I am heading into my 9th day as a vegetarian, I officially started on the 1st of January 2013. Before you ask, no it wasn’t a new years resolution, to be honest I actually think new years resolutions are bullshit. If you need to make a change, make it on that day, which is what I did.
I had been contemplating vegetarianism since I became a Buddhist in 2005. It isn’t a requirement of my faith, it’s all about interpretation. To put it simply, a Buddhist lives to do no harm, that is one of our principle rules and feeds into our beliefs of karma. There are many Buddhists who are vegetarian, there are many who are vegan, and there are many who are omnivores… the best thing is Buddhism gives you the freedom to explore your own philosophical and spiritual development and this is my path. So don’t assume what’s seen as right by one Buddhist will be seen the same by another.
I have often been skeptical about the meat industry and how they treated animals, yet I always knew that if I sought the truth I would end up being a vegetarian. I am not sure why I waited so long to change, call it culinary fear or addiction to meat. In many ways I was an ignorant hypocrite, I classed myself as an animal lover on one hand and gorged myself on meat with the other. For instance, I am a lover of the ocean, it stems from being a boarder and loving being out in the surf. Being out there is a beautiful experience, I have seen fish, rays, sea snakes and the occasional shark and I would never consider harming them. So when I started dating my Chinese girlfriend I was horrified that she ate shark’s fin soup. I couldn’t fathom the treatment of the shark and how they are left to die.
The irony was that these conversations were often around meals, eating fish or another form of meat from beautiful animals. Why was I ok with this and not the treatment of the sharks?
I had been debating this in my head since Xmas day 2012. We had our usual family BBQ, packed with meat… too much meat, we cooked so much and sadly a lot of it was wasted as we all got sick of eating left overs. As I gave the left over meat to the dogs for dinner I thought why had those animals died? To end up on a BBQ and not to be eaten, to be so easily discarded just because we are sick of eating left overs. By lunch time on the 1st of January I decided I had had enough and I would no longer eat meat.
In my opinion I was doing harm, I am the sort of person who refuses to kill a bug, or an ant… so how could I allow for things to be killed just so I can eat, or discard them if I don’t feel like eating them?
I think it is now time to answer a lot of the questions I have raised about how easy it was for me to be an ignorant hypocrite. How could I continue eating meat while being horrified about treatment of sharks, or going to ridiculous lengths catching and releasing bugs? Simple, I could see and interact with the shark and the bugs. I have seen them as living things, I see the shark swimming and I respect it as a living thing, I see the bug and I see it as a living thing. Yet, I saw a steak in a supermarket or on my plate I didn’t see it as a living thing… I saw it as a product, a thing to buy and consume. In plastic wrap or drenched in sauce, it isn’t a living thing.