A Meat-Eating Yogi Chickens Out.

Via Sadie Nardini
on Dec 2, 2010
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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.


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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.

Comments

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

  1. Theresa Conroy says:

    So glad that Sadie is around to balance the scales for me–as a yogi, a meat eater, a beer drinking. . . I love the ability to take a stand–and still be able to go back and re-examine it. That's living with courage and grace.

  2. Tracy says:

    I couldn't agree with you more Sadie!!! Thank you for writing this!

  3. Clare says:

    For me the question was, "Do I need to cause death to other beings to live?" The answer was "No." And no matter how much I enjoy the taste of meat, or how much I think it benefits MY body, I will not use THEIR body to further my own. There is time for judgement, in the case of racism, in the case of pain, suffering, and death, and in the case of speciesism. It is painful, and trying, and frustrating and time consuming to begin living a life that does not steal the lives from others. Animals are not ours to eat, wear, amuse ourselves with-just becuase we are mightier. It has nothing to do with yoga. It has to do with COMPASSION. No animal is happy to die for you, they all would run from your knife. I do not judge, but I kindly hope for your enlightenment for animals sakes so their suffering, enslavement, and death for your pleasure can end. "Live simply, so others may simply live."

  4. Tracy says:

    Thank you Clare; right on!

  5. Eve says:

    Here, Here, Clare! Lovely, compassionate, well-articulated. I agree 100% !!

  6. Signe w says:

    What about taking the life of a plant? Isn't the life force and I might venture to suggest awareness in a plant as valuable as that in an animal?

  7. Jenn says:

    Beautifully written and eloquently stated Sadie. Thank you for raising this issue so that we can have an honest conversation about it. I too am an omnivorous Yogini. I'm lucky to have found a school, a community, and an extended community that supports that decision. I appreciate you raising it in public forums so that we can all feel supported and be heard.

  8. AngelaRaines says:

    Thank you so much for this touching, beautifully written piece, Sadie. This is exactly the kind of perspective we need more of, for our bodies, planet, and soul. Fundamentalism simply isn't an effective mode of convincing others–or even being. It's heartfelt statements like this one that I have the most hope will invite everyone to cultivate mindfulness. Keep it up!

  9. Julia says:

    Clare is correct–you can justify any way you choose, but deliberately taking the lives of sentient beings to further one's own is unneccessary.

  10. Clare says:

    What I meant by judging is using judgement, not performing judgement upon others. I know, in my heart, that I do not have to kill to live. No one needs a bible, nor yogic texts, to know that taking a life is violent. It is very self-focused of us all to worry and discuss about how we FEEL, when we are discussing the end of all feeling, all breath, all life, for another. It is not my place to judge people, nor is it usefull. But I do, with all the love and compassion for my meat eating yoga teachers, friends, my spouse, my children. judge that the killing is violence-and I do wish for enlightenment for the world that we may all choose to live without killing, using, or abusing any other beings. The divine light within me recognizes and salutes the divine light with in you-and all beings. Namaste.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Thanks for the comment! We're featuring the above on our new Yoga Page for all yoga practitioners: http://www.facebook.com/yogisunite ~ Waylon

  12. elephantjournal says:

    No, it's not, not really. No central nervous system. All animals and humans and plants are not created alike. We can try and cause the least harm possible, for the most benefit. I'm not vegan, I'm just sayin'. ~ Waylon

  13. Squirrel says:

    Great piece; I'm glad to know I'm not alone. I, too, practice (and teach) yoga and also eat meat, and spend a lot of time thinking about that. I wrote something on this topic a few months ago, in response to an article in the NYT:
    http://havematwilltravel.wordpress.com/2010/01/28

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

    beautifully put, sadie. so pertinent on so many levels. i hope we can aim true for ourselves and respect the choices of others.

    keep it real, girl. xo

  15. France Gorde says:

    EXCELLENT article Sadie!!! Your thoughts and comments, echo those of thousands of us other yogis. THANK YOU!!!

  16. sadienardini says:

    Thanks, lady Katherine!

    I value your support, and also want to say ROCK it, sister! You're doing such amazing things in the world. Can't wait to see what you do next.

    Cheers,
    Sadie

  17. Moriz Gupte says:

    Who cares what you eat! I wouldn't care even if you are a criminal 🙂 Welcome to the world of nondualism, and you should not care what others think of you as well 🙂

  18. Lynn says:

    Sadie, Thank you so much for speaking out for us! Well done. You are quite simply, my hero! I'm not only a carnivorous yoga Teacher, I’m also a student of Buddhism. I so enjoy my occasional glass of wine and have been known to have “several” Heineken with certain meals. I give thanks daily, and I make it a point to appreciate my ancestors who kept themselves alive long enough to procreate by hunting animals for survival. Keep up the good work you Goddess of carnivorous yogis.

  19. paxgirl says:

    Thank you for sharing something that helped me to come to terms with the fact that I am not healthy as a non-carnivore. I have carried guilt about it, been judged for it, and even as I work toward being conscious about where ALL my food comes from, have wondered how I can make my choices right with the Universe. This post, and many of the comments, have given me lots to 'digest.'

  20. denvergirl says:

    Sadie,Sadie Sadie…..I think you are an awesome woman, but I have to disagree with you. Full disclosure- I am a vegan. I know that insects get killed in the process of growing vegetables which is sad, but veganism is about choosing the lesser of two evils. When you eat meat, you are killing MORE and causing more suffering than if you did not eat meat. About the whole free range issue, those animals do not want to die either. I do not care if the chcken/cows/pigs were raised for slaugter in a freakin' mansion and had the most enjoyable lives possibe- they still do not want to die.Every being fears death. If they do not fear death, surely they do not enjoy the pain of being mercilessly slaughtered. Eating meat and dairy is very selfish (oh I feel bad with out meat, I like the taste of meat etc..) THINK ABOUT THE ANIMAL'S PAIN!!

  21. Lynn says:

    P.S. I forgot to play my Native American card. My grandfather was a Cherokee… <proud smirk inserted here>

    Namaste

  22. denvergirl says:

    @Rommy- No true animal rights activist vegan would EVER use products tested on animals or use a car or clothing with leather or wool!

  23. Patrick Larivière says:

    According to the yoga tradition, meat is a tamasic food that induce laziness, apathy, dullness. Moreover, eating meat is also eating the fear of the animal has felt when it was slaughtered. Meat is not recommend when pursuing a spiritual quest because it lower the level of prana. Even without the prana thing, we know that meat contains toxins that gets stock in the joints and may cause arthritis. Meats may contains antibiotic, all sort of drugs used to improved the growth of farm animals. Think that we, as human, takes the milk that the cow make for its calf. Don'ts sound like stealing its milk, not only eating animal is against ahimsa (non harming) but also against asteya (non stealing), two of the fives yamas in the Pantali Yoga Sutra.

    Himalayan Buddhist monks eat meat due the poor yield of the land, so for the His Highness the Dalai Lama.

  24. Well, when you kill a plant, you are committing a violent act. When you pull a carrot out of the ground and disconnect it from its life-giving soil…for example.

  25. Madelain says:

    I respect your opinion… There is no correct way

    But he lion will still kill the buck for food. Did you know that lions will chew grass to promote aided digestion? Yet, the lion is a carnivore. He eats grass because he know it's good for him and serves a purpose for his health. Household cats do the same – if they are lucky to have a back yard to roam in.
    There is no justification, just the nature of things. We are Omnivores, It's in our nature to eat meat and veg. There is no wrong way when it comes to choosing what is best for you or what is best for someone else.

  26. Madelain Burgoyne says:

    Good for you paxgirl. There's nothing to feel guilty about. There's just moderation and good choices. 😛

  27. madelain burgoyne says:

    Meat is not murder. Like I said in my reply to your above comment. It's part of nature. Natural!

  28. Madelain Burgoyne says:

    It's nice to find someone who accepts it for what it is and you're a great example of non-judgement.

    Glad you as a veg, is not trying to make us (mindful meat eaters) convert by trying to make us feel guilty for something there is no need to feel guilt for.

    Namaste

  29. MAdelain Burgoyne says:

    Wow, couldn't have said it better! So true.

    Great post.

  30. YogaDawg says:

    Throw me dem dawg bones, Sadie! Woof, woof…

  31. kaoverii says:

    I'm going to post an article about this from a different perspective…stay tuned!

  32. sadienardini says:

    Hey Ashley! See, this is what I'm talkin' bout, Willis! A vegetarian who can also live and let live. How did you come to this mindset? xoSadie

  33. sadienardini says:

    LOLz.

  34. sadienardini says:

    Awesome, Nancy–thanks for sharing.

    This is the attitude that will get us everywhere we want to go…And, guess what? When we each lead by example without judging, those around us will more naturally be drawn to try a more conscious, healthy lifestyle, because they will want that radiance, peace and happiness.

    However, our paths are not anyone's but our own as Nancy has so eloquently pointed out. When we do our own work, and trust that our example is enough, rock our own worlds from the inside out, and realize that blame and shame only makes people more resistant to change, not less…then we will see the magic of the spaciousness that is at the very core of our common practice.

    Into that space, may we all pour ourselves, in exactly the way we need to be, today.

  35. Rebecca says:

    I hate to point out the obvious here, but eating other species is kind of a natural response to being alive. How many people would condemn a pride of lions for running down a couple antelope? If you've seen it happen, its not pretty or humane….its gross. It's ALSO completely 100% natural and acceptable. I think the issue is that human beings FAR too often separate themselves from the animal kingdom. Homo sapiens, folks…were no better than those lions!

  36. Rebecca says:

    Never using products tested on animals would render you completely incapable of living in the modern world. Even if your products are "cruelty free" as they often say these days, it doesn't mean the contents were not individually tested and it could also mean that they are NO LONGER tested. Most of the testing on routine cosmetics and popular targets of that nature is long over. It offers no useful information anymore.

  37. NotSoSure says:

    Sadie,
    You cannot refute the position that the scientific research for "plants have feeling" argument is lackingcontroversial. Instead you opine that "we know darned well". Err, no. Those of us who do not base our opinions on magical thinking know that plants do not "feel". They can react to the stimuli, yes. Feel, no. Next you will claim that some rocks with electro-magnetic properties having feelings because they can "react" to the "pain" to the stimuli of being struck.

    IMO, your contiued reliance on the magical thinking of "plants have feelings" is nothing more than common agreement bias. Why challenge the valdity of your "potatoes will purr if tickled in just the right way" idea when that idea can be used to support your belief system?

  38. NotSoSure says:

    No one ever claimed being Native American does not influence your worldview. But using ethnicity to buttress an argument is offensive to many. Because I am an uptight white guy does that mean that I have less ability to "revere the entire spectrum of organic life" than a Native American? Ok, I give you that. All of us uptight white guys are unable to revere organic life. Point conceded.

    Play your gluten-intolerant card all you want. Where do you get those, Hallmark? Or do they come with your Grand Slam from Dennys?

  39. Padma Kadag says:

    Wow…the Ladies are gettin downnnnn!

  40. NotSoSure says:

    Rebecca,

    “Everyone cries foul”? I for one have never cried foul regarding the necessary use of animals in scientific study. Therefore your “cries foul” assertion has been proved false. I would think a researcher never make blanket statements and would not make statements which are not grounded in fact.

  41. NotSoSure says:

    denvergirl

    I also disagree with Sadie. She uses facts based in magical thinking and her arguments are weak and sometimes laughable. I eat as a “vegan”, but I do not call myself vegan because that label brings with it a political stance which I cannot entirely support. Your reasonable response along with your strong moral stance was impressive.

  42. klmchichi says:

    >>"Being a veg and thinking the meal on your plate didn't cause a single creature harm is choosing to ignore the reality of it and therefore choosing to be unconscious by ignoring it."

    No one ever said that. I certainly don't claim that. And your logic needs work. Just because we can't avoid ALL death and destruction, doesn't mean we shouldn't avoid that which we can. Moving to a plant-based diet has been estimated to be THE most influential way to slow the destruction of the earth. As uncomfortable and heart-breaking and frustrating and philosophically-challenging as the evidence was, as I learned more and more and opened my heart and my mind to the truth, the more I realized there was no other choice. Perhaps you'll have the same revelation someday. Perhaps you won't. Either way, don't waste your time defending your diet as being healthier for you than a plant-based one, because the scientific evidence just isn't there to support your (or your doctor's or whomever's) theory that you "need" to eat animal flesh to be healthy. You don't. Plain and simple. You don't.

    I'd like to offer an alternative version of your quote from above:
    >>"Being a meat-eater and thinking the murder, death, pain and suffering that went into the meal on your plate is unavoidable is choosing to ignore the reality of it and therefore choosing to be unconscious by ignoring it."

  43. NotSoSure says:

    klmchichi,

    I also made the point that many of Sadie’s arguments were based on false and pseudo-scientific assumptions. And she does not seem to understand that she undermines her argument by using false “facts”.

  44. Sandy says:

    Human beings by nature are carnivores… it is our conscience that has created veganism and vegetarianism (I will give a shout out to that!)
    However, there is no evil in any of this, to each his own… The evil exists in GREED. Over-consumption and wastage of food, and corporate culture that promotes profit over people. "People", living-beings including animals/plants and the way they are raised, farmed and slaughtered and processed to feed human beings.
    Thank God for conscience, and those who are attuned to their own and respond accordingly.

  45. Sandy says:

    So, so, so true Sadie! I feel as though my life runs parallel to yours in so many ways. I too recently had the same revelation, I am not complete vegetarian although the idea of the inhumane slaughter of animals has turned me off most meats for a few years now. I have, like you, kept some meats for necessity in my diet… although reluctantly.
    I was just re-watching Food Inc. (the documentary of which you paraphrase so well in this article), and was reminded of the beauty of the free to roam and feed on nature animals that are treated humanely by smaller farms and processing plants in my immediate vicinity… so I was compelled by my compassion and conscience to immediately change the way I acquire and consume my food, especially meat and dairy… veggies I have taken care of always by buying local and as much organic as possible…
    And you know, people can argue about animals feelings or plants feelings until they are blue in the face, BUT in ALL of history; religions, cultures, traditions (and various other arenas) have spoken to the idea of interconnectedness and respect of other beings and the land that sustains us all… SO if one is unable to relate the above article to the simple idea of respect… then… well… get yoga into your life!!!
    Today I was talking with one of my students about how for me, because I have the means to pay the extra cost for these "speciality" products, that I feel as though it IS my responsibility to do it… Plain and simple… I no longer can ignore it because I know about it… … It is so much bigger than me, but starts with me.
    Think Globally, Act Locally – has never meant more to me than it does at this time of my life. It is our responsibilities as human beings, no matter our backgrounds or dietary choices.
    Thank you for writing this amazing article to get the conversation started.

  46. Karyn says:

    I'm tired of seeing fellow vegans/vegetarians pull the murder card and speak with disdain to conscious carnivores. And it really bothers me (and I'm a vegetarian, btw) when vegans and vegetarians dismiss the fact that some people actually do require animal protein to run efficiently. Who are you to refute a fact of their own bodies? You do not live in their bodies, you live in yours alone. Especially when most of these people tried eating vegan/vegetarian for years and had declining health.

    You are not in their bodies. End discussion.

  47. Peace&Love says:

    Hey Beautiful Beings…We are all embracing the truth that we are all one, correct? and we all know we are all doing the best we know in every moment, correct? The vegans, the carnivores, even the larger animals that pounce on the smaller ,weaker prey of choice,are doing what they know in the moment, correct? We are all living out our part in this play of life.
    In the end, all of us will still be the Love we came from. Let's not get caught up in the duality of the dream.

    Peace and Love to All.

  48. Joe Perez says:

    As a practicing martial artist of the Bujinkan Ninpo Dojo we are taught that a quality diet is a very important facet in the balance of being human, being fit, and maintaining health throughout a life of training. As the schools within our system come from Japan's history, the diet that is often suggested as being healthy is the Japanese macrobiotic style of diet, which focuses on a balance of necessary nutrients. I think that this is an excellent article by Sadie, because it points out how every 'body' is different. For myself I have chosen to supplement my diet with proteins of fish, beef & poultry. It is of course moderation that many need to understand when adding these nutrients to their diets. Many studies have shown the dangers of too much red meat, but that does not negate the benefits of this type of protein in the building of ones cells. I do believe that a person must learn to listen to the needs of their body's nutrition. The body will crave what it needs, not just what it wants. Once we tune into healthy cravings we can keep our bodies in a nutritional balance through our own individual health conscious awareness.

  49. Sandy says:

    "There is a time for judgment…" sounds a little un-yogic… and un-compassionate.

    One question about eggs and vegans… What not eat/use an unfertilized egg? It is a living thing-like veggies- although from an animal, but does not have a central nervous system… so no pain… A hen can lay an egg without males present… confused…

  50. Colleen says:

    Couple thoughts. . .

    Not eating farm raised meat to save animals is curious logic to me. If we didn't raise them to eat them, they wouldn't be alive to save.

    Every living thing on this planet is part of the food chain except for human beings. I think that realization is what makes eating anything feel so, well, unfair.

    I wish for all of us to become aware of what each of us takes from other living things so that we may live. And, without exception, to treat our animals with love, compassion and generosity all the days of their lives.

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