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Why Aren't Bahá'ís Vegetarian ?
I have been asked whether the Bahá'í Faith has dietary guidelines or restrictions, because there are so many different kinds of people who are Bahá'ís. They come from many cultural and regional backgrounds, not to mention medical and philosophical biases.
The short answer is no, Bahá'ís can eat any food. Vegetarianism has been recommended as being the most natural food for mankind, and that in the future, when the study of diet and nutrition is more advanced, everybody will become vegetarians. At present, however, Bahá'ís are free to be vegetarian or not, as long as they don't push personal preferences upon others. "...the believers should be conscious of the two principles of moderation and courtesy in the way they express their opinions and in deciding whether they should refuse food offered to them or request special food." - Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 297
The basic theology of the Bahá'í Faith is that there is only one God and one human family inhabiting this planet, guided by a single religion revealed in chapters over time. Each chapter has a different name, a chosen Voice--or Manifestation of God--and a body of teachings which reiterates the same spiritual core and provides laws and precepts that match human understanding at the time of that revelation.
Bahá'ís are followers of Bahá'u'lláh, Whom they believe to be the Teacher for this point in human history, and one of His titles is Divine Physician. He teaches that the science of medicine and the art of healing must be developed in this age. 'Abdu'l-Bahá, His son and appointed interpreter, has stated that medicine will become so perfected in the future that most diseases will be treated with foods, herbs and natural remedies.
Bahá'u'lláh's main mission is to educate mankind to its true, spiritual nature and to unify the world's peoples into one human family. Even so, His teachings do give some guidance on matters of food and health, diet and hygiene. He advocates medical treatment when it is necessary, but recommends first treating the patient nutritionally. In the [Tablet of Medicine] He gives some basic prescriptions for good health and a little dietary advice. Contentment under all circumstances is stressed as important of for health, as grief and sorrow cause the greatest misery, and there is a warning that jealousy will consume the body and anger will burn the liver.
"In matters of diet, as in medicine, the Universal House of Justice [the International governing body of the Bahá'í Faith] feels that...it must be clearly understood that no specific school of nutrition or medicine has been associated with the Bahá'í teachings. What we have are certain guidelines, indications and principles which will be carefully studied by experts and will, in the years ahead, undoubtedly prove to be invaluable sources of guidance and inspiration in the development of these medical sciences. Moreover,...'It is premature to try and elaborate on the few general references to health and medicine made in our Holy Scriptures.' The believers must guard against seizing upon any particular text which may appeal to them....there is nothing in the teachings about whether people should eat their food cooked or raw; exercise or not exercise; resort to specific therapies or not; nor is it forbidden to eat meat." - Lights of Guidance, p. 298
So, it would appear that not only are there no strict and specific food laws, and the believers are free to eat what they choose, but also, they are not encouraged to pick favorite regimens and argue for them. No fighting over the details!
There is a story that someone asked 'Abdu'l-Bahá just prior to his 1912 tour of the USA if he would be prescribing a simple diet for the believers upon His arrival in America. He laughed heartily and said: -- "We do not interfere with their material food, but we will give them a simple recipe of spiritual food. This is our work." - from 'Abdul-Bahá in Egypt, p. 90
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