Ok. Here we go condemning the people who see in youtube for the senseless killing of animals. Look at how they batter the poor raccoon to death. Bludgeon the defenseless fox. Some even – yes, skin the poor animal alive! We condemn these barbaric acts, yet we still eat meat.
So, are we hypocrites then? On one hand we condemn the killing of animals for their fur or skin. On the other hand, we eat the meat from cows, pigs, sheep, fish.
Isn’t that the same? Somebody has to kill the animals to get their fur or skin. And somebody too, has to kill the animals for their meat. Ultimately – are we hypocrites then? Condemning the same act, yet closing another eye at the same act.
As a Buddhist, we are taught the first precept of “non-killing”. This includes the killing of animals, and generally – all life. That’s because all life is precious.
According to the Pali Canon, Devadatta, the cousin of the Buddha, suggested the following:
1. that monks should dwell all their lives in the forest,
2. that they should accept no invitations to meals, but live entirely on alms obtained by begging,
3. that they should wear only robes made of discarded rags and accept no robes from the laity,
4. that they should dwell at the foot of a tree and not under a roof,
5. that they should abstain completely from fish and flesh.
Of the five suggestions, the Buddha accepted the first four – but rejected the fifth – abstaining from eating flesh. The Buddha argued that, because they live on alms food – they should not inconvenience the alms givers. This follows the contention that BEGGARS SHOULD NOT BE CHOOSERS. You don’t choose what to eat if you are on alms round (begging for food). You eat what you are given by the alms givers.
If the alms givers are not vegetarians per se, then it would be inconvenient for them to go out of their way to prepare a vegetarian meal exclusively for the monks. In the olden days, monks are supposed to eat what the villagers eat.
But the issue of meat eating raises difficult ethical questions.
Isn’t the meat in a supermarket or restaurant killed “for” us?
Few of us are in a position to judge meat eaters or anyone else for “killing by proxy.” Being part of the world economy entails “killing by proxy” in every act of consumption.
Our computers run on electricity that come from facilities that harm the environment. To have electricity, you will have to firstly clear the forest to erect electricity-generating equipment. In the process – trees have to be sacrificed, and this also is a loss of habitat for animals.
Even our books that are made from paper, is made possible by destroying wildlife habitat.
What more the vegetables are used to prepare “vegetarian diets?” Worms, insects, rodents and other animals are eliminated just to prepare a vegetarian diet. Don’t forget that pesticides are used on the vegetables and that’s killing too!
But the difference between killing for aesthetic purposes and for survival is GREED. This is the distinguishing factor. We all need to survive, so we have to eat to survive. But we DO NOT need to use bags, wallets, coats and such made from the fur, hide and skin of animals in order to survive. These – we can do without!
Welcome to samsara. It is not possible for us to free ourselves from this web. We can only be mindful and reflect on how the suffering and death of sentient beings contribute to our comfort.
Perhaps that will help us to be less greedy.