One of the topics that I hear a lot from sikh youth these days questions the concept of meat. There are a few general questions that always come up:
- Why can't we eat meat?
- Plants are living too, why can we eat them?
- What about eggs? What about fish? Insects? Mushrooms?
So why can't we eat meat?
As raj_karega_khalsa put it: "We dont refrain from eating meat for 'non-violent' reasons or something or because something is being killed. We refrain from eating meat for merciful reasons." Its wrong to cause pain. Simple. As much as we can try, all animals suffer when they are put down, especially in our modern slaughter house facilities. The halal preparation of meat is especially prone to causing pain. Killing a cow is just as bad as a chicken, a pig, or anything else that we term as "edible".
So the answer is simple: As a vegetarian, I don't eat anything with a nervous system. Why? Because the nervous system allows an animal/person to feel pain. Its the beginnings of consciousness. So cows? They can feel pain. Insects? They can feel pain too. Fish? Same thing. Celery? No nervous system, so bring it on!
This is important also because fungi, which are evolutionarily closer to animals than plants, are usually considered a vegetarian product for this very same reason.
But can't plants feel pain?
Plants can react to stimuli (like light, heat, etc.), but they can't feel pain, because they don't have nerves (which pick up pain signals) or a 'brain' (that can process those signals). Others reasons that people give for vegetarianism, saying that fruits and vegetables can regenerate are simply not true as things like carrots, yams, radishes, when eaten, destroy the plant.
So again, its a common-sense model of sikhi: mercy is a fundamental concept that is enshrined in sikhi, from our concept of vegetarianism to our kirpan which means literally "to allow mercy".
Once again, please note that these are my personal views, I may be right, I may be wrong. :)