Question: Why do we practice vegetarianism? In the material world, we’re caught in a situation where we must kill to eat. This is unavoidable. So the restriction is not on killing but rather on the eating of animal flesh. Why is that? Is there a perceivable reason and/or benefit behind this sanction on meat?
Answer: Many reasons; eating meat involves bad karma. It will influence your mind to be in raja-guna which is not conducive to spiritual practice. It goes against the principle of compassion. It is also disrespect towards the creator. It is not economical. It is also not good from the health point of view. You are what you eat.
As Krishna bhaktas, we eat what our worshipable Lord eats. We offer to Him and take prasada. He is a vegetarian so how can we be meat-eaters if we want to be His devotee/servant?
Question: Killing seems so unavoidable – when we walk we kill smaller creatures, our immune systems are always killing (bacteria), when we’re sick we take medicine in which case we are intentionally killing (bacteria), when we offer plants or make other uses for them we are killing, and it literally is unavoidable. Does one acquire karma for such unintended killing? Is one supposed to live in fear and paranoia about the possibility of killing the many ”unseen” and smaller entities around us?
Answer: Killing is unavoidable. It is a fact. So we do our best to minimize it. We do not live in paranoia knowing that it is impossible to avoid violence. But violence against human beings is not the same as violence against animals, and violence against animals is not the same as violence against plants and so on. There are different levels of consciousness, and it also depends on the intensity of violence and upon whom the violence is directed. Even according to State law, the crime of killing a human is more severe than killing an animal.
On the path of bhakti non-violence is not the highest principle, but surrender and service to God. A common person gets karma, although minute, even by unintentional killing, therefore shastra prescribes some activities to get rid of that reaction. A devotee is relieved from all sins because of his/her surrender and acting for the sake of God.