Vegetarian Blood and Organ Donation

Fear, terror, bewilderment, panic, anger and helplessness are experienced by animals facing butchers who contemptuously turn sheep to mutton, pigs to pork, cows to beef and so on. These negative emotions, present in the animals’ flesh in their last moments, get transferred to those who consume meat. Therefore, accepting a blood transfusion from a non-vegetarian can be equated to eating meat.

Interestingly, Jeovah’s Witnesses believe that a human must not sustain his life with another creature’s blood.

If Marked, a Vegetarian’s Blood would probably be more in Demand

Beauty Without Cruelty has tried, unsuccessfully, to get the Indian Red Cross Society and other blood banks to segregate blood from vegetarians and non-vegetarians despite two facts being in favour of vegetarians’ blood. They are:

• The blood of a non-vegetarian would invariably have a higher uric level.
• Abnormal lipids are common in the blood of non-vegetarians, particularly higher levels of cholesterol and tri-glycerides.

There is an annual demand of around 15 million units of blood, but only 11 to 12 million units are collected. However, mega blood collection drives result in tremendous wastage and discouraging problems because the shelf life of whole blood is no more than 21 to 35 days; red cells 42 days; platelets 5 days; and plasma 1 year.

Blood from and for Vegetarians Only

Should the need arise, there are many vegetarians who for whatever reason – religious, ethical, health – would prefer blood transfusions exclusively from donors who are, like them, strict vegetarians. Similarly, there are many vegetarians who would not like their blood to go to non-vegetarians.

The implementation of this idea lies in the hands of every blood donor and donee. They need to insist on giving blood to vegetarians, and taking blood from vegetarians. And only when they insist, will the donor’s dietary habit, veg or non-veg be added to the other parameters like name, age and sex that are noted when blood is collected.

In 2015 in-vitro fertilisation centres of Bengaluru stated that the majority of childless couples (even those who were non-veg) demanded eggs from vegetarian donors because they were out and out better. BWC hopes it will not be long before people demand blood from vegetarians also.

Let’s Begin Now

Those who believe in promoting vegetarian blood, and are in a position to use their influence, should try to get as many blood collection centres as possible to mark the bottles collected from vegetarian donors and supply only such blood to those who desire it. Blood banks and hospitals with vegetarian trustees can easily insist on the segregation of blood.

Incidentally Maharashtra’s SBTC (State Blood Transfusion Council) imposed fines totalling nearly Rs 13 lakh on more than 150 blood banks for failing to upload their stocks between December 2022 and April 2023. In December 2020 they had been warned that if they failed to do so they would be fined @ Rs 1000 per day.

In January 2024 the Drugs Controller General of India banned all charges on blood units except supply and processing costs. When a person donates blood this whole blood is not given directly to the person but is processed and spun in centrifuges to separate it into transferable components like red cells, platelets and plasma. More reason the donor should be asked if s/he is veg or non-veg.

Blood and Brains from a Lab

Researchers of the Boston Children’s Hospital in the US say that there is potential to have a limitless supply of blood stem cells and blood by taking cells from universal donors. For the first time scientists have generated blood forming stem cells in the lab which has brought them close to create a limitless supply of human blood.

In 2019 the University of California declared in “Cell Press” that they had come up with a better procedure to grow stem cells. They allowed adequate time for the pea-sized mini lab-grown brains called brain or cerebral organolds (derived from adult stem cells) to develop and then compared their wave patterns with those of human brains in early development stages and found that they shared a similar growth trajectory to brain waves like newborns.

In November 2022 scientists in the UK including researchers from the University of Cambridge said they had successfully produced lab-grown blood for which a clinical trial had begun. The blood cells were grown from donor stem cells after which these red blood cells were transfused into healthy volunteers. Lab-grown blood cells were expected to last longer than those that come from blood donors.

The origin of lab-grown blood can be veg or non-veg depending on whether the stem cells were taken from a veg or non-veg person.

Seeing Right – Why Vegetarians should NOT Donate Eyes or Organs

Donating eyes or organs is allotransplantation but it is not commonly known by this name. Allotransplantation (allo means other in Greek) is transplantation of cells, tissues or organs to a recipient from a genetically non-identical donor of the same species. The transplant is an allograft, allogeneic transplant or homograft although most are allografts. Autotransplantation is from one part of the body to another in the same person whereas syngeneic transplantation is between two genetically identical individuals of the same species.

No one can ever be forced to donate the eyes of a person who has expired. Newspaper headlines have mischievously and misleadingly stated “Nod for eye donation to be made mandatory”. The fact is that in 2015 the Directorate of Health Services assured the High Court that Maharashtra’s municipalities and corporations had been told to mandatorily seek (repeat, seek) consent for eye donations while issuing a medical death certificate. In other words, it was only mandatory for the authorities to ask (not force) relatives to agree to donate the eyes of a person who had just expired. It is not at all mandatory for eyes to be donated. Relatives can very well refuse and the authorities have no right to force them to posthumously donate the eyes of their dear departed souls.

Many souls would be upset if their corneas were used by non-vegetarians who looked at meat dishes with a view to enjoying them. Years ago, someone from the Times Eye Research Foundation stated that the majority of Indian eye donors were (Jain) vegetarians, while the majority of recipients were not. It is very difficult for a donor family to find out who the recipient is and approach the family to turn vegetarian. Although in February 2015, the Desai family some how located and convinced the Gharat family to give up being non-veg. They did it as a tribute to the soul of the spiritual and vegetarian Desai family’s lady whose kidney one of the Gharat family members received.

Surprisingly (may be unsurprisingly for some people) in 2015 the Times of India stated that although over 50% of the eyes donated were not used (eyes need to be removed within six hours of death) due to infection in the body at time of death, or poor storage, they took them any way!

As regards other organ donations also (if they are usable which is known after they are removed) one can not choose the recipient, leave alone know whether the person is veg or non-veg. It is therefore extremely important not to get carried away by advertisements or requests, and persuasions from organisations and celebrities, who recommend organ donations and ask people to pledge to give after death. Interestingly, only a third of the number of people who say they support organ donation have upon death had their organs donated, hence the rise in frequent appeals.

Remember, organ donation is not a duty we are obliged to perform. In fact, organ donation refusal may save one’s own life because most organs are required to be taken from patients who are almost dead. Haste is essential to ensure healthy organs. “Brain dead” patients are therefore given paralyzing drugs to prevent reactions when organs are removed. This indicates they are not dead – one is dead or alive, not in-between. In fact, brain death is defined inconsistently. It can be synonymous with cerebral death and may or may not include the brainstem. With the aim of facilitating and promoting organ donations, in September 2012 a government resolution made it mandatory for hospitals to declare brain dead patients. It is repeatedly claimed by them that one cadaver can save as many as eight lives. There is no doubt that the rising waitlist of persons wanting organs transplants necessitates hospitals taking organs from “brain dead” and “brainstem dead” persons.

“Brain dead” certification is viewed mostly as a procedure only to aid organ donation. If the family of the patient say they don’t want organs donated, then most doctors fearing legal implications, refuse to switch off the ventilator and support systems.

Except for Kerala “brain death” is India is defined only in connection with organ donations, therefore certification by doctors to discontinue treatment can easily be seen as the underlying reason to promote organ donations under The Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act, 1994 and Rules, 1995. As per law, even if the hospital is licensed to carry out organ transplants, brain death is not sufficient to withdraw treatment if the family does not opt for organ donation.

What Kerala has done is de-linked brain death from organ donation. The decision to stop treatment has been taken away from families. Doctors declare patients to be “brain dead” and they decide if treatment should be discontinued.

India has not defined “brain dead” clearly as a result of which Kerala has unfortunately allowed doctors to withdraw life support from “brain dead” patients without the family’s approval. Other states, such as Maharashtra is mulling it as well.

The Registration of Births and Deaths Act, 1969 defines death as “the permanent disappearance of all evidence of life at any time after live-birth has taken place”. Whereas the Transplantation of Human Organs and Tissues Act & Rules 1994-95 defines death as a “permanent disappearance of all evidence of life, by reason of brain-stem death or in a cardio-pulmonary sense at any time after live birth has taken place”.

A free e-book entitled The Nasty Side of Organ Transplanting available on the Organ Facts website exposes the deception and Chapter 1 is definitely worth reading.

There are cases where people declared brain dead have woken up. Remember, where there is life, there is hope… miracles do occur. The brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped. Therefore, the brain stops functioning after the heart stops beating. That is when a person actually dies.

Interestingly, evidence based on research by a team of scientists of the Southampton University (UK) over four years (ending August 2015) examining 2,060 people who suffered cardiac arrests (clinical death when the heart stops beating and there is cessation of blood circulation and breathing) at 15 hospitals in the UK, US and Austria, suggests that conscious awareness continues even after the heart stops beating and brain shuts down.

In 2016 it was reported that researchers and scientists of Washington University in Seattle, USA, undertook a study to see what happens upon death and found that genes can live for up to four days after the body has died and in fact some genes, including ones that help to create an embryo and others associated with cancer even turned on or became more active after death. In short, tumour DNAs get active post demise and can be passed on in an organ transplant. (Genes are made of a chemical called DNA which is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, whereas a chromosome is a strand of DNA.)

Living donations: blood, bone marrow, kidney, a part of liver/lung/pancreas can be donated by living people. (If the need arises they should be given by way of help to relatives or close friends, not sold.)

Non-heart-beating donations: eyes, heart valves, skin & fascia, bones & tendons, cartilage, veins & arteries can be taken and re-used from dead bodies.

Heart beating donations (declared brain dead): almost all other organs such as kidney, liver, lung, pancreas, small intestine, voice box or larynx, hands, uterus, ovaries, fact, eyes, middle ear bones, skin & fascia, bone, cartilage, tendons, veins, arteries, nerves, fingers and toes can be taken from brain dead (i.e. still living with heart beating) persons and implanted into other people.

There is no need to be confused. A corpse has no rights, nor does it legally belong to any one. However, near relatives get custody over the dead body to decide upon its mode of disposal, including donation of organs. Therefore, any one desirous of donating his/her own organs should give proper thought before impulsively agreeing to donate his or her body-parts. The issue should be discussed at length with his/her family and their views respected.

In August 2015, the Rajasthan State Minister for Home, Shri Gulab Chand Kataria declared that organ donation is murder because the organs are taken away when the person is still alive; and he is not the only one among the Jain community and others to think thus. In the winter 2023 issue of Compassionate Friend we printed a synopsis of the discourse by Pranamya Sagarji Maharaj entitled “Defining Donation” which stated “when next of kin grant permission to remove organs from a “brain dead” person, in reality the organs are removed from their living relative, who then due to the lack of these organs will positively die. In short, the removal of organs “scientifically” kills the donor.”

Zoroastrianism also says organs should not be donated because the laws of keshas (karma) and reincarnation meant for spiritual evolvement of human beings are disrupted, creating chaos affecting both the giver and receiver. Upon death the ruvaan (soul) of the donor does not get its entire anasaar (subtle energy) as part of his/her physical body is in another human body and can only disintegrate on the death of the recipient, thus obstructing the soul’s progress.

Tibetan Buddhists believe the spirit or soul remains in the body up to a week after death and if organs are donated it would interfere with rebirth.

Pure Land Buddhism (a branch of Mahayana Buddhism) is also against organ donation because they do not want the soul to be disturbed when brain death is declared and feel it should be permitted to leave peacefully towards rebirth.

Since Egyptian Muslims believe organs belong to God they cannot donate an organ they themselves do not own.

In 2019 a Czech woman declared to be brain dead gave birth to a normal baby after 34 weeks. The reaction of a scientist to this news was “That means the body was working even though the brain wasn’t … the science fraternity need to rethink. Science needs to evolve. The brain dead can be saved with a better understanding although it appears impossible now. Organ donations have commercialised medical science.”

Donating body-parts is not a sublime form of charity as is being projected. Keeping the theory of karma in mind, vegetarians need to answer these questions: Now, when alive, do I eat non-veg? If not, how can my soul after death, be pleased that my donated organs are being nourished with non-veg food, and that too within the body of a flesh-eater? If the lifespan of the non-veg donee gets extended due to my donated organs, wouldn’t it mean more meat is being consumed and more cows, goats, chickens, fish, etc. slaughtered? Since all life is precious – human and animal – wouldn’t my organ donation to a non-vegetarian adversely affect the karma and spiritual progress of my soul? Lastly, would my near and dear ones feel comfortable in giving away my body-parts to some unknown, non-vegetarian person and then disposing off my lacerated and plundered body? In fact, the organs removed could be thrown away if they are not found to be healthy or fit enough for transplantation.

As per Indian culture, the living are duty-bound to give the dead a respectful and dignified end.

Gender-wise Organ Donations in India

In 2019 India ranked third (after USA and China) in the total number of transplants.

Studies undertaken showed a skewed ratio between Indian male and female donors as well as recipients: living donations were given by 37% males and 63% females; whereas 72% were male transplant recipients.

Multiple social factors for this gender disparity are responsible: attitudinal, financial, patriarchy and coercion. Living donation decisions are greatly influenced by the woman’s role within her family and society. For example, men often take a kidney from the wife even though a brother would be considered an ideal donor.


Whereas allotransplantation is the taking of living organs (cells, tissues, etc.) within the same species as in organ donations from human to human detailed above, xenotransplantation means taking a living organ from one species and transplanting it into another, like from pigs to humans or baboons to humans.

In 2019 Japan permitted implanting animals with human stem cells that could eventually help grow human organs for transplant inside animal hosts. The experiment at the University of Tokyo involves human cells to be grown in rat and mouse embryos and then brought to term in surrogate animals. However, the scientists say they plan to proceed with caution by growing hybrid mouse embryos to 14.5 days and rat embryos to 15.5 days only when the animals organs are mostly formed. The ethical anxiety even among scientists is that the human cells could stray beyond the targeted organs into other areas of the animal effectively creating a creature that is part animal, part human.

The history of xenotransplantation as documented:
17th Century: Jean Baptiste Denis began transfusing blood from animals to humans
1838: The first corneal xenotransplantation from a pig took place – 65 years prior to the first human to human cornea transplant.
19th Century: Skin grafts, mainly from frogs, from animals were used on humans in Europe.
1920s: Serge Voronoff, a Russian scientist began testicular transplants from chimpanzees to aging men but his work was later discredited.
1963: Keith Reemtsma, a US doctor, transplanted chimpanzee kidneys into 13 humans. All failed between 4 to 8 weeks except for one who lived for 9 months.
1964: James Hardy, a US surgeon transplanted a Chimpanzee’s heart into a human but the patient died in 2 hours.
1983: Leonard Bailey of the US transplanted a baboon heart in an infant called Baby Fae who survived for 20 days only. (See below.)
1992: Dr Jonathan Ho Kei-Shing fit heart valves made from ox tissue (designed by Dr Baruah) into human patients.
1997: Dr Dhani Ram Baruah of Sonapur, near Guwahati illegally transplanted a pig heart into a human. The recipient survived for a week only.
Both Dr Ho and Baruah were arrested.
2022: Doctors at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, USA, transplanted a pig heart into a patient citing organ shortage crisis due to the pandemic. The recipient survived for only 2 months post-surgery and it was suspected that the patient died of a viral infection in the pig’s heart. In June and July 2022 a team of researchers at NYU Langone’s Tech Hospital transplanted two genetically engineered pig hearts into recently deceased humans and monitored their heart function for 3 days to check for signs of early rejection.
2023: The NYU Langone’s Transplant Institute transplanted a single kidney from a genetically modified pig into a brain-dead man and it was working normally even after a month.

Now pig heart valves are routinely transplanted into human patients. However, since bovine organs are too big to transplant in humans, tissues have been used to repair cardiac defects and reconstruct heart valves. In this way, cow body parts have for decades been transplanted in humans abroad and in India too – in July 2015 at Chennai an 81-year old Hyderabad woman’s leaking heart valve was replaced with a bioprosthetic heart valve made from a cow’s heart tissues.

It all began with using pig skin for extensive burns, and went on to transplanting the heart of a baboon in a child known as Baby Fae (mentioned above) who did not survive because the baboon and she were of different blood groups. (If there was even a shred of ethics in those who undertook this experiment, they would have checked the blood groups before killing the baboon and ruled against the transplant.) Luckily for baboons they very rarely have the universal blood group O so the possibility of using their body-parts has dropped.

Few know that in 2009 six persons were arrested in a fake blood racket – animal blood was mixed with that of humans – in Lucknow which had been going on since 2005 under the seal of a medical college.

In 2016 the National Institute of Health, USA, proposed a new policy which would allow researchers to receive federal funds to make part human, part animal embryos. In effect crossbreeding of humans and animals could be undertaken although not approved as such!

The first human-pig embryo was grown in a laboratory in 2016. Scientists of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California announced that they had created human-pig hybrids. The pig embryos were injected with human stem cells and implanted into sows and left to grow. Of 2,075 embryos, only 186 developed to the 28 day stage. In other words biologists grew human stem cells in a pig’s embryo. The approach involved generating stem cells from a patient’s skin for growing the desired new organ in a pig and then harvesting it for transplant into the patient’s body, and since the organ would be of the patient’s own cells there would be little risk of immune rejection. Creatures composed of two different genomes as in this case of human-organ-growing pigs, are called chimeras.

Another group of scientists from Sanford University showed that a mouse pancreas grown this way in a rat, which then had parts of it transplanted into a mouse genetically identical to the one that supplied the stem cells employed, could control diabetes in that mouse, thus creating a working, transplantable organ. The group followed up their mouse work by growing human pancreas cells in pig foetuses. Similarly scientists from the University of California have managed the same in sheep.

Pigs are being exploited the most. After editing their genes (eliminating porcine endogenous retroviruses abbreviated as PERVs) they will be specially bred for xenotransplantation. So GM kicks in. In 2017 researchers at Harward via gene-editing followed by cloning of these edited cells, created piglets cleansed of viruses that cause disease in humans. But cloning fails often: in this instance they created 30 piglets (i.e. 8 litters of PERV-free piglets) of which most of the embryos and foetuses died before birth, whereas some died soon after they were born. Few survived 4½ months said to be the ideal age to “harvest” their organs for xenotransplantation. Thus the scientists hope that one day they will make it possible to easily grow and transplant livers, hearts and other organs from pigs into humans.

At the 2018 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Austin, Texas, a panel of researcher came up with the following procedure: “Take the fertilised egg of a pig. From each cell in the resulting embryo cut out a gene or genes that promote the development of the animal’s heart. Inject human stem cells from a patient who needs a new heart into the embryo and then place it into the womb of a sow. Wait nine months. The result is an adult pig with a heart made of human cells. The pig can be slaughtered and the heart transplanted into the patient who provided the stem cells, for whom the organ will be a genetic match.” Moreover they feel that sheep and cows can also host human organs and since the animals are already raised for their flesh and skin, their use to grow more valuable things should meet with no objection beyond squeamishness.

In fact, since April 2015 pig corneas are being used in China under the brand name of Acornea. Initial trials were conducted using tissue from chickens, cows, ducks, geese, monkeys and sheep, but pig tissue was favoured because bio-mechanical properties of human and pig corneas are very similar.

It was reported in 2022 that a team of international researchers including from the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences India, had developed an implant made of collagen protein from pig’s skin, which resemble the human cornea and restored vision. In a study published in Nature Biotechnology the implant restored vision to 20 persons in India and Iran who were blind prior to receiving the implant.

In 2016 South Korean researchers of the National Institute of Animal Science reported they had successfully installed a pig’s heart in a monkey. The crab-eating macaque was also given a cornea from the pig’s eye. The pig had been genetically engineered in 2010 to produce an excessive amount of a membrane protein that helps reduce the risk of the organ being rejected after transplantation.

In 2017 a “synthetic soft-tissue retina” was developed by researchers at the Oxford University. It consisted on water droplets (hydrogels) and biological cell membrane proteins (presumably of animal origin). It was due to be tested on animals.

In January 2019 it was reported that at the Institute of Neuroscience of the Chinese Academy of Sciences 5 multiple clones from a gene-edited monkey for biomedical research were born and that they had been induced with human diseases like sleep disorder, mental problems, depression, anxiety and behaviour linked to Schizophrenia. A month later, following the gene-editing uproar, China drafted new rules to supervise biotechnology research that included fines and bans against rogue scientists.

Despite this, in July 2019 China produced its first cloned cat. $35,000/- was paid by the owner who ordered it. Duplicating a dog costs around $ 53,000/-. The animal looks the same, but would the soul be the same? In any case, it is totally unethical.

Around the same time British scientists used CRISPR technology to develop gene-edited chickens designed to be totally resistant to flu. The transgenic chicks will be hatched later in 2019 at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. (Roslin Institute was responsible for creating the world’s first cloned animal, Dolly the sheep.)

In August 2019, the 87 years old Sir Terence English who had performed the first heart transplant in the UK in 1979 declared that his team would this year transplant a pig’s kidney into a human’s body.

In January 2022 Dr Bartley Griffith the lead surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, USA, transplanted a pig heart into a patient citing organ shortage crisis due to the pandemic.

The ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines only permit transplants between animals, not xenotransplantation. BWC hopes the Congress of the Asian Society of Transplantation will not recommend xenotransplantation upon discussing it at their conference in New Delhi in September 2019.

Who all does Man playing God benefit? Scientists, researchers, drug companies, hospitals, health care, media, and so on – all financially gain with business and fame as a bonus. The donor (animal) is killed. The donee (human) suffers and eventually dies.

BWC strongly opposes killing animals for their body parts because their lives are as sacred as human lives.

Humane Heart Tissue and other Transplants

Researchers at Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnic Institute are developing a method to use the vascular network in spinach leaves to deliver blood, oxygen and nutrients to grow human tissue.

In 2017 Chinese doctors grew in three months a new ear on a man’s arm and successfully transplanted it. The plastic surgeon Guo Shuzhong of the First Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University and his team first stretched the man’s skin on his arm with a skin expander. Then they took a piece of cartilage from one side of his chest to carve out a new ear before planting the artificial organ on the patient’s forearm.

Page last updated on 08/01/24