The Dhamma and Veganism/Vegetarianism


I think intentional ignorance is better than intentionally killing.

However in terms of the practice, one unwholesome act is a ‘core’ break in precepts.


…and wisdom is not possible without immersion. :open_mouth:

Such an interesting sutta! Many thanks.


The arguments for a dhamma based vegetarianism in the current era tends to be around supply and demand - “If I go vegetarian less animals will be killed”.

I doubt this reasoning.

For me (one who has been a killer) I know that I was not killing for the money (although that is, of course, a very nice side effect). I killed even if there was no pay, and those killings were generally more cruel than those in the confines of a slaughterhouse. There is joy in killing; there is joy in control of another being to the point taking their life; there’s a joy in cruelty. If there wasn’t we wouldn’t do it. There is also severe karmic consequences, but you don’t tend to see that at the time.

Thinking that you are going to stop people from being cruel and murderous using market forces just doesn’t make sense to me. You need to change those minds.

Having said that, eat less meat. It’s good for your health and the environment.


It took me a while to understand the subtle and important point of your post. :pray:

When I was not vegetarian, my intent was to eat a juicy steak. My intent was ignorant of harm.

Yet when a kind friend explained to me all the suffering that simple purchase entailed, I could no longer buy steak because my intent would have had the consequence of perpetuating further harm.

I have also been to ancient Mayan sacrificial sites where hearts were ripped from living captives with obsidian knives. Here there clearly was intent.

My own mind was changed by the words and actions of another. It was not changed by market forces although I find it interesting that sometimes vegetarian food is quite expensive. Therefore I can’t fully discount market forces.


I meant the minds of the killers, not the minds of the meat eaters.

This is what I doubt. I can find no evidence that the act of going vegetarian causes less killings to happen in the world.


I think I may have saved a cow or two by now. And yes, those saved cows were promptly devoured by others. What vegetarians have done for the world is that they have made the choice individual at every meal. For most of us the choice was always there, but without vegetarians we might never realize that such a choice existed. The point of being a vegetarian is not to save all the animals. The point of being a vegetarian is that by our preferences we can gently remind others that such massive killing need not be a requirement of life.

Being vegetarian actually helped me with the first precept. Do not kill.


I had a rather interesting textual revelation recently. We all know the way in which the instructions are structured. Monastics can eat meat if offered in a certain way, and there are no specific injunctions for householders besides they cannot kill animals. I am sure there are more textual dimensions than I am stating. My revelation recently is concerning animal sacrifice within the time of the Buddha. The Buddha considered animal sacrifice wrong within the early Buddhist texts, I think we all know this. What was an eye opener for me, is that I did not realize that the animal sacrificed in the vedic ceremony was then eaten. Whatever further implications there are, when the early Buddhist movement was instructing the halting of animal sacrifice it was also instructing the halting of ceremonial and thus communal meat redistribution and consumption. I think this may have some bearing in the whole textual debate on meat consumption in the suttas.


I don’t think that you understand my argument yet. My argument is that a killer will not be put off killing an animal even if they lose their job in the slaughterhouse because people no longer eat meat. If you have a mind predisposed to killing, it will find a way to kill. This is just my experience, but it finds echos in the first line of the dhammapada.

The killer of beings (in general) does not care if killing is a ‘requirement of life’, just that it’s fun to kill. Someone who doesn’t enjoy killing, doesn’t last long working in a slaughterhouse.


We agree on this. Some are simply drawn to dark deeds. Witness the popularity of John Wick.

I practice for myself and others not interested in dark deeds.


Had to look up John Wick. :laughing:


Very interesting. Eaten by humans I guess? Obviously all animal bodies are eaten by something - worms, maggots, bacteria, etc…


Did the slaughterhouse workers take the job because they enjoy killing? Maybe some did.
Did more of them take the job because because they live in an area of limited employment options? Are their job skills limited, thus forcing them into work they would otherwise not choose? Might this not force them to become inured to the violence of their work in order to keep the job? If there was no demand for the products of slaughterhouses would the business owners turn to another industry?


Maybe, maybe not. We have no way of telling, unless you can find even a single scientific study to support these claims around ‘supply and demand’ of meat products and the number of animals killed in the world?

Yeah sure, what you say sounds very reasonable, but many things like that often do. It is the default position for most people, and is indeed the basis of ‘compassion’ based vegetarianism and veganism.

I could likewise suggest that if the slaughterhouse is closed down, that leaves killers in the area unemployed. Now left to their own devices wouldn’t those killers run amok, killing more creatures, but now without the controls that the slaughterhouse (legislation) imposed on restricting cruelty and capping numbers. But that too has no evidence to support it.

I’m really speaking from a personal point of view. I killed until I understood killing, then I stopped. I was casually cruel until I understood cruelty, and then I stopped.


I think this is the reason there are these two aspects of Right intention: non-harming and non-ill will.


Would you call the police then if you know they might break a precept? What about destroying cotton plants which hosts insects for making clothes?

Soldiers killing pirates trying to steal your material goods, what about that?

Most of the goods you own come from China on ships. I had a friend in the navy whose job was to protect those ships by killing Somalian pirates. So your laptop and whatever other material your using has blood on its hands.

So no, you’re not a hypocrit if you buy meat you didn’t kill, just like you’re not a hypocrit for using a laptop that is protected by killing pirates, or living in a city that is protected by killing criminals.

Or do you want to stop criminals yourself instead of others doing it for you so you’re no longer a hypocrite?

Anyone who says that eating meat they didn’t kill makes them a hypocrit, should only eat foods that they grew themselves, call the police and tell them not to protect them, and make their own clothes, and their own computers and should go get the copper from south america themselves and protect it from evil gangs and cartels themselves as well, and bring it back to their homes themselves.

Are monks hypocrites for depending on the lay community?


You’re attacking a straw man, Thito.

Eating meat doesn’t itself break the five precepts, so you are absolutely correct that in Early Buddhism it isn’t “immoral” to eat meat which is “pure in the three ways." So, yes. You’re not going to hell for eating meat, using an iPhone, etc.

You’re also not going to hell for passing up opportunities to be generous. When you pass by a beggar you don’t feel confidence in, there’s nothing immoral about passing them by. So, there’s no need to feel guilty about this kind of thing, and to the extent that certain militant anti-meat activists do guilt people over their breakfast, this is indeed an unkind and unproductive tactic.

But, as I hope the beggar example foreshadowed, there is an important difference between doing something immoral and not doing something kind.

It’s absolutely your “right” to pass up an opportunity to be generous, thoughtful, or kind. And you’re not (actively) harming when you simply “go with the flow" of the world. But you’re also not cultivating either — not going “against” the stream.

Whenever we purchase things, as you mentioned, we are, in a sense, complicit in much violence. This is why we should (note, should is different from must!) practice renounciation.

We should (as followers of the Buddha) slowly get comfortable living with less and lesser food, shelter, adornments, entertainment, etc. For, if we truly felt compassion, we would renounce such things. We’d use only the bare minimum necessary for sustaining life.

It’s like parents crossing a desert without food or water. If their beloved child were to die on the journey, would they, out of necessity, eat their child? If they did, would they eat any more than was absolutely necessary? Would they relish the act?

So when Buddhists encourage you, @Thito, to become vegetarian, please don’t understand it as a judgement: “or else you’re going to hell!!” Doing so imports an unnecessary and unhelpful Western, dualistic frame onto Buddhist morality. Rather, take it as someone pointing out annother opportunity for you to practice compassion, generosity, and renunciation. If you don’t feel confidence in that as a practice, that’s fine. There are many other ways to cultivate.

But if I do see someone give money to the beggar that I passed up, I rejoice in their generousity. “Wow! Amazing!” I celebrate their good intentions.

What I absolutely do not do, is confront them. “You know giving to one beggar does nothing to end the homeless crisis, and you’re just making him more dependant, and you’re encouraging panhandling, and he’ll probably just spend it on drugs anyway, and what about all the other people and causes huh? Why didn’t you give to them? …” Arguing with people trying to do something wholesome not only tires yourself, but it loses you good friends and turns your heart away from the path.


Other good things could come out of someone going vegetarian: they might develop more compassion and better health; their example might encourage their friends to develop more compassion and better health. But of course eventually so many people might be moved to follow their example that a tipping point might arrive and the number of animals slaughtered for food might decrease. Would that be a bad thing?


Dear Bhante,

Yes I understand, but it’s not a strawman. I’m simply pointing out that it’s myopic to focus on food and not anything else. Yes I agree one should reduce their consumption but that has nothing to do with eating meat.

Who is more ethical: a person that eats one steak a day and nothing else or a person who eats chocolate and sugar all day long?

There is a sutta where the Buddha calls a woman a fool because she complained about both her father and her uncle being once returners when only her father was celibate but not her uncle. The Buddha called her a fool because she assumed herself to be just as wise as the Buddha.

Until we all attain abhinna and see kamma unfold with our own eyes, we should not preach to others about things which are not written in the vinayas, otherwise we are fools just like that woman who speaks without having seen or known.

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with giving up food in general, but there is something wrong with making a moral argument about meat consumption in the context of Buddhism. I personally don’t care if people are vegetarian for their own reasons, it’s only when they try to use Buddhism as the authority that I take issue with.


“One who does not kill,
Nor cause others to kill…”
(the development of loving-kindness)


Yes, you should not kill or have others kill specifically for you, as the vinaya says.

The Buddha did allow bhikkhus to eat meat and fish[88] except under the following circumstances:

If a bhikkhu sees, hears or suspects that it has been killed for him, he may not eat it.[89] (M.I,369)