Is It ‘Better’ To Eat Bigger Animals?

Question: If I buy and eat a bigger animal’s meat, such as pork from a pig, does this create less negative karma (from being part of the supply and demand cycle)? Was thinking that one pig can feed many people, as compared to fish, with the other extreme of very small animals being ikan billis (anchovies), many more of whom would be ‘needed’ to be equally filling.

Answer: Here is the long answer… It is difficult to ‘measure’ the quantity of karma created when it comes to supporting the killing of animals by the power of continual purchase. Some believe that larger animals suffer more due to having more complex and sensitive nervous systems, thus capable of experiencing more pain. If ‘measured’ by the amount of pain, instead of by the number of sentient lives, the negative karma created from consuming bigger animals thus might not be lesser.

However, this does not mean that taking many physically smaller lives creates lesser negative karma either, as many ‘small’ deaths with lesser suffering can add up to be equivalent of a ‘big’ death with much suffering. There is also the consideration of how many karmic creditors one might incur. Again, it is not the quantity alone that matters, but the intensity of animosity too, from how much pain inflicted.

Here is the short answer… Due to the above, it is best to reduce consumption of both small and big animals, if any at all! (Note: While the basic first of the Five Precepts for beginner Buddhists do not require vegetarianism, at least reduction of active meat purchase for consumption is highly encouraged due to the supply and demand cycle, while vegetarianism is compulsory for those committed to the Bodhisattva Precepts. Of course, anyone can become vegetarian or vegan without formal commitment to the Five Precepts or Bodhisattva Precepts.)


  • Can anyone help to clear the issue on this meat eating. Where can we find in the Buddha teachings that mention eating of meat let to negative karma.
    From my knowledge, not to kill and eat come from China emperor and for those that practice Bodhisattva for compassionate reason. I am please to learn more for understanding if you can help our layperson to understand more.

  • The non-eating of meat is found in many sutras, including the Surangama Sutra and Brahma Net Sutra, as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha, especially in terms of the Bodhisattva practice of expanding compassion till it becomes universal for all beings, without which one cannot become a Buddha.

    You should learn more about this systematically in the future runs of this course too: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/?s=project+makan

    A video summary of the Surangama Sutra teaching mentioned above:

    吃肉难以走出轮回的原因 (1)
    吃肉难以走出轮回的原因 (2)

    Extensive website on teachings of Buddhist vegetarianism:

  • I think karma should be ‘measured’ in terms of compassion and wisdom we have within us.

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