Hello, my name is Hae Mun, and I’m a vegetarian. You may already be rolling your eyes and getting ready to skip over the rest of this. I don’t blame you. I hate to be preached at too. But, I’m not going to preach much, I promise. There are no videos attached to this that show baby calves getting tortured or seals getting clubbed over the head. Although I will share an experience or two of my childhood growing up on the farm. So, if you’re still reading then here we go…
Yesterday a pretty well-respected Zen author and psychoanalyst, whose book I have read and enjoyed, posted this on his Facebook page:
“Meat eating acknowledges our animal nature, as a fellow animal and part of the food chain, as a link in a net of interdependence. It acknowledges that there is no such thing as purity, as standing apart from suffering and death, with which all forms of life are inevitably entangled. We are called to be mindful of the cost to others of our continued existence. “Seventy-two labors brought us this food, we should know how it comes to us.” Spirituality is already all too entangled with hatred of the physical, of the body, of sexuality, of physical and emotional needs. We cannot (and should not) transcend any of this. Eat meat, have sex, raise children, admit your need for love, remember you are mortal and this embodied life is the only life there is.”
Now as I alluded to before, I really try not to preach and lecture about not eating meat. But reading the above quote from a Zen teacher, I was a little flabbergasted. There are several arguments by Buddhists for eating meat. The only two that I agree with are if you have an actual physical ailment that causes you to have to eat animal protein or if like the Tibetans, you don’t have access to vegetables. Other than those, I don’t think you can viably argue that killing another animal for your consumption is ok. And if you think you can, I’ll be glad to rebut those arguments in the comment section. But back to the quote above—wow.
It’s really convenient that we humans are at the top of the food chain. Unless we are on an African safari or somehow surrounded by a lost tribe of cannibals, we don’t usually have to worry about being killed and eaten. I don’t think most humans realize how great that is. As I said, I grew up on a farm. We had all kinds of livestock at one time or another. You should hear chickens go crazy when a fox or coyote gets into their coop. You think YOU’RE stressed out when your parents-in-law are in town for the holidays and they are breathing down your neck all the time, imagine if you are a chicken with a coyote literally breathing down your neck with some drool coming out of its mouth. That’s stress. We also had cows. Not cows aren’t extremely smart. Not like pigs. Cows don’t really know to get out of the cold or rain. They will never be able to add 2 plus 2 with their hooves like that horse used to do on Johnny Carson’s show. But one thing they do know, when they are loaded into a trailer and get within a couple of miles of the slaughter house, they know they are about to die. They can literally smell the death. They go crazy. They don’t like that smell. They suffer.
So, imagine that aliens come to earth and decide THEY are now the top of the food chain. Let’s say they have an alien-looking knife at my Zen author’s throat. Would he be so arrogant and nonchalant about his circle of life and not standing apart from suffering and death then? I bet he would all of the sudden want to transcend that. What if they said an alien prayer to honor his sacrifice, would that make him feel better about being eaten? He is right, we are animals and we are a part of, not separate of interdependence. But unlike all other animals, we have the knowledge that we are causing suffering when we kill and we have the ability not to kill.
I don’t want to die. I do a lot of things every day to avoid death. I know animals don’t want to die because when you chase them, they run. So I don’t eat them. If you can help it, you shouldn’t either (sorry, that’s preachy.) Enjoy that Christmas Tofurky.