A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out.

Via on Dec 2, 2010

A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out
(Caution: This article contains some graphic details.)

As many of you know, I consider myself a conscious carnivore.

An omnivore, actually, as—unlike some in the more hardcore vegan community may believe– I do enjoy other foods besides meat.  And I haven’t been shy about sharing my views on why I choose a diet that includes animal protein.

As a yogi, especially one who is now entered the public eye, it’s even more important to me to provide a role model for those middle path folks; the ones who want to eat meat (or like me, require it to be vital and healthy), and have their yoga, too. Yeah, I said it. I positively know that the two can co-exist.

I’m not interested in debating veganism, vegetarianism or eating meat. They each have their merits and detriments, and you can do what feels best for you. But going polar is not my style. I don’t live in polarity, and I’m certainly not going to tell you to take an all-or-nothing approach to anything in your life.

What I do want, however, is to invite you along on a road trip I took recently.  Though I’m sure to get the same, uninformed “you can’t be on the path of awareness and eat meat” comments (Oh yeah? Well helloooooo, Dalai!), what happened to me along the ride sparked a burning desire to re-visit this topic with myself, and with you.

I was driving from Texas to New York City, stopping along the way to teach my Core Strength yoga workshops at studios from Houston to Chattanooga.  It was at a rest area in Virginia that I pulled into the parking lot beside a 12-wheeler, a semi carrying a load of live chickens to slaughter.

They were packed in there like, well, like chickens going to a factory farm. They were gross, and broken, and as I imagined as I heard their soft clucks and looked into their passive eyes, imploring me to get them out of there, without any real fight to do anything but sit there should they be let out.  We abused them for a lifetime, and now—yum!—down the gullet.

The growing demand for processed meat, and cheap, fast foods at many American meals has led us to this: an extreme imbalance in our bodies, our waistlines, our medical bills and our environment.

Now, I grew up in the Midwest, in a town that was home not only to John Deere tractors and about a million family-owned farms, but also to the Rath Packing Plant, where they ‘processed’ poultry, beef, and pork for mass consumption.

I’ve seen the killing floors in action, walked through rooms flooded not with inches of water, but blood, and heard the screams of animals as they were dealt their final blows by electrocution, or the simpler but often more messy throat-cutting technique.

I’ve also walked through those same family farms and had the complete opposite experience: animals who roamed free, treated far better, and probably for far longer than they would have fared in the wild, then killed quickly, and yes, compassionately with the love only a farmer can have for the livestock they raised and bottle-fed from infants.  If you’re not from the country, you can’t imagine how different this environment is from the factories that semi was driving to.

These are the people I want to support, and the animals I’m honored to take in as part of me to help fuel the life I lead teaching others principles of inner strength and centering.

I’ve seen it all on both sides of the fence, literally. And I’m still going to revel in an amazing duck rillette with prunes and cornichons at my local French bistro. Once a week, I require red meat for my constitution and my sanity—and all my highest-level Aryurvedic doctors agree. For some people, meat is not a deadening energy, but a grounding one. Some of us do very well with the inclusion of different types of meat, and very poorly on an all-vegetarian or vegan diet. I know, I wilted like a lettuce leaf for 6 years and never felt worse—all while ingesting a stellar vegetarian menu each day.

So, withholding information on how to live in consciousness should one choose to eat meat, and simply dismissing them, judging them or comparing them to “Nazis”, as one leader in the vegan movement says in her book, isn’t just unfortunate, it’s just plain irresponsible.

Just as there is no yoga pose that is perfect for every body, there is no one-size-fits-all way of eating. It’s the quality with which we eat that makes us yogis, not that we always or never eat this or that.

It’s up to each of us to claim what our body is asking for, and in addition, aim to be as aware of the consequences on others that ripple outward from the way we procure that food.

When it comes to eating meat, however, I’m under no illusion that the steak au-poivre I’m enjoying never had a face, or a family, or feelings.  I’m French, Italian and Native American, three cultures that remain intimately interconnected and reverent towards everything that comes from the earth, and goes into our bodies. The relationship I have between me and my Sunday filet mignon borders on the worshipfully ecstatic.

But enough about that. Let’s get back to the chickens in the truck.

As you can see from the photo, this is a ridiculously out of hand situation. There’s nothing free-range or humane about it.

I have decided, therefore, to hug in my carnivorous side even further. I will no longer eat the stuff—unless I know where it comes from, and that somewhere is a true, local farmer. Yes, that goes for the duck rillette and all.

I’m lucky in that I have a plethora of restaurants that boast slow-food, organic, small farmed menus. Still, there are many places like this one that deliver good meat and other mindfully produced goodies to your door.

Ask yourself if there are any ways, large or small, that you can do this, too. Anything helps, and you don’t have to make a radical shift to veganism to make a difference. When it comes to healing the planet and also helping yourself–to stay out of doctor’s offices and hospital beds due to obesity, toxicity, heart problems, diet-related diabetes, and all the other illnesses it brings to eat crap—take a good look around you.

This is not about eating organic as much as it is about not eating the feedlot-produced animals, or the mass-produced vegetables, fruits and grains that can be as destructive to you and the world as that big old semi full of misery you’ll find later as a $10 bucket of chicken straight from the Colonel to your table.

OK, so I ended up proselytizing you after all. But I hope it’s a bell-ringing, hand-waving, can-I-get-a-witness call not to evangelical, all-out behavior, but rather a sweet and heartfelt hymn leading you to look within, then strike your own balance around this issue. In this way, you will forge a personal path only you can walk towards more clarity and personal choice…not less.

Truckloads of creatures large and small depend on what you decide.

About Sadie Nardini

Sadie Nardini, is the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, an anatomically-optimized flow style that gives you more results and benefits for every minute spent on your yoga mat. She is a holistic anatomy geek, healthy hedonism advocate, yoga expert, author, and TV host who travels internationally bringing empowering tools to yoga teachers and students everywhere. Her new book, The 21-Day Yoga Body: A Metabolic Makeover, Life-Styling Manual to Get You Fit, Fierce and Fabulous in Just 3 Weeks! (Random House), is out now, and her TV show, Rock Your Yoga, is playing across the country on the new Veria Living Network. With Sadie, you'll sweat, laugh, learn, and come away transformed, informed, and inspired anew. Learn more at www.SadieNardini.com.

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106 Responses to “A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out.”

  1. Emily says:

    I LOVE THIS! Thanks for taking the stand to the public! I myself am vegetarian, but my husband and children are not, I would never consider them to be less enlightened as I am because of their diets. Vegetarianism and vegan-ism are not for everyone, not everyone's body takes in nutrients the same way. When people press their judgement on others they lack compassion, each and every person is an educator in someones life, let's leave the judgement for the side line conversations if you must.

  2. Laura says:

    I am happy to see those like denvergirl and clare posting here. Reading through the replies it seems like it is not a very yogic, kind place on this board. Vegans are made out to be mental, nazis and uninformed. I found right from the start up that this article was a bash on vegans/vegetarians and a detailed excuse why it is okay to eat animals. I do not see anyone as the "bad guy". As yogis it should not be about attacking one another or saying "you're wrong, I'm right". I think a kinder, gentler approach is called for.

    Yoga, for most, is an evolution. I think the more we practice the more we grow inside and out and the more our views change regarding our impact on the world. I have evolved from eating animals to realizing that if I would not kill and eat my dog, why would I eat another animal. I do not think it is our right as human beings to enslave, abuse and kill animals that have no way to defend themselves. You do not see many humans doing these things to animals that can fight back (tigers, bears, lions, etc.). As humans and as yogis we need to stand up for those that have no voice. They do not deserve to live a torturous life, nor do they deserve to die for our self gratification. And yes, all people can live without eating animals – there are a plethora of books out there right now by leading physicians with long term studies that you can read regarding scientific proof on that front.

  3. Laura says:

    Using animals in research has been declining. Many articles online are discussing this as scientists find better ways to test things, especially since trials on animals are not equatable to humans and where they may succeed on animals fail dangerously on humans. You can google it for more info. Here is even a list of doctors against animal testing: http://www.ohsukillsprimates.com/quotes.htm. And there is a recent physician who previously did animal testing but is now against it and wrote a book regarding other ways of testing drugs, treatments, etc. There is always a better way than harming a defenseless animal.

  4. jimi says:

    Hi Sadie, what about milk and its byproducts as a source for B12? As you know the cow is holy in India, literally everything from the cow is put to good use. Milking a cow is the opposite of animal cruelty, it's a relief :) Enjoy your meat ofcourse, but milk might be a good alternative.
    namaste

    • gues says:

      milking a cow is not relief. Cows only need to be milked if they have just given birth and their calves will take care of that. The only reason cows even produce enough milk for humans to drink is because we keep them continually pregnant, steal their babies from them and pump them full of hormones. Cows milk production works exactly like humans. A mother produces enough milk for her baby, and that's all.

  5. Joyous Vegan says:

    It's interesting to me that a lot of people are responding to this post as a validation for eating meat, when actually it seems to me that Sadie is encouraging people to follow her example and NOT eat factory farmed meat.
    99% of meat and dairy products come from animals raised on factory farms in conditions shown above (or worse). So deciding not to eat factory farmed meat is a compassionate step toward causing less suffering and will have a significant impact on our environment and resources as well. Thanks Sadie for inspiring others to make this great choice.

  6. elizabeth valerio says:

    Thank you so much! This is just what I needed…what I have been feeling all along…and so today ends my "I can't remember the last time I had meat" phase. I'm learning about the middle way…so help me God.

  7. Cyndi says:

    My husband and I follow the Eat Right 4 Your Type diet and it made us realize that being vegetarians was the reason we were not as healthy as we could be. It was the reason we didn't have enough energy and were starting to gain weight even though we were avid exercisers and sports enthusiasts. Once we started eating foods that had positive effects on our bodily systems our lives changed. We were no longer committing ahimsa towards ourselves & we could no longer continue eating the way we had before. It didn't make sense to us.

    We all eat for different reasons and food effects everyone's body differently. We cannot ignore that fact and we can't expect everyone to choose OUR reason for eating.

    We all have different priorities when it comes to nourishing our bodies. For some people, it's their own health & lack of suffering that comes first. For some, it's the life of other animals and their suffering. For some, it's the environmental impact of getting the food from the farm to the table. But whatever the reason, it seems to me, it's important to have good intention with our food choices.

    Why do we have to talk down to others just because a legitimate opposing point of view has made us feel threatened about our choices? It doesn't made sense. If we are convicted about the choices we make, then other views shouldn't put us on the defensive or make us feel the need to stop any converts to the opposition.

    It's not a competition between the vegans and the omnivores.

  8. jprayne says:

    I became vegetarian at the age of 15, just after I started practicing yoga. I had read about ahimsa but for me, even then, it was about learning to tread more lightly on the planet. I had lived in the Canadian Arctic when I was 13 and I saw that eating meat not only made sense but was a critical part of the Inuit diet and way of life. Hunting and being in tune with nature, respecting the animals and using every part to help sustain themselves in their harsh climate was a great example of treading lightly.

    In the South, we have so many more options. Strolling through a supermarket, hunting for meat packed in styrofoam containers wrapped in cellophane made a huge impression on me – seemed so odd and somehow perverted – after I had personally witnessed life in the Arctic. In their culture, they even had a community freezer where hunters would deposit part of their "kill" so that no one went without. So civilized!

    It hurts me to the core to know that the land and the people I love in the North are experiencing such great change in their climate and that this affects how they need to live to survive. I have great faith in their adaptability – they are true survivors. For those of us who live in other climes, and who don't know how to thrive much less survive on the land, it's hard to know what to eat, especially with the state of bioengineering these days. I know that, for me, I still choose to tread lightly. Every choice I make is based on that intention.

  9. littlewing108 says:

    Hi Sadie, interesting article! I have been thinking of going back to eating bird meat this winter, and would like for it to be as clean and good as possible… do you have any info on where are the best places to get such bird meat would be? -Boulder grrl..

  10. wendy says:

    when sri k patabhi jois was asked by sharon gannon (of jivamukti) "what do you think about modern yogis eating meat?" his non judgmental response…"OH, a NEW method". perhaps i missed something in your article…but what happened to the #1 yama of yoga…. "ahimsa"…non harming? i'll stick with the old method, tried and true.

  11. Carrie says:

    Of course, we all have the right to make our own choices about how to best live our lives But, before you put articles out on the interwebs for people to read you should make sure you actually know what you are talking about first. Using the "plants have feelings" argument is nothing but an excuse to make people who eat meat feel better about something they know is inherently wrong. Yes, plants can respond to stimuli, but plants are not sentient beings the way living, breathing animals are.

    Being a vegan isn't about being pure, it's about the intention of causing the least amount of harm possible. It is indisputable that the meat/dairy/egg industries not only cause great amounts of harm to the animals that are exploited in this industry, but also to the environment which we all must share. The United Nations, just this year, stated that the most significant thing people can do to reverse climate change is to stop eating meat.

    As for the rodents, insects, birds, etc that are killed during the harvest of crops, it's again a tired, illogical argument to make people feel better about the harm they are inflicting on BILLIONS of animals. First it's important to keep in mind that the idea of veganism is about intent, not actual numbers. Second, you should remember that MOST of those crops (especially grain and soybean crops) are used to feed the animals that are then turned into your steak. There would be FAR less by-kill of rodents, insects, etc. if there were less meat consumption. And finally, your capitalized type of the word daily when referring to these rodents, etc. that are killed during harvest implies that there aren't so many animals killed for food. Did you know there are over 75 million animals killed daily for human consumption. Can you imagine how much less crop we would need if we weren't feeding that crop to the 75 million animals that we off each day?

    Regarding the issue of Ahimsa and meat eating. Ahimsa is one of the yamas, the yamas are the restraints which guide our relationships with the outer world; the ways in which we treat all other living things including humans, animals and the environment. The yamas have nothing to do with ourselves, that is reserved for the introspective practices of the niyamas, the moral observances and modes of conduct in which we treat and present ourselves. To use the excuse that one feels better when they eat meat and is therefore practicing ahimsa goes completely against the idea of what ahimsa is. Ahimsa is not about how you feel, it's about how you treat those things external to you. It's true that the yoga sutras, nor any other scriptures actually prescribe specific foods for us to eat. It is clear, however, that they do prescribe practicing the yamas, including ahimsa…….abstaining from violence. It is 100% impossible to eat an animal while at the same time abstain from violence. And given the state of today's food industry and the fact that the yoga teachings are intended to be timeless and adaptable to any era I think it's safe to say that if the Sutras were to be re-written today, and if ahimsa were still included in those sutras it might clearly point out that our system of animal agriculture is inherently violent and should be abstained from.

    I commend that you are promoting conscious consumerism, but I think that you shouldn't kid yourself and others into believing that you can conscientiously consume animal products and not be a part of the violent industry that is animal agriculture. Promotion of consumption of animal products of any type is promotion of the animal ag. industry. Before you fool yourself and others into believing that consuming "humane", "free-range", or "organic" animal products is really any different that consuming conventional animal products, I implore you to do some research and find out what these terms really mean. I think you'll find that in essence they mean very little in terms of suffering, cruelty and violence. They are terms created by the animal agriculture industry to make people feel better, more conscientious, about what they are consuming. These terms were created because people inherently know that torturing, killing and consuming animal flesh is wrong for us, and we needed a way to make ourselves feel better about this. We needed a way to appease our minds and hearts so that we don't actually have to take a good, hard look at our habits and actually change them. Yoga is about self inquiry, it's about doing the hard work of change and transformation, it's not about making excuses so we don't have to change, it's not about life remaining easy.

    On a different note, I'd also like to point out that I find it interesting that almost all omnivores that I know at some point or another feels "judged" by a vegan/vegetarian. Most vegans/vegetarians I know are not judgmental nor condescending. By simply having a conversation about food non-vegans perceive judgment, even when their is none. Perhaps an expression of their own personal judgment of themselves?

  12. guest says:

    Um, most vegans I know do renounce medications, vaccines and non-vegan grooming products, leather, fur, etc.

  13. guest says:

    "How do you know that the food chain wouldn't be destroyed (which many scientist believe would be catastrophic) if we all en masse stopped eating meat?"

    We know this because if we stopped eating the animals we eat nothing would happen to the NATURAL order of things. The animals we eat were created by us for use as food. They are in no way like their wild counterparts. This and the "we would be overrun with animals if we didn't eat them" argument are silly, illogical excuses derived by those who eat meat to try and make themselves feel better about what they know is inherently wrong.

  14. Caroline says:

    "I do think we as yoga practitioners should aim not to presume to know the truth for everyone else." ~ Hallelujah!

    Great writing, Sadie.

  15. [...] New Yorker (by way of Iowa) yogini Sadie Nardini defends her right to eat meat. “Some of us do very well with the inclusion of different types of [...]

  16. krista says:

    We love you Sadie. Speak the truth…your truth!!! love you kc and bc

  17. Zarathustra says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you so so so so so so so so so so much Sadie for standing up for us meat-eating yogis and yoginis. Sometimes it can really feel like a hostile environment for us. I am so glad to see that A) I am not the only one, and B) someone as important and influential in the yoga world as you is standing up for our eating habits.

    The issue of factory farming is very close to my heart. Personally, I am the grandson of Greek peasants. My grandparents had no understanding of concepts like Ahimsa, factory farming, or even vegetarianism. They were just peasants. To them, farming was not only a way of life, but a passion. When they raised goats or sheep or chicken (I can't remember what exactly they did), they raised them with love and with care, partly because they knew that people would be eating these animals, but mostly because they had genuine love for these animals. They didn't use hormones, they didn't use genetic technology. They raised these animals the good old-fashioned way, the way peasants all over the world have been doing it for thousands upon thousands of years. How long has factory farming been going on for? Factory farming produces less healthy (and less delicious) food than does traditional farming as my grandparents practiced. And GMOs, they are just unnatural. Affronts to nature. I, like you and hopefully one day every other meat eater in the world, prefer to eat meat that has been raised the same way my grandparents raised it, the same way we humans have been raising it for thousands upon thousands of years. If we can all return to that method of raising meat, then I think the world will be a much more ethical place, and everyone will be happier and healthier, including the animals.

    As for the debate on meat eating vs. vegetarianism/veganism, frankly, I don't care. I once had a friend who was a vegan, but he went back to eating meat after two things: 1) his doctor proscribed him antibiotics for an illness, which he realised equalled genocide against bacteria for the selfish purpose of prolonging his own life, and 2) he realised he had become the same person who doesn't respect other people's dietary habits that he had feared he would become. I have another friend who is a vegetarian who has no problem respecting other people's dietary habits. He honestly doesn't care at all if I eat meat, in the same way that I don't care if he doesn't. I see no reason why there should even be a debate; everybody has the right to their own life choices. It's right there in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the United Nations put out. All I can say on this debate is stop arguing and go eat something produced by a local farmer, ideally an immigrant.

    Namaste and happy New Year!

  18. Suzy says:

    I want to comment and commend Sadie for her article and for her knowledge. I was a very disordered eater and when I began practicing Yoga and heard the only way is to eliminate all animals products I jumped on board. I was all over another way to control my eating. Even as a Raw vegan for year and vegan/vegetarian for 4 years I was finding new ways to eliminate everything from my diet I heard was now considered unhealthful. My disordered eating became Orthorexia, a fixation with healthy or righteous eating. I was miserable, and was not spiritually going anywhere but down. I commend Sadie because a Yoga teacher friend saw my struggle and recommend I try the middle path. It took me 3 years to recover and I daily work to stay healthy and on track. So please if you are out there know that there are people like me that use veganism as a way to support their eating disorders, and when we judge others for their choices please know that some of us, hell many of us out there need to follow the middle path to stay healthy and to not get sucked back into disordered eating. I am happier and healthier then I have been in my life with the Yoga practice and being an conscious Omnivore.
    I applaud those that want to help ease animal suffering, but many of us who grew up in America are suffering too so please be kind and compassionate if we chose not to be vegan.

  19. [...] In fact, the Huffington Post asked us to have a video debate about it. I was really into it at the time; not to change anyone’s mind about their diet, but to give those who eat meat and practice yoga a role mod… [...]

  20. Kim says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I spent a lot of years trying to do the "healthy" and "right" thing and eat vegetarian, even spending quite some time as a vegan. I was overweight, had high blood pressure, and diabetes. In June of this year, after much prodding from my doctor, I adopted a low-carb diet consisting mostly of whole foods — mostly organic meats, poultry, fish and lots of veggies. No sugar, no starches, no grains. In less than four weeks I was able to cut my blood pressure medicine in half. In two months I was able to cut out one diabetes med and start weaning off another. My cholesterol went from 200 to 159, my triglycerides from 190 to 124, and my A1C (diabetes test) from 6.1 to 5.7. It has been pretty much a miracle cure for me. I love yoga and I thought that I would never be acceptable as a yoga teacher because I eat meat. Because an animal protein-based diet is the answer to my good health, I am grateful to have found your article. You give me hope. So, thank you again.

  21. [...] post, “Yoga for Weight Loss. Why Not?” And while I admire Sadie as an incisive writer who’s never afraid to jump into the fray, I must disagree with her on this [...]

  22. windowsxphelpnow says:

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  23. Helen says:

    Saw a truck similar to this just last Sunday night. I was saddened by the fact that people don't respect animals the way they should, especially they provide humans what we can't give to them.

  24. MAdelain Burgoyne says:

    That's exactly what I see. :)

  25. jimi says:

    Hi Sadie, this is respons to an earlier comment of yours. What about dairy products as a source for B12? As you know the cow is holy in India, literally everything from the cow is put to good use. Milking a cow is the opposite of animal cruelty, it's a relief :) Enjoy your meat ofcourse, but milk might be a good alternative (milk is the middle way:)).
    namaste

  26. Madelain Burgoyne says:

    We get the point, but that wasn't a very tasetful or kind reply to denvergirl 13floorelevator. She's stating her convictions, she has a right to fight for what she thinks is a worthy cause, just like any of us.

  27. denvergirll says:

    I think this is funny, and I am choosing to take it as a joke. I am not trying to be holier than thou, I just prefer not to drive.

  28. denvergirll says:

    Hey,
    I am a vegan but, I am pro choice. My personal view on abortion is that it is better to prevent a life from happening if that life would be full of suffering. If a mother does not have the means to take care of a child or simply does not want to have a child, I think it is her choice to make.

  29. guest says:

    The only way to argue against factory farming is to argue against eating meat, as it is nearly impossible to find meat in this country that is not factory farmed. By making it seem ok to eat meat Sadie is encouraging people to support factory farming, because anyone who buys their meat from a grocery store or a restaurant is doing just that. In my mind it's an all or nothing deal.

  30. guest says:

    veganism is a perfectly healthy lifestyle if you base your diet on whole foods eaten in their natural forms.

  31. gues says:

    In nature, creatures who kill other creatures for food are called obligate carnivore. This means that their digestive systems are such that they must eat meat in order to survive. Humans are not obligate carnivores, we do not have to eat meat to survive. Animals in nature that need to eat meat can kill another animal with their bare teeth, rip it to shreds with their sharp claws and eat it raw. Humans can not do this. We must pay other people to torture, kill and process the meat we eat, then we have to bring it home from the store and cook the hell out of it so we don't get sick. Hardly natural if you ask me.

    I implore you to do some research about the physiology of carnivore vs. herbivores and see where human physiology falls.

  32. McKenna says:

    I like the suggestion for more nutritious options for people with less money, but why aren't they doing those things? I think they are still going to think they are getting more food for their money from KFC. (Technically they are getting more volume of food, but less nutrition.) They won't find the banana filling. Not sure where you can get 3 bananas for a $1? That would be great. But, seriously, though–I truly do get your point. It's just ironic to me that we are all sitting here agonizing over our diets, when so many people are going hungry. I know everyone's hearts are in the right place, in terms of practicing ahimsa and treating the body temple with the best nutrients.

    I thought you'd find this really cool: http://www.amazon.com/99-Cent-Only-Stores-Cookboo

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