In this material world, all living beings are part of a food chain; one is food for another. Of all the links in that chain, humans uniquely have the developed consciousness required to question life’s purpose, explore life’s spiritual dimension, make educated moral and ethical choices, conduct research into the existence of a Supreme Being, and to make menu choices based on considerations beyond hunger and taste preference.
Traditional spiritual wisdom supports the view that higher intelligence carries with it a greater degree of responsibility. Vedic teachings especially say that human beings’ eating habits are uniquely subject to laws of karma, right and wrong. This is why human societies generally set guidelines for what can and can’t be eaten. Most genuine spiritual traditions also recommend making offerings of food in gratitude—sacrifice—to the natural and supernatural forces giving us life.
For example, those following the path of Krishna-bhakti, approaching the Supreme Person in the mood of devotional service, offer their food to the Supreme Person before eating. Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita that if we eat things that haven’t been offered in sacrifice, we’re liable to be punished for eating other living beings. But He also says that offering everything we eat to the Supreme Person—Krishna Himself—frees us from karmic reaction. Such offerings need not be elaborate or costly; Krishna accepts even a leaf, a fruit, a flower, and water if offered with love.