Patheos answers the question:

Do Hindus Eat Meat?

Someone consuming chicken

Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, but many Hindus choose to not eat meat. Hindus who do choose to be strict vegetarians will not eat any kind of meat, including fish, or animal-based foods, such as eggs. Most Hindus, however, will consume milk-based products like butter, cheese, or yogurt. 


The reason some Hindus do not eat meat is because a central teaching of Hinduism is ahimsa, or respect for all living things and the importance of not committing violence against others. This means having compassion towards animals and all living things in nature. Many sacred texts in the Hindu tradition emphasize the importance of nonviolence, and these texts are often interpreted by Hindus as supporting a vegetarian diet. 


There are also many religious teachings in the long tradition of Hinduism which strongly advise against eating meat for spiritual reasons. This is because many Hindus believe that in the act of eating meat, people consume the emotional pain and fear of the animal who was slaughtered, and this energy can have negative spiritual consequences. This is why Hindu religious leaders, priests, yogis, and others striving to achieve a higher plane of personal spirituality tend to practice strict vegetarianism. In Hinduism, the types of food a person eats is considered to play an important role in the success of their spiritual pursuits. As a result, there exists a variety of diets specific to Hindus who are focusing on their spiritual development, such as the sattvic diet. These diets are all vegetarian.  


Many Hindus, especially laypeople, do eat meat. For Hindus who eat meat, some will still refrain from eating any kind of beef. This is because the cow is a beloved animal in Hinduism, and holds a special place of honor in the religion. Some say the honor given to the cow is because Krishna was a cow herder as a child, but the most common reason given for honoring the cow is because the cow is valued as a symbol of selfless giving. Cows provide humans with milk, which can be used for many foods, and this act of providing sustenance is considered worthy of respect and honor. Therefore, particularly in India, the cow is simply not considered a food animal (this is similar to how many countries do not consider certain pets, who provide humans with joy, to be food animals). As a result, many Hindus who eat meat, such as chicken or goat, will not eat any meat derived from a cow. 


Some Hindus who do eat meat will only do so if the animal has been slaughtered by jhatka, a slaughtering technique in which the animal is killed with a single blow to the back of neck. This method is considered in Hinduism to be the least painful for the animal, and thus cause the least trauma and stress. Some Hindu religious texts advise that animals killed through jhatka are thus permissible for Hindus to eat, though most Hindus will still say that it is not the ideal food for a person trying to follow a specifically specialized spiritual path. 


Today, whether or not a Hindu will eat meat is also partly a question of location and culture. Many Hindus who grow up in communities where it is very common for people to be vegetarian, such as the south of India, will not eat meat. For Hindus who do not eat meat, their meals will usually consist of grains, such as rice, and a variety of vegetables, stews, and spices. For Hindus who grow up in the U.S., Europe, or even northern Indian, where meat-eating is more common, the consumption of meat likewise is more common. 


Learn more about Hindu beliefs and practices here 


11/15/2023 12:14:54 AM