Is it really “better” to eat lettuce than, say, a chicken?

Via elephant journal
on Jan 23, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

On the Morality of Eating Sentient Beings vs. Veganism.

I posted this funny bit, and the following discussion (that every philosophically, morally-oriented college kid ever has had) ensued:


David: The soil itself is teeming with animal life. Eating any food harvested by turning the soil kills billions of sentient beings. Eating one larger animal causes less suffering that eating a carrot or a potato or anything where one has to dig into the ground.


Waylon Lewis You think harvesting chickens doesn’t impact the earth? You think bugs the size of dust mites have the same intelligence or feeling as a sentient being? That goes against science, or Buddhist thought for that matter.

Still, you make an interesting point..!



Of course harvesting chickens impacts the earth! And I am very much pro growing our own food, esp; through gardening.

But we must realize that all eating, all life involves death to those we consume and destroy their habitat. Also all an…imal life is considered sentient in Buddhist thought. All have equal right to life and freedom from suffering. Furthermore I didn’t equate one chicken to one dust mite. I equated one chicken to billions of tiny creatures. And I also realize that each chicken also eats and destroys millions of smaller beings.

My point is that we need to expand our awareness of the life and death consequences of our actions and not just accept easy answers.


Waylon Lewis Actually, in Buddhism, they’d side with you…Buddhists urge eating one cow vs. 100 shrimp, for example.

On other hand, Buddhists say that human life is more precious because there’s more ability to wake up, more inherent intelligence…and extending that logic to animals, we might say that it’s preferable to eat plants and bugs and simpler forms of life rather than those, like pigs or cows, that clearly evidence feeling and intelligence.


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.


5 Responses to “Is it really “better” to eat lettuce than, say, a chicken?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Waylon Lewis, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Is it really “better” to eat lettuce than, say, a chicken? […]

  2. waylonlewis says:

    Christine Duts I am vegetarian but I do not drink factory farmed milk, nor any other kind of factory farmed dairy, and I do not eat battery eggs. I am still not vegan, but I pay attention to not buying cruelty. I buy nearly everything organic and avoid produts that have been tested on animals.
    4 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 1 personLoading… ·
    # Awesome, Christine! Mindfulness, at least in my case, has led to further mindfulness, diet-wise. Though I still have a hard time not being a jerk or making my bed..!
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 2 peopleLoading…
    Wilhelm Mercado ‎..carnivores are at the top of the food chain.
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
    Nicole Woods But maybe not at the top of the compassion ladder…
    4 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 2 peopleLoading… ·
    Valerie Soraci
    Then go out and hunt your food, Wilhelm. Factory farming is nothing more than torture for profit, and they've done a great job brainwashing you into believing you are top of the food chain. I'd like to see you beat off a bear, or a lion o…r a shark. NewsFlash, without that stick or that boom stick you're something else's meal. Hardly the top of anything but egotism.

    I love that people make conscious decisions, however cows don't produce milk without being pregnant, factory farmed or not, and those calves go directly to slaughter for veal cutlets and dog food, again, factory farmed or not. We might not be eating the flesh of that calf, but we are without a doubt supporting its demise by buying milk and milk products and keeping the demand there. There's NO WAY around that fact. It sucks, I know, but it's the truth. If you don't eat meat because you want to save animals from slaughter, you have to give up dairy and eggs altogether, the factory farming vs not factory farmed bit doesn't save the "extras" from slaughter. OR you have to live on a farm and take extreme measures to control and harvest your dairy and eggs. Which pretty much means you'll only be eating dairy and omelets once in a blue moon.

    When we start producing meat and dairy in labs, THEN we'll be top of the food chain. ;)See More
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… ·
    Saysha Heinzman I love meat. It totally fuels my yoga practice and makes me a happier, sexier person. Yum yum yum yum yum.
    4 hours ago via Facebook Mobile · LikeUnlike ·
    Nicole Woods My daughter asked me why we don't eat happy meals today and I told her because she'd be eating a cow. She said GROSS.

    Yep, that is kind of the opposite of sexy.
    4 hours ago · UnlikeLike · 3 peopleLoading… ·
    Wilhelm Mercado ‎..if i could hunt in brooklyn.. i would. meat eating is a violent luxury.
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading… ·
    Mera Noriega
    it doesn't get any simpler than listening to the world peace diet for free download in audiobook form. it explains the attitude that is perpetuated by seeing this animal slave system as normal. many don't understand how our society is demea…ned through these practices, it skews the reality of human relationships, respect and responsibility for the planet, personal health, animals and social injustice. it is one thing to claim to like the taste of something, it is another to support the torture that goes into producing it. the taste of unseasoned meat is not appetizing, it is the vegan seasonings that make it appealing. it is one thing to say, wow it takes a lot of effort to stop supporting animal torture and another to just deny the impact your decisions have, it doesnt hurt anyone to get educated and just try.See More
    3 hours ago via Facebook Mobile · LikeUnlike ·
    Peter Davio thank you Waylon, for posting this. I had become less mindful of late, and let my eating practices slip rather significantly. I changed my diet after reading Robbin's book, "Diet for a New America" 16 years ago, but had been more of "flexitarian" when away from home. thank you.
    2 hours ago · LikeUnlike ·
    Stacy Hay great video! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Linda says:

    Well, as one who is leaning into becoming a vegetarian, who mostly only eats meat during feasts these days, I have contemplated the saying, "one yak life feeds many", versus eating many shrimps. Here's what I have come up with: Obviously the saying about eating one yak comes from Tibet where the growing season is very limited. One could live on barley, nettles, and butter tea like Mila, but that's about the only alternative. The Indian mahasiddhas only ate cow-meet, beef, as feast food to dispel the dualistic sense of Brahmin purity, the holier-than thou, I am so pure, attitude. So in feasts we still say, "Considering Brahmins, dogs, and outcasts as of one nature"–eat up. Cows are sacred in India so it is a big deal–but in Tibet, for the average person to survive, it was a matter of life or death. But now even the Karmapa recommends we become vegetarian, and in most places of the planet this is certainly workable.

  4. Alice2112 says:

    GREAT VIDEO! How can any WOMAN condone the exploitation of our reproductive systems and the enslavement and torture of mothers and their children like we do when we consume dairy products? I do not understand how anyone who thinks they lead a compassionate existence can contribute to this unnecessary suffering. Thanks for this video. Lets WAKE UP together.

  5. […] friend Waylon Lewis, publisher of Elephant Journal, is having a great discussion about whether it is “better” to eat lettuce than a chicken. The criteria for “better”, in this conversation, is the pontification on how much […]