Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

Vegetarianism

Foods

A bunch of people know that I have been eating (or trying to, at least) less meat for a while. I did this as a general move towards becoming a vegetarian. This last week, I realized that I wasn’t really moving quickly in that direction and it felt a bit hypocritical, given my intentions. Because of this, I simply decided to do it and be a vegetarian. We will see how much I may wind up regretting this decision later. :-)

I’m not a vegan, before people ask. At this moment, I will happily exploit the labor of bees, for example, by eating their sweet bee vomit. I’ll also happily steal milk from cows and eat unfertilized chicken eggs. Ideally, these would all be from free ranging versions of these creatures (but I’m not sure that the bees care much). I don’t buy into the near-Marxist idea that not only should I not eat the flesh of my animal brethren but that I should not exploit their labor as well. I do recognize the conditions of the factory farms and the suffering that they cause and that is to be kept in mind.

I am doing this largely for a couple of reasons. I’d like to say that the first is my sense of ethics but what really pushed it over the edge for me is health and sustainability (the latter of which relates to ethics as well). Just about every male member of my dad’s family over the age of 45 or 46 has had a heart attack. Now, these are Wyoming working folks who eat a lot on the grease end of the food spectrum but…damn. My dad was the exception but he had angioplasty, which is related to the same problem. While he was dying from liver failure for a while, what killed him was a heart attack in the end. A vegetarian diet is, realistically, a healthier option for me, especially the absence of red meat, bacon and other things which I love but who long for my death. I don’t smoke and I only have an occasional beer socially so my main lifestyle issues are too much coffee and eating badly, which leads to my weight problem. I’m beginning to exercise more and I’m changing my diet. I think people can see where this goes…

Realistically, the amount of food we use to feed cattle and pigs is just unconscionable for me in the long run. That food should be used for other things, like humans, rather than for giving Americans our “meat with every meal” diet. This is part of proper sustainability in the future, I believe.

Along with all of this is the fact that, frankly, I’m a Buddhist. I’ve taken a vow to not kill, along with others. While it is culturally accepted in the West for Buddhists to often eat meat and this is also the case in places like Japan and Tibet, I do feel that this should be lessened or even ended as part of the vows that I have taken. I have felt a certain cognitive dissonance over time between the vows and culturally accepted practices within Buddhism. (By some measures, I shouldn’t even drink the occasional beer either but this isn’t the ten commandments but are, instead, choices that was consciously make for positive reasons, to promote life or clear-headedness, for example.) I feel that my being a vegetarian will bring me better in line with my spiritual and ethical beliefs.

Now, my friends need not worry. I’ll neither become the “angry vegan” that we all know and love nor the “preaching vegetarian.” If you wish to eat things, have at it. Any preaching in this regard will only be through example or in conversations where people ask about it. Few people like being told how they should leave (even when they may secretly and guiltily agree in their hearts). Let’s face it, we’re all hypocrites in so many ways, it makes no sense to lecture people about their conduct unless you’re staging an intervention or you are asked for your opinion.

I figured it was worth mentioning all of this on a few levels. I doubt it will come up much unless you eat with me or unless I find aspects of it difficult. I know I wasn’t 100% clear with my wife on all of this so she was surprised by the decision (which is not good when she cooks most of our dinners). I figured that no one else should be surprised either and, perhaps, others may feel inspired to eventually do the same thing.