Why haven’t scientists found substitute for meat?

Why haven’t scientists found substitute for meat?
Anil Kapoor wore a suit and tie, Chetan Bhagat a formal jacket and Pritish Nandy donned a stiff bandi over his kurta and chudidar. The Dalai Lama wore a baseball cap.

“I suppose,” he said, “The photographers want me to remove my cap. But this is World Compassion Day, and we should have compassion for humans too.” Then the Dalai Lama, one of the world’s most revered people broke out into his trademark laugh. Which actually went “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha”, as if he had seen it written down somewhere, and then learnt to laugh.

Indeed it was World Comp­assion Day, for the first time being celebrated in India, and the Dalai Lama was seeking compassion for his eyes. “All these camera flashlights! And the stage spotlights! They are bad for my eyes. So my doctor said, ‘Wear a cap so I wear this.” You could argue that he could find more appropriate headgear, something that would complement his Tibetan monk’s saffron robes, but then this Dalai Lama wouldn’t be the Dalai Lama he is. (He knows it too: he quoted Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu once admonishing him: “You are the Dalai Lama. You should act more holy. But I can’t act holy. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”)

We should be grateful for that. Which religious figure would crack jokes at his own expense? The Dalai Lama did, saying: “Years ago – and I am telling you this because I just remembered the story – I turned completely yellow. I became the living Buddha! Unfortunately, it was soon established that my new colour was not due to my spirituality, but jaundice. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”

When you think about it, the Dalai Lama is not the only holy man who laughs a lot. Maha­rishi Mahesh Yogi had his famous giggle, and I have heard Sri Sri Ravi Shankar laugh for no reason at all. Perhaps when you reach a spiritually exalted plane, you see the absurdity of life and can only laugh at it. Or perhaps, you see the funny side of so many people listening to you in hushed silence when you have nothing special to say.

World Compassion Day turn­ed out to be a platform to promote vegetarianism and outlaw cruelty to animals. Of the latter, there can be no dispute. Animals are treated appallingly all over the world, and particularly in India where we worship cow, but do not necessarily look after her. Horse-carriage owners starve their horses to the bone, live hens are transported on bikes, tied together upside down, our abattoirs are a disgrace.

The Dalai Lama thought of becoming a vegetarian when a few years ago he saw how hens were treated before they were brought to the dining table as chicken curry. Paul McCartney of the Beatles famously turned vegetarian when on a holiday, he saw lambs gambolling around in a meadow near his hotel. “We are going to eat these?” he said to his wife Linda. And both promptly became vegetarian. This just shows that people who eat meat, continue to do so only because they do not think about it. Or to put it more accurately, stop themselves from thinking about the source of what they are about to put in their months. When you are born a non-vegetarian, it is very difficult to give up. Ask me, I have tried.

With all the advances in science and food technology, why haven’t they found substitutes for meat? Why can’t we have something manmade in the lab with the taste and protein content of beef or mutton or chicken? We could then all feel virtuous, and still enjoy our meals.

By the way, I am not sure the Dalai Lama, in spite of his obvious sense of compassion and kindness, was the right person on the stage for this event. “I am a non-vegetarian again,” he confessed out of the blue towards the end of his speech, “That’s because a Buddhist monk goes with a begging bowl, and he has to eat what he gets.” Oh, right. And in a riposte to Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh, who instead of asking a question, decided to trot out homilies, the Dalai Lama said, “Vegetarians are not necessarily more compassionate people. Did you know Hitler was a vegetarian?”

Yes, I did know that. I also know that Hitler loved dogs.

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