The well-known Mediterranean Diet recommended for optimal heart health calls for eating very little meat. Here in Canada, although our meat consumption is steadily decreasing according to Statistics Canada, we still average about 23.4 kilograms (about 52 pounds) of red meat per person per year. That puts us well behind the United States, Hungary, and Australia in total meat consumption.
But if you break it down into types of meat, people in Denmark eat more pork than anybody else in the world, Hong Kong leads chicken consumption, and, to nobody’s surprise, the Argentinians eat more beef.
So a heart-smart vegetarian in Buenos Aires might feel quite outnumbered, but elsewhere on earth would be among the majority. An Apple A Day recently took a unique look at international vegetarianism and came up with some widespread religion-based connections.
Buddhism: In Buddhism, there are many sects among its 385 million followers. Most practitioners follow the eight-fold path, including right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. One of the suggestions under the right action precept is to refrain from harming sentient beings like animals. As such, depending on the school of Buddhism followed, many Buddhists stick to a vegetarian diet.
Hinduism: Similar to Buddhism, many of the 850 million Hindus on earth also abstain from eating meat. This is largely due in part to the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. It is also generally believed that eating meat has karmic consequences, especially with regards to eating cows. Cows are thought to be holy, and Vedic scriptures have taken a hard anti-meat stance.
Jainism: Jainism, one of the world’s oldest religions, is characterized by the dedication to escape reincarnation through denial of worldly pleasures. About 4.5 million Jain followers, like Hindus, also believe in the principle of ahimsa and adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet.
Rastafarianism: The relatively small Rastafari movement (about one million worldwide) began in Jamaica in the 1930s. Rastas follow an I-tal diet, consisting of food which promotes life force. I-tal is derived from the word “vital” and is used to describe the diet of the movement, taken mainly from Hebrew dietary laws. Many Rastas avoid chemically produced food, alcohol, and eating meat. However, dietary constraints can vary from person to person. Their cuisine has developed in association with Rastafari tenets, eschewing most synthetic additives, and preferring more natural vegetables and fruits such as coconut and mango. This cuisine can be found throughout the Caribbean and in some restaurants throughout the western world. The Rastafari movement also encompasses themes such as the spiritual use of cannabis (marijuana)and the rejection of western society (called Babylon).
No matter what religion or what country you’re looking at, an increase in the consumption of meat is usually directly correlated to an increase in a region’s economic development.
And there’s a pecking order of meat consumption, with expensive meats like beef at the top, and other types like dog meat (consumed in countries like China, the Philippines, and Korea) near the bottom. It’s why horse meat is sold in Asian markets but illegal to sell in the U.S. (but apparently not in Canada). It’s why we don’t eat bat meat, but it’s considered a delicacy in some areas of Indonesia. And it’s why the North Vietnamese eat a hot pot dish called ‘little tiger’ made from cat meat, which you’ll likely never see on any North American menu.
And if that list isn’t enough to send you screaming towards vegetarianism, try reading the rest of the article from An Apple A Day, including their recommended list of the Top Three Vegetarian-Friendly Countries.
And by the way, do you know what the Top Ten Religions in the world are?
Are you a vegetarian?