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Vedas have many verses which support killing of animals in sacrifice , then why does Hinduism generally consider eating non-veg food to be wrong ?

Also there is one Nishad caste in Hinduism whose job is to kill fish , then why such a caste exist ? Why their caste occupation requires them to kill animals , if it is a sin.

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    Eating sacrificial meat isn't considered sin.. actually refusing to eat sacrificial meat can be sin in some cases...
    – Tezz
    Mar 9, 2022 at 15:13
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    @Tezz Yes one such verse is given in this answer: hinduism.stackexchange.com/a/33578 A Brahmin can't refuse to eat meat in an ancestral ceremony for example.
    – Rickross
    Mar 9, 2022 at 16:32
  • The whole point of sacrificing animals is for meat-eaters. If there are no meat-eaters there is no need to perform animal sacrifice. Aug 9, 2022 at 11:23

3 Answers 3

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Sacrificial killing is allowed and it is regarded as non-killing (Ahimsa) unanimously in all scriptures. So such a killing is not a sin. Therefore, Vedas permitting animal sacrifices doesn't automatically allow all forms of meat eating (like outside of Vedic sacrifice). See the verses given below:

Manu smriti 5.39. Svayambhu (the Self-existent) himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices (have been instituted) for the good of this whole (world); hence the slaughtering (of beasts) for sacrifices is not slaughtering (in the ordinary sense of the word).

5.40. Herbs, trees, cattle, birds, and (other) animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive (being reborn) higher existences.

5.42. A twice-born man who, knowing the true meaning of the Veda, slays an animal for these purposes, causes both himself and the animal to enter a most blessed state.

5.32. He who eats meat, when he honours the gods and manes, commits no sin, whether he has bought it, or himself has killed (the animal), or has received it as a present from others.

5.35. But a man who, being duly engaged (to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite), refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences.


57-61. Janaka said :-- “The killing of animals in a sacrificial ceremony is not killing; it is known as Ahimsâ; for that himsâ is not from any selfish attachment; therefore when there is no such sacrifice and the animals are killed out of selfish attachment, then that is real himsâ; there is no other opinion in this. Smoke arises from a fire when fuels are placed in it; and smoke is not seen when no fuel is added. So, O Munisattama! The himsâ, as prescribed in the Vedas, is free from all blemishes, selfish attachment, etc., and therefore it is unblameable. So it follows the himsâ committed by persons attached to objects, is the real himsâ; that can be blamed, but the himsâ of those persons who have no desires is not that sort of himsâ. Therefore the learned men that know the Vedas declare that the himsâ done by the dispassionate persons, with their hearts free from egoism, is no himsâ done at all

Devi Bhagavatam; Book 1; Chapter 18


Generally, Hinduism recommends abstaining from eating meat because it brings great merits as said in the following verse:

Manu 5.56. There is no sin in eating meat, in (drinking) spirituous liquor, and in carnal intercourse, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention brings great rewards.

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  • The question was about Vedas. How did this post get marked as ANSWERED? Apr 7, 2022 at 8:17
  • The Q was not only about the Vedas .. OP says if Vedas allow animal sacrifices then why do most modern day Hindus prefer a vegetarian diet? So it is open to be answered using various other scriptures. Also it is OP's decision entirely whether to accept an answer or not. Others don't have a say in it @SanatanaDhara
    – Rickross
    Apr 7, 2022 at 9:00
  • Thanks for the Explanation. Hope we had more alternate answers to the confusion about Vedas allowing sacrifice and the questioner assuming that its somehow ok this culture to eat it. Apr 7, 2022 at 9:36
  • Hope we had more alternate answers to the confusion about Vedas allowing sacrifice and the questioner assuming that its somehow ok this culture to eat it. @Rickross Apr 7, 2022 at 9:42
  • Yes it's always good to get more than just one answer for any question @SanatanaDhara
    – Rickross
    Apr 7, 2022 at 9:47
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There seem to be confusion with the questioner assuming Animal Sacrifice in the Vedas and consuming meat are one and the same. If the question is raised based on the Vedas, then Vedas should themselves answer it. Later literature can provide further definition, and justification and elaborate on its via examples, but can't be the source.

  1. Vedas have thousands of Yagnas. They all don't have animal sacrifice. The percentage of animal involvement in the aspect of their killing is very low. That means it's not a common practice. Vedas share all aspects of creation and existence. They talk about astrological, metaphysical, social, climatic, animals, human behavior, and more. Animal Killing is not excluded and not treated as a taboo. We will see with an example below.
  2. Animal Sacrifice doesn't always mean killing them. They can be donations of cattle as well. We will see examples of that as well.
  3. The same Veda that talks about Animal Sacrifice also talks about the evolution of human consciousness where the Vedas as the civilization to move away from such acts. We will see examples of those as well.

Rudra is the Lord and king of Sacrifice, Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā also describes a specific title called Pashunapati as the “Lord of Sacrifice of Pashu”; here Sacrifice of Cattle (Pashu) means to donate cattle as Dakshina during Yajñás like Rājasuya. The sacrifice of Cattle doesn’t always denote killing them, during the Vedic times human consciousness evolved towards sacrifices that do not require killing, for example:

न ता अर्वा रेणुककाटो अश्नुते न संस्कृतत्रमुप यन्ति ता अभि । उरुगायमभयं तस्य ता अनु गावो मर्तस्य वि चरन्ति यज्वनः ॥ ४ “The war-horse never catches them, they never go to the place of slaughter or sacrifice. The Cows always roam without fear on the wide-spreading land of the mortal worshiper.” ~Rig Veda 6.28.4

Please note: Rig Veda 6.28 is an entire hymn dedicated to cow.

“He replies, ‘The mother of the Rudras, the daughter of the Vasus, the sister of the Âdityas, the navel of immortality. To the people who understand me, I say, “Do not kill the guiltless cow, which is Aditi.” I kill my sin,’—thus, if he chooses to have it killed. But if he chooses to let it loose, he should say, ‘My sin has been killed. Om! Let it loose! Let it eat grass!'” ~ Grihya-sutra of Paraskara Sukla Yajur Veda 1.3

So, what are these Paśūs? Taittirīya Saṃhitā 3.1.4 says “पशुपतिः पशू॒नां चतुष्पदामुत च द्विपदाम्” meaning “He is Paśūspati to Paśūs that are two-footed and four-footed”. Vājasaneyi Saṃhitā 8.2.1.6 Brahmāṇa 1.2 describes 5 types of Paśūs sought by Prajāpati – man, horse, bull, ram, and goat, similarly Atharva Veda 11.2.9 defines Paśūs as cows, horses, man, goats, and sheep. But if we take dictionary definition then Paśū means cattle or animals that are tamed, or a group of creatures, or creatures used as sacrificial gifts given to rishis, scholars, and Devas. But Paśu has a broader meaning, it includes all beings who are tied to the material world in the loop called Samsara. So Paśūs are those which are in bondage or tied/fetter, hence the term Pãsha. We can notice that they both have the same root (Paśū and Pãsha). Many western scholars limit Paśu to just farmed cattle, but that would make Mahadeva’s Paśupatiastra, the most powerful weapon given to Arjuna and Sri Krishna in Mahābhārata Itihāsa, was meant to kill cattle in the war.

Note: Just because the western translaters translated Pasu as animal sacrifice then you have seen the list above which includes human being as well. So, not everthing is mere killing.

How did the concept of Rudra diversify into Paśūspati? Across Vedas, there are numerous instances wherein Rudra emerged and took ownership toward all Bhutas (beings) and Paśūs. Two events take high precedence, one is from Kausitaki Shankhyayana Brāhmaṇa Kanda 6.1-9 and Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa Kanda 6 Brahmāṇa 3 wherein Rudra expands into Paśūspati title by encompassing all flora/fauna. Second is the famous event of Tripurasuras from Taittirīya Saṃhitā 6.2.3 wherein Rudra claims this title. Other Brahmāṇa sections like the story of Bhutavān AB3.3.33 do talk about many exploits wherein Rudra emerges and claims this title. Since Rudra expanded as Paśūspati and claims ownership of their sacrifice, one has to take Rudra’s permission before such an act.

भव राजन् यजमानाय मृड पशूनां हि पशुपतिर् बभूथ । यः श्रद्दधाति सन्ति देवा इति चतुष्पदे द्विपदे ऽस्य मृड ॥11.2.28 Oh Bhava (भव ) you are the ruler/king (राजन् ) be gracious/favorable, pardon/spare (मृड ) towards the one hosting the Yagna (यजमानाय ) especially which donating cattle as sacrifice (पशूनां ) especially you are the one to reach (बभूथ ) being the lord of cattle (पशुपतिर् )| those who (यः ) have faith in the divine (श्रद्दधा श्रद्-दधान देवा ) view graciously (सन्ति) thus on (इति ) our four legged (चतुष्पदे ) and two legged (द्विपदे ) Please note: Yajamāna = the host of the ceremony, Adhvaryu = the one making oblations ~ Atharva Veda 11.2.28

Note: By now the readers should understand that eating meat every week or for parties or for taste and habit has NOTHING to do with Vedas justifying it. We human beings are not equipped to hunt with our own hands or run/chase behind prey and kill it and eat it raw. Our own primates (chimpanzees) don't eat meat. Out Digestive tract and our teeth are not equipped to kill and tear meat. Today we want someone else to kill it with a weapon/tool, clean it, cut it, cook it, and put it in front on our table with spices so that we have no notion or guilt that the content of our place is actually an animal. Vedas do not talk about any of this. So using Vedas to justify eating meat is a sick way to clear our consciousness

Do Vedas use the term Pãsha as the bonds that tie us to material worlds? Does Rudra free the Paśūs from these Pãsha? Of course, let’s examine the Upaniṣhads and link them back to Vedic Saṃhitās.

देवं ज्ञात्वा सर्व-पाशापहानिः भवति । क्षीणैः क्लेशैः जन्ममृत्युप्रहाणिः। तस्य अभिध्यानात् देहभेदे तृतीयं विश्वैश्वर्यं च सः केवलः आप्तकामः च भवति ॥ 1.11 With the knowledge (ज्ञात्व) of the divine (देवं) all (सर्व) bondages/fetters (पाशा) looses (हानि) its existiance (भवति) | With the depletion (क्षीणै) of disturbances in mind (क्लेशैः) and knowledge all the cycle of birth (जन्म) and death (मृत्यु) ceases ((हानि)) | Therefore (तस्य) through meditative (ध्याना) states overcome bodily desires and changes (देह-भेदे) and enter into the Turiya (तृतीयं) state (third state) and (च) in turn realizes that/His (सः) Sovereign Authority of entirety (विश्वैश्वर्यं). In this state one alone (केवलः) exists without a second, and all notion of self and its desires reach completion (आप्तकामः).

घृतात् परं मण्डम् इव अतिसूक्ष्मं शिवं सर्वभूतेषु गूढं ज्ञात्वा विश्वस्य एकं परिवेष्टितारं देवं ज्ञात्वा सर्वपाशैः मुच्यते॥4.16

like the cream (मण्डम् ) above (परं) the clarified butter (घृतात्) the hidden within (गूढम् ) in all beings/existences (सर्व+भूतेषु ), Knowing (ज्ञात्वा ) him who is exceedingly (अति) subtle (सूक्ष्मं ) who is Sivam/the auspecious one (शिवं ) in all, knowing (ज्ञात्वा ) that divine (देवं ) who along (एकं ) encompasses all (विश्वस्य परिवेष्टितारं ), one is released (मुच्यते) from every bondage (सर्व+पाशैः ).

Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 1.11/ 4.16 This is not the only statement, Svetasvatara Upaniṣhad 1.8, 4.15-16, 6.13 and Taittirīya Āraṇyaka 10.47.74 talk about releasing oneself from Pãsha in clear details.

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  • I don't condone eating meat as it is obviously sin as it involves giving pain to innocent animals. All I was asking why does vedas contain hymns that involves sacrifice of animals.
    – river
    Apr 7, 2022 at 15:55
  • @river the above clearly answers it. Please let me know if you feel it doesn’t. Apr 7, 2022 at 16:30
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    Slaughter-house-meat is prohibited everywhere in vedic literature. Manu smriti etc. consider mock-meat (pishta pashu) as sattvic animal sacrifice. Real meat obtained from animal-killing-sacrifice is rajas. Slaughter-house-meat is blacklisted as tamas everywhere. Modern pseudo-scholars & politicians around 19th century/independence movement were highly confused about vedic literature, manu etc. because of their low IQ on this matter. They ended up making absurd statements like meat is allowed as per vedas, etc. thus confusing hindus and made them non-vegetarians (slaughter-house-meat eater).
    – ekAntika
    Aug 9, 2022 at 19:03
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    continued....those pseudo-scholars & politicians just wanted to bring western culture in indian society by misusing vedas.
    – ekAntika
    Aug 9, 2022 at 19:09
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(This is not the Vedas, this is what I understood from reading many sacred (religious) texts)

Goal defines the action. (The action depends on the goal). That is, if the goal is "God (Good, positive, +)" then you act accordingly. According to truth (what is. The essence of things) and love (voluntary, desired knowledge).

It is also important to understand that the sacrifice is an EXTREME measure (when otherwise it is not possible to achieve the goal) and it can be clean or dirty (sinful).

Pure sacrifice is voluntary. That is, a reasonable person can sacrifice himself, but an animal cannot.

Sinful-violent. That is, bringing someone who did not give consent. It is a sin.

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    Aug 9, 2022 at 8:02
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