This is included in much more detail and has been updated in the Second Edition of my book, Holistic Well-being: A Paradigm Shift
There is much debate over vegetarianism and veganism and I thought from a qualified perspective that I would bring some information together in one place to help ascertain whether vegetarianism is right for you. The purpose of this article is to bring a balanced view. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, no matter how strict, I would implore that you read this with an open mind whether or not you are experiencing any present health concerns.
First I must point out that I am neither an advocate of vegetarianism, veganism or eating meat. I am an advocate of eating what our bodies need, whether that be a fruit salad or a huge beef steak! There are issues with eating meat, however our priority must be for ourselves as how can we begin to bring about peace and well-being to our world if we do not have peace and well-being within? I will be explaining how I transitioned from being a very strict vegetarian (well I was vegan apart from eating eggs) into a meat eater for my own health and the way we can eat meat with compassion based upon Buddhist teachings from respected monks if that is what you need for your own optimum health. I will also be looking into the fallacies and myths surrounding vegetarianism and veganism for a more balanced view.
Some Background Science
Vegetarianism and veganism is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world, but this is actually concerning me and the reason is that in the western world we are primarily O type blood, it is believed that some 70% of the western population has O type blood. O type blood is the oldest on the earth and is directly descended from carnivores. Therefore O type bloods require animal protein – it is in their genetic make-up. I agree that we can evolve to become less dependent on meat but this happens over generations, not in a single lifetime. I must add that this is only an indication and it is possible that an A or B type blood has the metabolic type to require animal protein (see the metabolic typing quiz in the Free Resources section)!
The main advocates of vegetarianism are the spiritual Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and the Yoga philosophy which is the core of many Indian religions. A & B type bloods are believed to have originated in the East and therefore they are predominantly A & B bloods. These blood types do not rely so much on animal protein, and they can generally be suited to a vegetarian or vegan diet.
So you can see just from this that by bringing a tradition that is tailored around the natives of a foreign land to another country, it is not always the best thing. It is a fact that the food our bodies will benefit the most from are the foods that can be grown and sourced locally to the land we are native to. Our needs even change depending on the season to cope with seasonal produce. So foreign and imported foods in general are not as great for us as they may be for the natives of the country they originate, and this is also true in the case of being vegetarian or not.
I am not putting down therapies and very powerful short term health solutions based upon a vegan or vegetarian diet, for example that which can be found in the likes of the Gerson Therapy and others. But what tends to happen is people will ‘cherry pick’ from these holistic programmes for everyday nutrition (such as juicing alone). These treatments are intensive short term treatments, and not designed for long term, but also they are as I say, HOLISTIC, in that they are a whole programme. By cherry-picking we are causing imbalances that we may not even be aware of until later in life when long term effects will take hold.
It was a huge thing for me to begin eating meat after being such a strict vegetarian and took me months to come to terms with the fact that my body needs meat. Not only was I Buddhist but I had studied about all the ethical and spiritual reasons for being veggie through my Yoga diploma and the Yoga philosophy and teachings, so I was therefore utterly convinced that eating meat was cruel, unnecessary and damaging to my body and the environment. I basically had to de-programme my conditioning once I fully realised the damage I was doing to myself! When I first started studying nutritional therapy one of the first things I learned about was blood typing and metabolic typing as we are all individuals with different needs, and therefore there is no such thing as ”one diet fits all”. But due to my denial and despair in the fact that I was carnivore and needed animal protein, I halted my studies so I could search for the information I wanted to tell me that I was OK to continue being vegetarian. I just couldn’t see how I could bring myself to eat meat again, to even smell meat cooking was like smelling a scorched animal, searing flesh, not food at all, and it made me heave at the very thought of having to consume it.
As I was also fearful of the effects on my spiritual progress which I firmly believed relied upon a vegetarian diet, I decided to also take counsel from some highly respected Buddhist monks, directors and a Lama on this subject (none of whom told me what I wanted to hear either!). Over those few months, I will summarise what I learned in light of what they told me along with a degree of self-realisation.
I must practice compassion but this must be with wisdom. One without the other will cause imbalance and problems. To practice compassion by being vegetarian is not wise when my body requires animal protein. If it is what my body requires, then it is my medicine and not my food. We cannot promise to give compassion to all sentient beings when this does not include ourselves, as we are also sentient beings. We must begin in our compassion work by being compassionate to ourselves as if we do not we are not practising with wisdom. Wisdom is to know how we may eat what we need compassionately and with respect to those whose lives have been sacrificed in order to nourish us. If we are carnivore, that is what we must be and we are trying to be something we are not by being veggie. We are denying ourselves to be who we truly are.
Eating meat does not make us more spiritual or help us on our spiritual path if these issues are present. We will not progress spiritually if we are denying who we truly are. We will not progress if we are stopping ourselves from being truly nourished and well, as decreased well-being will lower our vibrations and this is contra-indicative of spiritual advancement. We must eat without guilt but acceptance, without fear but with wisdom, and most importantly – without greed but with need. Even H.H. the Dalai Lama needs to eat meat for his wellbeing!
A fine example of compassion without wisdom is (believe it or not) through Gandhi! He was a very strict vegan. His daughter-in-law became very ill and he was told she would die if she did not receive protein. She was advised that consuming eggs would save her life, but he refused to give them to her. It was then pointed out to him that if she consumed unfertilised eggs there would be no life sacrifice and so he agreed to give her unfertilised eggs and she was saved.
Besides this, being vegetarian is often practised for compassionate reasons, and yet many still continue to purchase cosmetics, toiletries and other foods that are cruelly tested on animals, and in my opinion this is far worse!
Eating Meat Ethically and with Compassion
An ethical way of eating meat is by choosing organic and free range, and knowing where it is coming from. So a local farm would be a good choice, or an organic network such as Abel & Cole or Riverford. We should also be choosing meat that comes from larger animals so that there is a lesser life sacrifice. So a cow for example is vegetarian, so only 1 life is sacrificed to feed about 150 people. Whereas a prawn will eat millions of living micro-organisms and you need at least 50 of them for a meal, so all those lives have been sacrificed for just 1. Also while you are preparing or eating the meat, it is good practice to bless the animal from which it came and give appreciation and love for the fact it is going to nourish your body. This is how the monks taught me to eat meat ethically and with the most compassion.
Organic, Free Range, Cost & Quality
I know it also may seem expensive, but you do not need much if you are having quality meat. I personally found that I can only eat about a 4-5oz organic rump steak whereas I was eating 8-10oz of non-organic steak! The same with organic sausages, they are so dense that I only need 1 where I would need 2-3 or sometimes 4 of the cheapy ones. I prefer to buy from the organic networks when I can, but when my budget is tight I buy organic rump steak from Sainsburys for £5 for 2 pieces, then cut each steak in 2 and that does 4 meals.
The way I see it is this. Animals should be free range, they should be fed and treated naturally, and not forced to grow beyond how they would naturally grow. So the cost of free range organic meat and dairy is what the actual cost should be. Anything cheaper is compromising on something such as animal welfare, or quality. Besides animals that are fed nutritiously and killed humanely will have much better nutritious meat and produce.
When an animal feeds, any toxins such as pesticides or herbicides that have been used to treat the feed will be stored in the tissues of the animal along with growth hormones, drugs (routine antibiotics, etc). These toxic chemicals that are stored in the animals meat become our food and we will then have concentrated levels of these toxins to cope with. Organic animals are fed with vegetation that has not had these harmful chemicals sprayed onto it and treated naturally and only when they are ill.
Organic does not necessarily mean the animal welfare is good, and this needs to be investigated before you choose your meat supplier if you have this concern. However if a farmer is organic it generally means he has his animals’ welfare at heart. Likewise, non-organic does not necessarily mean that the animal will have been subject to these chemicals and not treated well. There are many local farms that take all these factors into account but are not registered as organic for some reason (quite often cost).
The humane killing is important as the negative emotions such as pain and fear that the animal experiences upon an inhumane slaughter is stored in its muscles, and those energies are transferred to us when we eat it. It is believed that this is where our fear of death comes from. In addition, many non-organic cows are given a ‘tenderiser’ injection 24 hours before slaughter which causes them horrendous pain and suffering.
The Veggie Agenda
The veggie agenda is pushed upon us so much through fallacies. Now I am not saying that these issues are not real, but if we practice eating meat and dairy with compassion then these issues will no longer be issues.
First we are guilted into giving up meat and dairy through animal welfare which is all based upon an appeal to our emotions. Animal welfare is a very real issue but you can see by what I have written above how this can be overcome, however the animal rights groups are the first to go the extreme and promote that the only way to solve the problem is to go veggie or vegan. Like I mentioned previously, many vegetarians still purchase products tested on animals which is a far, far worse problem!
So-called ‘health’ propaganda causes us to believe that red meat causes health problems, well actually this is a fallacy based upon half-truth. Maybe if you consume large amounts of red meat and you are an A or B type blood then you are not eating right for your type, and then yes it could cause problems. But this is only going to be relevant to 30% of the population!
So many common beliefs are based upon propaganda by corporations and those who do not want us to be fully well, just like we are told saturated fats will increase cholesterol – I eat huge amounts of butter and coconut oil and my cholesterol is very low!
Even environmentalists are jumping on the bandwagon with vegetarianism and veganism. They claim that methane from cattle is causing an increase in greenhouse gases. Well I am not going into the climate change/greenhouse gas scam here (we will save that for another time, shall we?).
Vegetarian Health Issues – no I am not talking calcium!
There are real health issues for vegetarians as low zinc levels and high copper levels in vegetarian proteins will cause copper toxicity. This has many nasty symptoms, but one is feeling like you are dreamy – in this way many people mistake this as feeling more spiritual since becoming veggie!
Unhealthy vegetarians will substitute meat for extremely health destroying meat alternatives like quorn, soya and heavily processed meat-free products (pass us the cardboard!). These should be avoided as much as you would avoid aspartame, fluoride and GM (in fact the soya is quite probably GM!). The healthy way to be vegetarian is to choose vegetarian dishes that comprise of vegetables and pulses/beans.
Oh, by the way, cheese is NOT vegetarian. Cheese cannot be made without using rennet from calves. However there is a Genetically Modified substitution. So if you eat cheese you are either eating something that has been processed with GM or calf rennet. It is wrong to think that just because this rennet is not present in the final product that it is OK to eat as animal products (or GM) were still used so you are still funding and approving the industry!
Another issue is Vitamin B12. So many vegetarians are B12 deficient, and it is difficult to obtain all the required forms of B12 from any non-animal sources.
Correcting my own Fallacies!
Here is an article I wrote about 6 years ago with some more updated comments in answer to some of the fallacies within it.
The Vegetarian Diet:
There is a cycle in nature known as the “food cycle” or “food chain”. The Sun is the source of energy for all life on our planet; it nourishes the plants (the top of the food chain) which are then eaten by animals (vegetarian), which are then eaten by other animals (carnivores). The food at the top of the food chain, being directly nourished by the Sun, has the greatest life promoting properties. The food value of animal flesh is termed as “second-hand” source of nutrition, and is inferior in nature. All natural foods (fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts and grains) have, in varying quantities, different proportions of these essential nutrients. As a source of protein, these are easily assimilated by the body. However, second-hand sources are often more difficult to digest and are of less value to the body’s metabolism.
This depends on your blood type and metabolic type. Yes the sun’s pure energy is diminished as it comes along the food chain, but if we eat fresh vegetables with or meat we are getting that essential life energy. The secret here is to eat meat from vegetarian animals like cow, sheep, chicken. This is why we find it naturally offensive to eat carnivores such as dogs, cats, etc (apart from them being our pets that is).
Many people worry about whether they are getting enough protein, but neglect other factors. The quality of the protein is more important than the quantity alone. Dairy products, legumes, nuts and seeds provide the vegetarian with an adequate supply of protein. The high protein requirement still being used by many Health Departments is based on antiquated data and has been scientifically disproved many times in the laboratory.
This is a fallacy based upon a half truth. Vegetarians may eat enough protein if they follow a proper vegetarian diet, but this is over simplified. Proteins can be high, medium and low purine. It is the quality of purine that is required by the body that is the important factor. Protein type metabolisers, which are generally the O blood type (but not always), absolutely require high purine proteins which are not found in vegetarian sources.
It is best if we understand that the purpose of eating is to supply our being with the life force, or Prana, the vital life energy. So the greatest nutritional plan for the Yoga student is the simple diet of natural fresh and vegetarian foods.
This is based on a belief system that only the life force is important. But our body has physical needs too.
However, the true Yogic diet is actually even more selective than this. The Yogi is concerned with the subtle effect that food has on his mind and astral body. He therefore avoids foods which are overly stimulating, preferring those which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp. One who seriously takes to the path of Yoga would avoid ingesting meats, fish, eggs, onions, garlic, coffee, tea (except herbal), alcohol and drugs.
I actually think there is definitely something in the subtle energies of the Gunas, however there is a way of bringing this into our eating of meat, eggs and anything that our bodies require in the way it is eaten and prepared (as explained in my “Gunas of Nature” article)
The Yogic diet will help you attain a high standard of health, keen intellect and serenity of mind. To really understand the Yogic approach to diet we need to be familiar with the 3 Gunas or qualities of nature.
Yes it will if it is followed as written by a native of India!
It is my opinion that we must eat what is right for our bodies FULL STOP. I would personally love to be vegetarian but I am accepting of what I am. I think more people should be too as the amount of unhealthy vegetarians is becoming increasingly worrying. It is almost becoming a trend or epidemic. And of course those who don’t want us to experience our potential of optimum wellbeing for their own financial gain (Big Pharma et al) are quite happy to fund and fuel this agenda.
You can always compromise by having a ‘veggie day’ per week or something similar as a personal protest to animal welfare, or your particular concerns.
If you are an A or B type blood and are suited to being vegetarian or vegan then I salute you! I think if we can be vegetarian without negative health effects then I would strongly encourage it, as then we would be eating meat through choice and not need. But all those veggie-wannabe carnivores out there, please for your own sakes, take on board some of this information and do your own research if you feel the need. We are after all what we eat and if we are not our full potential we are not eating for our full potential!
To take the metabolic typing test, go to the Free Resources under the Health Articles section.