We wouldn’t be having this debate.
There are many difficulties in adopting and sticking to a vegetarian (or vegan) lifestyle. But think of the difficulties endured by the sentient beings who simply got us here today. Think of the difficulties that future generations (human and non-human) will endure if we don’t change the course of our societies today.
As with any important ethical issue, eating meat is not a clear-cut issue. I (basically) gave up eating meat in 2001 on ethical grounds. This was in large part due to my becoming a Buddhist and my teacher Bodhipaksa, who had written on the ethics of Buddhism and vegetarianism (How does what we eat affect us and our world? Is there a connection between vegetarianism and living a spiritual life? Doesn’t the Dalai Lama eat meat? A trained vet, respected teacher, and happy vegan, Bodhipaksa answers all of these questions and more. -via the book description at amazon).
Over the last decade or so I have wavered, here and there, between vegetarianism, meat-eating, and (very brief bits of) veganism. But the core intention of benevolence has maintained throughout. I have had debates with some wonderful people: Buddhists, Pagans, Christians, and others, about the morality of eating meat. As a devout educator, I think these discussions, while they may not change anyone’s ultimate beliefs, will still lead to deeper questioning greater understanding.
To get a short snap-shot of my views on meat eating you can see a few posts here:
Does studying Ethics make you more Moral? (me in 2012)
The Buddha explains the ethics of meat-eating. (me in 2010)
Save the World – stop eating meat! (me in 2008)
They are dated, but I’m still happy to see more comments on each – and to see more old discussants/friends return to the conversation. But first, watch this (many thanks to Christpher Titmus for sharing it):
And hey, a fellow Patheos blogger, Hehmet the Friendly Atheist, also talks about being vegetarian here (2009).
But whatever your faith, I hope the questions of animal cruelty and environmental degridation weigh heavily on you, whether you eat meat or not. As an American, issues such as nuclear weapons, global state terrorism, and drone warfare are all issues I am concerned about, even as I oppose them.
However, as with any argument, there are many sides to bring to the conversation. First and foremost, what do you think of the video and Philip Wollen’s argument? Is it true that ‘as we suffer, we suffer as equals’? That their capacity to suffer, ‘a dog is a pig is a bear is…. a boy’.
What about the other facts he presents?
The 6th mass extinction in cosmological history? (and we’re causing it????)
600 million vegetarians in the world today…
And Cornell and Harvard studies say that the optimum amount of meat in a healthy human diet is exactly zero.
(I just noticed that Peter Singer is also on his side of the panel in the video), here’s the full (2 hours-ish) video:
As Singer says, “we CAN live healthy lives without meat…” with massive studies to follow it up (especially in terms of red meat consumption).
Please watch the video in full. It’s WELL worth your time if you care about ethics, diet, consumerism, the environment, or living a good life in general.