Nepali Times
Vegetarianism for vegetables


VEGGIE PEACE: Hindu devotees urge people to go vegetarian and respect animal rights at a rally in Kathmandu

You know when you dress a slab of steak with some herbs and pepper, and let it sizzle in the pan while the aroma of the marinade fusing with the trickle of fat fills the room? Then you cut a neat little piece and chew it gently, releasing a burst of meaty flavours in your mouth?

I hate that taste.

Some people have an aversion to broccoli - I dislike meat. That's why I have been a vegetarian for 15 years. People seem disappointed when they hear this, expecting a cause bigger than myself. Should I be channelling my culinary preference into a philosophy for life?

It seems I have already wasted 15 years. I need a cause pronto!

How hard can it be?

Dasain is around the corner: goats are being herded for the kill and vegetarians are up in arms. Ten days ago, the Animal Sacrifice Awareness Campaign - based out of Ram Mandir in Battisputali - organised a rally in Kathmandu urging an end to animal sacrifice. I like this. During Dasain, there seems to be more emphasis on killing the animal than in eating meat. I can support a cause against gratuitous violence.

The rally's organisers believe that halting unnecessary violence promotes peace in society. "The country is in this state because murder and violence is so easy. Today you slaughter a goat, tomorrow a buffalo, and who knows, the day after, it could be a man," says Indra Acharya of the campaign.

Wait! What? Was the insurgency caused by non-vegetarians?

"Hoina, we are just trying to create a violence-free society."

So, does everyone need to become a vegetarian to achieve that?


Was there a direct correlation between George W. Bush's fondness for Texas barbecue and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Do we collectively need to hear the cry of the goats in our stomachs like Gandhi before we can achieve a peaceful world?

This seems a little implausible. I may be a vegetarian, but it will take a meatier argument to convince me. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place.

I visit the Brahma Kumari Raj Yoga Centre in Thamel. The female devotees of the centre are serene and peaceful. They want to bring me closer to God through meditation and a few lifestyle changes.

"We don't smoke. We don't eat meat. We also don't eat onions and garlic," says Subarna Subedi, one of the devotees.

Onions and garlic?

"Onions and garlic are hot materials. They raise the temperature of your body. A yogi needs to be cool," she says.

But I obtain my 'cool' when I inhale the delectable smell of onions and garlic as I saute them to my favourite tomato sauce, especially after commuting in a microbus with 29 other people.

So I keep looking. Then I discover the Quan Yin movement, which strives for spiritual upliftment by prescribing five guidelines: no meat, drugs, lying, thievery, or 'immoral' sex.

The movement's contact in Nepal, Amit Karki, says meat brings 'heavy karma', while the goal is lightness of body and spirit. "We have also been connecting this to global warming. Eighty per cent of global warming is caused by meat consumption."

Bingo! This is what I am looking for: a rational, scientific argument. I visit their website expecting information linking meat-eating to global warming. Instead, I am greeted by an epilepsy-inducing site plastered with photos of the movement's Supreme Master Ching Hai. I am not so sure I can trust a lady with badly dyed blonde hair to advise me on spiritual upliftment. Furthermore, despite Karki's claim, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that meat production accounts for only one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Ultimately, I am not sure whether I am even qualified to tell people why vegetarianism is a good choice. I am underweight, have abnormally low blood pressure, and I feel dizzy if I climb more than two flights of stairs. I am also anaemic, like one third of the women in this country.

While some movements may lump the consumption of meat with vices like drug abuse and robbery, I think it's generally accepted that we are, in fact, omnivores. As we cherish people's choices to rally in New Road, or seek spiritual guidance from a lady with a bad hairdo, should we also not respect their right to choose what they eat?

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)