When I was a young child, my parents found it extremely difficult to get me to eat anything that even remotely resembled a vegetable. I loved hot dogs and hamburgers and junk food, like most young children. I didn’t like carrots, and really disliked broccoli. Then, when I was nine years old, I was taken on a tour of a slaughterhouse in the Philippines. I was shocked to see a half-dead cow being hung from the rafters by a big hook, slowly bleeding to death, being kept alive as long as possible so as to keep the meat fresher for longer. I was sickened by the suffering of this animal. At nine years of age, all I could think was, “Is this what animals go through, just so I can eat them?” The reality I saw in the slaughterhouse didn’t match the hamburger commercials I’d seen on TV, where cows were happy and chickens danced around huge farms.
At such a young age, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a vegetarian. I certainly didn’t know there was a whole philosophy behind vegetarianism. But instinctively, I just felt it was wrong to take another life so I could eat. I had never before made the connection between live animals and the meat on my dinner plate. My young mind thought that if there was an alternative to killing the animals I saw in the slaughterhouse, then I would rather take that alternative. I haven’t eaten meat since then.
Being a vegetarian is a matter of choice. And there are many reasons behind why people make the choice to become vegetarian. Of course, some of these reasons are health-related. A properly balanced vegetarian diet is healthy and beneficial to the human body. Also, scientifically, the physical make-up of humans is not designed to be carnivorous. If you look at the anatomy and function of herbivores in the animal kingdom, their intestines are very long, like humans, meaning they’re not able to fully digest meat, which rots very fast in the intestines. Vegetarian animals, like cows, water buffalo and giraffes, don’t have canine teeth that are designed to rip through meat. Instead, they have flat, grinding teeth, much like that of humans, which are perfect for eating plants and vegetables. What’s more, our saliva contains a specific enzyme that has the sole purpose of digesting complex carbohydrates found in plant foods. This enzyme is not found in the saliva of carnivores. Interesting, isn’t it? We’re just not designed to eat meat.
Not only are we not designed to eat meat, but instinctively, we are not meant to either. I remember an experiment where a toddler was placed in a cot with an apple and a rabbit. The toddler ate the apple and played with the rabbit. But when a small tiger cub was placed in the cot with an apple and a rabbit, the tiger ate the rabbit and played with the apple! The meat industry and commercialisation has made it so easy for humans to eat meat, by removing from sight and mind the connection between live animals and meat we eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our natural instincts have been diminished.
Albert Einstein once said, “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” This quote is perhaps even wiser than the man who said it.
There are more than six billion people in this world, and according to the UN, if everyone adopted a vegetarian diet, not one of those people would need to worry about going hungry. Plus, the meat industry is one of the biggest contributors to global warming, deforestation, and water consumption; consider the hundreds of thousands of litres of water needed to rear livestock and produce meat products, the many hectares of trees that are being cut down so that cattle can graze, and the sheer magnitude of methane produced by cattle. More than any human activity, these things are slowly chipping away at the ability of the Earth to sustain life.
The QI Group is a vegetarian company, but that does not mean we try to force our employees or anyone else to be vegetarian. Everyone has a choice. As Group Managing Director of QI, the Board of Directors and I agree that the health, ethical, and environmental advantages of practicing vegetarianism is worth promoting and embodying. It is our company statement that all life is sacred.
Please take a moment to ponder… Vegetarianism is a choice we make for our own good, as well as the greater good. It is a choice we make after realising the bleakness of the consequences of the alternative. But it is a choice. And we must decide, sooner or later, what choice we are going to make.
Group Managing Director, QI Ltd