I am an animal lover. My entire life has been filled with various pets, from stray dogs to class pet rats to snakes I found slithering around my mother’s vegetable garden. I have always held a staunch belief that all of God’s creatures are equals and should be treated such. This belief is what led me, in fifth grade, to choose to abstain from eating meat for the rest of my life. I could not bear the thought of eating something that had once been living, especially if I could go on living a happy, healthy life without chowing down on those unnecessarily murdered (and in many cases, tortured) creatures. Numerous individuals over the years have questioned, scoffed at, and scolded me for my vegetarianism, but I firmly believe that it is a moral choice that should be left up to each individual.
Ethical reasons are not always the cause for vegetarianism, however. The practice of not consuming animal flesh is believed to have begun in ancient India and Greece. Both cultures also strongly believed in nonviolence towards animals. Christianization of Europe nearly caused vegetarianism to disappear, but it reemerged during the Renaissance, gaining popularity in the 19<span>th</span> and 20<span>th</span> centuries.
Several cultures and religions nowadays also refrain from eating beings that were once living. Hindus typically are vegetarians, as they believe in nonviolence, offering only “pure” foods to deities, and that non-vegetarian food is detrimental to both the mind and body. In 2007, India was reported as having the lowest meat consumption rate in the world. Jainism, an Indian religion, believes that all organisms, no matter how big or small, have a soul. Adherents of Jainism go to great lengths in order to minimize and discomfort or pain for living organisms, including vegetarianism and even, in some cases, avoiding eating bulb and root plants due to the killing of tiny microorganisms.
Most Rastafari in the Afro-Caribbean community are also vegetarian. In Buddha’s Sanskrit texts, he advised his followers of Mahayana Buddhism not to eat meat. Depending on the sutra followed by each branch of Mahayana Buddhism, some adherents eat meat, while others do not. Most Chinese Buddhists are vegetarians. Ghent, Belgium became the first city in 2009 to implement a “weekly meatless day” due to environmental reasons. As of 1992, of the 12.4 million vegetarians in the United States, 68% were female, while only 32% were male.
Vegetarianism, although not a dominant lifestyle choice across the world, has rapidly spread to nations far and wide. Many people choose to abstain from eating meat for moral, religious, environmental, and health reasons. With vegetarians in almost every country across the world, it is a diet that cannot be ignored as a cultural phenomenon.