Moral issues surrounding eating meat

From my childhood, I have been in the moral dilemma of consuming flesh of other animals for food. Being born and raised in a Buddhist backdrop, it is natural to be in such dilemma as it is still a never ending dilemma for modern day Buddhists, whether they are violating a religious moral code or not by eating meat.

There is a huge debate, and ideas from various schools of thought are being tossed around within the Buddhist community about the Buddhist stance of this matter. However, distancing me from all sort of religious affiliations in my adulthood, and deriving my ethics and morals from a secular moral zeitgeist, I am still unable to provide an answer to this dilemma.

The religious point of view regarding this issue varies from strict veganism (in Jainism and some forms of Hinduism) to pragmatic vegetarianism without strict rules, (some forms of Hinduism and Buddhism) and to treating that all non-human life forms as things that are put in place for human consumption (Abrahamic religions). Some Abrahamic doctrines put clauses about which types of animals and which days of the year are permitted; however, in general, Abrahamic doctrines has nothing against consumption of animal flesh. It is also interesting to note that in some cultures such as native Americans had to hunt and kill for their survival, but they sort of apologized to the animal for having to kill it. They ate meat with humility, not with pride.

In contemporary Sri Lanka, there is a tendency among the Buddhist community to condemn the consumption of beef while being indifferent towards meat from other animals such as chicken or fish. It is, in fact, pure hypocrisy that drives this school of thought and nothing else.  This hypocrisy is adopted purely to hurt communities with Abrahamic faith (especially Islam). In theory, Buddhist point of view does not distinguish value of life among different forms of life, and treats all life forms as equal. So from a strict Buddhist point of view an ant, a bee, a fish, a bird, a cow and a pig are all equal. From a Buddhist point of view, I think, therefore, it is hypocritical in choosing which animal to eat and which animal not to eat. And, I do agree with the Buddhists who would laugh at these political Buddhists who speak only against beef.

Furthermore, it should be noted that from my point of view, death in itself is not the problem here. Every living being dies and, death is a natural phenomenon. In the natural world, in natural food chain, animals kill and eat other animals in the cruelest way. A wild buffalo being attacked, slowly killed and eaten alive by a pack of wild dogs, would have wished rather to be killed and eaten by a human hunter if it knew how less agonizing it is to be die at human hands.

Ergo, death per se does not matter. Nonetheless, the manner in which the animals are slaughtered does matter. If I am an animal being killed, I would choose a quick and painless death rather than an agonizing one. Therefore, I would rather chose to be stunned by a bullet on the head before being killed (like in most European slaughter houses) rather than slowly bled to death as in ‘kurban’ ( like in Arab and Muslim world).

There is a more pertinent question than how animals are killed. The question is, how they live during the lifetime of being reared for slaughter. Until recent times, I thought that farm animals in the western word live a very happy life. They eat and roam around in huge green pastures, grazing to their heart content, socializing with other fellow mammals and finally they are killed in a painless manner and prepared for meat. This is not bad at all. Until recent times, I lived in this illusion. Still, there could be such “classic” farms and classical forms of animal husbandry taking place  in the western world. However, the regular meat industry is far from this. After watching a few recent and revealing documentaries about the meat industry, it became evident to me that the modern animal farm is a horrible and appalling place. Given the huge demands of meat for the increasing population, meat industry can no longer have huge spaces and green pastures to let their animals freely roam and graze. Rather, the animals are crammed in to very small cages, inside closed buildings. Some animals never see sunlight for their entire caged life. Intelligent animals like cattle and pig go crazy and they become psychotic in these horrible environments. In most cases, animals are fed with artificial food made of corn to which their digestive systems are not adopted, making their intestines rot while they are still alive. Most animals are kept knee deep in their own dung for most of their lifetime. This picture is not pleasant at all.

Therefore, I would choose fish over beef, mutton, pork, chicken or turkey at any given day and my choice is totally based on non-religious reasons.

Article by – Prasad Mapatuna

Editor’s note – As mentioned in this article, atheists differ in their positions regarding many philosophical, scientific, and political issues. So, there is no “official atheist answer” to the question of whether vegetarianism (or veganism for that matter) is ethically obligatory. Ideas expressed in this article are solely the ideas of the author. So, this article can not be considered as the “atheist position” about vegetarianism. Different atheists have different ideas about morality of eating meat. Some atheists are vegetarians for ethical reasons. Some are vegetarians for environmental reasons. And, some atheists are vegetarians for health reasons. Plus, there are atheists who are meat-lovers. The reason this article is here is that this article reflects critical thinking, and, as atheists, we recognize the importance of critical thinking.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in කාලීන, දර්ශනය and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Moral issues surrounding eating meat

  1. Isuru says:

    Appreciate your work. I think that what these religious monks are doing is total bullshit. It takes away rights of people. Hopefully such laws won’t be passed

    Like

  2. Migara says:

    //In contemporary Sri Lanka, there is a tendency among the Buddhist community to condemn the consumption of beef while being indifferent towards meat from other animals such as chicken or fish.

    What the writer fails to understand is the difference between religious and cultural practices of a country. Not eating beet if a religious practice of some Hindus, but accepted cultural practice among many. Likewise not eating beef has nothing to do with Buddhism. It’s an age old tradition of the country. Similarly, in Australia, dog and cat meat is prohibited to be sold (or at least killing them is prohibited). Going on the lines of arguments of the atheists, Australia (SA especially) is infringing rights of the people who eat dog / cat meat. But Culturally Australia treats dogs/cats as companion animals, and think killing of them is not moral.

    Similarly the consciousness of the Sri Lankan mind is not to kill cattle and not to eat beef. People who wants to eat beef can continue to do so, but if the above people becomes a majority and asks for a legislative frame work to stop killing cattle, the minority who wants to eat beef cannot grumble. Afterall, Chinese, Korean and Thai immigrants of Australia don’t demonstrate asking dog/cat meat to be legalized in South Australia!

    Like

    • /**What the writer fails to understand is the difference between religious and cultural practices of a country.**/

      Writer in his naivete, did not have any clue! Thanks for pointing this out and, now that I am enlightened about the difference between cultural and religious practices. Can I also ask how to clearly distinguish between culture and religion as these two are very much intertwined and perhaps in my naivete I tend to think that religion is very much part of a culture. Anyway, that exercise of trying to define “culture” and “religion” is just a matter of nomenclature.

      I am wondering if the current uproar against beef is purely due to the sensitivities in Sinhala Buddhist community due their cultural traditions, or if it is a artificial political slogan for a handful of activists trying to create a artificial problem. Of course most Sinhala Buddhists I know don’t consume beef, but they had no beef (pun intended) with anyone else doing so. Moreover, it is statistically impossible that all the cattle slaughtered in Sri Lanka ending up ONLY in non-Sinahala Buddhist stomachs. Due to this reason, I tend to believe that current uproar against beef not coming from “majority” as you claim and it is not going to make any sort of a change in Sri Lankan legislature. The only thing it is going to do is clearly show us the hypocrites; who would take to the streets with bogus political slogans and who would support them.

      Like

      • The easiest way to understand the religion and culture is to look at what you are left with when you change your religion. What ever the Bible says, Sri LAnkan Catholic is different from a Brazillian Catholic and the reason is the culture. Other than for Islam which rejects and destroys local cultures, every religion do cater for cultural beliefs. It’s true that culture and religion are difficlut to seperate, but that doesn’t mean they are mutually exclusive phrases.

        The beef with (pun intended) sectors against beef takes a shape of a political movement when it becomes anti-cultural. The discussion on who eats beef is strictly irrelevent, I think.

        Like

    • Another statement that got my attention in Migara’s response is this

      /**but if the above people becomes a majority and asks for a legislative framework to stop killing cattle, the minority who wants to eat beef cannot grumble.**/

      Well, at the end, the democratic framework favors the majority opinion. While that being true, the philosophy of democracy should not be a “majority rules, minorities stop bitching!” kind of ‘Majoritarianism’. Arguing that is what democratic framework produce in their present form vs. arguing in favor of majoritarianism as the ‘way to go’ are to different things. Within a democratic framework, dialog should be encourage in seeking the most optimal solution that produces most stable environment. Different points of view should be encouraged to present themselves and the citizenry should be able to hear these dialogs and then decide for themselves. “Minorities stop bitching!” kind of attitude will never produce a stable environment, when those minorities are powerful enough to rock the boat.

      There are subjective decisions to be made in deciding what kind of policies would produce the most stable scenario.

      Like

      • //Well, at the end, the democratic framework favors the majority opinion. While that being true, the philosophy of democracy should not be a “majority rules, minorities stop bitching!” kind of ‘Majoritarianism’.

        This becomes only important for most of so called “libertians” when they are found to be in the minority. By chance if the majority are the beef eaters and through the same majoritian democratic framework beef (or dog meat) becomes legalized, there will be no complaints. It’s just a matter of fact on which side you are and head count. Time and time again, the people who are representing “minorities” have been worst oppressors possible when they becomes the majority under specific conditions. As you said a dialog is good, but is it allowed to happen? Can anyone present their view against beef without being labelled as a BBS supporter? Why such labelling take place? Simply because these pseudolibertians don’t want a dialog, but only beef!

        Like

පාඨක ප්‍රතිචාර...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s