Three Key Points On Threefold Pure Meat 三净肉之三重点

When buying of meat reduces,
killing of animals for meat reduces.

— Popular Saying (Part 1)

It is commonly known among Buddhists that the Buddha taught monastics not to consume meat from animals who were [1] seen (不见杀), [2] heard (不闻杀) and/or [3] suspected (不疑杀) to be killed for them. Does this mean that it is alright to consume animals, whose bloody killing were not seen, whose desperate shrieks were not heard, and/or were not suspected to be murdered for oneself? Although there are a few interpretations, there is only one right one, as below.

[i] First, the Buddha’s instruction above on Threefold Pure Meat (三净肉) applies more for monastics, specifically those who cannot choose their randomly given alms food. [ii] Second, the [i] first point above means that if Buddhists, including modern monastics, can choose what they consume, as in non-alms food, they should not consume animals, because they will be functioning like lay active consumers, whose ongoing demands feed ongoing supplies.

Bhikkhu Bodhi gave this simple example to explain how the individual consumer’s purchases can sustain demand for murder – ‘… if somebody goes into a market, say on a Tuesday, and orders a piece of chicken at the sales counter, somebody [there] will click some kind of calculator, which will determine on Tuesday, that a piece of chicken was sold, which will send out a message for next Tuesday, that we have to meet the same quantity of chickens to satisfy our customer base.

Even though you order the chicken on Tuesday, you are not responsible for the death of the chicken that is providing that meal on [that] Tuesday, but in an indirect way, you can be sending a signal that next Tuesday, a chicken should be killed to provide food for the customers…’ (Note that even if one buys animal products in a more ‘random’ manner, in terms of place and time, one’s ongoing purchases still contribute to the overall demand for killing.)

[iii] Third, even if one did not see or hear animals to be killed for one, due to the [ii] second point above, everyone who buys meat, or agrees to meat to be bought for one surely suspects the animals to be killed for oneself. Thus, the third criterion for Threefold Pure Meat is not met. Those who are clear-minded should realise this straightaway, while others tend to continue defending their meat-eating by shortsightedly missing or even wilfully ignoring the third criterion with bad faith.

It is also commonly known among Buddhists that they should not order live seafood, who are animals, who will be killed for them. For such ‘food’ to be made possible, there is [1] seeing of the animals to be killed (perhaps by pointing them out, or having them pointed out), [2] hearing of the animals to be killed (perhaps by hearing the waiting staff agreeing to pass their orders to the butchering chefs), and/or [3] suspecting that the animals will indeed be killed for them due to their orders. In this way, such ‘food’ is surely not Threefold Pure Meat.

Does the above imply that consuming seafood and other meats not personally ordered makes one less morally culpable for murder? Yes, if one really did not cause or condition the demand for killing at all. No, if one kind of did, perhaps by silent yet continual endorsing, by consuming what was ordered by others, when one is able to change the (next) order. It is thus actually extremely difficult to not be active consumers with the power of choice. Every purchase or endorsed purchase is a vote for killing of more, less or no animals. May all choose, ever more kindly and wisely.

When buying of meat ends,
killing of animals for meat ends.

— Popular Saying (Part 2)

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