our place in the cycle. Of course, some people may be fine without consuming meat, but I don't think people are healthy enough at this time to refrain from it. It is definitely therapeutic for many conditions.
      Read more...
  • Oct 17, 2014
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    unfortunately Monsanto exists and is ruining this food too
  • Sep 13, 2014
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    My final thought is that I stopped in the past few years, I am 64, so it was about 3 years ago, I began to cut way way back on my meat consumption. the reasons are complex, and basically because of cost and time of preparation. I lost a comparatively lot of weight in a short period of time. It was fat and it was muscle. I now weigh about what I weighed in late junior high, 5'10, 145 lbs give or take the flux of about 4 pounds. I am not as strong as I was. ...I have low blood pressure which may or may not be affected by my situation, 90/ over 60 but this blood pressure is probably heriditary, in my opinion, but I dont know. it fluxes from 100/ over 80 as well. I have a checkup on my health by the national insurance plan and I am rated by the blood and limited physical analysis as in "good condition", this is mainly because I don't touch alcohol or cigarettes., howeever the blood pressure issue is a concern. So, during this time I eat alot of a restricted similar vegetables. I buy cheap. I never fry. I steam or eat raw in salads. there are many vegetables I almost never buy, too expensive. I eat alot of tofu, its cheap. I eat alot of cheap bread, and I cook brown rice, its cheap.
    Finally I EAT ALOT OF chicken sandwiches at McDonalds, because I am lonely, and I want to relax and be around people. A lot means I eat one chicken sandwich of the cheapest kind on average between 2 and 3 days a week every week.
    So there you have it. This is my currwnt condition. I can write all this because it is on my mind continuously.. Yes, things look "good". now but as one gets older, there are these patterns of eating which we don't notice untl there are signs suddenly expose a physical/mental breakdown.
    More finally, I am slowly makiing plans to leave Japan, to move to a develping/semi-developed country..
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    • Loren Henson
      Mar 18, 2018
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      I refute vegamism and vegetarianism thus: "Say: O concourse of priests and monks! Eat ye of that which God hath made lawful unto you and do not shun meat. God hath, as a token of His grace, granted you leave to partake thereof save during a brief period. He, verily, is the Mighty, the Beneficent. Forsake all that ye possess and hold fast unto that which God hath purposed. " moreover, It is hard for man to get the protein, fat, and collagen needed for good health without it. Despite our teeth, man has being using tools and cooking for ...a long time to process food so i don't think that argument fully holds. However, the example of teeth does show the master thought we should reason and endeavor to eat what our bodies are designed to eat.
      Read more...
    • Dec 3, 2014
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      Isn't omnivore the correct term for the type of eating behavior developed by the human species? Animal fats with basically no carbs or sugar will improve physical health (my bad cholesterol dropped by 50% to 145). You don't have to do business with Monsanto to maintain this diet. Fat goes to fat and carbs w/ no to low fiber do the same.. Veggies; esp raw blended are a great source of fiber, vitamins and essential nutrients. Vegetable oils are also not assimilated like animal fat and are not healthy.
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