Skip to content

On the Spirituality of NOT Eating Animals

You may recall that a couple of days ago I was experiencing frustration with people who call themselves spiritual, yet manage to incorporate eating animals into their brand of spirituality. To be fair, traditional Western religions (i.e., not mysticism), at least according to their doctrines, incorporate animal products, so I do understand why someone who calls herself Catholic might find nothing unacceptable about eating animals. It’s the Eastern types that confounded me, as ahimsa (nonviolence, non injury) is a tenet, and nonhuman animals are explicitly included. Eating meat is the ingestion of suffering on a spiritual level, and I’m not sure what kind of mental acrobatics have positioned my friends (and some commenters on Rethos) to say otherwise.

Eric suggested directing them to Dr. Will Tuttle’s World Peace Diet, which I had forgotten about, probably because it’s the book closest to what I believe so it didn’t create any stress, conflict or dissonance in my mind. (That’s just how my mind works. Or doesn’t.) You can direct people to a 340-page book, or you can ask them to watch a video, or you can do both. I’m doing both.

Here are some of my favorite points to ponder for those who believe they can eat animals with love and deference:

  • "Seeing beings rather than things."
  • We are attached to food, religion and our cultural story, but why?
  • "In our culture, we practice the art of disconnection." Anyone who meditates or does yoga knows that repetition is the mother of mastery.
  • When you harm others, you’re harming yourself even more.
  • "Whatever we do to animals, we start doing to people."
  • "Perhaps the reason we have all the problems we have is the mentality required to have an unending supply of flesh and fluids."

I think my new strategy is to ask my friends to watch the video. It certainly isn’t a substitute for reading the book, but it does raise important questions and present valuable information (like his story about the monastery in South Korea that has been vegan for 650 years). His personal journey will no doubt be  particularly interesting to my friends who have had similar paths.

I’ll let you know if my new strategy yields any desired outcomes.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Angus #

    Rod Preece, a scholar with a wealth of knowledge about historical attitudes toward animals, refutes the common view that Western culture, and Christianity in particular, has steadfastly refused ethical consideration to animals. See Animals and Nature: Cultural Myths, Cultural Realities (1999), Awe for the Tiger, Love for the Lamb (2002), and Brute Souls, Happy Beasts, and Evolution (2005).

    People in all cultures have been, and continue to be, full of contradictory attitudes toward animals. I used to be optimistic that ethical considerations would gradually move society away from animal exploitation, but in recent years I have become more pessimistic on that score. I now think that self-interest is likely to have a bigger impact, with ethics following in its wake. This means it's vital to make the connections among animal industries, human health, pollution, global warming, famine, and political instability.

    April 20, 2008
  2. Angus,

    There are also a handful of websites that focus on quoting various religious texts (from Judaism and Catholicism), insisting that they're really calling for vegetarianism and Jesus was a vegetarian, etc….

    Like you, though, I think that self-interest carries the day, unfortunately.

    April 20, 2008
  3. I love the way that Will Tuttle delves into some of the developments of institutionalized exploitation in The World Peace Diet, and how he then follows through with the compellingness of veganism from a spiritual angle.

    April 21, 2008

Leave a Reply

You may use basic HTML in your comments. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS