Can One Committed To The Five Precepts Cook Meat?

Question: Having committed to the Five Precepts, can I still cook non-vegetarian food for my family?

Answer: The first of the Five Precepts requires avoiding killing of sentient beings (and does not require vegetarianism, though anyone can go vegetarian without committing to any precept). If the animals to be cooked are deceased not by your fault (through seeing, hearing and/or suspecting that they were killed for you) as a Five-Preceptor, it is usually taught to be allowed to cook meat. Even so, it is best to steadily lessen being a ‘supplier’ of cooked animals for others, as this feeds their habits of meat-consumption, especially if they like your cooking.

Note that this is in contrast with those committed to the Bodhisattva Precepts, which requires non-killing and non-consumption of animals (i.e. vegetarianism, and ideally veganism, as almost all animal products, including egg and dairy produce these days arise from slavery, exploitation and eventual killing). They are usually advised not to cook even deceased animals, as part of greater efforts to not create even the slightest negative karmic affinity towards any sentient being dead or alive. (Strictly speaking, all who continually demand meat are collectively part of the supply and demand cycle of meat and murder, which means they cannot but suspect the animals they eat to be killed for them, since they cannot be killed for any non-meat-eater.)

It would be ideal to learn to prepare vegan food so well, while sharing the health and green benefits of going meatless equally well, such that meat-eaters are urged to lessen or forgo meat-eating. If you ‘must’, before cooking meat, it is good to chant a verse expressing repentance in its presence, followed by at least some Nianfo (chanting of Amituofo’s name) and dedicating of merits to the animals, as their consciousnesses might still be in or near their carcasses. This might seem frightening but this phenomenon is possible, just as humans’ consciousnesses can haunt their human bodies due to attachment. The Nianfo is to persuade them to swiftly move out and on, ideally to Amituofo’s (Amitabha Buddha) Pure Land.

You can also share this answer with your family members subtly (or entirely, if they are ready), to instil some healthy sense of remorse, and to lessen their greed and demand for meat. Meat-eaters should best be responsible for their own buying and cooking of meat, so as to avoid troubling those not comfortable doing so. Such troubling of others creates some negative karma, beyond that from meat-eating. Meat consumption per se does not create any negative karma only when it does not fuel personal greed, and if it does not involve being part of the supply-demand cycle at all. Since this is difficult for the average active consumer, at least gradual but steady reduction of meat-consumption is good. Remember… nice vegetarian food can be bought or cooked to share instead. The best way to urge others to change their diet is to offer them good alternatives.

Related Article:
Does Meat-Eating Break The First Precept?

1 Comment

  • Re: Hello 🙂 I find this article very useful, I’ve been here before and decided to come back in the hope of some advice; I have an interview for a kitchen assistant job tomorrow – I’m vegan and don’t want handle meat at all, I want to remain completely free from anything to do with killing and eating animals. It’s likely that the job will require me to at least prepare meat. I want to stick to my beliefs but also don’t want to sabotage myself by missing out on work. Some outside advice might be useful 🙂
    Thank you.

    Reply: It seems easiest to work at a fully vegan place, to support it wholeheartedly. Next, which is more challenging, is to be honest about your wish not to handle non-vegan stuff at a mixed place.

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