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Are dietary habits linked to religion? And if yes, can technology change that perception?
Even as Gujarat and other states strive for vegetarianism and want to end non-vegetarianism simply because it involves killing animals, science & technology have made it possible to produce mutton, fish and chicken meat for burger patties in labs using three-dimensional printing technology. In another five years we could be doing the same in India at food outlets. Right now, all we have to do is to address our prejudices.

Even as the drive against slaughter houses – the illegal ones, is underway in states like Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand – the need for slaughter could ultimately dissipate and the world could switch over to procuring its food from other sources. This model of civilisation and sourcing of food is based on a system which did not exist 15,000 years ago and came into being when humans colonised the tract between the Tigris and the Euphrates to create the civilisation of Mesopotamia in Babylon.

Humans who were earlier hunters and gatherers became farmers and protectors of farmers, which later resulted in several forms of governance ranging from bloody dictatorships and monarchies to benevolent democracies and even the knights of the round table under Arthur and the senate under Athens. Even Rome was founded as a democracy in the quest for food by hungry twins who suckled a female wolf to remain alive. In fact, the quest for food and the rise of the political establishment in the world is closely related. Therefore, it is not surprising that food and politics are closely related.

There are several Hindus who are under the belief that all Muslims are non-vegetarians and that all Hindus shy away from consuming mutton, chicken or fish. There are others who firmly believe that Christians too are non-vegetarians.

Those who believe all Muslims are non-vegetarians could be in for a shock just as I was shocked once when I went for lunch to a Muslim household. The host was vegetarian; his wife did cook non-vegetarian food but did not eat it and preferred to eat gourds and other vegetables. Prophet Mohammad, he told me, was an avid fan of gourds like lauki and categorically said that althoughcow's milk was good for health, but its meat wasn't, meaning it should be avoided at all cost if one wants good health. This Muslim gentleman was from Motihari in Bihar and very well connected. There are few people in my family, he said, who do eat fowl, but only birds like ducks etc as they are suspicious of red meat and will not eat it fearing that it might be beef.

Indians are very fastidious about what they eat and as an Indian becomes more prosperous, he shifts to vegetarianism or eating white meat like fish and chicken only. This applies to Muslims too and it is the poorer sections in both communities that eat red meat, as it is cheaper to white meat in comparison.

It is only during Navratras that certain Hindu communities do not eat meat. Among Brahmins, we have Kashmiri Pandits who eat mutton and fish but avoid chicken. Chicken is supposed to be a filthy bird, as it eats its own defecation, they say. Bengali Brahmins, even though are part of the same tribe that came from Kannauj like the Upadhyayas, who later became Bannerjees, Mukkerjees and Gangulys, relish a meal of fish and mutton. In fact, during their Durga Puja festivities, mutton is part of the prasada which is offered to the devotees.

Therefore, the same Brahmins who did not eat meat and fish began to eat it once they moved to Bengal.

One of the biggest reasons for sensitive humans to avoid eating meat is the violence and blood shed involved in the slaughter of animals and the pain they are subjected too while being killed. But then, vegetables too feel pain when being harvested, eggs have life too unless they are the farmed versions and fruits feel pain and bleed sap when plucked. It is just that we do not have the sensory receptors to acknowledge their pain. However, since we can physically see the pain and suffering of a chicken that is being cut, we abhor non-vegetarianism. But that does not mean that vegetables and fruits do not have life.

Under the ancient caste system in India, the Brahmins were supposed to survive on milk, fruits and honey; the Kshyatriyas on meat, spices and grain; the traders on lentils, rice and coarse grain; the lower castes like slaves on carrion.

It was Buddhism that took the initiative to eat meat but ahimsa meat or that of an animal that had been killed in some household but not specifically for the monk. Lord Gautama Buddha died out of eating stale pork say history books.

It was Buddhism that took the initiative to eat meat but while practicing ahimsa (non-violence), that is eating meat of an animal that had been killed in some household but not specifically for the monk. Lord Gautama Buddha died out of eating stale pork say history books.

However, for lovers of non-violence, a new age is dawning where meat, fish and chicken will be produced without killing the animal. With the advent of 3D printing, now a delicious mutton burger by using the DNA of a lamb, a luscious venison stake without killing a deer and fish fillet without terrorising the salmon in the river, can be easily produced in a lab.

Technology will drive humans towards true vegetarianism in the next few decades, given the political and commercial will of governments. In many ways it shall fulfill the desires of a few religious leaders of the world who have been striving for a world where peace and humanity reign and non-violence becomes an integral part of life.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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