Is Eating Meat a Moral Question?


We live in politically charged times, and it seems like there are opposing views on every issue – even something as fundamental to human life as food has become a polarizing debate.  People argue for eating and not eating red meat, or all meat.  For some, their very sense of identity is deeply entangled in whether they label themselves a meat-eater or a vegetarian, or a vegan.  Actually, that entangled sense of identity is the core reason we do argue about food, or really any issue.  Once we become identified with anything, conflict is guaranteed.  The deeper that identification, the stauncher the conflict.

Choosing a diet needs to move away from the morality of it and become a conscious choice with open eyes on the consequence.  Really the first question for each of us to answer with a bit of honest self-reflection is, are we eating out of taste, desire, and compulsion or are we eating in order to be a certain way?  A track athlete needs to eat one way, and a sumo wrestler needs to eat a completely different way.  A day laborer has a different set of dietary needs than a lab scientist.  One who is a spiritual seeker is going to eat in a way that optimizes the body for that pursuit.  So the first question is, what type of body do we want nurture?

There is a certain intelligence in us that turns whatever we eat into a human being.  The process is elaborate but the more complex the food, the longer it takes and more energy it requires.  The most efficient food for the system to process is raw fruits or vegetables.  The least efficient food for the system is raw red meat.  Everything else falls within this spectrum, and that is why the yogic diet prescribes so called sattvic foods which are not only positive pranic but also easily processed by the body.  It has nothing to do with religious dogma or morality, it’s simply the most pragmatic diet for one who bent towards a deeply spiritual life.

As it is with all things in our lives, let’s carefully discern between our conscious choices and our compulsions.  Should our diet be based on habits running on auto-pilot, likes and dislikes rooted in ego identification, or on conscious discernment?  It takes courage and discipline to make a life change, for example to give up various types of meat, or alcohol, or caffeine.  Sometimes we have no choice because of health issues and doctor’s orders but other times it’s a personal shift in life priorities.  A spiritually inclined life requires certain such adjustments.  Why?  Because it sets the body and mind in a receptive mode for grace.

If you do an on-line search for quotes on eating meat, the landscape is chalk full of morality and ethics.  In that arena there will always be differing viewpoints and debate.  More fundamental than any of that is just a conscious choice about what kind of life you are aiming to create within yourself, and are the choices you make conducive or counter to your chosen life path.


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