Vegetarianism has a long history dating back to the early days of civilization.
Particularly in India, the idea of "Ahimsa" (non-violence) was a basic tenet of human society. Animals were respected and protected; kings were known as the protectors of the people and the animals.
Ahimsa is also a term used to describe the traditional (non-violent) vegetarian diet of ancient India that was taught by Lord Buddha and many other spiritual teachers and scriptures. In the Bhagavad Gita (16.1-3), an ancient Hindu text, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, “Ahimsa is a quality belonging to godly men endowed with divine nature.” Buddhists have always condemned the killing of living beings. Ahimsa is the first of 5 precepts of morality taught in Buddhism.
Christianity and Judaism have passages about nonviolence towards animals in their scripture. In Hebrews 10.5-10, it says one of Lord Jesus’ missions was to do away with cruelty to animals and the practice of animal sacrifice. One of the Ten Commandments, is perhaps the clearest ways to express the idea of ahimsa, “Thou shalt not kill”. Have you ever noticed it doesn't say "Thou shalt not kill man" or "Thou shalt not murder"?
One doesn’t have to be a follower of any particular religion to believe in ahimsa or to practice ahimsa. Anyone who is a vegetarian is actually practicing ahimsa, because ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things. More recently, Mahatma Gandhi was a great exponent of ahimsa, saying, “The way to truth lies through ahimsa.” Non-Violence doesn't mean you don't stand up to defend those in need. It is about not taking advantage of those who can't defend themselves.
Unfortunately, today, animals are not respected or protected at all by governments and the ugly truth of the meat industry is hidden from our eyes. Evidence is seen in the age of factory farms, which emerged only 50 or 60 years ago. Animals on factory farms are subject to cruel and inhumane treatment ending in gruesome and violent slaughter.
To treat the land with respect, to farm sustainably and organically; to produce foods that are beneficial for people and don’t harm them; to be kind to animals and all living beings, to not eat them: this is ahimsa