the great vegetarian debate

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Khitij
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Khitij » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:26 am

Killing is a prerequesite to meat eating. I oppose the notion that eating meat is neutral kamma. For a bhikkhu, it may be (they cannot choose what they will eat), but not for people today.

Well, I think the vast majority of Burmese are avid meat eaters and are probably the most devout Buddhists I have ever met (that is, those that I met).
Don't conflate the eating of meat with killing - they're not the same.

If you wish to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet as an expression of compassion arising from your practice, that is excellent. But it is no better nor worse from a kammic point of view than a diet that is not vegetarian nor vegan.
kind regards

Ben


Who kills the animals in Myanmar? Probably not Buddhists. Killing is very bad kamma and a violation of the 1st precept. Burma is not entirely Buddhist- there are 4% of Muslims and of Christians and 1% of Hindus (the Hindus probably wouldn't kill either). Those religious groups would probably do the killing. In TIbet, non-Buddhists are usually the ones who kill the animals there. If the world was entirely composed of devout Buddhists, there will be no meat eating (except animals that have died of natural causes- this is somewhat less objectionable). The rules for bhikkhus were meant so that the bhikkhus would not offend lay followers by rejecting food. It is an outdated social rule. Buying meat is akin to "encouraging killing." One is indirectly encouraging people to kill so that you can have more meat. I oppose the notion that "I didn't kill myself, so I don't get any kammic demerit"- One is, by their actions, supporting killing of sentient beings.

I have nothing personally against meat eaters. Even vegans contribute to the killing of insects and other tiny creatures. One cannot be perfect. But one should at least try to reduce dukkha for other beings. Where is compassion? These beings suffer, just like we do. What if you were the animal, which you very well could be in you next birth, how would you feel? For Bhikkhus and Bhikkhunis, there is no choice. We have a choice! We can reduce other's suffering. I highly doubt the Buddha ate meat (don't give a reference, I won't believe it). He was so kind to animals (against sacrifice and the swan story).


With Metta,
Shre

:anjali:

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Ben
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:43 am

Khitij wrote:Killing is a prerequesite to meat eating.


No, I don't think so. Unless you can link the act of eating meat to the death of the animal that one is eating.

Khitij wrote:I oppose the notion that eating meat is neutral kamma. For a bhikkhu, it may be (they cannot choose what they will eat), but not for people today.

You can oppose all you like, but in many instances there is little difference for a bhikkhu and a lay person.

Khitij wrote:Who kills the animals in Myanmar? Probably not Buddhists. Killing is very bad kamma and a violation of the 1st precept. Burma is not entirely Buddhist- there are 4% of Muslims and of Christians and 1% of Hindus (the Hindus probably wouldn't kill either).

I have no idea who does the killing. Perhaps the Ministry of Information can tell you. The fact is, the vast majority of Burmese eat meat and the vast majority are devout Buddhist. Being a vegetarian is not a requisite for being a devout Buddhist.

Khitij wrote:If the world was entirely composed of devout Buddhists, there will be no meat eating
Well, the world isn't completely composed of devout Buddhists and I highly doubt that there would be no meat eating if it were.

Khitij wrote:It is an outdated social rule.
Says who?

Khitij wrote:Buying meat is akin to "encouraging killing." One is indirectly encouraging people to kill so that you can have more meat.
Buying meat is just buying meat. Whatever is going on in the head of the store-keeper and everyone else in the supply chain is their responsibility, not the responsibility of the purchaser of the meat.

Khitij wrote:I oppose the notion that "I didn't kill myself, so I don't get any kammic demerit"- One is, by their actions, supporting killing of sentient beings.
You have not shown how the eating of meat is supporting killing.

Khitij wrote:What if you were the animal, which you very well could be in you next birth,

I doubt it.

Khitij wrote:We have a choice! We can reduce other's suffering.
You have not shown how the eating of meat has contributed to that animal's suffering.

Khitij wrote:I highly doubt the Buddha ate meat (don't give a reference, I won't believe it).

I'm not surprised, you're so attached to your view.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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chownah
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby chownah » Mon Aug 08, 2011 7:24 am

Khitij,
In which case does a cow suffer most?
1. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti after a lingering ilness of perhaps months it dies
2. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti one day instead of going into the barn with the other cows it is coaxed aside where it is quickly and humanely killed.
3. It lives in the wild and is subject to prenatal death through malnutrition of the mother, the threat of death through predation which starts at birth and continues throughout its entire life and eventually being hunted down by a predator and being perhaps partly consumed while still conscious.

I'm not arguing for or against any particular dietary choice here....I'm just thinking that people should see the possibilities for a cows life as they realistically are....my view is that probably number 2 is one which provides the least suffering...a cow can be killed without it even knowing what is happening....a virtual non-event.....I do agree though that for most cows killed for food it is not done in that way....perhaps it would be better if compassionate people produced the meat we eat.....but it seems that those who claim to have this compassion don't want to get involved....

Again I'm not arguing any side of any issue....I'm just trying to see things for what they are.

chownah

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:18 am

Ben wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
PeterB wrote:...frankly so much of this discussion seems to be at base narcissistic,


Narcissistic would be eating whatever one likes without considering the conseqences.

Spiny


Actually, no.

narcissism [ˈnɑːsɪˌsɪzəm], narcism [ˈnɑːˌsɪzəm]
n
1. (Psychology) an exceptional interest in or admiration for oneself, esp one's physical appearance


Actually, yes - see the bolded section. Narcissism has the general meaning of self-interest.

Spiny

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Ben
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:23 am

Thanks, but I see nothing about the eating of meat in that statement.
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:34 am

Ben wrote:Thanks, but I see nothing about the eating of meat in that statement.


Somebody who was very self-interested would have little concern for the consequences of their actions.

Spiny

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Ben
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Ben » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:36 am

Thanks Spiny, but to convince us you might need to supply a published definition of narcissism that includes the words "carnivore" or "meat eater".
kind regards

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Paul Davy
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Paul Davy » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:41 am

Greetings,

And demonstrate that the meat-eating Buddha was narcissistic....

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"Whether I were to preach in brief, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach in detail, Sāriputta, or whether I were to preach both in brief or in detail, Sāriputta, rare are those who understand." (A I 333, Sāriputtasutta)

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:42 am

PeterB wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
PeterB wrote:CTR..." Oh of course I forget you are a westerner and so you assume that one cow is more sentient than a thousand beetles ".


Nice story, but basically flawed. It isn't a case of killing either the cow or the beetles, because the beetles would be killed anyway in the process of growing grain to feed the cow. So if we eat the cow we're responsible for killing both the cow and the beetles.
Plus which you could feed something like 3 times as many people by feeding them the grain instead of feeding it to the cow then eating the cow.

Spiny

I think you miss his point. But I think in fact that you are unlikely to get his point because of his basic stance.



I did get the point about how humans place greater value on creatures which are more closely related to themselves, and this point is often made in these debates, ie even if you don't eat meat you're still responsible for the death of many insects due to the growing of grain etc. However I was observing that this is in fact a straw-man argument because the insects die either way.
So the argument for vegetarianism in this sense is not that it completely avoids killing, but that it keeps the killing to a minimum.

Spiny

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 08, 2011 8:51 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
morning mist wrote:I agree that Buddhism isn't vegetarianism, but it is also not against vegetarianism either.
That depends on a person's reasons for being a vegetarian, and how it affects the way that they relate to others. What Buddhism teaches is that attachment to views is obstructive to spiritual development. Can anyone be a strict vegetarian or vegan without clinging to views?

Its this over-scrupulous attitude and wrong understanding of what kamma is that makes some vegetarians so intolerant. Then there's the vegans who think that vegetarians are not truly ethical because they eat dairy products or wear leather shoes, etc.

There is a way that one can be a vegetarian or vegan, but without any attachment to views. One who makes pragmatic choices, and is not averse to accepting and eating meat or fish offered by others is the one who practices correctly. No greed for the taste, and right view regarding kamma are more important than what one eats.

Bump.
I haven't seen anyone produce a coherent response that refutes the above...

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Dan74
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Dan74 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 9:53 am

PeterB wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
morning mist wrote:I agree that Buddhism isn't vegetarianism, but it is also not against vegetarianism either.
That depends on a person's reasons for being a vegetarian, and how it affects the way that they relate to others. What Buddhism teaches is that attachment to views is obstructive to spiritual development. Can anyone be a strict vegetarian or vegan without clinging to views?

Its this over-scrupulous attitude and wrong understanding of what kamma is that makes some vegetarians so intolerant. Then there's the vegans who think that vegetarians are not truly ethical because they eat dairy products or wear leather shoes, etc.

There is a way that one can be a vegetarian or vegan, but without any attachment to views. One who makes pragmatic choices, and is not averse to accepting and eating meat or fish offered by others is the one who practices correctly. No greed for the taste, and right view regarding kamma are more important than what one eats.

Bump.
I haven't seen anyone produce a coherent response that refutes the above...


Not quite a refutation, but some objections. I don't feel that the Bhante has presented a complete picture.

What Buddhism teaches is that attachment to views is obstructive to spiritual development. Can anyone be a strict vegetarian or vegan without clinging to views?


This puzzles me coming from a Vinaya monastic where strict adherence to rules (some no longer relevant or acceptable) is promoted. Abstaining from the consumption of meat goes well with restraining the senses and cultivating compassion for all creatures, I think, and makes more sense than not picking up lost valuables or not teaching Dhamma to someone holding an umbrella, etc etc

Its this over-scrupulous attitude and wrong understanding of what kamma is that makes some vegetarians so intolerant. Then there's the vegans who think that vegetarians are not truly ethical because they eat dairy products or wear leather shoes, etc.


There may well be many who feel like this, but surely many who don't. That's why I don't feel this is a general argument against the vegetarian choice but rather the wrong attitude or motivation.

There is a way that one can be a vegetarian or vegan, but without any attachment to views. One who makes pragmatic choices, and is not averse to accepting and eating meat or fish offered by others is the one who practices correctly. No greed for the taste, and right view regarding kamma are more important than what one eats.


Well, this view resonates with me personally and in fact this is what I do, but I also respect others who are stricter in their observance whether of not consuming flesh of living creatures or drinking alcohol. They don't have to make a fuss about it either and can honour this choice quietly and respectfully.
_/|\_

PeterB
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:10 am

That final paragraph of Bhante's post is one on which we can concur Dan. And one which is the essence of the issue for me.
At least one poster on this topic past and present simply refuses to accept that meat eating can happen in the absence of craving for flesh. Having observed the Forest Monks on many occasions eating a range of foodstuffs without any obvious craving or aversion I have no doubt that it is possible.
It is possible some individuals could not eat meat without craving more, and that they then assume that is the norm for everyone.


Incidentally adherence to the Vinaya does not imply clinging to views.
I know Bhikkhus who comply with great energy to the Vinaya and take breaches of the Vinaya very seriously, and who do not necessarily agree with all of it at an intellectual level. :o
They do it because the Vinaya has been shaped by wise heads over millennia...whatever the individual feels.
In other words they are able to adhere to the Vinaya only by NOT clinging to views.
Last edited by PeterB on Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Dan74
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Dan74 » Mon Aug 08, 2011 10:16 am

Yes, I respect that. Just like I respect those who are strict vegetarians or vegans out of their genuine compassion for living sentient beings.

PS In response to your edit, Peter, I am with Ven Jagaro on this subject - like any ethical dilemma, it's got to be dealt with thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately, guided by the Buddha's teachings, rather than beating everyone over the head with some supposed absolute stance. So for instance for monastics depending on the dana, the situation is obviously different to the lay living in a place with an abundance of choice.
_/|\_

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Aug 08, 2011 11:00 am

chownah wrote:In which case does a cow suffer most?
1. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti after a lingering ilness of perhaps months it dies
2. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti one day instead of going into the barn with the other cows it is coaxed aside where it is quickly and humanely killed.
3. It lives in the wild and is subject to prenatal death through malnutrition of the mother, the threat of death through predation which starts at birth and continues throughout its entire life and eventually being hunted down by a predator and being perhaps partly consumed while still conscious.

I'm just thinking that people should see the possibilities for a cows life as they realistically are....my view is that probably number 2 is one which provides the least suffering...a cow can be killed without it even knowing what is happening....a virtual non-event.....I do agree though that for most cows killed for food it is not done in that way....perhaps it would be better if compassionate people produced the meat we eat.....but it seems that those who claim to have this compassion don't want to get involved....

Again I'm not arguing any side of any issue....I'm just trying to see things for what they are.

chownah


Hi Chownah,

I agree. The problem, though, is that #2 doesn't reflect the actual reality. The actual reality is:

4. A life of confinement and abuse on a factory farm, followed by inhumane "assembly line" slaughter.

Animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious...Typically, cattle are led down a chute to a “knocking box”. Here, theoretically, a steel bolt is shot into the cow’s brain. Sometimes the bolt only dazes the animal, which either remains conscious or wakes up as it is being ‘processed’.” “Processing” continues with wrapping a chain around the animal’s leg, and hoisting it into the air. Then, it is moved to a “sticker”, who cuts its throat. If the knocking hasn’t done its work, then, as one slaughterhouse worker put it: “They’d be blinking and stretching their necks from side to side, looking around, really frantic”. Then they move on to the “head skinner”, where the skin is peeled off the head of the animal. Some cattle, not the majority but a non-negligible minority, find themselves still conscious at this stage. Then, on to the “leggers”, who cut off the lower portions of the animals’ legs. At this point: “As far as the ones that come back to life go . . . the cattle just go wild, kicking in every direction".


In the United States, many people are still convinced that cattle and pigs live a storybook life on greeny farms with plenty of sunshine and open air. Far from the case. Most of what you can buy in a supermarket came to you from a CAFO.

The simplest way to oppose these practices is to boycott the products. I agree, though, there's a strong case for supporting farmers who don't maltreat animals. It can require considerable research on the consumer's part because such farmers are increasingly few and far between. Moreover, some of what's marketed as "humane" is anything but -- due to regulatory loopholes and deceptive labeling (be wary of cage-free eggs, etc)

chownah
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby chownah » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:22 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
chownah wrote:In which case does a cow suffer most?
1. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti after a lingering ilness of perhaps months it dies
2. Raised in a safe pasture with ample nutritious food and no threat to survival unti one day instead of going into the barn with the other cows it is coaxed aside where it is quickly and humanely killed.
3. It lives in the wild and is subject to prenatal death through malnutrition of the mother, the threat of death through predation which starts at birth and continues throughout its entire life and eventually being hunted down by a predator and being perhaps partly consumed while still conscious.

I'm just thinking that people should see the possibilities for a cows life as they realistically are....my view is that probably number 2 is one which provides the least suffering...a cow can be killed without it even knowing what is happening....a virtual non-event.....I do agree though that for most cows killed for food it is not done in that way....perhaps it would be better if compassionate people produced the meat we eat.....but it seems that those who claim to have this compassion don't want to get involved....

Again I'm not arguing any side of any issue....I'm just trying to see things for what they are.

chownah


Hi Chownah,

I agree. The problem, though, is that #2 doesn't reflect the actual reality. The actual reality is:

4. A life of confinement and abuse on a factory farm, followed by inhumane "assembly line" slaughter.

Animals are bled, skinned, and dismembered while conscious...Typically, cattle are led down a chute to a “knocking box”. Here, theoretically, a steel bolt is shot into the cow’s brain. Sometimes the bolt only dazes the animal, which either remains conscious or wakes up as it is being ‘processed’.” “Processing” continues with wrapping a chain around the animal’s leg, and hoisting it into the air. Then, it is moved to a “sticker”, who cuts its throat. If the knocking hasn’t done its work, then, as one slaughterhouse worker put it: “They’d be blinking and stretching their necks from side to side, looking around, really frantic”. Then they move on to the “head skinner”, where the skin is peeled off the head of the animal. Some cattle, not the majority but a non-negligible minority, find themselves still conscious at this stage. Then, on to the “leggers”, who cut off the lower portions of the animals’ legs. At this point: “As far as the ones that come back to life go . . . the cattle just go wild, kicking in every direction".


In the United States, many people are still convinced that cattle and pigs live a storybook life on greeny farms with plenty of sunshine and open air. Far from the case. Most of what you can buy in a supermarket came to you from a CAFO.

The simplest way to oppose these practices is to boycott the products. I agree, though, there's a strong case for supporting farmers who don't maltreat animals. It can require considerable research on the consumer's part because such farmers are increasingly few and far between. Moreover, some of what's marketed as "humane" is anything but -- due to regulatory loopholes and deceptive labeling (be wary of cage-free eggs, etc)

Lazy_eye,
I think you need a reality check....you seem to be developing your views from a very narrow perspective and assuming that your views represent the only way things canhappen.
My wife raises cows here in northern Thailand....our cows live on a greeny farm with plenty of sunlight and fresh air....abundant and nutritious naturally grown pasture every day and sometimes with the addition of organically grown corn plants (after the ears are sold or eaten) or bean plants...we even give them bananas for a treat.....its about as story book as it gets exept that in the story book they never go to slaughter....here they do.....and please note what I did say in my previous post, " .....I do agree though that for most cows killed for food it is not done in that way....perhaps it would be better if compassionate people produced the meat we eat.....but it seems that those who claim to have this compassion don't want to get involved...."
Corporate farming is a big offender....not only do they treat animals inhumanely but they also have bought up most of the good farming land in Africa which is a major contributing factor to the famines that happen there all too frequently.

chownah

Khitij
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Khitij » Mon Aug 08, 2011 2:35 pm

You have not shown how the eating of meat has contributed to that animal's suffering.


Look at the poor quality conditions most of these animals are kept in. Look at the inhumane suffering and torture most have to put up with. Getting killed is clearly suffering from a Buddhist point of view.


I have no idea who does the killing. Perhaps the Ministry of Information can tell you. The fact is, the vast majority of Burmese eat meat and the vast majority are devout Buddhist. Being a vegetarian is not a requisite for being a devout Buddhist.


You simply evaded the question. Who kills in Myanmar? If the Buddhists there are devout, clearly not Buddhists.

I doubt it.


This your own personal view and not the Orthodox Theravada Buddhist view on this position. An other animal is one of the 6 realms one can be reborn in as per Orthodox Buddhism.

You have not shown how the eating of meat is supporting killing.


This is because of our supply-and-demand system.


I'm not surprised, you're so attached to your view.


The Vinaya is also a view. Saying that meat eating is okay is also a view. Ultimately, they are rules, some of which are clearly outdated. Ancient India is not the Modern West. Look how Buddhism has been reinterpreted in China. They grow their own food. The West can clearly do the same. The Buddha said it is okay to change minor rules at his parinibbana.



I think we can agree with the compromise statement:
Being vegetarian is not a requirement for Buddhism, but is looked upon favorably.


Veggie or carnivore, let us practice the Dhamma.

With Metta,
Shre

PeterB
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby PeterB » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:04 pm

Your final sentence is rather at odds with much of the sentiment and tone of what precedes it in terms of your post Khitij.

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Aug 08, 2011 4:53 pm

chownah wrote:My wife raises cows here in northern Thailand....our cows live on a greeny farm with plenty of sunlight and fresh air....abundant and nutritious naturally grown pasture every day and sometimes with the addition of organically grown corn plants (after the ears are sold or eaten) or bean plants...we even give them bananas for a treat.....its about as story book as it gets exept that in the story book they never go to slaughter....here they do.....and please note what I did say in my previous post, " .....I do agree though that for most cows killed for food it is not done in that way....perhaps it would be better if compassionate people produced the meat we eat.....but it seems that those who claim to have this compassion don't want to get involved...."
Corporate farming is a big offender....not only do they treat animals inhumanely but they also have bought up most of the good farming land in Africa which is a major contributing factor to the famines that happen there all too frequently.


Chownah,

I don't think we're in disagreement. Perhaps I didn't indicate clearly that I'm referring to trends in the West, and particularly in the United States.

As I wrote earlier, I believe there's a strong case for supporting farmers who raise livestock humanely. If your farm was located in Maryland, I would consider buying food from you for my family. If livestock were generally being raised in the United States in the way you describe, I would reconsider my vegetarianism.

Unfortunately, that's not how things are here. Corporate farms and CAFOs have cornered the market. And even the diminishing number of independent farmers who have bucked the trend may still end up sending their animals to assembly-line slaughterhouses.

I absolutely agree this is not the only way things can happen, but changing it requires some willpower on the part of consumers...and an ability to make informed choices.

Corporate farming is a big offender....not only do they treat animals inhumanely but they also have bought up most of the good farming land in Africa which is a major contributing factor to the famines that happen there all too frequently.


Indeed. And that is why our decisions as food consumers are related to the larger picture which Ben mentioned a few posts back.

alan
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby alan » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:09 am

A big Yay to Bhikkhu Pesala for his sensible, rational observations.
A big Boo to those who those who do not know the meaning of the words they use.

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby alan » Wed Aug 10, 2011 3:18 am

Hi morning mist
You don't need to worry about saturated fats. They are good for you.
As for Coconut milk, most of what you buy will be primarily water. Stay away from "lite" products and you'll be Ok. Better yet, get real coconut oil and cook with it, add it to your diet. I guarantee you will feel better.


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