March 26, 2012
When a living plant is attacked, hacked or eaten, it emits the chemical equivalent of a scream. Who knew? A startling new study from the Plank Institute in Germany has scientifically proven the existence of chemicals known as Green Leaf Volatiles, or GLVs. We know the scent better as the perfume of freshly mowed grass. I found this study fascinating because years ago I owned a house with a generous backyard and a front garden. I used to hate mowing the lawn and weeding because afterwords there a palpable sadness about the garden. I would feel guilty, and pained, it really felt like the yard was weeping. I now wonder if subconsciously I might have been reading their signal. I have always been a deeply sensitive empath (the opposite of a sociopath) who has intuited a living connection with the world around him. This is why the idea of eating meat is so abhorrent to me. I mean, if plants give out a chemical scream, then what to speak of the animal world. When I look at roadkill, still bloody and recognizable, a stab of pain shudders through me, more acute than the scent of freshly mowed grass. I find it agonizing to walk past the butcher’s aisle at the supermarket and worse is seeing the dead carcasses of skinned animals strung up outside the windows of Chinatown or Kensington Market. I do not see any of these as food, I only feel the violence and death. The feeling of pain permeates every fiber of my being.
Science is only proving what mystics have said for centuries, that the whole cosmos is a living whole. The more my practice of meditation deepens, the less tolerance I have for the look or smell of dead flesh. When shopping for shoes, I get the same pained sensation when I smell leather or suede. Though it is very difficult to find footwear in Canada that is not made from animal products, I shop and shop till I find it. If the scent of the violence the animal felt when it was slaughtered still lingers, then how much more of it is there in the meat product itself? However one may dress up the labels (Veal, mutton, bacon, steak), let us not forget what you are consuming – the rotting corpse of a slaughtered creature. This includes the hormones of despair it released at the moment of its death. Is it any wonder then the following headlines are appearing with greater frequency? Reports that red meat can shorten the average span. Mad Cow Disease, Listeria, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, HIV, are the the result of humans eating animal corpses. Then there are the countless tainted meat recalls .
There is a popular saying that goes something like this: You are what you eat. I disagree. I think it is more like: You eat what you are. Don’t we all eat according to our mood of the moment? Typically, breakfasts around the world are about grains and cereals, fruits, milk, breads. Very little meat, if any at all. This is because we are at our most serene after a good night’s sleep. I generally love spicy food, though never at breakfast. Now think of the guys who love their steak rare, perhaps with the blood still wet. Are they the gentle, contemplative types, or the aggressive, rugby player types? This may be a generalization, I know, but please observe the truth behind it for yourselves. It is hard to image compassionate persons such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa devouring a fresh kill. We see that people who are serene, compassionate in nature have a taste for fresh fruit, nuts, vegetables. And we can all agree that to eat human flesh is savage and primitive. Perhaps we are repelled by cultures who eat animals whom we consider as pets: dogs, horses, cats. Societies where locusts and cockroaches are a delicacy feel strange and backward to us. Now you understand something of how I feel about eating cows, pigs, chickens.
I am grateful to my mother for many things, but the chief among them is that she did not force me to eat meat when I was not old enough to make an informed choice. Thanks to her wisdom, whatever mistakes I have made in my life, one thing I am proud of is that no animal has ever died to feed me.