Vegetarianism is the practice of not eating meat or fish. People who follow vegetarianism are called vegetarians. Vegetarians eat foods like vegetables, fruit, nuts, beans and grains. Some vegetarians eat or drink animal products, like milk and eggs. They are called lacto-ovo vegetarians. Vegetarian people may like tofu, falafel and other meat substitutes.
There are many reasons for not eating meat. Some think that it is wrong to kill animals; others think that eating meat is bad for their health or the world. This is because land used for animals can be used to grow food. Some people may become vegetarians because their religion says not to eat animals.
Some people who call themselves vegetarians and eat fish or sea food are not vegetarians, because fish and sea creatures are also animals. Such people are sometimes called pescetarians. There are also many people who are not vegetarians, but do not eat too much animal food. Some eat only very little meat (so-called "flexitarians" or "semi-vegetarians"), some eat only fowl ("pollotarians"). There is also a philosophy called freeganism, it means eating animal products only if otherwise they will be thrown away to garbage - such as food thrown away by restaurants.
Types of vegetarian diet
(includes fowl, fish, sea food)
There are several reasons why people choose to be vegetarians. Some think it is wrong or cruel to eat animals, since animals are killed and often feel pain. Other people may feel disgusted to eat meat. A third reason is the effect on the environment. Producing meat (especially beef) uses more of the earth's land and water than eating food from plants. People may have more than different reason for being a vegetarian,
Religious and spiritual
Most vegetarians in the world are Hindu. Hinduism and Jainism in general teach vegetarianism, while Buddhism may or may not. Without any specific religion, some people in the Western world also follow a vegetarian diet because it may deepen inner spiritual connections (for example, James Redfield). Mahatma Gandhi said that spiritual experiences are greatly enhanced on a vegetarian diet.
Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. In today’s world, about twenty percent of all Hindus are vegetarians. There are approximately 200 million vegetarians in India, which has more people that do not eat meat than any other country. More vegetarians live in the South of India than in the North, possibly because the North is colder. For yoga and meditation, it is wise to be vegetarian.
The Hindu who believes in non-injury or nonviolence (ahimsa) naturally adopts a vegetarian diet. It is a matter of conscience more than anything else. The Vedic and Puranic scriptures of Hinduism explain that animals have souls and the act of killing animals brings bad karma because the killer will suffer the pain of the animal he has killed in this life or the next. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami adds that when we eat meat, fish, fowl and eggs, we absorb the vibration of the creatures into our nerves. This promotes fear, anger, jealousy, confusion, resentment and the like. The Manu Dharma Shastras state, “When the diet is pure, the mind and heart are pure.” Generally there is the belief, based on scriptures such as Bhagavad Gita, that one's food shapes the personality, mood and mind.
Vegetarian Lunch at Mysore, India
A fruit stall in Barcelona
Indian cuisine offers a wide range of vegetarian delicacies because the two main sects of Hinduism, practised by the majority of India's population, encourage a vegetarian diet. Shown here is a vegetarian thali.
Basket of fresh fruit and vegetables grown in Israel
A variety of vegan and vegetarian deli foods
Vegetarianism Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.