Does spirituality go hand-in-hand with not eating animals?

I’ve seen it happen a lot. Formerly meat-eating people have spiritual awakenings and find themselves becoming more and more averse to eating meat. They start to feel quite literally disgusted by the idea of eating a dead animal even though previously meat was a staple in their diet. So why does this happen, and does spirituality really thrive when accompanied by a plant-based diet?

In order to answer this question, we first have to delve into what actually happens to a person when they have a spiritual awakening. The main epiphany, if you will, is usually the realization that we are all connected – and not just to each other as humans, but to every single thing on the planet and in the universe, sentient or insentient. The cow, the tree, the rock, the table, the fork, the stars, the moon: we are all one and the same. To experience a spiritual awakening is to become aware of and connected to the great spirit or universal energy that is in us and part of us all.

Once this mind-blowing concept is accepted, it becomes harder and harder to ignore that animals suffer for the benefit of our taste buds. “How can I be responsible for the killing of something that I am so closely connected with?” is a question that may go through people’s minds.

Animal remains. ©Angela Jelita

Experiencing the shift

Kerry Shirtliff is a 34-year-old meat-eating South African who has recently experienced a spiritual awakening. This shift in her consciousness is resulting in a desire to eat less meat, and she has now cut out all meats from her diet except for chicken.

“In the past, every time I’ve gotten food poisoning it’s been from a meat product,” she tells me. “Lately, in the past few months as I learn about the energy and vibrations we take in and the souls of all beings, I feel like I can barely eat meat anymore.”

When people experience an awakening, often they feel much more drawn to animals or notice that animals become more drawn to them. Animals have not evolved as we have, still very much relying on their intuition, without the often crippling ability to over-analyze and overthink things as we human beings have become accustomed to doing. Animals are very much in tune with the universal energy and can sense subtle shifts in energy bodies.  

Kerry has always felt a compassion for animals, but since her spiritual journey began, this feeling has heightened. “I’ve always felt empathy for animals, but now I’m more aware of it and it makes me feel very sad to see them suffer,” she shares.  

When asked if she can foresee see herself eliminating meat completely from her diet, Kerry said she could. Over the past few months she has been slowly cutting out various types of meat like pork and lamb and feels she will eventually stop eating chicken as well.

For others, the awakening was experienced much earlier on in life. Danielle de Souza is a 31-year-old self-proclaimed food lover hailing from South Africa. This mother of two and owner of Dear Georgia organic children’s clothing rejected her generally meat-eating Afrikaans diet and eventually all animal products by the age of 24.

“I stopped eating red meat at 19 and just ate white meat and dairy, which felt natural because I wasn’t a big meat eater – unusual in the Afrikaans community,” she tells me. Danielle was raised by a meat-eating father and a vegetarian mother, and had a grandmother who was vegan in the ‘60s, “so these concepts weren’t strange to me.”

Danielle de Souza is a plant-based mother raising two healthy vegan children. She experienced a spiritual shift when she stopped consuming animal products. ©Danielle de Souza.

In 2010 Danielle had a life-changing experience when backpacking in Thailand. “I went to Thailand with friends and walked through a fish market. It hit me that they were all fish that used to be alive. The energy of that place was too much for me,” she shares, “and I stopped eating fish entirely after that.”

The turning point to going completely plant-based happened two years after her trip to Thailand when Danielle watched the documentary Earthlings. “I was looking for something to convince me in a way, and after watching that documentary, that was the end of that. I remember feeling all those things you feel as an early vegan: anger and disillusionment about life.”

Danielle felt like everything she knew to be true had been a lie and went on a complete cleanse of her earthly possessions. “I opened my cupboards and cabinets, took a big refuse bag, and started chucking nail polish, shampoos – anything containing animal products. The energy I associated with it was overwhelming.”

For Danielle, the spiritual shift was a direct result of eliminating meat from her diet. “I felt like the brain fog cleared. I was a new person. It’s impacted how I see the world, animals, people, and created a lot more open-mindedness around the value of life. I feel more in touch with nature when I’m not consuming beings that didn’t want to be consumed,” she shares.

Health benefits

Both Danielle and Kerry have noticed positive impacts not only in their spiritual lives, but also their health. As a child, Danielle had a lot of digestive issues, which people assumed was linked to the consumption of wheat. As soon as she stopped eating dairy, all of it disappeared. “I’ve had no digestive issues since,” she says. “And I eat a lot of wheat!”

The positive physical aspects of not eating meat is echoed by Kerry. She attributes feeling lighter after meals to her new way of eating and is starting to explore alternatives she most likely would never have thought of trying prior to her awakening. “I don’t feel heavy after meals anymore,” she shares. “I’m also trying out new things like delicious vegan curries and cashew nut cheeses.”

Managing cravings

When asked if she ever misses meat, Danielle admits to missing the taste sometimes, and shares an experience of a powerful craving. “I experienced an intense and overwhelming seafood craving when I was pregnant with my son – it was like an out of body experience,” she says. Refusing to give in to the craving, Danielle quickly went to the supermarket and bought nori sheets which satisfied the urge immediately.

Danielle pregnant with her second child. ©Danielle de Souza.

In most cases, the feeling of a ‘craving’ for meat is your body’s way of indicating a lack of a specific nutrient. Nutrition in nori is actually comparable to that of several animal products, and several nutrients can be found in this red algae that aren’t commonly found in fruits, vegetables or grains. Danielle’s body was probably in need of healthy omega-3 fats like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), which are usually easy to obtain from fish or shellfish and it was presenting itself as a seafood craving. Nori and other types of seaweed are the only plant-based sources of EPA.

“It frustrates me when I see someone who I know is enlightened or super intelligent eating meat,” Danielle admits. “I live with a meat eater, so I’ve learned to control my outward emotions around it, but I can’t deny that it has an impact on me. I now associate meat with blood and fear, and it stirs huge emotions inside me.”

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