Three Flavors of Compassion: Self, Others and Environment
10 Jun 2017
People are drawn to plant-based diets for three reasons: compassion for self, compassion for others and compassion for the environment. Taken together, these three constitute the entirety of our existence :) No matter which of these happens to be the initial motivator, people tend to extend compassion to all three over time.
Compassion for Self

Clinical trials by Dr Dean Ornish, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn and Dr Neal Barnard have demonstrated that plant based diets are excellent for preventing heart disease, obesity and diabetes. For details, see Is 0% Heart Disease Possible? Yes! and Can Diabetes Be Reversed? Yeah!.

  1. Since 2010, Medicare has covered the The Ornish Reversal Program by Dr Dean Ornish.
  2. Kaiser Permanente endorses Plant Based Diets. Here is a booklet from 2017. For technical reading, here are two articles:

    1. Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, Permanente Journal, 2013. With the publication of this article, Kaiser physicians could start advocating plant-based diets to patients. This was a landmark event: for the first time in history, a major healthcare provider had endorsed plant-based diets to everybody!
    2. Plant Based Diets: A Physician's Guide, Permanente Journal, 2016
  3. South Asian Heart Center in Mountain View, California is a non-profit that is spreading awareness of plant based diets among the South Asian community. The incidence of heart disease among the South Asians is four times the rate in the overall US population.

If you browse through the videos and articles in Plant-Based Super Athletes, you will notice that athletes report faster recovery from workout-related fatigue and inflammation after switching to a plant-based diet. They also report mental changes: athletes feel 'lighter and brighter', they feel 'clear headed' and report having more energy during the day.

Compassion for Others

Some people are drawn to plant based diets out of compassion for other sentient beings. Diet For A New America (2nd Edition, 464 pages, 2012) by John Robbins brought this awareness into the the public conscience. The first edition of this book was published in 1987 and was a bestseller.

In recent times, Gary Yourofsky has attempted to spread awareness with his hard hitting speeches and tv interviews. Gary is doing a great job spreading awareness. However, he expresses vitriolic anger towards the meat eating human population. Instead, if he were to exude compassion for everybody, his message would touch many more hearts.

Melanie Joy gives insightful talks to kindle compassion for animals. She has studied the psychology of animal eating.

  1. TED Talk: Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices (19 mins, 2015).
  2. The Secret Reason We Eat Meat (18 mins, 2015).

Several other videos encourage us to question our food choices. A couple of videos by "Mic the Vegan" are thought-provoking: Carnism: Do You Love Animals? (Not Graphic) (3 mins, 2015) and Why Good People Eat Bad Things (8 mins, 2016).

A couple of documentaries that have familiarize people with the plight of farmed animals: Food Inc (91 mins, 2009), Earthlings (95 mins, 2010) and Meat the Truth (YouTube, 72 mins, 2010)

Compassion for Environment

The number one contributor to green house emissions is animal farming. Many people are drawn to plant-based diets out of compassion for the environment. They are keen to leave a happier planet for future generations. Here are some articles on this subject:

  1. Analysis and Valuation of the Health and Climate Change Cobenefits of Dietary Change, Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, Vol 113, No 5, pages 4146-4151, April 2016. A news report covering this study: The profound planetary consequences of eating less meat (Washington Post, March 2016).
  2. Sustainability of Meat-based and Plant-based Diets and the Environment by David Pimentel and Marcia Pimentel, American J of Clinical Nutrition, Vol 78, No 3, pages 660S-663S, 2003.
  3. China is encouraging its citizens to eat meat less — and that could be a big win for the climate (Washington Post, 2016). Similar article in The Guardian (2016).


By adopting a plant-based diet, we exude compassion towards ourselves, towards other sentient beings and towards the environment.

© Copyright 2008—2018, Gurmeet Manku.