Yogis Eating Animals. ~ Edward Staskus

Via on Sep 16, 2012

Ahimsa on and off the Plate

Evin Bodell often brings Napoleon, her Australian sheep dog, to her West Side yoga studio in Lakewood, Ohio. Napoleon is a kind of shaggy greeter, sniffing everyone up and down as they step out of their shoes in the lobby. Whenever the door to the studio is left open, the dog snoozes on the threshold during asana class exercises, a reminder of how good life can be.

Before one class, as I sat in the waiting room on a sofa and roughhoused with the dog, scratching his stomach as he rolled over, I asked Ms. Bodell, a self-professed omnivore, if she had ever considered killing, barbecuing and eating Napoleon.

She said, “No,” in more ways than one.

When I asked her what the difference was between her dog and any of the other animals she ate, she said, “The dog was her pet and everything else wasn’t.”

According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, more than 95 percent of all Americans 18 years-and-older eat animals. On average, every American eats 200 pounds of meat a year, most of it cows, pigs and birds, and only very rarely dogs.

In the United States we manufacture, slaughter and eat nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total. The world’s production of meat in 1961 was 71 million tons. Today it is estimated to be more than 284 million tons.

We are eating more animals than ever in human history.

We became animal-eaters at the dawn of the genus Homo, around 2.5 million years ago.

“Early Homo had teeth adapted to tough food. The obvious candidate is meat,” says anthropologist Richard Wrangtan of Harvard University.

Paleolithic or Stone Age man lived as a hunter-gatherer eating food based on high-protein meat, fruits and vegetables. Studies of the collagen in Stone Age humans living in England 13,000 years ago show that their diet, in terms of protein content and quality, was the same as the diet of wolves.

“Carbohydrates derived from cereal grains were not part of the human evolutionary experience,” says Loren Cordain, a professor in the Department at Health at Colorado State University.

Approximately 10,000 years ago, people in several parts of the world, most notably in Mesopotamia, independently discovered how to cultivate crops and domesticate animals. Over time our food staples gradually evolved, becoming beans, cereals, dairy, some meat and salt, and remained so until the Industrial Revolution.

From the mid-19th century to the present, mechanized food processing and intensive livestock farming has led to the broader distribution of refined foodstuffs and fatty meat. In the past 60 years the availability of factory farm animals for food has expanded exponentially.

There are many reasons why we eat meat. One reason is we have mastery over the earth, as most religions and governments preach. Many people believe animals are there for us to eat. In other words, if God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them out of meat?

The Genesis chapter of the Bible states, “Man shall have dominion over the animals.”

But, does that necessarily mean we are free to imprison, kill and eat animals, or might it mean we should take care of them?

The Qur’an forbids eating pigs, but most other animals are fair game. The Qur’an also mandates animals being slaughtered for food must be alive at the time of their killing and the name of Allah be invoked at their deaths. It’s ironic Muhammad died while eating lamb.

Many yogis perceive eating animals as being essential for their health.

“In the past I experimented with vegetarianism and found I felt cleaner and less aggressive,” says Randal Williams, a yoga teacher and restaurateur in Lenox, Massachusetts. “But, on the other hand, I felt ungrounded and light-headed. I went back to eating meat and it was almost as if my cells were happier for having meat available.”

Meat is considered one of the food groups in the USDA’s Food Guide Pyramid and is often eaten for its nutrients. Those nutrients include zinc, iron, selenium, vitamins B6 and B12 and especially the essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. When I asked Kristen Zarzycki, a powerful flow teacher at Inner Bliss Yoga in Rocky River, Ohio, why she ate animals, she said, “I need the protein.”

But, does anyone really need to eat animals to get the protein required for practicing demanding yoga, even yoga as demanding as powerful flow?

Maybe not, since many elite athletes are vegetarians, such as four-time World Champion Ironman triathlete Dave Scott; four-time Mr. Universe body builder Bill Pearl; nine-time Olympic Gold winner Carl Lewis; and nine-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The amount of protein we consume is also questionable.

“The average American consumes more than twice the amount of protein that is the absurdly oversized U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance,” says Jay Weinstein in his book The Ethical Gourmet.

The essential amino acids, or protein, not synthesized by the body must be gotten from food. Meat can be a tasty and convenient form of that protein, but those same amino acids can easily be gotten from grains and legumes. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has called for a new Four Food Groups that does not include meat, saying, “Two of the four [old] food groups, meats and dairy products, are clearly not necessary for health.”

It is rare that anyone has to eat animals for any nutritional reason.

In fact, eating animals for protein can be dangerous. A study in the late 1980s of 88,000 nurses found that those who ate red meat were two-and-a-half times more likely to develop colon cancer than near-vegetarians. Walter Willet, the director of the study and a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, said, “The optimum amount of red meat you should eat is zero.”

More than 20 years of research at the Loma Linda University in California has revealed that men who eat animals are three times more likely to suffer from prostate cancer than vegetarians.

Some people say they eat animals because our culture accepts it and they were raised on meat. “If your grandmother is making a wonderful meat dish that you have loved since you were a child, is it yoga to push it away?” asks Mary Taylor, a Boulder, Colorado teacher and one-time student of Julia Child.

That is not necessarily the best of reasons, given that our culture forced African Americans to work for free less than three generations ago, denied women property and voting rights fewer than two generations ago and has been imposing its foreign policy by way of nuclear threats and armed conflict for the past generation.

What if our culture accepted cannibalism as proper and fitting?

Many people simply like the way meat tastes. They enjoy eating animals because they are delicious. “I love meat because I love the taste,” says Ginny Walters, an Ashtanga Yoga teacher in the Cleveland, Ohio-area. “Give me a great steak on the grill in the summer and all is right with my world.”

Cookbooks are rife with recipes for beef, pork, fowl and lamb. Some people, like the famous chef and author Anthony Bourdain, cannot do without eating animals. “To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage and organ meat is a life not worth living,” he says.

What about satisfying our other senses, such as hearing and seeing? What if someone enjoyed listening to pigs squeal in pain? Would it be okay for them to stick switchblades into pigs to hear them cry out?

Is it okay to crowd cows into feedlots that resemble concentration camps where they spend a month-or-so shin deep in their own excrement being fattened up for the dinner table? Would the same practice be acceptable if someone just liked looking at cows stuck in shit all day long?

What harm can there be in eating a double cheeseburger?

As it happens, plenty of harm happens. There is a daunting amount of damage done to our environment in the process of the energy-intensive raising of livestock. Not to mention the physiological damage, bordering on cruelty, done to animals during their brief lives, and ultimately the killing, dismemberment and packaging of the animal.

More than 30 percent of the earth’s usable land is involved in the production of animals for food, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Even though approximately 800 million people in the world are underfed, most of the corn and soy grown in the world feeds our livestock.

James Lovestock, the British scientist best known for his Gaia Hypothesis, has estimated, “If we gave up eating beef we would have roughly 20 to 30 times more land for food than we have now.”

“When you look at environmental problems in the United States,“ says Gordon Eschel, an environmentalist and geophysicist at Bard College,  “nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production.”

The amount of waste produced by the animals we raise for food is of biblical proportions, roughly 130 times the waste of the entire population of the United States, according to a 1997 report by the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture. The hog farms in North Carolina alone generate more fecal matter than all the people in New York and California. None of this waste is treated and vast amounts of manure pollute rivers, lakes and groundwater nationwide. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that almost 30 thousand miles of American waterways are dead or close to dead due to this pollution.

In  2006 the United Nations issued a report saying livestock production caused more damage to the environment than all the cars, trucks, trains and planes in the world combined. “I do not eat meat,“ says Rafael Sarango of the Yoga Center in Houston, Texas, “because eating animal products is not good for the environment, which is the greenest act a person can choose.”

Most of the animals we eat are grown in what is known in the meat business as animal feeding operations. These are factories making the most meat at the lowest cost. To achieve economies of scale, chickens are crammed by the tens of thousands into enormous windowless sheds where they live their genetically modified 40 days in clouds of ammonia created by the accumulated waste of generations of them. Some corporate chicken factories are filled with up to a million birds in cages, a cornucopia of drugs mixed daily into their feed.

Americans take three million pounds of antibiotics yearly by prescription. The animals we eat are fed approximately 28 million pounds of antibiotics every year to keep them alive in their Augean stables. Intensive piggeries, often producing hundreds of thousands of swine for slaughter a year, confine their animals in sunless steel buildings in close quarters where the air is so poisonous the animals are routinely sprayed with insecticides. Despite the antibiotics fed to our animals they are still often contaminated.

“The meat we buy is grossly contaminated with both coliform bacteria and salmonella,” says Dr. Richard Novick of the Public Health Institute. To make matters worse, the overuse of antibiotics has led to a scourge of drug-resistant infectious diseases the World Health Organization says is a leading threat to human health.

The first yama in the Yoga Sutras is ahimsa, which means non-violence or non-harming. Like the Golden Rule in Christian ethics, ahimsa is one of the principles central to yoga.

“Non-harming is essential to the yogi,” Sharon Gannon says in her book Yoga and Vegetarianism.

“According to the universal law of karma, if you cause harm to others, you will suffer the painful consequences of your actions. The yogi, realizing this, tries to cause the least amount of harm and suffering to others as possible.”

Sharon Gannon includes all breathing beings in her sense of others, and as dopplegangers in the construction of the self.

If ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, slaughtering animals for hamburgers cannot be part of the plan. Killing animals by proxy makes us killers no matter how we cut it.

Many yogis feel ahimsa is something that should be applied to oneself first and foremost.

“If eating meat in moderation works better for the individual to help sustain a well-balanced life, then I think it is important to consume meat,” says David Sunshine of the Dallas Yoga Center.

Yogis are not selfish, in principle at least, but putting themselves at the front of the line and justifying it as a matter of balance makes them selfish in practice. We are all born into a Hobbesian world, but it is an interconnected world, and yoga is one of the ways of realizing that complexity and learning to be less, not more, selfish.

Ahimsa is almost a tenet of yoga. But for many it is a method rather than a mantra. “Ahimsa and all the yamas and niyamas are meant to be guidelines of inquiry and empowerment, not about dogma or morality,” says Danny Arguetty, a yoga teacher at Kripalu, as well as a nutrition and health counselor.

This flexible approach stresses yoga’s structure of flow on and off the mat as opposed to any set of commandments. “The yama of ahimsa is not for cementing a fixed morality,” says Randal Williams. “I would offer this inquiry, is it an act of harming to dictate diet to someone else or for someone else to dictate to you what you should eat?”

Nevertheless, whether ahimsa was commanded or created, whether old school or redefined in relativist terms, it is a simple proposition espousing avoidance of harm to living creatures. To spin the concept is to split hairs.

Wrestling with their appetites, many argue that harm is done to the natural world no matter what we eat. Underpaid and exploited migrant workers harvest our fruits. Corporations grow grains and vegetables in one place and transport them far distances, bankrupting local farmers with their economies of scale and needlessly consuming fossil fuels. Even the sophism that plants feel and suffer is invoked.

At the other end of the spectrum, Steve Ross in his book Happy Yoga insists that when grocery-shopping conscientious yogis should ask, “Are the farmers full of gratitude and love, and do they enjoy growing food, or are they angry and filled with hate for their job and all vegetables?”

These are naïve points-of-view, warping ahimsa as a prescription not to harm other living beings into a merry-go-round of what-ifs and one-upmanship.

Some yogis have made non-violence towards animals a core mandate of their yoga. Sri. K. Pattabhi Jois said, “The most important part of the yoga practice is eating a vegetarian diet.”

Not everyone agrees. “I get angry, yes, actually, absolutely indignant, when I see students being frowned upon by some self-righteous teacher. There is a strong ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in the yoga community that is keeping students, and even many teachers, locked firmly inside the meat-eating closet,” says Sadie Nardini, the founder of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga. She reasons it would be harmful to the health of many yogis to not eat meat, violating ahimsa at its most primal level.

“People and animals alike would be far better served if we chose from more carefully regulated, caring and healthful sources,” she says, addressing the factory farm meat industry.

That is like being a vegetarian between meals.

In 1780 the English philosopher Jeremy Bentham asked, in his Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation, “The question is not, Can they [animals] reason? nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?”

The answer to Bentham’s question is hiding in the light, not in the darkness of today’s pigpens. Everyone knows animals suffer when we force them to live in squalor, genetically modify them, separate them from their young at birth, feed them cheap corn laced with antibiotics and hormones, kill them with bolt guns and finally eat their flesh after their suffering is over.

Everyone knows, which is why so many people say they don’t want to know when asked if they’re aware of how the loin of pork on their plate got there.

If modern feedlots and slaughterhouses had glass walls instead of barbed wire walls it is likely only the heartless would eat animals.

“I am a vegetarian because if I can’t kill it myself, why let someone else do it for me,” says Teresa Taylor of Yoga Quest in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “People continue to eat meat because they are distanced from the suffering and killing of the animal they are eating. Out of sight, out of mind.”

Many people do not want to inquire into the killing of the animals they eat because they perceive the cruelty built into our factory farms, but do not want to internalize how deliberate and unrelenting it is.

“I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience,” Albert Einstein said before becoming a vegetarian late in life.

Yogis sometimes say that anything other than people doesn’t matter as much as we do. They say what matters is how aware and compassionate we are with others and ourselves. What we eat or don’t eat is beside the point.

But, what we do when we buy veal cutlets for our dinner tables may be more to the point than all the yogic love, reverence and respect in the world.

“Whether someone realizes it or not, if they participate in eating meat they are contributing to and encouraging violence. Not ahimsa by any stretch of the imagination, “ says Carrie Klaus, a teacher in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ahimsa is a personal practice, and everyone has to make his or her own decisions. Those decisions involve more than just thinking outside the bun, such as eating grass-fed, free-range cows and pigs raised on local farms.

“In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife handle,” says Jonathan Safran Froer in his book Eating Animals.

Is ahimsa a cornerstone of yoga or just a concept on the menu? Does it benefit ahimsa to be thankful to the dead animals we eat? Are the yogic precepts of restraint really served by having tenderloin for dinner?

“I do not eat red meat, so that is a start,” says Kristen Zarzycki. “It breaks my heart to know what happens.”

Maybe it’s not that yogis need to change what they think about eating meat, but rather rethink what they consider food.

We have transformed animals into commodities and main courses, and forgotten they are sentient, breathing beings much like us. Many yogis eat animals with compassion and awareness of what they are doing.

“On the rare occasion when I do indulge in animal food, I do so with great respect and meditation on the sacrifice of the animal,” says Jerry Anathan of Yoga East in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It is laudable to be grateful and compassionate for the sacrifice of the cow when sitting down to a steak dinner, but does it speak to the spirit of ahimsa? Even though we have eaten meat for a hundred millenniums, perhaps it is time to lose our memory of eating animals and make a new paradigm for ourselves.

We don’t live or think like wolves anymore. Why should we eat like them?

“The food we eat is a profound way in which we connect with the world. Even if you never unroll a mat, you will lift a fork,” says Melissa Van Orman of Tranquil Space Yoga in Washington, D. C.

Eating animals is an instinct. Not eating them is a decision yogis make or don’t make very time they sit down at the dining room table, just like every other decision they make, from practicing asanas to being nice to their dogs.

“From what I have observed many of the yogis I have met are meat eaters,” says Danny Arguetty.

But, yogis and yoginis don’t eat their pets. More than 35 million cows, a 115 million pigs and some nine billion birds are killed annually in the United States to be made into fodder for our butcher shops and supermarkets.

We all have to eat, but maybe we shouldn’t take part in the killing and eating of animals anymore than necessary, if only in the interest of restraining ourselves from causing unnecessary harm in this life and to all lives, both ours and others.

 

Edward Staskus lives in Lakewood, Ohio with his wife, Vanessa, practices yoga and subscribes to Buddhism.

~

Editor: Sara McKeown

Like elephant Food on Facebook.

About elephant journal

elephant journal is dedicated to "bringing together those working (and playing) to create enlightened society." We're about anything that helps us to live a good life that's also good for others, and our planet. >>> Founded as a print magazine in 2002, we went national in 2005 and then (because mainstream magazine distribution is wildly inefficient from an eco-responsible point of view) transitioned online in 2009. >>> elephant's been named to 30 top new media lists, and was voted #1 in the US on twitter's Shorty Awards for #green content...two years running. >>> Get involved: > Subscribe to our free Best of the Week e-newsletter. > Follow us on Twitter Fan us on Facebook. > Write: send article or query. > Advertise. > Pay for what you read, help indie journalism survive and thrive—and get your name/business/fave non-profit on every page of elephantjournal.com. Questions? info elephantjournal com

6,524 views

34 Responses to “Yogis Eating Animals. ~ Edward Staskus”

  1. Mark Ledbetter says:

    You build a powerful case here and present lots of excellent info.

    But I question the technique you describe at the beginning, asking people if they would barbecue and eat their pet. I suspect you only did that because you were asking a fellow yogi, and one you knew well enough to know she wouldn't be insulted. But the "young and impressionables" among us might see that as a viable approach when in fact, in my opinion, it's likely to be counter-productive and may easily co-opted by the ego – always so clever at finding ways around our good intentions – as a way to dress harmfulness in a non-harmful cloak.

    Also, accepting a meat dish lovingly prepared by grandma is not exactly in the same league as slavery, male domination, and war. In fact, accepting such a dish might actually be the correct thing to do if you are operating from principles of non-harmfulness.

    Aside from those two quibbles on how to implement ethical living in the real world, a very nice article.

    • Crystal Dawn Webber says:

      It's true that grandma is lovingly preparing the dish and it is hard to say no to that, but I think the author is trying to point to what it really going on behind that meal preparation. It's not grandma who is waging the war or doing the enslaving (aka factory farming) herself but that is exactly what is happening in order to bring that meat to her. The realities of factory farming are so well hidden that grandma herself has no idea what she is supporting. She just assumes that it is the quaint little family farm that she knew of when growing up. But that has changed. And her ignorance, although understandable, does not change reality. Therefore I feel that the comparison made in this article is valid. Both war and enslavement are unfortunately words all too fitting.

  2. NFox says:

    Invariably, your article becomes a socio-political issue instead of one that truly reiterates central points most important to the wellbeing of an individual. The group thinking, “us and them,” is too overused here. The animals (plural), they hurt, they cry out in their own way as “we” consume them. There were few restrictions when receiving alms in India during the time of the Buddha. You simply received into the bowl what was given. And that was that! How about an article about Yogis Using the Internet instead?

    • lineage yoga says:

      Yes please. "Yogis Using the Internet" I'd love to read!!!

    • Greg says:

      There are many well documented research articles on animal food consumption and health disparities, particularly cardiovascular disease. Everyone is worried about getting enough protein but in this country, protein deficiency is virtually non-existent. Instead we have a culture of excess. If you are receiving alms in your community than I suppose you don't have much of a choice. Not sure what you mean on Yogis using internet??

  3. happytreepose says:

    Hmm, this is a topic that will never be resolved.

    I have been vegetarian for a year (and am a yoga teacher) but I am underweight, celiac with a soy intolerance to boot and my husband has just been diagnosed with Crohns so beans are off the menu, as is dairy. With all of these restrictions, it is so freaking hard for me to find us food that won't harm us but also won't harm animals. My husband isn't vegetarian, and it just seems like a heavier and heavier burden on me and my overall health to continue to avoid all meat.

    That said, I haven't given in yet. I feel strongly that our treatment of animals is wrong, and needs to be addressed.

    What a conflict.

    • kconnorsd says:

      I found the same problem. If your stomach handles eggs well, rescue some chickens. They're great at keeping your garden bug-free, and if you're not causing them any harm and giving them good lives, they will lay eggs regardless of whether or not they're fed the same hormones that eggaries give them. That being said, not everyone's system can handle eggs, but if your's can, rescuing chickens is a wonderful option :)

  4. susan says:

    I appreciate those who are able to be honest about what they eat, and I know several people who have made honest long term efforts in several diets but are much healthier eating animals. I think there is a compromise position; gratitude is a given, and this means removing "meat" from one's vocabulary, saying "eating animals" instead. Only eat animals raised with clean and abundant food, space, air and interactions with other animals, live generally pain free (not whipped and kicked), and who are killed as painlessly as possible. For most, this is asking a lot, and likely means eating animals as exceptions, a few times a month, but is I think as ethical as eating animals can be.

    This compromise position does not meet the ethical standards of yoga. The traditional commentary on the yoga sutras are extremely clear that ahimsa means don't eat animals. Ahimsa is put at the front of the description of the ashtanga system it because it is the most important part of it, and is called a universal vow to refute the various excuses this article discusses. Ethics in general are at the front of most peace seeking systems for a very practical reason, because teaching peace to someone who is going to use it to bully and abuse is oxymoronic and counter productive. Today however, doors are opened to anyone willing to show up whether or not they learn. In addition to a yogin now being someone who does something somehow related to yoga, there is a regular attempt to reshape the old ethics to agree more with the culture of abuse they live in, which includes the need to equate what one does with what one "is". But whether you are ethical or not there is no need to call oneself a yogin, so let us stop calling each other yogins just because we show up.

    As an aside, it is interesting to me that as people invest in indigenous (for lack of a better word) religious systems (especially those that make use of psychotropics), they become enthusiastic about sacrificing animals, an important part of the vedic religion along with soma, and something yogins, jains, and buddhists overtly reject.

    • markgil says:

      " Only eat animals raised with clean and abundant food, space, air and interactions with other animals, live generally pain free (not whipped and kicked), and who are killed as painlessly as possible. For most, this is asking a lot, and likely means eating animals as exceptions, a few times a month, but is I think as ethical as eating animals can be. "

      are we not still harming others for our own personal gratification? would it be OK to shoot another person in the back of the head when he or she is unaware in order to take something from them that we desire? it would also be a painless death for them so therefore more ethical?
      ?

      • susan says:

        I think it is more ethical to kill if one is avoiding adding fear and pain, but this does not make it "ok" to my own ethics. As I said, what you quoted is a compromise position, one for those who are convinced that life is life eating life. Eating animals is not something at all helpful to one's practice and pursuit of yoga.

  5. @yogatwit says:

    Great article. I am a vegetarian, but I recall that even the Buddha eat meat when given it (even after he became the Buddha.)
    Thanks again for this article.

    • Edward Staskus says:

      Thanks for reading the story. I know wat you mean about eating animals once in a while. My mom has eaten them her whole life (she is in her 80s), and although she usually makes me something else when we are over her house for dinner, sometimes she will press me to have a little of a meat dish, and I will usually accept it and nibble at the bones. She is well-meaning and it doesn't hurt me to accept what she has offered. I would prefer her becoming a vegetarian, but I don't think that is going to happen.

      • markgil says:

        i would have to say that violence against another for one's own benefit, even if it is socially acceptable, is never morally or ethically justified. are there other area's of our lives where contributing to violence once in while is considered acceptable?

        "Those who permit the slaughter of an animal, who kills it, who cuts it up, who buys or sells flesh, who cooks it, who serves it up, and who eats it, are all slayers.”—Hinduism

    • markgil says:

      is this really true? what about this quote :“But …meat eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place is unconditionally and once and for all prohibited …Meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit’”—Lord Buddha in the Lankavatara Sutra

    • Omnivore for life says:

      If that is true than he was not "the compassionate one" that we all thought he was.

  6. Michael says:

    By some estimates, at least 300 animals per acre—including mice, rats, moles, groundhogs and birds—are killed for the production of vegetable and grain foods, often in gruesome ways. Only one animal per acre is killed for the production of grass-fed beef and no animal is killed for the production of grass-fed milk

    • markgil says:

      Michael, you are ignoring the several issues: #1 how many animals were killed when destroying the forest to make the pasture for the cows who are to be eaten?

      #2 raising grass fed animals is extremely more polluting, environmentally toxic and resource intensive than growing plants to eat.

      #3 what happens to the male calves who are born in order for the milk to be produced?

      #4 how many people can eat from plants grown on 1 acre of land?

      you may want to check out this informative video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoqHmd32XxI

      • Michael says:

        The point of the article is Ahimsa and the position that eating meat is killing, whereas vegatarianism is not killing. It may be true that meat production is more environmentally intensive and that if we were all vegetarians it would make it possible to jam even more people onto our already overcrowded planet, but this does not obviate the point that there is no way to live, where living entails consumption, without killing and causing harm to something. In this regard the only difference between being a vegetarian and being a meat eater is that meat eaters are forced to directly confront the moral cost of their own existence, whereas vegetarians convince themselves of a false sense of moral purity by ignoring the secondary consequences of their dietary choice. For me, from a spiritual perspective, I think it is much healthier to acknowledge the paradox of ahimsa that is created for any living creature by the basic fact of existence, than it is to live in a state of denial supported the insistent drumbeat of moral superiority.

  7. markgil says:

    here is another wonderful article in a series of 10 articles on the subject:

    “Eastern religions are no exception. Many of today’s Buddhists attempt to justify animal use, unnecessary killing, and speciesism by pointing to loopholes in the various contradictory writings about the Buddha’s teaching of universal compassion for all sentient beings. Other Buddhists choose instead to practice and promote veganism as the rational response to the essential Buddhist teaching of nonviolence. Presumably, having been liberated from their own speciesism, vegan Buddhists are able to see through such prejudiced rationalizations, and recognize the higher authority in the truth the Buddha was apparently trying to impart to his students.

    (In other words, if the Buddha wasn’t a vegan, as some people claim, then he wasn’t living up to his own teachings, which state very clearly that reverence for sentient life is a fundamental principle of a spiritual existence.)”

    http://gentleworld.org/speciesism-and-veganism-transcending-politics-and-religion/

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Keep up the good work, Edward,

  9. karen says:

    Love the moral hierarchy that vegetarians and vegans seem to enjoy. Ahimsa came about as an idea in response to ritual animal sacrifice. The argument was that it was not necessary to kill an animal to curry favor with the gods… this argument (as with many in the modern yoga world) –ignores history in order to assert some sense of moral superiority… and not for nothing, everyone is different and has different dietary needs. Who are you to assert that eating meat (and there is wild, organic meat available… you just need to learn how to hunt) –is not necessary? Not for nothing –plants have consciousness too… really –if that's your schtick… you shouldn't be eating anything until it naturally falls from the tree or vine, and then be very careful of the bug infestation of the over-ripe fruit you're consuming. Try reading Charles Eisenstein's book "The Yoga of Eating" –it's a different perspective on food/eating… Interesting how we seem to need the dualism of "us vs. them" to feel like we're practicing yoga… just sayin'.

    • Edward Staskus says:

      Karen,
      Thanks for the tip about the book, I will look that up. I agree with you that formulating the issue as an us vs them debate just turns it into a debate. Almost everybody eats animals and that is not going to change anytime soon. However, there are few good reasons for eating them, and many on the other side for not eating them. I think encouraging people to pursue a vegetarian diet is a good idea, for their health, the health of the animals they don't eat, and the health of the planet. Discouraging people about their eating habits breeds resentment, and that's when you get into the moral hierarchy thing, as you say, which then devolves into debates.
      We all have to eat. Only saints can live on air. What I was trying to get at in the story was that we should do so with more consciousness, and less of a drive-thru mentality. Thanks for reading the story and commenting on it.
      Ed

    • What a Joke says:

      That's why I call myself a treetarian. I only eat food that has fallen off the trees so as to not hurt the feelings of the fruit. Oh wait I am being too moral here.

      • Edward Staskus says:

        Only eating nuts and fruits that have fallen from trees is not a good idea since you will not get all of the essentials your body requires, especially protein. You might want to try dumpstertarianism. That way you can still forage, recycle at the same time, and get all the various foodstuffs your body needs. I would avoid the dumpsters at restaurants like KFC. Too rancid, and too many bones to pick through. Good luck on your road to the moral high ground.

    • Clare says:

      Karen-Please remeber if you are eating animals then you are eating animals AND plants. Also one has a central nervous systems, one does not, one gives birth, one does not, one avoids painful stimuli, one does not, one has a brain, one does not. Can your brain follow that? I'm pretty sure it can…and could before you trotted out that "schtick" that you know is ridiculous. No hierarchy here, I just don't kill. I also don't steal, or hit children, or watch Honey Boo Boo. Does that make me better than someone who kills,steals, hits children, and watches Honey Boo Boo? You tell me.

  10. [...] have popped up in the blogosphere this week. Take a look at this article in Yoga Journal and this one in Elephant Journal. The question these articles ask is whether we can indulge in weed or meat, [...]

  11. Bryan says:

    I find it very surprising that the idea of karma has not come up in any of this. If you profess yourself a "yogi" ( which no one in the west really is anyway), then you must accept the law of karma and the fact that if you eat animals you have all the karma associated with the killing of them which you WILL have to answer to in some future incarnation no matter how you justify it. There is no judgment here, but seeing that the whole point of trying to do yoga is to erase karma and be done with having to have a body at all it just slows down your inevitable goal.
    While some people might have valid health issues where they can't eat meat, that is once again their karma that their lives have kept them in this bind and it will just take them longer to reach the goal of liberation. The only time one is exempt from the karmas associated with eating such substances are in cases like a buddha or some advanced left handed tantrics / aghoris who have control over helping the animal killed for food to take a higher birth in their next life. Then the death has some spiritual momentum. This was the idea of the animal sacrifices from the Vedic times, the animal being sacrificed was lucky as the priests or practitioner performing such rites had enough knowledge to help that soul find a better birth. A lot of this knowledge has been lost however it takes a special person to have such control over the subtle planes.

  12. maru says:

    This is a phenomenal article, a real document covering all aspects of meat eating.
    Thank you so much.

    For me, yogis eating meat is as ifSanta Claus were be a pedophile and we finding a way to make it ok

  13. Kathy says:

    Yes, all sentient beings want to live their lives, nothing wants to be confined in horrific conditions, or stressfully and painfully murdered while still young! It seems odd that spritual folks become so defensive when this kind of obvious stuff is pointed out. The environment is also suffering trying to deal with over seven billion people eating this misery. If you really feel that plants have a central nervous system, thoughts and feelings, then you should realize that in takes many millions of pounds of corn and soy beans to feed the creatures that you consume. Animal eaters kill many more plants than a vegan ever could. You can pretend like you don't know what is happening when you purchase something, but please don't be so angry with people who face it without fear or excuses, and then do all that they can to abolish it. http://james-mcwilliams.com/?p=2201

  14. [...] the sobbing into my notebook. Because we all know a real yogi does not eat chips (or meat, or swear, or use chopsticks). Yet, I have a deep desire to indulge. To say, “Screw what [...]

  15. [...] easy. The idea of consuming an animal is just not for me. And I’m not the sort to point out why you shouldn’t eat one of our furry, feathered or scaly friends. That’s your leather baggage, not [...]

  16. [...] might have thought that the dish was vegetarian, but somehow a piece of fish landed on my plate. Hey fish is vegan, right? Learn how to look for words that indicate meat, dairy and eggs. Learn how to ask to omit them. This [...]

  17. AlexxMata says:

    I've been practicing yoga for a few years and karma has led me to be a vegetarian. I also pushed my grandmother's dish away and it was not the end of the world. I think yoga has a lot to do about understanding. My grandmother also makes vegetarian dishes now which is probably good considering she has diabetes. I can understand why people would not change their diet because it is not easy. If a top athlete can be a vegetarian then we can too. You can do yoga and teach yoga and eat meat. Yoga will probably improve your health. You can even call yourself a yogi and have a meet-up at the newest burger place. But to me, yoga to improve your health and yoga for health and spirituality are two different things. Since I have stopped eating meat my spirituality has dramatically increased. You tell this by people not knowing the difference from life in a person or animal and life in a plant. I had a dream that I ate a couple of burgers and I didn't taste the first one . In the middle of eating the second one I sat with a mouth full of burger and could not swallow. I was ashamed of myself. The next morning I went out and bought some hemp protein. I knew what it was . Its just a whole different way of thinking and knowing yourself.

  18. Dani says:

    FYI, PCRM is not a "physicians committee." Less than 4% of its members are physicians. They are merely a fringe animal rights group that is by no means peaceful – they suggest assassination of medical research scientists. I don't really think it's a source worth using.

Leave a Reply