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October 31, 2014: The rise of meat consumption in China and India

I recently came across an article about how more people in India are starting to eat meat. The article attributed this trend to a general growing financial prosperity in that country. This came as a surprise to a lot of people since, as many of you already know, India is one of the world's bastions for vegetarianism, with an estimated 40% or more of its population being vegetarian. Still, while the phenomenon is an unfortunate one, it is understandable.

In many parts of Asia, meat consumption was relatively low because it was expensive. It was reserved for special occasions. In places like China, where many are benefiting from economic prosperity, meat consumption is up, because many people can now afford it. This phenomenon has very little to do with ethics, and much more to do with economics. Let's take my example: as a person who has attained a higher level of empathy for other animals, I'm not going to start eating meat no matter how much more money I'd make. A person who normally would eat meat anyway, but simply didn't have the means to do this on a regular basis, will benefit from his new-found wealth to consume more meat. It's important, then, from an Effaist perspective, to actively teach (and remind) people in the countries where meat consumption is on the rise, that the lives of sentient beings like the pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other creatures whose flesh they consume, should be respected. An increase in wealth does not have to mean an increase in violence towards other species. This is especially true in countries which already have a strong tradition of tasty and healthy vegetarian alternatives. It's great that some people can enjoy life more, but it's important that other animals should be given an opportunity to enjoy their lives as well.

So what about the increase in meat consumption in a country like India, a country with such a strong tradition of vegetarianism? First, the fact that 40% of India is vegetarian obviously means that about 60% of its citizens are not vegetarian, which means that quite a lot of people do eat meat. Second, a lot of the vegetarianism in India is based on religion, primarily Hinduism, but also Jainism and (some schools of) Buddhism. Like anywhere else in the world, people are often born into a religion, and follow it because of family tradition, etc. In this case, they are born into vegetarianism. While I think this is very positive, it doesn't automatically guarantee a deep empathy (or even respect) for animals. Some will develop this, and some won't. As I've written before, anyone who hasn't attained a higher lever of empathy for other animals, can quite easily fall (back) into eating meat. In order to fully understand the reality of how we should treat other animals, one has to attain this deeper empathy, what we Effaists call "Animal Empathy Enlightenment". Once you get to the state where you realize that all sentient life must be respected, it's pretty hard to go back to a less enlightened way of treating other animals, including eating them.

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