December 28, 2010

A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out: Follow-up with Sadie Nardini.

Bob Weisenberg (for Elephant): Your recent blog A Meat Eating Yogi Chickens Out generated over 3,000 views, 137 comments, and 472 Facebook “likes”. Were you surprised by this reception? And if so, what surprised you the most?

Sadie: This was my first post for EJ, and I have to say: Wow. Double-wow, in fact.

I knew from the subject matter that it would generate some comments, but I had no idea what a heated discussion we’d get into, or that the post would become that popular.  What surprised me wasn’t the reaction from some in the vegan community, who are obviously not going to like anyone telling yogis that eating meat has a place in the world. It really struck me how many omnivore-yogis there are, who are not only eating meat, but fine with their diet, and relieved to hear that others feel the same. The support I received from those fellow conscious carnivores was as loud as the sometimes not so subtle disagreement I got from the non-meat eaters.

Then again, there were a few lovely vegetarians and vegans who crossed the aisle, if you will, and let us all know there are those out there who can choose a different path (no meat) but accept, value and respect those who don’t eat or think about food in the same ways.

Another surprising aspect of the post was how few people discussed the main point of my article, which was the call to action for everyone–omni or veggie–to cease funding the factory food industries whenever possible. It was lost in the sauce of the Hamlet-esque back-and-forth about the question to eat meat, or not to eat meat…

There is never any question for me that I’m going to have a big juicy steak or not once in a while. I’m not interested in winning all the tempeh-lovers over to my carnivorous lifestyle (10 points for a Raw Foodist!!). I am, however, inviting readers, no matter what they prefer to be served at the dinner table, to try and obtain it from cleaner, wilder and more compassionate sources.

When we can get past blaming, shaming and judging others for their choices, perhaps we’ll be ready to see how the greater whole can work together for the greater good, each in their own unique way. Until then, as in the comments section of my blog, this circling, ineffective fight will continue to overshadow the solution we all seek.

Bob: I just went back and read through all 137 comment and replies to your article.  It’s almost overwhelming.  I admire the way you stayed right smack in the middle of the debate, sticking to your guns, yet at the same time welcoming debate.  That’s what made everyone so comfortable speaking their mind.

Sadie: Thank you–it’s interesting to read some of the comments that get rather personal, and try to walk the line between standing in my truth and being open to other perspectives. It’s easy to do when you’re thanking someone for agreeing with your views or having your back, but then it’s also easy to get defensive when someone completely thinks you’re wrong for believing as you do. Yet, as yogis, we realize that it’s never about the other person, ultimately. You act the way you need to represent your core values, and then, well…come what may.

Sometimes I had to take a few breaths first, and just like in life, not write the first (usually four letter) words that came to mind. If I can’t show integrity in the face of both support and criticism, I really have no place being a leader in the field of balance. So, it’s really important to me that I both talk the talk and walk the walk, as imperfect as I may be in its implementation.

Bob: You say the “ineffective fight will continue to overshadow the solution we all seek”.  Do you think there really is a solution that the two sides could both accept?  What would that solution look like if not the middle ground you propose in your article itself?

Sadie: I think there is a solution for sure, but I don’t think there is one answer that both sides will fully accept. This is because what might balance the earth–little or no factory farming–is not the sole ultimate goal that some vegans and vegetarians are aiming for. I mean, they want it to happen, for sure, but their other, and perhaps opposing demand is that no one eat any meat ever again. If we’re all honest with ourselves, we can see that we are dealing with a moral issue wrapped in an environmental one.

The problem with this is that although I think most people can agree that we don’t want to ruin our planet, the means to creating a viable, sustainable local and world ecosystem will never, in my opinion, be agreed upon by everyone. This is because some of us, myself included, believe that if we ate much less meat, and less processed or chemical-laden food in general, from sources that are organic and work in harmony with the environment, and not in opposition to it, we could have our steak…and eat it too.

So I think it’s important for some of us who are not morally opposed to consuming animal protein to find a road to balance, just as our non-meat-eating counterparts are trying to do. In fact, we are much more united than it may seem in our mutual focus on amplifying sustainability however possible, while maintaining a diet on which we feel optimally vital and healthy. Unfortunately, the moral imperative of those who have decided that “meat is murder” has also become enmeshed in their philosophy of yoga, which in actuality, never spoke on the subject at all.

My hope is for yogis to educate themselves about their yoga foundations enough to realize that, in the beginning, middle and end, the call is for each of us to use the principles of Ahimsa, Satya, and all the rest to come to our own path of personal transformation. Along the way, perhaps we can stop telling each other that the roads anyone else has chosen are wrong, or “not yogic”, but instead bow to one another and realize that each conscious practitioner we meet, as diverse as we all are, are doing what they can to bring harmony and lessen suffering. The more people can stop assuming they have all the answers, and even consider the possibility that eradicating all carnivores from the planet (what’s next–stopping cats from catching mice?) might not actually be the best thing for it.

Perhaps a conscious food chain could be the change we seek, because the all-or-nothing approach is not going to bring the majority of middle-path practitioners into the fold. It will just leave them without any knowledge or tools for how to help the world…even if they are not on a moral crusade to perfect it, and everyone on it.

Bob: Thanks, Sadie. Let’s invite everyone else join in this discussion by commenting below.

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