I was raised eating meat. A lot of meat. Basically, it wasn’t a meal unless it had meat. When I first really committed to my daily practice, I decided to stop eating meat all together, and I held true to this for a while, but I’m back to eating meat. Technically, I’m not breaking my precepts because I not killing anything, but for some time this seemed like a back door excuse. We’re not hunter gatherers anymore. We’re grocery storers.
When I started meditating seriously, I was consciously choosing to isolate myself from the world I knew. Eating vegetarian was just an additional part of that isolation. But now that I’m reconnecting with the world, this issue seems a little less black and white. I’m not trying to justify my eating meat. There’s no question that one reason I choose to eat meat is because it’s just more convenient. The meat options general taste better to me than the limited vegetarian options. But I don’t think that by choosing to be a vegetarian I’m really preventing the harm of animals. There is a much bigger system here.
If being a vegetarian isolates me from my community, I lose my influence in that community. The more interconnected one is, the more influence they have. So I could argue that by eating 50% less meat and influencing my 100 friend to eat 10% less meat I’m reducing the harm to animal a lot more than by eating no meat but having no friends. This is oversimplifying. It’s untrue that being a vegetarian excludes me from having friends. There is a growing population of vegetarians and there are more and more vegetarian options. But for me personally, there was more ego in the choice. I got stuck thinking that I was a better person than people who didn’t eat meat and didn’t meditate. This mentality isn’t true and it’s not helpful.
Someone could write a book about the intellectual complexity of these moral dilemmas, but I just want to end with a simple thought. We are all part of a global community that is impacted by the decisions of each one of us. Carving out an individual identity by separating yourself from the whole isn’t getting to the root of societies problems. We need to grow together as a community and I believe meditation is a great tool in that process. We need to be careful not to get fixated on individual issues like eating meat. I’m going to stay aware of how much meat I’m eating, and I reduce that amount over time, but I’m not going to use vegetarianism to boost my ego. Instead, I want to focus on appreciating where each of us is on our own journey without judging. Time to meditate.