Open Forum ~ Vegetarianism and Buddhism

Since the very beginning of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monks and nuns have depended on almsfood. They were, and still are, prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Instead, every morning they would make their day’s meal out of whatever was freely given to them by lay supporters. Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine. The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate – and that was often meat. From UrbanDharma

I thought I would try something new this Monday.  Today I am going to open a forum here at “Sweep” and throw out a topic.  Feel free to comment on this issue one way or the other.   I will not erase or edit anyone’s opinion.  If you are uncomfortable then please post anonymously.

That being said, I hope there ends up being a fruitful discussion (or maybe none at all :D)




64 thoughts on “Open Forum ~ Vegetarianism and Buddhism

  1. I look at it pretty simply: eating animal products causes harm (this includes eggs and dairy, no matter how “free range” or “cage free”). Physiologically, we don’t need animal products to live and we (most of the people reading this) have many other options and choices that cause much less suffering (to the animals, to the environment, and to our health). It’s our attachment to the taste and textures of meat/cheese/etc. that remain the sole excuses for consuming them.

    Something I’ve found to be true in my 5 years as a vegan (and 4 years as a lacto-ovo vegetarian before that) is that almost any reason to consume animal products that someone comes up with is just an excuse. That may be a bit harsh sounding, but, it’s true, no? To me, trying to find a reason/justification for one’s consumption of animal products amongst the sutras or stories of Buddha’s life is akin to Christians finding reasons to enslave/discriminate against group XYZ (racial minorities, homosexuals, etc.) in the bible. Likewise, there seems to be a fair amount of re-calibrating of the Middle Way to justify meat eating (“eating meat is one extreme, veganism is the other, so I’ll be pescatarian”).

    That said, I understand that it can be a difficult process for some people… it certainly took me long enough to get there. But if one is committed and open, it’s not as hard of a shift as you’d think.

    That may not have been terribly coherent, but hopefully I made at least a little sense.

  2. I know very little about Buddhism, but in terms of my own (though somewhat ambiguous) spirituality, it would seem to be a noble thing to strive towards vegetarian ideals.

    While it’s a difficult process to change one’s eating habits, I would like to try to increase my awareness of my impact on the planet, give more consideration and thoughtfulness to my daily decisions (especially about food), and no longer excuse myself for intentionally forgetting the suffering of animals for my own personal pleasure. For now, I’m planning to start with changing where my meat comes from, but will probably move on to decreasing how much of it I eat and see where that leads…

    Despite what little I know about Buddhism, I would guess that self-awareness, leading a purposeful life, and regard for living beings are among its tenets.

    • I think you have a very Buddhist-y outlook on that one. Especially the striving part. When we learn that what we do harms others we take steps to lessen that harm.

      Some take baby-steps, others take great leaps.

      Some regulate it to religious dogma.

  3. thanks, john, this is a topic that is with me at least at some point in nearly every day and it is a topic that i do not take lightly. i do not, however fully understand it and i’m completely open to hearing a variety of thoughts on it.

    all i have right now are some thoughts, which i will share. they are random at best.

    1) with pagan/earth based/wiccan roots, i see life as something to honor and i also see life as a balance. that being said, life is a place that lives in the process of creation and destruction. for us to live, we shove dead plants and animals down our top hole and let them out of our bottom hole. we are not exempt from this process. here is the point i want to make here…even if i take the precept not to kill…i still have to kill plants to eat them. are they sentient or not…not sure we have a solid answer on that one way or the other.

    2) why should i be vegetarian…cuz let me tell you if all of our infrastructure were suddenly gone and i had to survive on my skills alone…i don’t think i could kill an animal. i would be vegetarian by temperment…or so i think…there’s no way to verify this situation.

    3) if i’m a perfect buddhist living on a surface that is totally not able to grow vegetation, am i somehow ‘less than’ because i have to eat meat to survive?

    4) i think the impact of any action we take is given it’s vector by our intentions behind that action.

    Like I said, totally random, but these thoughts are with me during almost every meal that contains meat for me…and that is not an exaggeration. I am currently non-judgemental on either side of this issue and I really hope to hear from those who have more experience.

    • It’s always nice to see someone giving true thought to what they’re eating and questioning it.

      To answer those questions from my perspective:

      1. Plants are not sentient beings. They don’t have a central nervous system, so though they may react to stimuli, they’re not “feeling” it and processing pain.

      2. I suspect this would be true of many people. That and the “if slaughterhouses had glass walls” thing.

      3. I don’t think so — many Tibetan Buddhists eat meat for this reason. That doesn’t make them “less than”… however, that’s a theoretical exercise for most of us and why it doesn’t seem like American Buddhists following a Tibetan tradition need to think differently about their animal consumption than Buddhists in Tibet.

      Incidentally, there are two pretty good books on vegetarianism in Buddhism worth taking a look at:

      The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights by Norm Phelps


      Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol (

  4. For me it’s not a black and white issue. And I’m not using Buddhist beliefs or writing to justify my diet. Instead, I use science. I examined all the evidence and came to a conclusion.

    My personal diet is to avoid processed foods whenever possible and eat whole foods as much as I can. Whole foods, for me, includes eggs, dairy, and animal flesh. It’s a modified form of a “primal,” or paleo diet, but not as strict about carbs. I’ve found this to be my own Middle Way, and it’s resulted in better health.

    Where does this stand with my Buddhist beliefs? Well, I’m syncretic, really. I tend to follow cafeteria style religion, so maybe I’m not the best example. And while I respect vegans, I choose not to follow their way. And I believe we can both be compassionate and contribute to the health of the planet.

  5. I think I’ve mentioned I’m a Vegan.

    That being said I still eat at Chili’s and eat their mushroom burgers even though I have been told that some of the restaurants in the chain use worchestershire sauce in their marinade which contains anchovie oils. I don’t worry about colorants or soap or a million other choices that many Vegans agonize over. I didn’t throw out my very warm thinsulate geniuine leather gloves or my leather belt.

    Industrial agriculture is the single biggest source of pollutants on the planet. Meat, Eggs, and Dairy are killing our world.

    I know these things to be true.They are easily verifable facts. They are not shady psuedo science. Waste lagoons are bad. Antibiotic and hormone laced meat is bad.

    You can ignore these facts. Most Americans do. However, as a Buddhist, can you? Aren’t you breaking the first precept every time you bite into a burger? I’m not talking about the cow. That one should be obvious. I’m tlaking about supporting the meat industry and the harm that it is doing to our planet and all of it’s inhabitants. I don’t care if you’ve taken the bodhisatva vows or not if you follow the Middle Way or compassion or identify with Buddhim in any way shape or form, I emplore you:


    You will save far more than the cow, chicken, pig, fish or other animal you are considering consuming. Vegans save more carbon every year than any three prius-driving, crabon offset buying, green-esque hipsters (who still eat their beef tartar and sushsi).

    Thanks for the diatribe space, John. I apologize if I ahve offended you or any of your readers.

    As for you Ryan, _/|\_Deep Bows_/|\_, you make excellent points.

    • No worries! That is what an open forum is all about. I am, in no way, offended by your comments. They have plenty of value.

      I try to stick to “Mindful” eating. I am not a Vegan or vegetarian but I try to eat foods that are responsibly produced or locally grown.

      I think a central point of Buddhism is compassion and that means that we should know how our actions can cause suffering in others. When we realize this we make changes to the way we live.



      • It is tasty stuff. I like Annie’s naturals brand. There a few things like that that I expected them to suck and they didn’t.

        Another one is Tofutti better than cream cheese. It’s light and tasty.

  6. I’ve been vegan for twice as long as I’ve been practicing Buddhism, so for me the two don’t have much to do with each other. The way I think of it, it comes down to a few points:

    1. The animal product industry causes a lot of suffering for the animals. This is inarguable.

    2. Buying animal products supports this industry. The industry only exists because of the demand; if no one bought meat, it wouldn’t be produced. This is inarguable, also.

    3. I don’t want to support something that causes such suffering for what we call in Buddhism “sentient beings,” so I do my best not to. I also do my best to let others know about the suffering that this industry causes.

    There are more subtle regions in this discussion, of course. Such as, what about buying a pair of leather shoes at a second-hand shop? (Something I’ve done pretty recently.) How about hunting? (I might hunt, depending on the situation.) Still, though, it doesn’t seem too complicated to me.

    On a side note, Mahayana practitioners like myself take vows to liberate suffering sentient beings. Well, a chicken is pretty damn sentient, so let’s liberate it!

    Read my blog… 🙂

  7. “Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine.”

    I think this is important to point out. In step with the precepts, it isn’t about keeping the precepts for the sake of keeping the precepts. The idea is that if you follow them, your karma will be such and such. And if you choose not to, you’ll have to live with those consequences as well. Simply eating meaty leftovers is not going to give you bad karma, increase anyone’s suffering etc…. Just as if one were to have just a tiny sip of beer, it wouldn’t affect one’s mindfulness, speech, actions, etc….

    However, I feel that when I purchase meat, I AM contributing to the suffering of others. Those animals suffer. Over 90% of our nation’s meat comes from factory farms, where the animals entire life is filled with suffering, and then they are usually brutally slaughtered. I’m also contributing to someone’s profession as a butcher which the Buddha said was not a choice for those seeking “right livelihood”.

    Even if I was guaranteed that the pig that was raised for my bacon was given the best life possible, and put down humanely before it was made into bacon, I still would have issue. I like animals. I don’t want them to die just to increase my waistline anymore. There are plenty of alternatives that are healthier and just as affordable (sometimes a bit cheaper, sometimes a bit more pricey) and so I can no longer justify eating meat.

    There are of course the enviromental impacts of our factory farms as well, though there are plenty of issues being rasied with GMO soy and corn and other ingrediants that are being used by those in the green/vegetarian/vegan movemant to supplement their diets.

    As I’ve said before, I don’t want to force my views onto someone else. But I will ask a meat-eater as to whether or not they would be willing to kill and butcher their own meat. And if they just wouldn’t be able to do that (as I hear all the time) I must ask why they would want to pay someone else to do it for them. How do they justify that, given the reasons that they were unable to kill in the first place?

    I don’t want to say someone is more or less Buddhist based on their diet. In fact, I don’t ever want to get into a dharma pissing contest. That’s ridiculous. If you want to chant, meditate, ring bells, practice it as a philosophy, bow, eat meat, go vegan, or whatever, it isn’t up to me to be the dharma police. For ME, personally, I feel that my diet is becoming more alligned with my practice now that I am a 100% vegetarian.

    On a side note, some people do just require meat. I’ve met a couple of people that worked with dieticians, doctors, homeopaths and ran the whole gamut trying to go vegetarian, and in the end had to eat meat for health reasons. Everyone’s body is different, we absorb certain nutrients differently based on a number of factors. Likewise, some people just aren’t cut out for meat either.


    • Good thoughts Adam. I didn’t mean for my comment to be judgemental in any way.

      Honestly, I just have a hard time understanding Buddhist practitioners that eat meat.

  8. This is an interesting topic and one I have given my opinion on in several different forums. First of all, I would like to point out that there is no straight-out prohibition on eating meat in Buddhism just as there is no prohibition on sex or alcohol. Becoming a vegetarian is a personal choice and one that each person should decide on their own. I would like to share with you my eating habits and belief.

    Vegetarian does not necessarily mean you are causing less suffering in this world. I may mean it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it. Let’s say instead of eating a McRib, you buy a vegetarian BBQ patty from Morningstar Farms. Less suffering, right? Perhaps. Look at the ingredient list. Is it organic? Nope. Morningstar is not. Is it produced locally? Not where I live. It’s shipped from some far-off place with tons of packaging. Also, the soy is a GMO. GMO soy is patented by Monsanto who is famous for putting small farms out of business.

    Now don’t get me wrong! MF’s BBQ patty is probably still better than a McRib. But what about local, organic pork vs. Morningstar? Animals raised locally, free range and fed their natural diet? I am hard pressed to believe that this is truly contributing to suffering especially when compared to veggie meat replacement. Granted, I came from stock that doesn’t see death as a bad thing. Really, it’s the dying that sucks! So the quicker, the better!

    I suppose the ideal diet would be local, organic vegetarian. But for most of us, the means no rice since our climate doesn’t support it (not to mention it’s the largest contributor of methane gas right after cows). And organic, non-GMO soy is really hard to come by.

    So MY eating habits? I eat local products whenever possible. This includes fruits, meats and veggies. If I am eating out and I’m not sure where the products come from, I eat vegetarian. I really should eat vegan but as we all know, that can be really tough. Plus most of the restaurants that do vegan in this area do local products anyway.

    I give thanks to the animal that gave its life and I try to live well so that that death was not in vein.

  9. could anyone post some links to help direct us to getting more educated on this topic? i don’t really respond to ‘cuz the sutra said so’ method, but the reality of the day to day living issues like harmful impacts like buddhasbrewing brought up are very meaningful to me. what helps me on these kinds of issues is making it real and dirty…that’s why i call my blog dirty dharma.

    i didn’t find your comment offensive at all buddhasbrewing, you weird buddhist hippie..prolly watch avatar and shit..wait…i was sitting next to you…ok, nevermind that part about the movie 🙂

    • The link in the post leads to a good essay on the topic and I usually suggest since they tend to have some great resources for anything Buddhist-y

      • I am currently reading a book that has opened my eyes to the suffering inherent in factory farming (mentioned by others above). There is plenty of other reading out there, and this is not specifically Buddhist-related, but I enjoyed this book and was inspired by it to learn more:
        “Eating Animals” — Jonathan Safran Foer

        • That’s a great book. I agree that it is a good way to go.

          Web resources:

          You can search for things like Human Society of US on you tube.

          I don’t like PETA because of their weakness on eating meat, until recently. Plus PETA has some confrontational methods that I cannot stomach. All that aside they have some great resources. From videos to process explanations to the vegcooking site there’sa lot there.

          Try for recipes.

  10. Wrote a post on my thoughts (originated as a comment on about this a while back.

    Here are my two cents;

    For me, I believe it boils down to the teaching of ’skillful means’ as well as ‘intention’.

    If you kill an animal just to eat it, or, if it is killed specifically for your meal, I feel it to go somewhat against the 1st Precept of No Killing. I have vowed to try and live by the 5 Precepts.

    Skillful means:
    This is where it would be permissible, according to my view of the Dharma. But, it is also where one must ask themselves what their own life dictates. Example: A monastic that sustains their life from alms, would likely do so by using what is offered. Sometimes meat would be offered. Also, monastics that live in certain areas of the world would have a harder time sustaining a vegetarian lifestyle. Just a reality of this world.

    I happen to live in Southern California – it is quite simple and accessible to live a vegetarian lifestyle. Therefore, my skillful means allow me to be a vegetarian. However, when I travel, I do find it difficult in some areas. (When I traveled to New Orleans again years ago after becoming a vegetarian, we’ll just say I ate a lot of bread, salad, and cheese pizza. hahaha)

    I have also taken Bodhisattva vows for this lifetime. In doing so, I find it important for my path to work as hard as possible to keep a compassionate mind. I cannot do so by sustaining my own life from the suffering and killing of other sentient beings. This keeps me being a vegetarian.

    Now, having said all that, both my wife and my son do eat meat. This is something I cannot and will not change. It is a decision each individual must make on their own. The path of Buddhism does not prosper by forcing others into one’s own way of thinking, but rather through living a life of compassion and helping others either through actions or examples.

    ….joining palms.


    link to original post on my blog (sorry for the cross link, not trying to link bait here)

  11. Millions of animals die every year in the grips of wheat threshers, worms and other bugs are killed whenever soil is tilled, pesticides are sprayed on every plant we eat, and historically before the advent of pesticide farmers would often pick pests off their plants by hand and kill them.

    There’s no such thing as a way of living that doesn’t induce suffering, it’s really quite impossible to exist and not, at least in some indirect fashion, have an impact on other living things. The point is more about avoiding that direct impact, that’s a far more important consideration. There are far worse things one can do than eat meat.

    From Āmagandha Sutta:

    …Taking life, beating, wounding, binding, stealing, lying, deceiving, worthless knowledge, adultery; this is stench. Not the eating of meat…

    There’s nothing wrong with eating meat or not eating meat. Do what you like, and do what you feel is best, but even the Buddha himself, when given it, consumed meat.

    • Joshua — Of course animals will die during the production of vegetables, wheat, etc. but you do realize that the amount of animals killed for the production of wheat that goes to feed livestock is much, much greater than what we humans take in directly, right? That is to say, you still reduce suffering to the greatest degree possible through a vegan diet.

      “There are far worse things one can do than eat meat.”

      Yes, but there are also much more difficult things to do than to stop eating it. And few things that are more directly beneficial to the animals, earth, and physical self.

      • True, however I can’t help but feel that developing an aversion to meat, is itself a form of attachment, equal to the gross desire for it.

        Understand, I agree with you on certain principles, I eat mainly vegetarian for health concerns, however(and this is where the ‘mainly’ part comes in) if I visit people who serve meat, I eat it, simple as that.

        It’s certainly a compassionate outlook to try and reduce suffering however, and I agree with developing mindfulness on where your food comes from. But ultimately it’s ones choice as what to eat, and it won’t hinder ones progress either way.

  12. I’d like to throw my 2cent quote in: “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites, or women for men.”
    Alice Walker
    this was an excellent question, always stirs the pot….

  13. To follow the precepts is to follow the precepts. To sit is to sit. Of course, few of us on earth do these fully. Speak ill much? I do. I try not to. That’s the point. Try. I eat meat. I try not to. One day I won’t.

  14. The Buddha’s first precept was not to kill. Eating meat demands not just killing, but some of the most extreme cruelty imaginable.

    Take bacon…. mother pigs never get to exercise, and develop open untreated sores from a lifetime pressed against cold concrete and steel. The pigs whose flesh you eat live in conditions so barbaric that they are able to stay alive only with massive doses of antibiotics, even then many die, their rotting corpses left where they fall.

    Pigs are continually impregnated until slaughtered. Piglets are taken away and their tails are chopped off, pliers are taken to their teeth, and male piglets have their testicles ripped out of their scrotums. All without painkillers.

    The sow, more intelligent than a three year old child, perfectly able to recognise her own name, to dream, to enjoy music and play ball games, is forced to live in a filthy crate, too small for her to turn around in. She never gets to do the things she loves, never sees the sun or grass, never experiences fresh air, never gets to rear her children; they are slaughtered, daily, in their thousands, and if you eat their bodies – you are responsible for their suffering.

    If Buddhism is more than just a fashion, requiring nothing of its followers save the buying of a trendy image for their living space, then those who consider themselves Buddhist must live the Buddha’s message – and start with the basics. A Buddhist who eats meat is not only causing the death and unbelievable suffering of animals, is not only taking what is not freely offered, but is also creating karmic links with the beings he or she has eaten that will take lifetimes to work out.


    Thanks John for letting me rant! LOL!

    • I won’t argue Buddhist canon with you, but I take issue with your picture of a pig’s life. Not all animals are raised in such a harsh environment.

      I get my meat from a local rancher, and am familiar with the way his animals are treated. I have no need to buy from a huge factory farm and end up with lower quality meat. I also buy chickens from local growers, and go to farmer’s markets as often as they are open. The food is more nutritious and in line with our evolutionary makeup.

      If you want people to see things your way, try doing it without gross generalizations. It’s more effective.

      • The “gross generalization” is true in the vast majority of cases. And even where it’s not, it doesn’t matter how “humanely” the animals were raised: they still meet a violent, unnecessary death at a very early age (pigs are normally slaughtered at six months old; they can live for more than ten years when not killed for food).

        To see how animals can truly live in a free and peaceful way, one just needs to visit a farm animal sanctuary.

      • This doesn’t change the fact that being’s life was ended to fill your plate, needlessly.

        I’m all for human treatemnt. If the dairy and Egg industry treated their animals humanely I would have no poblem being a vegetarian. However, for the most part, they do not.

        I could buy local eggs from free-range chickens and cheese made a by a dairy inmy area that only uses no mechinical means to obtain milk and grzes their animals. I could.

        However, that would cause my mind-set to change. What if I was out of my local cheddar and I wanted mac and cheese. The Kroger’s would be oh so tempting. For me, it’s just better not to eat any at all.

      • Mike, I don’t know where you are from, but here in America well over 90% of all meat that is consumed here is a by-product of a factory farm, with the exact conditions that Marcus described. The picture is worse for the chickens we consume. It isn’t a gross generalization when it is the standard practice. By buying from a local farmer you are in an extremely tiny minority here in the US, which is very, very sad.

        • Buddhasbrewing:

          I agree that lives have ended to fill my plate. Insects, plants, animals have all died to feed me. I could be a vegetarian and replace much of my protein intake with soy and grains, but the total number of lives I cost in the process would skyrocket. Think of the beetles!

          My silliness aside, the point is that I believe that humans have evolved through the consumption of plant and animal products. I am trying to find a middle ground between following my true nature (human, omnivore) and also using modern technology. I may never find a perfect fit, but I’ll keep trying. For what it’s worth, I still get my pork at the grocery store, and I don’t know exactly where it came from. I’m working on fixing that, too.

          I live in the Dakotas, where ranchers are plenty and open markets are not. It’s a little tougher finding locally grown produce this time of year.

          My personal plan is to eat whole foods as much as I can while avoiding things that come in boxes, cans, jars, and bags. I admit I cannot hold to this 100%, but I’ve made some good progress. By doing this I can avoid much of the processed food, meat and plant alike.

          At the end of the day, it’s about the journey, not the label. I am just . . . me. Flawed. Working. Thinking. And now hungry.

      • Mike, this is not a gross generalisation – it is a totally accurate picture of the life of the vast majority of animals bred for their flesh arouind the world.

        How many get to live in the conditions you describe? 1%? 2%? I’d be surprised, given that tens of thousands of animals are slaughtered every day, if more than a tiny fraction are killed outside of the factory system.

        However, yes, I think you are right, if you really really really must satisfy your cravings for eating the flesh of other animals (animals that do not want to die for your pleasure by the way) then, yes, eating the bodies of beings that were not raised in a factory is the way to go.


  15. I love all the comments people! As a meat-eater myself, I am more curious as to why people make the choice of vegetarianism rather than people questioning why I eat meat.

    That way I can understand and digest (lol) a new viewpoint and maybe attempt to include it in my current and future practice.

    Rather than be put on the defensive having to box around facts and figures.

    Cheers All!


    • Jack, I choose vegetarianism because I no longer wish to kill animals (through my action of purchasing meat). I have a healthy (mostly) diet that includes tofu, and plenty of other meat alternatives (some of which are local, some of which are the morningstar farm-variety).

      My rationality was thus:
      Watching the PETA-type videos of animals being slaughtered, watching Joe the local farmer slaughter a rooster; these things I knew I could not do myself because I had too much compassion for the animal. Even though I had no relationship with those animals, I felt for them. So knowing this, I could no longer justify paying someone else to do the dirty work for me. My conscious was no longer clean.

      My pagan/pantheist self also feels that plants, animals, and humans all have a different energy. I fell that plants were put here (not by god….) to nourish us. They contain so many healing properties, healthy benefits, etc…..

      And yes, I do my best to choose local when I can. But sometimes my wallet speaks louder than my conscious

      That’s my 2 cents.


    • Hi John,

      Why be a vegetarian?



      For yourself – it’s by far the healthiest thing to do for you and most definitely for your children.

      For other sentient beings – the animals you save and all the world’s hungry population.

      For the planet – the consumption of meat is causing much more environmental damage than any other source.

      But at the end of the day, every time you place flesh in your mouth, just think of where it came from, from the animal whose life you took, and the way it was forced to live.


      Oh, and one more thing….

      ….Did you know that most chickens in the bottom row of cages don’t live – they are drowned to death by the chicken shit that falls on top of them from the cages above.

      I’ve actually seen this for myself in real life.

      It is a process that takes weeks. Their bodies are still used though, perhaps they’ll make it to your plate (the burns from the acidic shit on their flesh cut off) or else used as feed for other animals. One way or another though, if you eat chicken, you cause this – and you’ll be eating this.


        • LOL! Cheers John, but, in all seriousness, do just a few minutes research on the life of the average pig – the 90% or more who are factory-raised – and then, I swear, you’ll never want to put it in your mouth again.

          Awareness of the suffering it involved for the animal, of the terrible quality of the meat you are consuming, and of its effects upon your physical and spiritual health, will make you never want to eat any ever again.

          Seriously, find out where your meat comes from.

  16. Thanks, John, for the forum. Many great ideas put forth. My own meandering thoughts:

    Defenders of meat-eating seem to have basically two arguments: 1) everybody is failing in some way or another / all forms of consumption cause suffering, and 2) health/evolution demands meat consumption. The first is true; the second debatable. But both fail as justifications; as Ryan says, they are excuses.

    The first simply illuminates the fact that morality is not black and white. We all have a responsibility to reduce harm and help fellow beings.

    But implicit in that argument is that meat-eating IS a moral failure, just like… So rather than pointing fingers at other moral failures, practice awareness with YOURS – cut back, go local, go vegan, whatever *you* can do.

    The second, even if true, requires justification, given that non-meat nutritional substitutes are readily available. The Morningstar remarks above are good: being a vegetarian/vegan doesn’t get you off the hook for being aware of *your* consumption.

    That animals die in the production of vegetables is a ridiculous ‘argument’ – as pointed out, those vegetables can either go to humans or to animals that are *then killed* for humans; or we could try to count the critters cows step on in a given day or rain forest cut down for pasture or grasslands turned to mud by grazing and so on (so meat-eating requires killing twice vs once for veggies…).

    That the Buddha ate meat and therefore we shouldn’t worry about it is also poor reasoning. The Buddha forbade his monks from eating meat killed for them. To follow his example as lay-people today we can eat meat freely given to us (as some do, mentioned above), but should never pay for meat, which is our way of actively choosing what we eat – the Buddha’s monks could not do this; they could not even suggest their preferences to the laity. This could be explored more, but the bottom line is that the monks had no choice but we do, so it’s a bit of a misdirection. Further, the only food that a monk/nun *had to turn down* (to my knowledge) was meat -if it was killed for him/her- which should tell us something.

    Me, I eat fish and dairy for the nutrients and yummyness (new word of the day). One day I’ll work harder and be a monkish vegan, but for now those are my excuses 🙂

    • great comment Justin. I agree with you (see my above comment to the thread).

      I’ll add a small story to my point.

      I had recently gone vegetarian (years ago), and went to visit my Grandma. She had done her absolute best to prepare a vegetarian meal for me; truly something I appreciated, she even saved the packaging for me to double check.

      I looked at it as she served the food and the beans she prepared had been made with lard…

      So I thought to myself, what are my intentions, what would do the most harm in this particular instance?

      Would it harm me, my karma, animals, morals, etc to eat the beans with the lard in it?
      Would it harm my Grandma’s feelings if I refused the beans; after she had every intention of making a good vegetarian meal for her grandson?

      …I ate the beans with lard in them.

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  18. I personally LOVE meat. I went vegetarian for a year a still craved meat. Always the same thing too. Medium prime rib or a good rib eye.

    I gained over 30 lbs going vegetarian. Think that’s my body does need meat.

  19. @ Marcus ~ I agree, one should know where their food comes from. I was born on the Bay, grew up in farm country and live in ranch country now. I think knowing is important.

    My wife’s family is largely vegetarian and most are trying to eat meat now due to poor health. Either way, it is a personal choice born of personal experience.

    @ Everyone! Thank you all so much for continuing to comment and discuss this topic. I am floored at the responses! This is beautiful.



    • poor health? seriously? Either they have had some really bad advice from doctors or dieticians (the footsoldiers of the USDA) or they need to change what they are eating. There are very few people on the planet who cannot thrive on a vegetarian diet. Most of them are from the Himalayas, the rest are afflicted with some sort of ailment that eating meat may or may not improve.

  20. Hi,

    Okay, my final comment is a quote from Thich Naht Hahn:

    “When you eat meat, you are eating the flesh of all those children who have starved to death, because there wasn’t enough food, grain to feed them.”

    Wishing all beings everywhere peace and happiness,


  21. i eat fish and chicken.

    several years ago i had to have a colonoscopy. most of my life i have had ibs.

    not only is there no sign in my intestines of my EVER having had ibs but i had no polyps.

    when i spoke to my retired pathology friend in southern california and told him this he said there was a logical explanation — i don’t eat red meat.


  22. I eat meat. It doesn’t matter to me. In my mind growing vegetables kills tons more animals per volume of food then eating meat ever does if one examines it. There have been many many articles written on this with the various facts and figures, i don’t need to requote them, use google if you’re so inclinded. One could say I’m being compassionate by being a meat-a-tarian 🙂 .

    In the end I feel that neither the meat nor the vegetable exists, only our attachment to the idea of meat or vegetable. I personally try to limit my intake of meat as I believe it produces greater results during meditation and practice, for myself. I do not turn up my nose or go into the shakes if the only thing vegetarian at a friend’s dinner table is salt or a baked potato. Nor do I go out of my way to let this be known to my dinner host, hurting their feelings or being a burden. I eat what has been set on the table and provided to me gladly. I don’t feign contentment while swallowing with regret and despair.

    Many people may be outraged by my viewpoint, which seems like another form of attachment in itself. I don’t get outraged or loose sleep because of vegetarians. I eat with compassion, I don’t delight in the killing of either animal or vegetable. I post this simply to share my view. I don’t claim my view to be superior to any other. I’m not here to convince you “I’m right, you’re wrong”, or to seek reconciliation for my “evil ways”. This is merely my views and the path I’ve chosen. Its the path that works for me.

    I eat meat and this is my manifesto


    P.S. Smile faces not to be misconstrued into thinking I believe the killing of any living thing is funny. However, I do find humorous how heated people get on both sides of the fence.

  23. In my mind growing vegetables kills tons more animals per volume of food then eating meat ever does if one examines it.

    As mentioned above, if one examines it, this is clearly not true. A lot more grain, corn, etc. needs to be used to feed livestock than if it were used to directly feed humans, so eating a vegan diet still reduces the harm to the greatest extent possible.

    There have been many many articles written on this with the various facts and figures, i don’t need to requote them, use google if you’re so inclinded. One could say I’m being compassionate by being a meat-a-tarian 🙂 .

    It’s been quoted an awful lot, for sure, but the idea was debunked pretty quickly as well.

    • So when people hunt (i don’t hunt myself) and eat deer, turkey, bear, fish, etc.. those animals were all fed using grain grown specifically for them? It all depends which situation and country you’re talking about. Regardless, If meat was outlawed, people would have to replace it with more grain in their diet, so that same amount of grain would still be grown regardless, just for people now instead of livestock. In the end it wouldn’t matter either way. To me the amount of life taken to till, fertilize, spray pesticide, and thresh an acre of land, is a lot more then letting a few cows, goats or whatever free range on the same acre. I’m not saying that the acre of grain wouldn’t produce more food yield. But again, I’m not here to convince anyone. Each person follows their own logic and reasoning. Each person does what they consider to be of most benefit, from the heart, and that’s whats notable, the intent.

      Also another thing interesting on another note, is that a good quantity of the corn in the USA is being diverted and grown specifically for ethanol production, causing shortages of that grain for livestock farmers and raising prices (saw a whole 60 minutes or 20/20 on it). Corn being such a raw process to produce ethanol too. You barely get out of it more then you put in, compared to say like sugar cane. So the next time everyone is talking about “being green” for the planet, in regards to ethanol, maybe they should reflecting on the origin of their e85 gas, or other ethanol based products.

      You can reduce this kind of analysis for almost any object in front of you. “How many animals did the production of my coffee mug kill?” While it may be a good exercise of reflection from time to time, in general it may be more of a burden if all it does is cause constant stress, worrying and agonizing for the individual. To me as long as you’re “with compassion”, you’re fine.

      In the end, different strokes for different folks. That’s the beauty of multiple paths 🙂

  24. I think this is an important topic and one that needs to be addressed with a degree of urgency and without sentimentality. Today’s consumer choices will have a strong impact on the health system and on the future environment of our planet. As much as I sympathize with the vegetarian bias in Buddhism, I think Buddhist scholars living many centuries ago are a poor reference for dealing with today’s problems.

    From a viewpoint of farming, soil fertility, diet, lifestyle and spirituality (including Buddhism), I’m strongly convinced that a diet primarily based on grains, vegetables and fruits is best for our own health and for the health of the planet. However, I also believe that meat, dairy products and fish should not be excluded from the diet either, just like farm animals should not be excluded from our planet. Animals too have a right to live on this planet. With a World population of 7 billion, and rising, most fertile land is already dedicated to producing food for humans. An entirely vegan or vegetarian diet would relegate animals to ever smaller margins. Already today, innumerable species disappear from the Earth because of human domination.

    If as Buddhists we want to put our money where our mouth is, we ought to look at the way of how the food we eat is produced. Industrial agriculture is nothing less than mass murder or genocide. That is not an exaggeration! With every bite of industrially produced food we eat we destroy billions of soil organisms and hundreds of small animals such as bugs, spiders, earthworms etc. that normally live in a biologically active soil and that are systematically killed by a large range of toxic chemicals used in modern farming.

    At the root of the problem are industrial production methods and the mechanisms of consumer society in which food is considered just like another commodity. That is a mistake! Food is much more than just another product because we are what we eat. Among sustainable farming circles in Japan, the term “shinto buji” (body and soil are not two) underlines the close relation there exists between our own body and the soil. This relation between our body and soil, between us and Nature has been completely lost in modern society. The price we have to pay for the comforts of modern living is a dramatic increase in such diseases such as allergies, cancer and cardiac problems coupled with the destruction of the environment.

    With an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, it is common sense to reduce the intake of meat and diary products, but the real issue is not vegetarian versus carnivorous; the real issue is to make the right consumer choice for sustainable products, or better still, to consume less altogether. It is hardly honest to pay lip service to the sanctity of all life while at the same time maintaining a lifestyle that kills innumerable beings and destroys the environment and farming soils worldwide which are the basis for all life on this planet.

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  26. Awesome tidbit!

    The article cited, of course, only applies to monks. They are admonished to not exercise choice about what food is given them. That’s all well and good.

    For the laity, things are a bit different.

    When given a choice, exercise your preferences.

    When providing for yourself, enforce them.

    When starving, just eat.

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