Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Okay, let's talk about meat....


This is something that caught my interest recently.

When I went to visit with a Buddhist nun a few weeks ago, she told me that I should stop eating meat. She cited the First Precept which states that we are not supposed to kill any living being. She is of a different tradition and they follow that precept to the letter.

I'm more a "spirit of the law" person.

Buddhism, like every other faith, has many different traditions. Mine (Theravada) has no specific rule against eating meat for lay people. I am generally mindful about killing. Spiders don't get killed here and I don't kill insects when I can avoid it. It would be nearly impossible for me to kill an animal. My boundary seems to be convenience. I won't kill a living being simply because it is inconvenient to have around.

Some people interpret the "no killing" rule as only applying to our doing the actual killing. Buying a pound of hamburger at Safeway is different than going out and shooting animals for food.

My immediate thought is that killing for food is very different than killing for sport. Sarah Palin doesn't live here. Intention and purpose are the core issues.

Yet if I really think about it, the idea of eating the body of another being is disgusting. If I stayed mindful of that, I would probably never touch another piece of meat in my life.

But like most people, I do it unconsciously. I buy my pork chops and chicken with abandon, order satay chicken at the Thai restaurant, chow down on pork and pasta or chicken wings without really thinking about it.

Red meat never makes its way to my table. The very sight of it makes me sick.

At some point, I will probably make the choice to adopt a more vegetarian diet. Not vegan. Vegetarian.

So.. how do you feel about eating meat?


~*

36 comments:

Molly said...

My children led the way on this issue. While they've become less extreme about it and I've become more interested in eating a lot less meat. My oldest daughter was not one of the trailblazers, but now she's become really interested in cooking with more of a vegetarian slant. I agree that there's a big difference between killing an animal for food and doing it for "sport!"

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I'm a longtime vegetarian. If we truly believe that all living beings are related, eating a lamb or a pig is as cannibalistic as eating our human neighbor.

And while its true that buying meat prepackaged at Safeway is not the same as killing it on the hoof, buying it encourages others to kill. It provides a market for murdered animals.

I must admit that it's easier for me as I have never liked the taste of flesh although I was forced to eat it as a child. And I do occasionally eat a frankfurter bun slathered in mustard, hold the frank.

Leann said...

I have to admit I am a meat lover. I have gotten away from red meat and now eat primarily white meat. I also have to admit that I try not to think about what the animals go thru to end up on my table.

meno said...

I am an omnivore, a hypocritical meat-eater because i would be unwilling to kill my own meat.

But if i had been raised on a farm, and was used to it, who knows?

However i do respect the eating habits of other people.

we_be_toys said...

I like meat but I try not to eat a lot of it, and to buy at the very least, the stuff that's not pumped full of junk.

The Jewish community wants to put in place more humane treatment of animals going to slaughter as part of what makes meat kosher, and frankly, if they do, I'm going kosher. The slaughtering practices as they stand make me very uncomfortable. Maybe we do need to see where our meat comes from, inorder to effect some humane changes.

Olivia said...

Chani,

I think we are trained by our culture to not mind eating meat that we don't ourselves kill. That is what I do. I have been vegetarian, vegan, and a raw foodist. I feel best as a raw foodist (vegetarian, not eating raw meat either). But it forces me to have too much of my life revolve around food.

I feel next best eating meat. So that's what I do now. I make some effort to eat local meat that is clean---without antibiotics or hormones---but if served something else at someone's home I receive it with gratitude (I don't ask if it's "dirty meat").

I also enjoy respecting the eating habits of other people.

However, I do not understand the concept of killing animals for sport AT ALL. I try to respect people who have been acculturated to do this, but it is very hard. I should say that I show respect for them but it creeps me out inside. I have never had a friend who was a hunter.

Great post and discussion, as always :)

Peace tonight, O

Suebob said...

Well, I have changed over time on this one. I have become a flexible vegetarian - I don't buy or order meat dishes, but I don't ask about dishes that may contain meat stock or lard or animal products, and I eat fish a couple times a month for my health, but I do not like it.

I have lost the taste for meat, but I also refuse to believe it is poison. I respect people who raise and kill their own animals, because they know what went into them.

I do object to the cruelties of factory farming.

I am just trying to be as kind as I can to animals without making the people around me miserable.

Parlancheq said...

I actually don't eat much meat but that's just because I love pasta and veges, not because of any particular conviction.

I wonder, though, those that say we shouldn't kill another living being, how do they explain that other animals do, as part of the natural food chain?

Susanne said...

I have been thinking about this a lot in the past few years again. I was a vegetarian for eleven years in my twenties for ecological reasons. But then I found meat so appealing that I went back to being an omnivore. I found that I really like eating meat, and that I find it much more satisfying than a vegetarian diet. In comes Buddhism. So now I feel that really I should make an effort and become a vegetarian again only it feels wrong. I only have the feeling that it is immoral to eat meat when I'm not willing to kill it myself.
On the other hand I find being an omnivore quite natural for a human being. So, I don't know what I will do in the future, for now I'm just being content to be an imperfect Buddhist.

Richard said...

You bring up some interesting views. I don't eat "red" meats either.
Even today many people still hunt for food. Alaskans for instance. One moose can feed a family for a few months. The meat is fresh and it is a lot cheaper than buying it in a store.

citizen of the world said...

I spent a good part of my growing up years n a farm where I helped with the butchering of cows and pigs, so when I was a meat eater it was with full awareness of what was involved in the process. I switched to a pesca-vegetarian diet (fish/seafood no other forms of meat) in 2001 and haven't had any mammal or bird meat since. I don't sit in judgement on others who do, it was just part of an attempt to live more mindfully and minimize the harm I cause in this world. It is a comfortable choice for me - one I have never regretted.

Z said...

I eat meat and I see nothing wrong in it, as it's natural for an omnivore to eat meat and I'm no different from any other omnivorous animal. I don't care to buy prepacked meat from a supermarket as I think that if I am going to eat it, I should address the fact that another animal has been raised to be slaughtered for my food. Nicely anonymous chicken breasts that don't look as if they were ever part of a real living creature are okay to buy once in a while, but actually I think I should take responsibility for what I eat and cut up that chicken myself.

I am very concerned for animal welfare however, and have far more in sympathy with a farmer who carefully rears bullocks or pigs for meat and has them humanely slaughtered at a local abattoir than someone who only eats white meat and fish but doesn't mind them being factory farmed.

If I became vegetarian on ethical grounds, I'd have to be vegan as I couldn't possibly justify the unnatural keeping of dairy animals, especially with modern farming practices. I'd be okay with eggs though, as I keep my own chickens and can ensure they live a natural lifestyle and life span.

Cecilieaux said...

As someone of Argentine extraction, the idea of going without beef is anathema.

DivaJood said...

The older I get, the less meat I can eat - it is a combination of knowing too much about how badly animals are treated and being unable to digest it. I recently had a pre-cancerous polyp removed; haven't eaten red meat since it came out.

I like eating vegetables; and if I eat chicken or turkey, it is free-range. Rarely any beef or lamb or pork.

Anvilcloud said...

I kind of wish I didn't ea meat, but I guess I will have to leave that for the next generation to change.

painted maypole said...

mmm... satay chicken.....

(does that answer your question?)

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I've never really serious considered giving up meat entirely. Partially, there is a practical reason why I have never considered becoming vegetarian. I'm allergic to soy, and so many vegetarian diets rely on that for protein.

However, as I have been including more and more vegetables in my diet, I find that I am satisfied with the recommended amount of two three-ounce servings of meat. And some days, we do eat vegetarian meals so I don't even have that much. So at least I am being more moderate in my consumption. For now, that will have to do.

Liberality said...

my two cents: I don't eat meat 99% of the time. I do eat eggs and drink milk--organic and free range only. I don't like factory farming and I think the animals are treated like they are in a concentration camp. Can't abide that at all.

susan said...

I was interested to learn that Tibetan Buddhists are meat eaters since their climate and growing conditions preclude vegetarianism.

I'm old the old side these days and have gone through long periods of avoiding meat. A couple of years ago I gave in and we are omnivores again - small amounts of clean meat a couple of times a week.

womaninawindow said...

I love meat. I love the taste. I love the tradition of it.

Growing up my father was a farmer and a hunter. My step-father was a butcher. The reality of having hands on to eat makes sense to me. If you want potatoes, you must grow them. If you want meat, you must kill something.

I would not kill for sport. I don't even like to fish 'cause i don't love to eat fish. But if I wanted to eat fish, I wouldn't hesitate to catch one and kill it. Well, honestly there would be a little hesitation inside but I firmly believe that if you're going to eat a living creature you ought to be willing to live with the taking of a life.

Carol said...

I think that we all kill life in order to live - and we also do it just by accident in our day to day living. I grow a garden and I feel the pain of uprooting a carrot. To me, a plant is just as precious a life as an animal - and I eat a lot of plants, or their parts, every day.

I'd be totally a beans and rice person if my husband wasn't a (non-red) meat eater. When my husband was vegetarian, he was very underweight. I think there are different needs for different body types (Eat Right For Your Type), so flexibility is important.

That said, I am very sad about how our culture treats its plants and animals. All I can do is my best.

FranIAm said...

Mnnn... I struggle with this. I do eat meat, but I often feel conflicted about it.

I really need to think about this- thanks for this thought provoking post.

As always!

Laurie said...

I didn't eat meat of any kind for over 8 years. I stayed very slim, but also ended up with a protein deficiency, which wasn't very much fun.

Now I make sure I get my protein in home-made smoothies, eggs, tofu, lean turkey and chicken.

I'm not a huge fan of red meat, although once in awhile I do indulge...I guess I have a difficult time eating mammals.

Border Explorer said...

This sparked so much response! I think a vegetarian lifestyle is the goal.

We use meat as a condiment at our house, something to add a bit of flavor. If I were vegetarian, I would probably not make a point of expecting others to fix different food for me. I'd want to blend with the other diners. A flexible vegetarian.

Thanks for the question and thanks for listening to our answers.

hele said...

I try and be vegetarian not so much because of killing than how the animal lives and dies. The calculated coldness and profit behind it. Horrible.

hele said...

You might enjoy this post on the matter
http://gettinitwrong.blogspot.com/2008/10/hippie-girl.html

Brandi said...

here is my dilema. I'm a sucker and I know it so the idea of any animal having to die so I can eat disgusts and sadens me. However, because of my biology, if I go more than about 3-4 days without meat, I get sick-dizzy, weak nauseous. And this is regardless of how else I try to supplement my diet-vitamins, other protein sources, etc. So basically, I eat as little meat as I can get away with and only buy humanely treated meat.

Ian Lidster said...

I get torn on this issue. If I had to kill what I eat, I'd be vegetarian in a heartbeat. And, I too don't kill insects or spiders if I can possibly avoid it. It remdinds me of the story of the Buddhist monk who was asked what he would do with a wasp that was tormenting him. "I'd kill it," he said. "I'm not a fool." On the other hand, that burger you pictured looks very good.

Amy Y said...

We are half vegetarian... I don't buy red meat with the exception of an occasional pound of bison. Other than that, we only eat fish and two legged animals. But we try to eat 1/2 to 2/3 of our meals meat~free both for environmental reasons and not killing animal reasons.

Defiantmuse said...

I was a vegetarian for roughly 7 years. I was vegan for less than one year. Now? I eat meat. I love meat. I don't eat a lot of meat as it is expensive, especially since we only buy local, organic meat. I don't feel that eating meat is wrong, we're all a part of the food chain. just as if I was in the jungle or out in the bush there are plenty of animals who would eat me, if given the chance and I was hungry enough I would eat them. But I think it's about respect and give and take and I think killing for sport is truly repugnant. But people who kill and eat the animals? And use their hides for clothes and shoes? And use their lard to make soap, etc? I think it's incredible. And usually the people who do that have tremendous respect for the animals that give their lives so that they can have food and warmth, etc.

Christy said...

Could be that I'm a country girl, or could be some Native American tradition I heard of, but I think you should only eat what you kill, and only kill as much as you can eat.

YOU, not some slaughterhouse.

That's the ideal.

I've been a vegetarian, even a vegan at times.

I had a burger today.

But if I ever really lived up to my own standards, I'd have to have humanely slaughtered that cow.

Animals that are commercially slaughtered sometimes suffer.

Not always. Kosher slaughtering can be better......

RKK said...

I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since June. I originally did it as part of a liver cleanse, but just kept on due to my love of animals.

afeatheradrift said...

I eat meat and I'm sure I always will. I do feel guilt at the treatment of both cattle and chickens. Pork I see first hand and know that they are treated well. Farmers think differently of course than urban folks do, we live with the animals. We are careful to kill humanely and we eat what we kill, though my husband doesn't really bother hunting any more. We allow hunters on our land who are friends, and they give us meat in return. It helps out budget frankly. But I don't see any issue with it by and large as long as animals are treated well. I like the Native American blessing over the kill, as a way of honoring the sacrifice.

Peace said...

I tried to post a comment earlier when this post first went up but blogger ate it or something ;)

anyway, I am a vegetarian. part of the reason why is because of the killing and also because of how the animals are treated on factory farms. lots of people have done a good job of explaining why that is evil in itself. I also think not eating meat (or at least not eating a lot of meat very often) would help those who go hungry in this world. I'm sure you've heard those arguments as well. great post.

Carla said...

I do eat meat, but not a lot of it. Sometimes I'm pretty much a vegetarian and can't stand the sight of meat, and other times I feel I know where my place is on the food chain. I don't judge others on their decisions, but I do believe most of us eat far more meat than necessary. For me it's a matter of balance. I don't do well with too many grains, I try to eat lots of vegetables and fruit.

Angela said...

I like meat and I miss it if I don't have it in my diet. I've tried going vegetarian a couple of times, but it just didn't seem like a balanced diet to me. At the same time I think a diet too heavy in meat, especially red meat, is probably one of the worse things a person can do healthwise. Well, besides smoking, which I do so who am I to say?? Most of the meat I've eaten over the past year is venison that I processed myself last year. It's lean, organic and I feel like I have a spiritual connection with it because of the work I put into it. I see humans eating meat as all part of the natural order of things, but I absolutely hate that people will kill a beautiful creature for no other reason than to have a trophy. Of course, I respect any person's choice.