The morality of Vegetarianism and Jainist-inspired Food diets.
Not being one who mingles with many vegetarians, vegans or other diet-enthusiasts I am unaware of the names of specific diets. However, as of yet I have not come across a diet I have chosen to incorporate as my own. Ultimately, it is the perspectives we observe the world with which dictate our ethics and morality, they stem from irrational concepts, sharpened into rational lines of thought, though more on this later. However, I do not feel comfortable with the idea of treating animal life so different from plant life, and when considering Vegetarianism I could not bring myself to not eat meat, but be fine with eating living plants. The majority of the population act with extreme disbelief at this concept, by I would imagine many would see Vegetarianism the same (as many do) if they had not grown accustomed to the concept. I therefore considered a diet which involved the minimal amount of death of any living thing, in theory. This meant no root vegetables as this involves killing the plants. Grains, leaf vegetables and fungi were a somewhat grey area, as they did not involve the death of the plant in theory, but practically the plant is often killed in the process. It was around this time I discovered the concept of Jainism.
Jainism argues a life of utter non-violence to all living things. The concept behind their diet was similar to mine, the exclusion of root vegetables with the inclusion of most dairy products. This is in contrast to Vegans which consume to animal products but still consume root vegetables. Most importantly, the practical implications were considered and the concept of a food hierarchy was present, and I thus incorporated it into my own diet. However, there was one crucial point of conflict, the Jainist diet is lacto-vegetarian, which includes refraining from eating eggs. I however, consider eggs a perfectly suitable food, being the fruit of the animal.
With some research into the nervous system and complexity of the different life forms, I considered a hierarchy which suites my initial ethical principles. Ultimately, the concept of the self is something which does not require knowledge of the self, and thus I could not simply attribute brain function to this ethical problem. Thus the importance of communication and life became intertwined, and the hierarchy follows the ability to communicate and interact or respond to its environment, with any living thing's death considered worse than harming. This leads to ethical dilemmas concerning plant to animal to human life problems.
In any case the basic outline goes as follows:
- Higher functioning animals like mammals and birds are at the pinnacle
- Fish, certain reptiles and similar animals are in the middle
- Simple animal organisms such as snails, prawns and similar are at the lowest point
- Any part of the plant which is needed for it's life is considered protected, I will avoid it where I can.
- Things such as lettuce and cabbage do not involve the death of the plant, but likewise it should be avoided. Though with less emphasis than root vegetables.
Fungi and Grains
- Generally accepted as most food in a accessible diet will contain Grains. In practice the death of the plant usually follows I belief.
Nuts, seeds, Fruits, Dairy Products and Eggs
- All perfectly acceptable as they do not require the death of the giver. Dairy products and eggs I see as the fruits of the animal, harvested as with plants.
Naturally, ethical treatment is important in all these cases.
My position on this line will vary depending on circumstance, and I will avoid foods higher up the list, with complete avoidance of most meats.