Buying meat: akusala kamma?

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Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:43 pm

Hi all,

In this thread, Chris has posted an interesting article about vegetarianism. Rather than muddy that good thread with potentially off-topic posts, I'd like to drill down a bit farther into the issue of what kind of responsibility we bear as consumers when we purchase the meat of animals who have been industrially raised in CAFOs and slaughtered for mass consumption.

The discussion in that thread establishes very effectively (in my opinion) that: A person's knowledge that buying meat will be a contributory factor to more animals being killed, or his ignorance of this, will not alter the fact that his purchase of meat does not amount to the akusala kamma of having someone kill animals.
(Thank you Ven. Dhammanando. :anjali:)

Since that thread was tightly focused, the discussion did not go much into the issue of what other sort of akusala kamma might be associated with the purchase of meat.

I made this comment in that thread comparing two hypothetical situations:
Jechbi wrote:a] you go to an organic chicken farm and select your live chicken to be butchered.
b] you go to the neighborhood retail grocery store and purchase a pre-killed, CAFO-bred chicken from a grocery employee who earns minimum wage.
Frankly, for the householder, I believe an argument could be made that [a] is more kusula than [b] if choosing between these two hypothetical scenarios, all other things being equal.
Afterward, I began to feel concerned that this comment itself might be regarded as "praise" for killing, and thus would consistute the akusala kamma of actually killing the organic chickens. While it seems reasonable to me that an argument might be made that [a] is more kusala than [b], I'm not sure I would buy into such an argument.

It does seem that when we buy meat, we participate in killing on some level. The article that Chris posted included this example:
Nevertheless, eggs are always regarded as having been fertilized, so to boil or crack an egg is seen as killing a living being. ... This means that, in Sri Lanka at least ... pre-cracked "Buddhist eggs' are sold to the middle-class pious Buddhists.
Which means that there are pious Buddhists creating a market for slaughtered eggs (if you buy the notion that the eggs are living beings). Who else would buy the cracked eggs besides pious Buddhists (or other pious vegetarians)? The buyers are themselves creating a market that demands killing. If the buyers stopped buying, the number of beings slaughtered would diminish.

I realize these issues probably have been discussed ad nauseum elsewhere, but I'm curious now to see a focused discussion regarding the akusala kamma (if any) associated with the mere practice of buying meat.

(Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. I purchase meat in the grocery store for myself and my family.)

Metta
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Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:50 pm

There is no killing in the eating of eggs. Vegetarians eat eggs (it is only vegans who do not eat eggs).

An unfertilized egg has no animal life in it.

What does "pre-cracked egg" mean? Does that mean fertilized or unfertilized? Most eggs sold are not fertile, so there is no issue unless you are a vegan.
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Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:54 pm

Thanks, TheDhamma. I realize now that I should have used a more general title for this thread. It's not really about "pre-cracked eggs." Could a mod change it to something like: "Buying meat: akusala kamma?"

My understanding is that the eggs in question are cracked by someone else, thus someone else is being paid to "kill" the egg so that the pious Buddhist in Sri Lanka doesn't have to "kill" the egg himself. The purchaser is buying cracked eggs, so the purchaser doesn't have to worry about killing a baby chicken.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:02 pm

Jechbi wrote:My understanding is that the eggs in question are cracked by someone else, thus someone else is being paid to "kill" the egg so that the pious Buddhist in Sri Lanka doesn't have to "kill" the egg himself. The purchaser is buying cracked eggs, so the purchaser doesn't have to worry about killing a baby chicken.

But that would only be an issue if it is a fertile egg, not for unfertilized eggs, which about 99% of all eggs are anyway.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Jechbi » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:11 pm

True, but I think they're making the assumption that the eggs are fertilized. Otherwise you're right, it doesn't make much sense.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 09, 2009 8:59 pm

The article by Peter Harvey (posted by Chris) is interesting and like most discussions on vegetarianism and Buddhism, focuses on the Vinaya and rules for monks. It may be true that many lay Theravadins do choose to eat meat and one reason may be that they feel monks are held to a higher standard and as the quote goes, something like, "if it's okay for them it sure must be for me." That may be a common sentiment, but I find that more attention must be given to what I buy, not because as a layman I have a higher standard (of course not), but rather that we have that choice at all. The Threefold rule appears to be mostly about not being choosy and graciously accepting what is offered, not denying the merit making for the lay people.

If everyone were Buddhist there would be no slaughterhouses and no meat available (who would do the killing), so by this fact alone, vegetarianism at least might be seen as an "ideal" or as Harvey puts it, "universally admired."

I understand that vegetarian Buddhists should not judge those who eat meat just as those who eat meat should not judge or condemn vegetarians; I am just noticing that in Suttas that are not just directed at monks and nuns, there are plenty of references to not killing or causing to kill. For some, this may mean trying to reduce the number of animals slaughtered in a way that feels appropriate. For others it is a matter of not directly killing or requesting another to kill.

The list about what breaks the First precept can be seen in a literal way, which is understandable and explained well by Bhikkhu Pesala and Bhante Dhammanando. For others the list may imply that certain actions and words might condone or defend killing. I don't know. Since I am not sure and certainly don't want to speak in praise of killing, when in doubt I figure if I am in error, let me err on the side of life. I'm making no judgments, just my opinion!
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Mar 10, 2009 4:05 am

Jechbi wrote:what other sort of akusala kamma might be associated with the purchase of meat?

I believe this was addressed in the other thread. Kamma is volition. Your kamma is not what others decide to do as a result of your actions. What determines kamma of buying meat is the volition of the buyer, not the behavior of the seller. We are each the heir of our own kamma. The buyer is not the heir of the seller's kamma, nor vice versa.

Perhaps it is helpful to look at it this way: We ask these questions because we feel the buyer is motivating the seller. But a person is motivated to act in unwholesome ways all the time and those motivations come from all different places. Peace, as the Buddha taught it, does not come form trying to remove all those motivations. Peace comes from within. It comes from learning how to not be a slave to those unwholesome motivations, to see through them, to get to a place where they are no longer motivating.

If everyone stopped buying meat, yes there would be no more meat sellers. But this in itself would not bring even a single being closer to true peace. The buyers, the sellers, and the chickens would all still be trapped in the cycle of birth and death.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Jechbi » Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:07 pm

Peter wrote:
Jechbi wrote:what other sort of akusala kamma might be associated with the purchase of meat?
I believe this was addressed in the other thread.
I'm not so sure it was. That thread was very well focused on just one particular form of akusala kamma, namely, the akusala kamma of killing. Other sorts of akusala kamma that might be associated with the purchase of meat were off topic, as you noted in that thread:
Peter wrote:The intention of the thread is as I have stated it: to determine if buying meat constitutes urging another to kill. It may be that buying meat is unwholesome for other reasons, but I am not interested in exploring those reasons here in this thread. I only wish to explore this one particular teaching.
Nevertheless, you're right that the thread touched on the general issues. I was struck by vivid examples from the article that Chris posted, particularly the one about the pre-cracked eggs, where the pious Buddhists themselves are creating a market for slain animals (at least they regard cracked eggs as such) where no market would otherwise exist. Beyond this, there are degrees of seeming complicity in every purchase, and yes, the buyer's motivation of the seller is one of many contributing factors to whatever occurs in the grocery store. I don't think it can be completely discounted just because it may be a relatively minor factor in the scheme of things.

Peter wrote:Peace, as the Buddha taught it, does not come form trying to remove all those motivations. Peace comes from within. It comes from learning how to not be a slave to those unwholesome motivations, to see through them, to get to a place where they are no longer motivating.

If everyone stopped buying meat, yes there would be no more meat sellers. But this in itself would not bring even a single being closer to true peace. The buyers, the sellers, and the chickens would all still be trapped in the cycle of birth and death.

Very well said. Thank you. :anjali:
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Tue Mar 10, 2009 10:20 pm

Peter wrote:If everyone stopped buying meat, yes there would be no more meat sellers. But this in itself would not bring even a single being closer to true peace. The buyers, the sellers, and the chickens would all still be trapped in the cycle of birth and death.


Yes, I think it is safe to say that this would not in itself liberate any beings from suffering. However, I think it would create an environment which is more conducive to the practice of Dhamma which does lead to liberation. Ethics is only a part of the threefold path. Besides, I think it would lead to a greater degree of transient happiness like entering into the pleasant and blissful abodes and such.

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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby kc2dpt » Tue Mar 10, 2009 11:21 pm

gabrielbranbury wrote:
Peter wrote:If everyone stopped buying meat...
I think it would create an environment which is more conducive to the practice of Dhamma which does lead to liberation.

Please provide a scriptural reference to support this claim, something wherein the Buddha talks about forcibly removing another's opportunity to perform an unwholesome act.

Ethics is only a part of the threefold path.

If I physically prevent you from breaking a precept, is that a case of you practicing ethics? Buddhist ethics, as I have learned it, is a matter of self-restraint, not other-restraint.
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 11, 2009 1:28 am

Peter wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:
Peter wrote:If everyone stopped buying meat...
I think it would create an environment which is more conducive to the practice of Dhamma which does lead to liberation.

Please provide a scriptural reference to support this claim, something wherein the Buddha talks about forcibly removing another's opportunity to perform an unwholesome act.


First of all, it isnt as if I am propasing anyone "force" anyone to do anything. You imagined a scenario where there was no market for meat and pointed out that this would not be a sufficient condition for liberation and I agree. I only added that in a society where killing for food is not a viable profession then people indeed would end up doing something else for livelihood. People in such a society will still need to eat so I assume that there would be other forms of livelihood which open up to service this shift in need. I would think that people who kill livestock due so out of an intention to financially sustain themselves and their families. The intention would be the same whether they are involved in killing livestock or in providing alternative sources of food.


Peter wrote:
Ethics is only a part of the threefold path.

If I physically prevent you from breaking a precept, is that a case of you practicing ethics? Buddhist ethics, as I have learned it, is a matter of self-restraint, not other-restraint.


Its not as if the lack of a market for meat is physically stopping a slaughterhouse from killing. Yes self restraint helps to avoid unwholesome acts but so does guarding the doors to the senses. If people are less tempted by the financial incentives of a wrong livelihood they are less likley to commit unwholesome acts and therefore their conditions will be more conducive to the practice of Dhamma.

I should say at this point that I would not say that buying meat is tantamount to inciting someone to kill. Their is an association between the two and I would say that association amounts to a type of complicity.


Metta

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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Mar 11, 2009 3:40 am

gabrielbranbury wrote:I would say that association amounts to a type of complicity.

Could you say what you think that means in terms of Buddha's teachings? How does complicity relate to the Path? Can one who is complicit attain liberation?
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Re: Buying meat: akusala kamma?

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 11, 2009 5:13 am

Peter wrote:
gabrielbranbury wrote:I would say that association amounts to a type of complicity.

Could you say what you think that means in terms of Buddha's teachings? How does complicity relate to the Path? Can one who is complicit attain liberation?


I think in terms of the Buddhas teachings it means that this complicity is counterproductive to Dhamma practice. Everyone can be liberated. :twothumbsup:

Metta

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