In his GPS Program at the end of the first week of June 2021 Fareed Zakaria had a section on ‘How Meat is making the Planet Sick’. This brought to my mind a phrase which I had encountered as long ago as sixty years – ‘Where is the meat in the burger?’
George Bernard Shaw, a kattar vegetarian all throughout his life was once asked by someone if all the animals which he had not eaten during his lifetime would turn up at his funeral? I don’t know what his reply was. Since then many Vegetarians or Vegan Associations of vegetable eaters have sprung up worldwide. Many vegetarian restaurants have opened to cater to their needs too.
Vegetarianism in our part of the world has existed since the time of the Indus Valley Civilisation or as early as 3000 BCE. Vegetarianism is there all over the world. Some fish and sea-food eaters (Pescatarians) consider themselves as vegetarians. A trend now is for such products to be farmed in pools inland. The variety of fishes in the rivers and seas also provide many aquatic species such as prawns, crabs and lobsters. Some egg-eaters claim to be vegetarians whilst others state that eating only unfertilised eggs of battery hens qualify them for this categorisation. Whilst some rigid vegetarians exist there are many more liberal ones i.e. flexitarians who occasionally eat fish and meat! In former times, all priests of the Hindu religion did not eat just meat but stayed clear of many vegetables grown under the ground such as onions and garlic. Mushrooms were taboo. For some of the priestly class, whilst chickens which sometimes ate excrements were taboo, wild fowl such as luinches were allowed!
The Dodo, the wingless and flightless bird of Mauritius was a species that disappeared from the face of the earth once the humans killed and ate them all. The great bison of America nearly met the same fate because of human demands!
Export of too many frogs from Bangladesh as a culinary delicacy to Europe led to increase of insects and other predators which reduced the agricultural output of the country. Now however there are escargots and grubs that are permanent fixtures of many menus and are currently being eaten in many places worldwide.
Of my student days I must confess that I remember fondly the rare, medium and well done steaks served at the Rules Restaurant established in 1798 and said to be the oldest restaurant in London. It was in Maiden Lane, Covent Garden just along the road from the Charing X Hospital Medical School. It walls were lined with sketches, cartoons and paintings of many stage personalities who had performed in the West End. Many years later when I was in Canada in 2006 I told a friend that I did not beef because of fear of Mad Cow Disease. She immediately asked me how old I was and when I told her my age said. “Well you won’t get it till you are ninety for it takes fifteen years to develop. How long do you want to live? I kept quiet.
The fact is that about eighty billion animals, mostly chicken are slaughtered every year to provide meat to the earth’s humans and hanger ons i.e. pets such as cats and dogs. The suppliers or the main providers of meat for the world population such as cattle, pigs, sheep, and goats are in the developed world. Horses, donkeys and camels too are eaten. Half the agricultural land in these countries is said to be used for animal raising. It is cattle, which because of their large size and numbers are said to produce much manure that affects not only the land and water but because of the methane gas as by-product, leads on to global warming. Of course cats, dogs and snakes are also eaten by some people but the numbers are not large. One obvious way to counter global warming would be to encourage fish farming in land all over the world. Currently, it is China that produces 62% of the world’s farmed fish.
Our usual basis for momos, our National dish is from a normal product development. Because of the present nominal demand of Nepalis the present birth-rate of buffaloes currently provides an adequate supply of rangoes, which together with the tired female buffaloes within and from India meets our needs. This may not always be so.
To a large number of people, a world without meat products may be unthinkable. Many of us shudder at the thought of making insects and grubs as components of our diet. This as a reality of the future is being considered by many in this world. The light at the end of the tunnel is that meat has been produced in the laboratory and also on bigger scales. The first cultured meat hamburger was at Maastricht in Holland in 2013. A cultured super chicken burger was then presented at Tel Aviv. Singapore restaurant ‘1880’ serves cultured meat from Eat Just UK Firm. NotCo of Chile markets non animal milk and meat. Many other concerns worldwide are striving to make cultured meat tastier than the original. Some consumers swear that it does! We will, sooner or later have to accept it as reality.
Zakaria in the program I referred to above, quoting a headline of the New York Times said – “Let us take a Moonshot for Meatless Meat’. CNN these days also shows many images of insect-based diets being relished by the eaters.
Sunil Ulak’s post in this same week-end in Facebook was a Tibetan saying worth practicing:
“If you want to live long with happiness in life, eat half, walk twice, laugh three times and love others unlimited.” So be it.
If we want to dwell on the longevity of our lives on earth we must seriously consider becoming vegetarians straight away. It is simply a question of whether we want to satisfy the gastronomic needs of our stomachs first or fulfil instead the needs of our heart and brain so that we live longer lives!
The author is a retired medical doctor and writes fiction under the pen name of Mani Dixit also. Website: www.hdixit.org.np. Twitter: @manidixithd