Diet in Sikhism
Sikhism has a preference for vegetarian consumption. There are two views on initiated or "Amritdhari Sikhs" and meat consumption. Sikhs that follow the Sikh Rehat Maryada (an official Sikh code of conduct finalized in 1936) can not eat meat. "Amritdharis" that belong to some Sikh sects (e.g. Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Damdami Taksal, Namdhari, Rarionwalay, etc.) are vehemently against the consumption of meat and eggs.
The Sikh Gurus have indicated their preference for a simple diet, which could include meat or be vegetarian. In the case of meat, passages from the Guru Granth Sahib (the holy book of Sikhs, also known as the Adi Granth) say that fools argue over this issue. Guru Nanak said that overconsumption of food (Lobh, Greed) involves a drain on the Earth's resources and thus on life. The tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, prohibited the Sikhs from the consumption of Kutha (any ritually slaughtered) meat because of the Sikh belief that sacrificing an animal in the name of God is mere ritualism (something to be avoided) 
O Pandit, you do not know where did flesh originate! It is water where life originated and it is water that sustains all life. It is water that produces grains, sugarcane, cotton and all forms of life.
In Sikhism, only lacto-vegetarian food is served in the Gurdwara (Sikh temple) but Sikhs are not bound to be meat-free. The general consensus is that Sikhs are free to choose whether to adopt a meat diet or not.
Akal Takht ruling
The Akal Takht (Central Body for Sikh Temporal Affairs) represents the final authority on controversial issues concerning the Sikh Panth (community or collective). The Hukamnama (edict or clarification), issued by Akal Takht Jathedar (head priest or head caretaker) Sadhu Singh Bhaura dated February 15, 1980, states that eating meat does not go against the code of conduct (Kurehit) of the Sikhs; Amritdhari Sikhs can eat meat as long as it is Jhatka meat.
Disagreement with the ruling
Some religious sects of Sikhism—Damdami Taksal, Akhand Kirtani Jatha, Namdharis, Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha and the 3HO—believe that the Sikh diet should be meat-free. The reason for the disagreement with this ruling is that many highly enlightened Gurusikhs (Bhramgyani/Mahapurush) with complete knowledge of gurbani have clearly advised against the consumption of meat, eggs, alcohol, and any form of intoxicating drugs.
The Akhand Kirtani Jatha dispute the meaning of the word "kutha", claiming it means all meat. However, in mainstream Sikhism this word has been accepted to mean that which has been prepared according to Muslim rituals.
Guru Granth Sahib
According to Surjit Singh Gandhi, the Guru Granth Sahib on page 472 and Guru Nanak in early 16th century said that "avoidance of flesh as food was impractical and impossible so long as they used water, since water was the source of all life and the first life principle".
Within the gurdwara, the Guru ka Langar (Guru's community kitchen) serves purely lacto-vegetarian food because the Langar is open to all. Since people of many faiths with varying dietary taboos, and since Sikhs accept these restrictions and accommodate people regardless of their faith or culture, the Sikh Gurus adopt vegetarian food for Langar. Meat was included in langar at the time of Guru Angad, but was discontinued to accommodate Vashnavites.
Sikhism argues that the soul can possibly undergo millions of transformations as various forms of life before ultimately becoming human. These life forms could be a mineral, vegetation, or an animal. Sikhism does not see a difference between these types of existence, however the human has a privileged position compared to other life forms. In terms of the Sikh view of karma, human life is seen as being most precious, and animal, vegetable, and mineral all viewed as being equally below human life. Therefore, Sikhs view eating an animal is the same as eating a plant or mineral.
The Sikh code of conduct on the Sikh diet (Rehat Maryada)
In the Rehat Maryada, Article XXIV - Ceremony of Baptism or Initiation (page 38), it states:
The undermentioned four transgressions (tabooed practices) must be avoided:
- Dishonouring the hair
- Eating the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way (Halal)
- Cohabiting with a person other than one's spouse
- Using tobacco.— Sikh Rehat Maryada
Sikh intellectual views
I. J. Singh states that throughout Sikh history, there have been many subsects of Sikhism that have espoused vegetarianism. However, this was rejected by the Sikh Gurus. Sikhs consider that vegetarianism and meat-eating are unimportant in the realm of Sikh spirituality. Surinder Singh Kohli links vegetarianism to Vashnavite behaviour. Gopal Singh, commenting on meat being served in the langar during the time of Guru Angad Gyani Sher Singh—who was the head priest at the Darbar Sahib—notes that ahimsa does not fit in with Sikh doctrine. W. Owen Cole and Piara Singh Sambhi comment that if the Sikh Gurus had made an issue on vegetarianism, it would have distracted from the main emphasis of Sikh spirituality. H. S. Singha and Satwant Kaur comment on how ritually-slaughtered meat is considered a sin for initiated Sikhs. G. S. Sidhu also notes that ritually-slaughtered meat is taboo for a Sikh. Gurbakhsh Singh comments on how non-Kutha meat is acceptable for the Sikhs. Surinder Singh Kohli comments on the "fools wrangle over flesh" quotation from the Guru Granth Sahib by noting how Guru Nanak mocked hypocritical vegetarian priests. Gobind Singh Mansukhani states how vegetarianism and meat-eating has been left to the individual Sikh. Devinder Singh Chahal comments on the difficulties of distinguishing between plant and animal in Sikh philosophy. H. S. Singha comments in his book how the Sikh Gurus ate meat. Khushwant Singh also notes that most Sikhs are meat-eaters and decry vegetarians as daal khorey (lentil-eaters).
Historical dietary behaviour of Sikhs
There are a number of eyewitness accounts from European travelers as to the eating habits of Sikhs. Sikhs were not prohibited the use of Animal food of any kind, excepting Beef and domestic pig, which they are rigidly scrupulous in abstaining from.
According to Dabistan e Mazhib (a contemporary Persian chronology of the Sikh Gurus), Guru Nanak did not eat meat, and Guru Arjan thought that meat eating was not in accordance with Nanak's wishes. This differs from I. J. Singh's research that states that Guru Nanak ate meat on the way to Kurukshetra. According to Persian records, Guru Arjan ate meat and hunted, and his practice was adopted by most Sikhs. The Sikhs did not eat beef and pork but ate boar and buffalo.
Another key aspect to maintaining Sarbloh Bibek is that Sikhs must only eat food prepared by other Amritdhari (baptized) Sikhs. Amritdhari Sikhs are also not to eat Jootha food (previously eaten food) from non-Amritdharis.
- "Misconceptions About Eating Meat - Comments of Sikh Scholars," Archived 28 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine at The Sikhism Home Page Archived 17 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
- Sikhs and Sikhism, by I.J. Singh, Manohar, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7304-058-0:
- A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi ISBN 978-81-7023-139-4: However, it is strange that now-a-days in the Community-Kitchen attached to the Sikh temples, and called the Guru's Kitchen (or, Guru-ka-langar) meat-dishes are not served at all. May be, it is on account of its being, perhaps, expensive, or not easy to keep for long. Or, perhaps the Vaishnava tradition is too strong to be shaken off.
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- Philosophy of Sikhism by Gyani Sher Singh (Ph. D), Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. Amritsar: As a true Vaisnavite Kabir remained a strict vegetarian. Kabir far from defying Brahmanical tradition as to the eating of meat, would not permit so much, as the plucking of a flower (G.G.S. p. 479), whereas Nanak deemed all such scruples to be superstitions, Kabir held the doctrine of Ahinsa or the non-destruction of life, which extended even to that of flowers. The Sikh Gurus, on the contrary, allowed and even encouraged, the use of animal flesh as food. Nanak has exposed this Ahinsa superstition in Asa Ki War (G.G.S. p. 472) and Malar Ke War (G.G.S. p. 1288)
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