Can’t They Imagine Them Being Killed?

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The practice of vegetarianism needs not be all or nothing.
Some mindful reduction of meat consumption
is better than total mindless meat consumption.

— Stonepeace

While setting up an educational exhibition, I chatted with a visitor who read the boards I was putting up about Buddhist perspectives on vegetarianism. She remarked that though she offers only vegetarian food, she is uncomfortable that some Theravada monks eat meat. (There is an increase of them who eat less meat these days though, due to greater awareness of the suffering of animals in exploitative farm factories.) I replied that according to their precepts, the only meat they are permitted to eat are from animals not (1) seen, (2) heard or (3) suspected to be killed for them, as received from random alms. She asks, ‘Can’t they imagine them being killed?’

That was a very interesting question. Being able to vividly imagine an animal being killed to be one’s meat with visual and sound effects is different from really seeing, hearing (of) or suspecting an animal to be killed specifically for oneself (by another). However, the capacity and willingness to imagine or witness the suffering of animals (meat.org) is indeed able to help one nurture empathy and compassion for their often forgotten yet ongoing plight. Though alms-seeking monastics should not be choosy about the food they receive, they have the moral authority to suggest a kinder diet that laypeople can choose for themselves, which in turn shapes the food offered to them.

While not seeing, hearing or suspecting animals to be killed for one qualifies blameless meat, to consume animals seen, heard and/or suspected to be killed for one is to subtly endorse or even demand killing. Even if one does not see, hear or suspect animals to be killed for one’s meat, they did die. The easiest way to remove oneself from the list of usual suspects for whom they die for is to refrain from eating them. On a side note, a meat-eater once ‘mocked’ that when eating mock meat, one will ‘suspect’ it to be meat. Well, most who eat, say, mock fishballs, don’t imagine them to be from fish, and none were killed for them. Such fishballs mock the greed for real ones!

Related Articles:

~ Invisible Conveyor Belt of Meat & Murder (Is Supermarket Meat ‘Pure’?)
~ Indirect Guilt By Indirect Association
~ How Half the World Can Go Veg
~ A Brief History of the Love-Hate Relationship with Mock Meats
~ Vegetarianism in ‘The Noose
~ How I Became Vegetarian in This Life

May monastics urge the kindest food for the laity.
May the laity offer the kindest food to monastics.

— Stonepeace

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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