A Few Excerpts from The Buddha, The Vegan, and You: part I
Musings on carnism, compassion, and the five precepts.
“The first precept is: do not kill, refrain from killing, do not take part in killing, refrain from violence, embody non-violence, do not be an accessory to killing, do no harm, do not take life, do not destroy life and practice ahimsa. All of these statements symbolize the first precept and the express fact that all sentient beings suffer, want life, will cling to their lives with the last of their strength and in this we are all the same. This precept stands in direct opposition to eating meat, for as discussed sentient life includes ALL forms of life which have some semblance of consciousness, which means they have wants, needs, and can suffer. While there is some room for debate on this topic it is clear that insects, birds, squirrels, pigs, cows, elephants, wolves, dogs, cats, tigers, bears, deer, and fish are sentient. We can say with certainty the animals we consider food are sentient and when we choose to eat them we become accessories to their murder. We become killers of life when we participate in the collective murder through the market system as there would be no factory farms, slaughterhouses, and refrigerated packages of animal parts in stores if there were not eaters of meat.”
Definitions of Compassion
“When one compares vegan Buddhists to non-vegan Buddhists we find they have the same definition of compassion. They are not dissimilar. But meat eating Buddhists are deluded in many cases and when we start listing off who is on the receiving end of compassion we may perhaps notice something remarkable. The following dialogue between two practitioners brings out this point:
‘Maybe my understanding of kindness and compassion differs from yours’, said the non-vegan to a vegan.
The two started comparing who is on the receiving end of their compassion: children, parents, relatives, friends, community, human beings in general, animals and all sentient life.
The non-vegan mentioned all kinds of animals, dogs, cats, wolves, bears, etc. and then said ‘Actually, I love all animals’.
The vegan then asked, ‘How about the animals you eat and use, the chicken on your plate and the leather coat on your back?’
There was a deadening silence.
The vegan said, ‘See, your understanding of kindness and compassion does not differ from mine. It differs from your own’.”
The Second Precept
“The second precept is embodied by the following statements: do not steal, do not take what is not yours, do not take things not freely given, avoid stealing, train yourself not to steal, and avoid taking things without the permission of the owner. Stealing is wrong. I violated this precept every day of my life from a food standpoint until I became vegan. With every hamburger I ate, with every scoop of ice cream I consumed and with every omelet I downed, I desecrated this precept. And this takes us to a deeper meaning of this precept. It forces us to look deeper than the obvious. Sure we should not steal someone’s car, jewelry, money and possessions but what about consideration for someone’s stolen life? Did the dairy cow whose milk, cheese, butter, and ice cream I consumed give me permission to take her baby’s milk? Did a mother cow give consent to have her baby taken? Did she give me permission to confine her in a factory farm against her natural instincts? Did she give consent to inject her with drugs, dehorn her, and force her to live on concrete? When she could no longer give milk and become impregnated, did she give consent for me to allow her to be slaughtered so that I could have cheap fast-food meat or use her body for dog food? Did she allow me to order her body at a fast-food restaurant in the form of a hamburger? Of course mother cows cannot give consent and never would if they could. We steal from them.”
“An example of analytical meditation upon being confronted with the wish to eat fish or some seafood could go like this: Fish are sentient beings, they live in communities of other fish and can identify their relatives in schools of thousands, they feel pleasure and pain, they wish to be free in the ocean and have pleasurable experiences, this piece of a cod/salmon/crab/tuna in front of me or on this menu was such a being, she had rights and feelings, she wanted to live but was captured, dragged for miles/hours and then brought to the surface, she struggled with all her strength to escape, she gasped for air in the unfamiliar toxic atmosphere, she flipped and flopped in desperation on the ship’s deck but was thrown on ice amid hundreds and perhaps thousands of others from her family and circle, all the others were also in pain, after hours of crushing pressure and cold temperature unable to move she slowly died unable to free herself, all the hormones and adrenaline of terror from the fight and life-ending struggle were released into her body during the capture and death process, and now I sit on the precipice of a decision, craving her body as food knowing full well if I order her or purchase her another being will be killed on my behalf. Is this what I want? Do I expect satisfaction from this meal? Can I expect to get nutrition or disease by bringing the corpse of this suffering being into my body? I have read all the literature and understand how many toxins there are in fish, mercury, PCBs, and Dioxin, just to name a few. I know of the potential negative effects animal protein has on my body when ingested. I obviously do not want to eat this being, I have empathy and compassion for her, I have empathy and compassion for all cod/salmon/crab/tuna as I have empathy for all sentient life, I know bringing this being’s body into my body will cause only more death and destruction. It will probably give me health problems; it will cause the market to continue because of my action, it will cause more damage to the planet and ocean in the form of more cod/salmon/crab/tuna being captured, more bycatch in the form of endangered sea turtles, and inquisitive playful dolphins. It will support the creation of more fish farms. I do not want sickness and pain. I do not want fish and bycatch to be caught, suffer and die miserably for my habits. I do not want the earth poisoned further on my behalf. I choose not to order or eat this cod/salmon/crab/tuna.
Next I switch to a short concentrated meditation session. I notice any feelings aroused by the analytical meditation. What is the feeling? How am I feeling mentally, emotionally and physically? Where is the feeling located? I look without judgement as I sit in gentle meditative focus, firm and yet relaxed on the resolution I have made. This can be done sitting, standing, alone, or in a group and by putting forth a little effort, just taking a couple minutes, I have found I no longer crave the fish…”
When we take the time to learn about what we do, what our buying habits and actions cause, and we sit with result of our actions on the plight of sentient beings, and simply analyze, take a breath, stop for a moment–we can change the course of lives, lessening suffering of others, ourselves, and the planet.