The most common reason that people state for why they are vegetarian is animal cruelty. They are probably the breed of person that loves animals. This type of person has an affinity for the living spirit. They look at a pig or a cow in the eyes and think “hey there little guy!”… And the returning “oink” or “moo” is seen as a “hello there mister you!”… ahhhh so cute! This is the way some of us operate. This is how I have always felt- raised to love animals by our psychotic mother. We always had birds, bunnies, cats, dogs, a fish pond. We loved animals! We still love animals! So why are we eating them?
Animal Cruelty: Many vegetarians will go on and on and on about the treatment of animals in the food industry. Horrific. I came home from class one day in college to find my roommate, Jeff Hunter, sitting on the couch watching a grotesque documentary on the butchering of animals in a slaughterhouse. He didn’t eat meat for a week and after the haze of the memory faded, swore he would just never watch the documentary again. Many of us simply don’t want to know the truth. The threat of actually having to do something differently is too much. I believe many vegetarians would agree, that it isn’t “wrong” to eat meat.
“Some groups suggest that it is immoral to eat meat, for it necessitates destroying life. However, this implies that the law of nature is wrong; that lions, tigers and other carnivorous animals are committing, sin. This opinion cannot be correct, for it is a rule of physical existence that certain forms of life sustain themselves by killing and eating other forms of life. It is not immoral when a lion kills and eats a zebra; it is designed to act this way.” Yoga and Kriya pg 213.
I think that if a person feels they should eat meat, thats great. It is in the way that the animals are raised and killed. Unfortunately for most western shoppers, 99% of the animals are factory farmed in hellish conditions (Foer). It is because of this cruelty that many western yogis decide to simply put meat down altogether and opt for the veggies. They are practicing the principle of Ahimsa, or non-violence. This is the first Yama in Patanjali’s eight-fold path. In many of the worlds leading religions, cruelty to animals is considered to be a sin. Sri Swami Sivananda states:
“Killing of animals is a great sin. Ahimsa is the first virtue that a spiritual aspirant should try to possess. You should have reverence for life. Lord Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the merciful for they shall attain mercy.’ Mahavira shouted in a trumpet like voice, “Regard every living thing as thyself and harm no one.”
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a person shouldn’t eat meat if they feel compelled to do so. Just as a tiger eats meat and isn’t a villain, neither should the person who eats a hamburger feel like a villain. HOWEVER, where did the meat come from? How was the cow raised? How was it treated in its last moments? These are all incredibly important things to consider.
In order for factory farming to change, we as a species have to stop eating factory farmed meat. This doesn’t mean stop eating meat altogether! There are free range, organic options (but even then, don’t always believe what it says on the label). The most obvious down side to these options are that they are expensive. Unless you live in Uganda where ‘real’ chickens and goats run around free, finding happy animals to eat might be difficult, but not impossible. It’s a matter of searching out the alternatives and making a commitment to stick with them. For incentive on why to do this, read Eating Animals by Jonathen Safran Foer, or watch the short film, “Meet your Meat”, narrated by Alec Baldwin, which shows how different types of factory farmed animals are born, raised, and slaughtered. After investigating the situation perhaps it will be easier to buy the more expensive free-range meat (or perhaps not eat meat at all).
*Do your research on the meat you decide to buy to make sure it is really free range and that the animals are treated well during their brief existence. There are so many loop holes in the industry now it is extremely hard to find wholesome and humanely treated animal product. Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, or my personal favorite, Two Mile Ranch, is the best bet (if you are in Colorado)…Find out who your nearest farm to market retailer is and support them!
ACTION STEP: Meet your meat. If you are going to eat it… go with healthy, happy cows, pigs, and chickens. Start supporting locally owned, operated and GROWN markets. This is one way that you personally can start making a change in the industry.