While I was a Buddhist, I spent several years as a vegetarian. Although the Tibetan Buddhists with whom I lived in Nepal and India were not vegetarian, the Dalia Lama encouraged people to avoid meat. And when I spent time in a Therevadan retreat house in Thailand, no meat was served. As time went on after I moved back to the United States, I started to again eat meat.
I have become increasingly uncomfortable with doing so. A combination of the cruelty of treatment of animals by industrial meat producers (and their employees) and concerns about sustainability led me some time ago to conclude that the Dalai Lama was correct and that the better view is that eating meat is an unethical thing to do.
Within the last couple of months I squarely faced the realization that, while I commit my share of sins and wrongdoings, there is no act that I consciously engage in knowing it to be wrong – other than this one. Thus, I find myself moving back toward vegetarianism. (“Moving back” because there is still some previously purchased meat in my freezer and consuming it over time seems a better choice than discarding food in a world where people are starving.)
This is part of larger effort my family and I are making to make better food purchasing choices – more organic, less industrial produced foods, basically eating a more sustainable diet. (Immediately after watching Food, Inc., I bought a summer share in a local CSA farm.)
This is an effort that has a cost. Organic vegetables are more expensive than nonorganic. Buying things in season means not eating some things just because one feels like them. And, I confess, that I know there will be times when I feel a strong desire for a very rare hamburger.
But I think we are reaching a point where our industrial food practices are causing serious harm – to our bodies, to the environment and to our souls. And we may have reached the point that all of us have to think about making some choices that limit our ability to have everything we want in order that everyone will have enough.
That may not, for everyone, mean giving up meat completely. But I do think we all have to think hard about our consumption habits – and what they mean for others and for our futures.