I’ve been eating a mostly vegetarian diet for about the last eight months. I would like to incorporate meat back into my diet, while nonetheless eating healthier than before.
In the typical American diet, we eat too much red meat and junk food, and not enough fruits and vegetables. The typical Asian diet is healthier in comparison:
Folks in Asian countries tend to have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity than Americans do, and they typically live longer, too. Researchers suspect that owes largely to their diet: a low-fat, healthy eating style that emphasizes rice, vegetables, fresh fruit and fish, with very little red meat.
While vegetarianism is a noble lifestyle choice, is there a way we can reduce the cruelty and environmental destruction of the livestock industry without insisting for the general population to give up meat entirely?
If humans are natural omnivores, would we lack compassion for our fellow human beings by insisting for others to give up meat entirely? These are honest questions without easy answers:
While it’s often assumed that Buddhism in general is vegetarian, this is not inherently the case:
Vegetarianism was not a part of the early Buddhist tradition and the Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. The Buddha got his food either by going on alms rounds or by being invited to the houses of his supporters and in both cases he ate what he was given. Before his enlightenment he had experimented with various diets including a meatless diet, but he eventually abandoned them believing that they did not contribute to spiritual development.
The Nipata Sutta underlines this point when it says that it is immorality that makes one impure (morally and spiritually), not the eating of meat. The Buddha is often described as eating meat, he recommended meat broth as a cure for certain types of illness and advised monks for practical reasons, to avoid certain types of meat, implying that other types were quite acceptable…
Buddhists who insist on vegetarianism have a simple and compelling argument to support their case. Eating meat encourages an industry that causes cruelty and death to millions of animals and a truly compassionate person would wish to mitigate all this suffering. By refusing to eat meat one can do just that.
Those who believe that vegetarianism is not necessary for Buddhists have equally compelling although more complex arguments to support their view.
(1) If the Buddha had felt that a meatless diet was in accordance with the Precepts he would have said so and in the Pali Tipitaka at least, he did not.
(2) Unless one actually kills an animal oneself (which seldom happens today) by eating meat one is not directly responsible for the animal’s death and in this sense the non- vegetarian is no different from the vegetarian. The latter can only eat his vegetables because the farmer has ploughed his fields (thus killing many creatures) and sprayed the crop (again killing many creatures).
(3) While the vegetarian will not eat meat he does use numerous other products that lead to animals being killed (soap, leather, serum, silk etc.) Why abstain from one while using the others?
(4) Good qualities like understanding, patience, generosity and honesty and bad qualities like ignorance, pride, hypocrisy, jealousy and indifference do not depend on what one eats and therefore diet is not a significant factor in spiritual development.
Some will accept one point of view and some another. Each person has to make up his or her own mind.