Does Meat-Eating Break The First Precept?

Question: When the buying of meat stops the killing will stop. Hence, how is buying or eating meat ever be in the grey area of whether it breaks the first precept? Worse than that, it is an attempt to cover up murder by paying someone else to do the dirty job.

Answer: Buying of meat is definitely linked to demanding of killing, but eating of meat is not always so, such as in cases of consuming random alms food, and the ignorant (such as children) not knowing how the meat they eat is derived.

In other cases, it would be hard to say there is no link of buying and eating of meat to demanding of killing, directly or indirectly. Often, there isn’t a conscious demand for the killing. Yet, there is the knowledge that there are animals being continually killed for meat-eaters, that is continually suppressed or ignored by the meat-eaters in their minds.

Most Buddhists (and Buddhist teachers) don’t see the first precept of abstaining from killing (which is different in some degree from buying or eating) as requiring vegetarianism, though many vegetarians see it as so, as a natural extension.

That said, vegetarianism is often seen as an advanced precept a step more than the the context of the basic five precepts. E.g. as a Bodhisattva precept in the Brahma Net Sutra. It might be noteworthy that if the first precept is taught to demand vegetarianism, many beginners might feel inadequate to be practising Buddhists, as they would not be able to even follow the very first precept.

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1 Comment

  • One of my Buddhist friends opined that food containing a little animal derived product is okay because when they have been offered to the Buddhas (during a dharma assembly) they become ‘blessed food’. It should not be fussed over as being a non-vegetarian offering. Being aware that the Fruit Plus Chewy Candy contained beef gelatin, I expressed my concern that we should inform the others to avoid making this offering in future. It is not easy to arrive at a common consensus because here the subject of direct killing does not arise.

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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