The Food of the Future

What will be the food of the future?

This was a question that was once asked of Abdu’l-Baha.

Although what constitutes the optimal diet for good health has been debated for centuries, it has become a particular concern for many in today’s society, as the average waistline gets larger and, for the first time in a thousand years, we face the possibility of a decline in our life expectancy.1

In a recent article on diet and health, I looked at what the Baha’i Writings say about the important role of diet in both preventing and treating disease. The natural question that then arises is this: which diet, among the hundreds out there, is recommended by the Baha’i Faith?

The Universal House of Justice answers this question directly by stating:

No specific school of nutrition or medicine has been associated with the Baha’i teachings. What we have are certain guidelines, indications and principles which will be carefully studied by experts and will, in the years ahead, undoubtedly prove to be invaluable sources of guidance and inspiration in the development of these medical sciences.2

Just like in all things related to nutrition and medicine there is no easy, one-size-fits-all answer. But we are fortunate to have principles to guide us in our choices while we wait for science to catch up.

So, what is the food of the future? Abdu’l-Baha’s response to this burning question follows:

Fruit and grains. The time will come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural diet is that which grows out of the ground.3

Although this statement is still controversial within mainstream ideas of good diet and nutrition, Abdu’l-Baha elsewhere explains the fundamental concept behind it – that humans are created as herbivores:

…know thou of a certainty that, in the beginning of creation, God determined the food of every living being… For instance, beasts of prey, such as the wolf, lion and leopard, are endowed with ferocious, tearing instruments, such as hooked talons and claws. From this it is evident that the food of such beasts is meat… Likewise, God hath given to the four-footed grazing animals such teeth as reap the grass like a sickle, and from this we understand that the food of these species of animal is vegetable… But now coming to man, we see he hath neither hooked teeth nor sharp nails or claws, nor teeth like iron sickles. From this it becometh evident and manifest that the food of man is cereals and fruit. Some of the teeth of man are like millstones to grind the grain, and some are sharp to cut the fruit. Therefore he is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it.4

Our teeth is only one example demonstrating that humans are designed as herbivores and not carnivores. Others examples are:

  • The intestinal tract of other herbivores and humans is about four times as long as carnivores.
  • The fact that body cooling for carnivores is done by panting because of they have no ability to sweat whereas herbivores mainly cool by sweating.
  • The fact that vitamin C is made by the carnivores own body whereas herbivores obtain theirs only from their diet.5

There are many, scientists and laymen alike, who would disagree with this concept. But there is a growing body of medical science that is quickly reaching the same conclusion.

In fact, in 2006, the editor of the American Journal of Cardiology, Dr. William Roberts, wrote about this concept with regard to the number one cause of death in America – ischemic heart disease. He states:

Atherosclerosis [the underlying pathology behind heart disease] is easily 
produced in non-human herbivores by feeding them a high cholesterol or high saturated
fat (e.g., egg yokes, animal fat) diet. It is not possible to produce atherosclerosis in a carnivore… Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivores, humans also must be herbivores.6

Although somewhat technical, this points to the idea that the leading cause of death is a result of the fact that we, as herbivores, have a diet better suited to a carnivore. To this end there have been many research trials that have demonstrated that changing your diet back to that of a herbivore can reverse heart disease,7 remit diabetes8 and improve your general health.

This is consistent with the principles on diet espoused by Abdu’l-Baha.

Even so, there are still many in our society who feel that a vegetarian or vegan diet does not meet all the nutritional needs of the human body. In particular, it is commonly thought that a plant-based diet doesn’t provide enough protein.

To this Abdu’l-Baha has stated that this is not the case, saying:

Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy.9

Elsewhere, he again says:

But eating meat is not forbidden or unlawful, nay, the point is this, that it is possible for man to live without eating meat and still be strong.10

For examples of this, we only have to look at cultural groups such as the inhabitants of rural China, the highlanders of Papua New Guinea or the Tarahumara Indians of northern Mexico, all of whom have an almost entirely plant-based diet. Such groups are extremely physically fit and have an exceedingly low rate of the diseases that are rampant in developed countries.11

I don’t know about you, but I was raised in Papua New Guinea and wouldn’t want to test my strength with a Papua New Guinean highlander any time soon!

Indeed, all the necessary macro and micronutrients (including protein and iron) can be obtained by an appropriate wholefood plant based diet. When compared to our current omnivore diet, the main ingredients that are reduced by cutting out animal products are animal protein and fat – two things we can all do with less of.

There is evidence that both of these two macronutrients, which are being consumed in increasing excess in the last few centuries, are strongly associated with the rise in incidence of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease and a number of autoimmune conditions.12

It should be noted that there may be instances where a plant based diet is not appropriate for a particular individual, but this is more likely to be the exception than the rule.

To this point Abdu’l-Baha states:

Meat is nourishing and… therefore sometimes it is essential for the sick and for the rehabilitation of health. So if thy constitution is rather weak and thou findest meat useful, thou mayest eat it.13

So while eating meat is certainly permissible in the Baha’i Faith I would suggest the occasions where it is medically ‘useful’ are very limited and, from a health perspective, it should generally be avoided.

For some, the change to a vegetarian or vegan diet is too radical. But it should not be a surprise that if we want a radical change from society’s current awful state of health then nothing short of major change in our diet will suffice. Abdu’l-Baha says:

When an illness is slight a small remedy will suffice to heal it, but when the slight illness becomes a terrible disease, then a very strong remedy must be used…14

The fact that this topic is controversial (and Shoghi Effendi himself acknowledges this)15 reflects the immaturity of current medicine – and I say this as a practicing member of the profession.

Although society doesn’t yet have a definitive answer to “Which is the healthiest diet?”, we as Baha’is should feel blessed to have the guidance of Abdu’l-Baha on this topic.

As modern medicine develops and evidence is unravelled on this subject, we are sure to see that society will “gradually develop up to the condition of this natural food.”16

I just hope it happens within our lifetimes, so that I can be around to see it.


  1. Olshansky SJ, Passaro DJ, Hershow RC et al. A Potential Decline in Life Expectancy in the United States in the 21st N Engl J Med 2005; 352:1138-1145 []
  2. 24 January 1977, written by the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer []
  3. Abdu’l-Baha, cited in Julia M. Grundy. “Ten Days in the Light of ‘Akka”, rev. ed. Wilmette: Baha’i Publishing Trust, 1979, pp. 8-9. []
  4. Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian []
  5. Roberts WC, Atherosclerosis: Its Cause and Its Prevention. Am J Cardiol. 2006; 98:1550-1555 []
  6. Ornish D, Scherwitz LW, Billings JH et al. Intensive Lifestyle Changes for Reversal of Coronary Heart Disease. JAMA. 1998;280:2001-2007 []
  7. Roberts WC, Atherosclerosis: Its Cause and Its Prevention. Am J Cardiol. 2006; 98:1550-1555 []
  8. Barnard ND, Katcher HI, Jenkins DJ, Cohen J, and Turner-McGrievy G. Vegetarian and Vegan Diets in Type 2 Diabetes Management. Nutrition Reviews 2009 Vol. 67(5):255–263 []
  9. Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian; Health, Healing, and Nutrition, no. 17 []
  10. Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian; Health, Healing, and Nutrition, no. 18 []
  11. Esselstyn CB, Resolving the Coronary Artery Disease Epidemic Through Plant-Based Nutrition. Prev Cardiol. 2001;4:171-177 []
  12. For a summary of evidence regarding these topics see Campbell TC (2007), The China Study, Australia: Wakefield Press []
  13. Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet – translated from the Persian []
  14. “Paris Talks: Addresses given by Abdu’l-Baha in Paris in 1911-1912” p. 27 []
  15. In a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 9 July 1931 to an individual believer []
  16. 24 January 1977, written by the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer []

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Discussion 29 Comments

  1. I agree!!!! How do we start moving things in this direction? Can we make our Holy Days meatless? Encourage meatless potlucks? The future is not so far away, it’s right now!

    1. I don’t quite understand the following passage in this article:
      Atherosclerosis [the underlying pathology behind heart disease] is easily 
produced in non-human herbivores by feeding them a high cholesterol or high saturated
fat (e.g., egg yokes, animal fat) diet. It is not possible to produce atherosclerosis in a carnivore… Because humans get atherosclerosis, and atherosclerosis is a disease only of herbivores, humans also must be herbivores.

  2. Wonderful read, thanks Anis! Considering the many health issues associated with consuming meat and animal products, the profoundly negative environmental impacts of the ever-growing meat industry, and the numerous issues of animal welfare, there needs to be more awareness of this invaluable guidance – especially amongst the Bahá’í community.

  3. Thank you for your blog…I first heard about the medical/health benefits of a plant-based diet a year ago…the video-documentary “Forks over Knives” reflects much of the research which impressed me, but it was our Baha’i writings which provided insight and guidance and helped me cut through the bias and mis-information surrounding typical western eating habits and big business agriculture and food industry advocates…I have been eating a plant-based diet since October, in 8 months have lost 58 pounds, have no cravings or mid-afternoon slump and find each meal nutritious, delicious and satisfying…

    1. Thats fantastic! That indeed is an interesting documentary. Some of the prominent scientists in it have interesting work – e.g. Dr. Eccleston, and Dr. Colin Campbell. Both worth googling or purchasing their books 🙂

  4. It is also very clearly stated that we must show utmost kindness to animals. All animals. Now the meat and dairy industry is filled with cruelty towards the animals, it’s absolute horror. By buying the products, eggs, meat and dairy, we support the abuse and allow the horrors to go on. Be kind, go vegan!

  5. Too true! Also the timing of food and combinations matter, as Baha’u’llah states in the provisionally translated Lawh-i-Tibb. In it He advises not to eat different kinds of food at once, not to eat when not hungry, drink liquids before solids, and so on. It’s not definitive but it’s worthy of further investigation by medics.

  6. I think what you wish is already started. I follow 2 gentlemen and they are talking about this kind of food what Abdul Baha talked many many years ago. First I heard from Anthony Robbins and he also followed the research work of Dr. Robert Young, his famous book is ” The Ph Miracle: Balance your diet, Reclaim your health”.
    I am following it and become vegetarian for about five years and feel very healthy & vibrant.

  7. Dear Anis,
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. My training in nutrition goes way back to the late 1980ies. All those years I have been contemplating and searching how to link the relevant passages in the Writings to current-day nutrition information etc. So your article just gives me another perspective to contemplate on. By the way, I visited the friends in Papua New Guinea when I was pioneering in Micronesia. All the best

    1. Hi Paula,
      Thanks for the comment, happy you enjoyed the read. You’re right, there are many more aspects to the Writings on health & diet – lots of other things to study! I’d encourage you to think about writing an article also 🙂
      Anis

  8. Thank you for a great article, this is just what we need to prompt conversation on this topic. What we eat must surely be an expression of our commitment to non-violence. Bring on the meatless potlucks!

  9. Lovely article. Thank you!

    You don’t mention B12, which the Vegan Society says must be added to a vegetarian/vegan diet because it isn’t found in plants.

    1. Yea B12 is an interesting topic and I don’t feel I know enough about it to give a comprehensive opinion. My understanding is that (a) Human stores last for several years and thus we only need a very small amount in our diet (b) In modern society it is only found in animal products and all vegans (& vegetarians) should therefore be mindful of this nutrient and (c) perhaps if society had more organic farming with animal faeces/microbacteria in the soil we may be able to increase our dietary intake without eating animal products. I’m not 100% sure about that last part – it requires some looking into!

  10. Some food for thought…
    “Say: O concourse of priests and monks! Eat ye of that which God hath made lawful unto you and do not shun meat. God hath, as a token of His grace, granted you leave to partake thereof save during a brief period. He, verily, is the Mighty, the Beneficent. ”
    http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/b/SLH/slh-6.html

    “Reflect upon the inner realities of the universe, the secret wisdoms involved, the enigmas, the inter-relationships, the rules that govern all. For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening whatever. In the physical realm of creation, all things are eaters and eaten: the plant drinketh in the mineral, the animal doth crop and swallow down the plant, man doth feed upon the animal, and the mineral devoureth the body of man. Physical bodies are transferred past one barrier after another, from one life to another, and all things are subject to transformation and change, save only the essence of existence itself—since it is constant and immutable, and upon it is founded the life of every species and kind, of every contingent reality throughout the whole of creation.”
    http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/ab/SAB/sab-138.html

  11. I am happy to have come across this article and blog. Readers of this blog may also want to look at a compilation of Baha’i writings on Food and Nutrition posted on the site of the International Environmental Forum, a Baha’i-inspired organization, http://iefworld.org/cmpfood.html . I am working to advance veganism from a perspective that is important but often ignored. I’ve written a book titled, Low Fee Vegan Investing, and am working to advance a number of Baha’i themes via the area of sustainable investing.

  12. I have always felt that when this particular issue is brought forth a clear division is drawn and the conversationalists tend to take sides. It is not my intention to be a part of that but I do feel strongly that I must voice my opinion on this subject.
    I believe that Abdu’l-Baha refers to this happening in the future not merely to be kind but because there are many more implications and levels of development that need to happen before we arrive at a stage where we no longer consume meat on a regular basis.
    We have schools of thought that claim that different blood types require different diets and that as we evolve as a species those ancient blood types which require a meat based diet will be replaced by the newer blood types that flourish on plant based diets. Of course that will happen over time or as Abdu’l-Baha says, in the future.
    In the future is not now. In the future is in the future. Now… there are peoples that live in regions of the world that cannot live on plant based diets as they have no access to plants nor have they for as long as they have recorded their history. They survive on an animal based diet and when plants are introduced to their systems they become seriously ill. They have no digestive enzymes to break down plants and grains.
    Now… there are many people suffering from chronic illness who require good sources of protein which is why Abdu’l-Baha says, ” So if thy constitution is rather weak and thou findest meat useful, thou mayest eat it.” If it was so bad for us then why is it good for those who are ill? Could it be that only when we are in good health and strong can our bodies make full use of a plant based diet which requires far more energy to extract and utilize the nutrients? “Meat is nourishing”, says Abdu’l-Baha.
    If one chooses to eat a plant based diet and feels healthy doing so that is one’s choice and I applaud them. I personally feel that all of the directives and laws that are applicable for today are enough for me to grapple with and will keep me busy working on myself for a lifetime. I would rather not tackle something that is clearly meant for the future.

    1. Hi Reissa,
      I understand your viewpoint about perhaps this diet being more suitable for the future. I think that all things start somewhere though and it will be a slow process over many decades/centuries before humanity moves as a majority towards a diet espoused by Abdu’l-Baha. I think there is a lot to be gained personally for those individuals who want to help that movement forward today.

      Of course, as I mentioned in my article and as you mention too, there are some individuals where a vegan/vegetarian diet may not be suitable because of their personal chronic disease. I do though believe that a significant proportion of chronic disease can be prevented by lifestyle changes and perhaps the future generations could benefit from some role models here and now 🙂 Prevention is far more effective than treatment.

      1. Anis,

        I so agree that prevention is much more effective than treatment. There are so many variables in prevention with diet being one of them.
        I hope we can tackle the environmental damage first so that when we grow our plants and grains they are healthy to consume.
        Reissa

  13. Thank you Anis for clarity in sharing principles that can guide individuals and society in finding a suitable diet that promotes health and well being. Good food for thought !

  14. Thank you Anis for this Article. Having been diagnosed with Gout I’ve been trying to transition to a vegetarian diet for some time. As everyone knows this is hard specially in a Persian family and Persian cuisine 🙂 However I thought I would share my experience, which brought to light for me Abdu’l-Baha’s writings as mentioned in your article.

    I have gradually reduced my meat intake significantly, although I do indulge from time to time especially in a Baha’i potluck events. The fesenjoons are hard to resist 🙂 However over time I’ve noticed that I’m using my Gout medicine less and less. In consultation with my doctor at last check up we decided to just control my gout with diet alone and see how it goes. My doctor also suggested to also switch some of my meals to fresh uncooked food, e.g.: Salads. It’s early days yet but I haven’t had a Gout attack for several months. I am not sure if I am able to cut meat entirely from my diet, however with more fresh fruit and vegetables I am feeling better. Next is for me to do more exercise 😉

    1. Hi Masoud,
      Thanks for sharing your personal story. Gout is a great example of a preventable disease which is becoming increasingly common in Western society. Its great to hear that you have had a good outcome thus far with dietary changes. I’m sure that its not just your Gout which will benefit in the long run 🙂

  15. Thank you Anis for such an excellently written and balanced post that provokes both thought and discussion. The issue of vegetarianism and veganism seems to re-emerge whenever the topic of diet and the Baha’i Faith is broached. It is my understanding that we should, as Bahá’ís, avoid the two extremes of (1) promoting such treatment of livestock that not presents health risks but also represents cruelty to animals, and (2) introducing our own dietary rules and laws applicable to everyone, even to the extent of imposing them to others, which clearly are not established divine laws under Bahá’u’lláh’s revelation.

    In numerous passages ‘Abdu’l-Bahá exhorts extreme kindness to animals, especially those that have sensations and feelings — a kindness that should surpass even that shown to people due to the greater innocence of animals. On the other hand, Bahá’u’lláh asks the monks not to “shun meat” with their own man-made laws as it is regarded lawful in His revelation.

    My sense from these passages is that man should, if possible, develop a mostly vegetarian diet whilst he should not make it into a fanatic dogma. He should not be impolite and reject meat when offered by generous hosts, or when there’s no other choice in terms of health and survival. Nor should he think of vegetarianism as some sort of an absolute maxim the religious observance of which somehow spiritually exalts the person above others that are deemed cruel to animals. The monks were criticized by Bahá’u’lláh for concocting their own laws and rules (absolute vegetarianism) when God clearly hasn’t forbidden meat-consumption. It is clear from these passages that mankind will be, by and large, vegetarian in the future. Yet, as a meaningful remnant of ancient religious tradition, special livestock might still be on rare occasions sacrificed in a prayerful and dignified spirit to be consumed in dire need or on very special occasions? Or maybe not. But if so, the animal would be treated well and prayerfully sacrificed at a mature age.

    In conclusion, the Bahá’í perspective could be summed up in one word: balanced. All that we really need to know on the subject of vegetarianism is recapitulated in the following two sentences:

    ‘”Abdu’l-Bahá has indicated that in the future human beings will be vegetarians, but abstention from eating meat is not a law of this Dispensation. The laws of God are attuned to the needs and possibilities of each age.” (The Universal House of Justice, 16 December 1998, “Traditional practices in Africa”)

    This elucidation by the House of Justice that vegetarianism is not a “law in this Dispensation” kind of seals the matter for us in this day and age. To treat vegetarianism as divine law for everyone is therefore, in my personal opinion, getting ahead of ourselves. As a personal choice, we’re more than free to opt for veganism and vegetarianism.

    1. Hi Sam,
      Thanks for your well-written comment. I agree with your sentiments regarding moderation and there is certainly no law requiring abstinence. Moderation, or “balanced” as you put it, is often a good solution to most problems 🙂

      I do though wonder whether our (society) sense of “the middle” or what a “balanced” diet is has been skewed by the last couple of centuries during which the common Western diet has become more and more unbalanced (if that makes sense). It can be hard to remember where the middle is when you have been living more and more in an extreme.

  16. I liked Dr Anis article sharing with us Baha’i views on future of food for all. I do feel this is very personal and controversial both from the point of view of eastern and western philosophies and nevertheless all the viewpoints to be discussed and put forward especially from the point of medicine and sustainability. I think when Abdu’l Baha stated food for the future human beings would be essentially of grains and fruits from the point that that human beings are more suited to the vegetarian diet because of the construct of their digestive system starting from teeth onward and length of intestine, enzymes etc. It is more easily digestible, would be more easily available in most part of the world in the future and even now than it was centuries ago. Also in the animal kingdom either they are carnivores or herbivores like human being they are not both, however there are few exceptions to it. It would also be costly in future to produce meat due to, increasing population, climate change, pressure on land mass, water shortage etc.
    I aspire to be a full vegetarian one day. I also see from cruelty point towards animal kingdom, though this is my own view and perhaps of many others who are totally vegetarian and adhere to the practice of non-violence. This is true and inclusive of farm animals like poultry, sea food, cows, sheep, goats, buffaloes etc. that all these show signs of both emotional and physical pain when taken to slaughter house. Any creature which has power to move, fly or swim has elevated level of sensitivities or emotions involved with them while being killed for human consumption. This is true for animals preying each other for their own survival but this is not so for human beings any more as they have clear choice to be least cruel towards their fellow/lower evolutionary in chain animal kingdom. There is no denying the fact that human beings are more evolved than animals and some feel more pain than others while inflicting injury to any one and especially to animals. Many have firm belief in this dictum that true peace on this earth cannot be established until animal cruelty is stopped completely. As according to them what we eat has far more impact on our conscious body, mind, and spirit and as a result corresponding actions. Plants are living beings too and are not that they lack sensitivities or level of emotions. This is so especially when plucked or harvested untimely, various plants show signs of stress by the way shedding their watery fluid but that is at very base level of sensibilities than animals and plants do not have movements of their own, however they have potential to grow, regrow and decay like animals. On biouslu it would be very insensitive and wasteful exercise if we destroy growing plants before they reach their full potential or ripe enough for eating/storage like vegies, grain and fruits from trees.
    Edible plants by far serve the best needs of human beings in terms of balanced diet and mankind must do its best to nurture/cultivate its various varieties i.e. herbs, grains, fruits and safeguard its variety of seeds suited to various regions and climates for their present and future food security. I am sure modern science is taking care of it, however there has been growing concern that quality seeds are getting into the hands of corporate world with a view to exploit more profit by creating artificial shortages in the developing countries. Plants do deserve best of nutrients in the form of organic waste with plenty of moisture/water resources. In my view vegetarianism would safeguard the plant, animal kingdom, diversity on planet earth and its very limited resources. The future of food production lies with organic farming and not of animal farming and inorganic crops farming to sustain mankind.
    I fully agree with our True Exemplar Abdu’l Baha when he states:
    “Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy.”
    I have seen many accomplished people who are total vegetarian with their intellect very sharp, physically, mentally very alert and bright. They live very productive life. And they have not only been vegetarian but their father, forefathers not for centuries but for thousands years of their generations have been on vegetarian diet. I am not saying that do not succumb to their sickness however as long as they live, they live by and large perfect life. I can tell from experience that I was a vegetarian till my age of achieving 25 years and I used to be very active and light weight.

  17. Thanks, Dr. Anis, for your informative article. FYI, I have been on a vegetarian diet for over 50 years of my life. I must categorically states that the Baha’i Writings have not only guided and inspired me throughout my journey to living a disease-free life but also profoundly enlightened me with regard to a number of confusing situations, issues and controversies with regard to health and healing amidst the myriad of views and recommendations by physicians, healers and several interested individuals. If anyone is keen to explore further this vital subject, I shall be only too happy to share with whatever I have learned and discovered, based on my personal research, observation, experiments, practices and experiences, I can be reached at [email protected] or Facebook. Just to add, the view held by some that the ‘food of the future’ as stated by Abdu’l-Baha is meant for some far distant future, may need to re-look at this viewpoint, for there is a saying THE FUTURE STARTS NOW, just as the future World Order of Baha’u’llah will not suddenly appear out of the blue in the distant future but had started ever since Abdu’l-Baha began His epic journey to the West followed by all the global plans that the Guardian and Universal House of Justice have given us till today to eventually establish that Kingdom of God on earth. That is to say, a ‘future’ must always start as soon as one know and learn about it and can do something to eventually make it happen. Salute!

  18. The Bahá’í teachings provide a glimpse of the future world of
    humanity, in which mankind will have, believe in and accept a just
    world government, universal public education, the elimination of
    racial and religious wars, the elimination of extreme poverty, the
    equality of women and men, and the elimination of disease … to
    list just a few.
    At the present time, humanity does not have, believe in or accept
    all of the above. But it is evident that Bahá’ís and like-minded
    individuals and organizations the world over believe and accept
    these ideals, and furthermore would not do anything to impede the
    realization of these future goals. In fact, you could say that
    Bahá’ís and other like-minded people are working towards them
    wholeheartedly whenever and however possible right now. A true
    Bahá’í would probably not say ‘I don’t think I’ll support equality,
    because that is meant for the future…and this is not the future’.
    `Abdu’l-Bahá paints many specific landscapes of a future world.
    Here is one of these:
    The food of the future will be fruit and grains. The time will
    come when meat will no longer be eaten. Medical science is
    only in its infancy, yet it has shown that our natural food is that
    which grows out of the ground.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, from Bahá’u’lláh and
    the New Era, page 102)
    I have observed with curiosity that even though `Abdu’l-Bahá
    states all mankind will eat a plant-based diet in the future, almost
    bluntly and precisely, the majority of Bahá’ís I have met seem to
    say ‘I eat meat, because that statement is meant for the future…
    and this is not the future’.
    So when, may I ask, is ‘the future’? To bygone champions, those
    who have contributed to make ‘future truths’ a current reality, such
    as the abolition of slavery, or the assertion of the deadly effects of
    cigarette smoking, I am grateful.
    That logic (or justification) that eating meat is okay because this is
    not ‘the future, yet’, doesn’t make sense to me, for several
    reasons, but it is understandable, because people are very
    habituated in the eating of meat, and may use any validation for its
    continuance…such as the unscientific statement that eating meat
    is the only way to obtain indispensable protein – a statement which
    can easily be disproven by the strongest mammals on earth…all
    plant-based eaters….elephants, camels, rhinoceroses, cattle. But
    habits are stronger than science and much harder to change.
    Or I have heard it expressed by sincerely well-intentioned Bahá’ís,
    that since meat-eating is not ‘forbidden’ as Bahá’ís, we may as
    well help ourselves.
    Would you consider for a moment the term ‘forbidden’?
    Here’s an absurd but candid consideration I will put forward. It is
    not strictly ‘forbidden’ to believe slavery is okay. Yes, the practice
    of slavery is forbidden, but not necessarily the belief that slavery is
    okay, absurd as that sounds. You can say, for instance, at any
    Feast consultation that you believe slavery is okay, and you will
    not suffer any administrative sanctions. You may lose friends, but
    not your voting rights. You may however expect a home visit from
    an Auxiliary Board member to lovingly counsel you.
    My point is, just because something is not forbidden by Bahá’í
    administration, does not give one a green light to vaunt one’s
    belief, assert its acceptable practice, parade or flaunt the belief in
    the practice. If anything, one might consider if `Abdu’l-Bahá has
    announced something as being true for the future, then, if you
    can’t abide by it now, you could perhaps at least pray for your own
    transformation.
    Slavery was acceptable in the Western world until just 150 years
    ago. Now the ‘future’ of that era is here, thank God, and slavery
    has been abolished. If I dare to compare the practice of meateating
    with the practice of slavery (or any practice that was
    acceptable in bygone generations) you may see that with the
    education of humanity, not only has the practice become
    unacceptable, but even the belief in the tolerance of such a
    practice is unacceptable in a civilized world.
    I have not, in this short article, even begun to express an abundant
    array of points about kindness vs cruelty towards animals, the
    medical science available about the linkage of meat eating to
    numerous diseases, the environmental devastation caused by
    overbreeding, or the economic advantages of a plant-based
    civilization. For those interested in this vast and ever-illuminating
    topic, I can recommend reading a comprehensive and coherent
    book entitled ‘Eating Animals’ by Jonathan Safran Foer, to name
    one, or to watch a fantastic documentary entitled ‘Forks Over
    Knives’.
    My overall suggestion, considering the particular theme of a ‘future
    world’ is simply this; if one believes `Abdu’l-Bahá is telling the truth
    about humanity becoming plant-based eaters in the future, then
    why not simply add this to a list of truths about the future and
    wholeheartedly work towards all future ideals now – just as one
    does for true equality and world peace.

  19. What a great, and controversial, topic!

    As Baha’is we are taught that religion and science go together. With that in mind…

    Yes Abdu’l-Baha indicates that people will eat primarily “fruit and grains”, however, more and more people these days are developing things such as gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, something that was almost unheard of a decade or two ago. I personally know at least three people who have been confirmed/diagnosed as celiac (it landed two of them in hospital). Fruit can be an issue for many people with diabetes.

    Most people who switch to a vegetarian diet get healthier initially because they have dramatically improved their intake of fruits and vegetables. However, if they don’t educate themselves about what to eat they may not stay healthy. Vitamin B12 is an issue, and so is making sure you get a combination of protein sources (so you get all the essential amino acids). There are many plants that contain protein, but variety is needed to get all the amino acids that are needed for good health. Even then it’s not always enough – I know someone who was vegan for many years who finally had to go back to eating small amounts of meat and fish in order to restore their health.

    Then there is the issue of there being more enzyme steps to go through for the human body to use omega 3s from plant sources versus animal sources.

    People tend to do better when they eat a diet that is more in keeping with their heritage. This may be where the idea of eating for your blood type may come from since blood types are also passed down within families. If you’re from a long line of vegetarians you’ll likely do well on a vegetarian diet. I recollect a study done on a group of Aboriginal people in North America who went back to eating their traditional diet (wild game, fish, nuts, fruits, vegetables) with the result being that there was a dramatic improvement in health. People who come from cultures who didn’t use milk tend not to be able to handle milk (lacking the enzymes to deal with it), while people from a long line of milk consumers tend to do well with it.

    I’ve had clients who have trouble digesting vegetables, especially raw ones, and so they get instructed in ways to make them more easily digestible (among other things) while remaining palatable.

    As you can probably tell from these examples, evolution, and health status, plays an important role here. It will take time for everyone to evolve to be able to eat such a diet as Abdu’l-Baha speaks of.

    Then there is the importance of the human microbiome which is demonstrating again and again it’s importance in good health and in quite a diversity of diseases. The food we eat, including fermented food (which seems to be much reduced since the advent of refrigeration) is extremely important to our health.

    This however doesn’t even address our modern farming practices that depletes soil, reducing the possible nutrients found in crops grown in that soil, and has resulted in meat and eggs that lacks the omega 3s that similar wild animals still have (I wonder if that happens with farmed fish too), or GMO foods, i.e. the GMO apple recently approved in British Columbia, Canada, that doesn’t turn brown when cut, which (to me) indicates a missing enzyme and therefore a potential extra load on human digestion when consuming it (my own theory). I remember a study on GMO corn that resulted in organ damage in the rats that were being studied. This makes it hard to eat healthy when so much of the “healthy” food is also becoming bad for us.

    All that said, most of us would probably benefit from changing how we approach meal making. Rather than making the meat the main dish and considering the salad/vegetables as the side dish it should be the other way around. The vegetables and fruits need to be the main part of the meal.

  20. Dear Anis:
    Thank you for this most interesting article. As one who is interested in everything Papuan I found it fascinating that you say that that the highlanders are mostly vegetarian and are very strong. I have never been to Papua (but I hope to) and I was under the impression that the people there love to eat pigs. Since you have lived there you must know about this and I imagine that the highlanders only eat pig meat from time to time at special celebrations. Is this correct. I do NOT eat pig meat myself and was concerned about how I might deal with this when I visit Papuan Highlands. One thing I can say for sure: those guys really know how to dress!

  21. I find it interesting that nearly all articles on this subject quote the Writings that say, essentially, that there is no prohibition to eating eat — and indeed that meat has curative powers — and then launch on a vegetarian agenda. Cows (ruminants) are going to save this planet from both a nutritional and environmental standpoint. The ignorance expressed about fundamental agricultural and environmental principles is astounding when it comes to this question. Yes: We can get by on veggies and grains. But when carbohydrates become too central to our diets they can lead to chronic diseases of all kinds. Meat and other animal products can be a pathway back to health. Meat can be raised ethically. Let’s not vilify a food that, in THIS age, is OK to produce and consume. Please.

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