We’re all separate, distinct persons, connected with the rest of our fellow-creatures and with the universe, and yet apart. No one diet is correct for everyone, just as no single type of haircut, food, or religion is suitable for all.
Opinions vary, but it seems that people of most earlier cultures ate meat. One food scholar states that no exclusively vegetarian society has ever been discovered. Certain members of a society may have avoided eating meat, but theirs wasn’t the usual diet. The reason for this may be that a strictly vegetarian people would have disappeared long before they could have left any traces.
Many Westerners point to modern-day India, with its taboos against eating beef, as an example of a vegetarian society. This teaching is said to date back thousands of years. It does, but the Indian avoidance of beef-eating has had a checkered past.
The Brahmins, the highest caste of India, ate beef in about 1000B.C.E.†† The religious veneration of the cow began in India around 2,000 years ago, but it wasn’t until India’s independence in 1949 that cows gained legal protection against the slaughter. Vegetarianism among Buddhists is also common worldwide.
But most Buddhists in India do eat dairy products, and the low yields of milk from the scrawny Indian cows provide a major source of protein for the Indians. Even Buddhist priests in Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other Buddhist countries eat meat. Most people of the lower castes in India, many of whom are starving,won’t turn down meat when it’s offered to them. In some cases, an empty stomach can overrule religious convictions.