Why am I a vegetarian?
Firstly, I want to say when I did eat meat, I loved it. I loved the taste of it and I do miss it sometimes still today. So why have I sacrificed something I enjoy in this life? The answer to this is multi-faceted.
When I was a little boy, two of my aunts were (and still are) vegetarian. This was not too abnormal to me as it never was made into a big deal. It was, however, odd in 1970’s America! I remember once one of my aunts going to Burger King and ordering a Whopper without the meat! This was before they had salad bars/salads. I thought this was funny! They were my ‘kooky’ aunts! Lol.
Also, when I was a little boy, I remember one dinner time at home. We had London Broil, a nice cut of beef that was a special meal for us. I remember the big slab of beef placed on a platter in the center of the table to be carved/cut after it was cooked. It sat in a pool of red liquid and I asked what it was. My dad said it was the blood from the animal. I was freaked out. I didn’t want blood for dinner! But, I loved the taste of meat, and it was a special meal, so I ate my meat, with the thought of an animal’s blood in my mind. I remember I used to like to suck out the ‘juices’ from the meat, and at this dinner time, I remember doing that, thinking how I was sucking the juices out again and that it wasn’t ‘juices’ really, but blood. I still ate it. But the thought never left me. (I have learned a few years ago that it isn’t actually blood, but rather liquid that is part of blood remains with other stuff or something, but that doesn’t really matter to be honest).
I grew up, and I loved eating meat, though I always shied away from any meat on-the-bone. I liked my meat ground up and no longer resembling an animal. I hated chicken wings! I could see them flapping around in my mind’s eye!
Through my education, I learned that one of the easiest things I could do to help the environment was to stop eating meat. I will not go into statistics, but it is vastly more environmentally damaging to eat meat (all the land used, water used, energy used, crops grown to feed the animals, etc) than to not eat meat. It is much easier on the Earth to grow a potato than it is a cow. It is the single most effective and powerful thing a person can do to help the planet.
As an adult, I also learned the manner in which animals are grown/raised to supply the meat industry. I won’t go into details, but the way animals are treated is beyond torture. It is horrific.
It is not explicit in Buddhism that you must not eat meat. In fact, the 6th patriarch of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism in China, ate meat at least once. That is a story for another time perhaps.
In the past, and sometimes today, the karmic connection between the animal eaten and the people eating them was straight forward. A hunter would track and kill an animal and feed their family, for example. Today, a typical hamburger contains the meat of about 1,000 cows. 1,000! This is not straightforward!
Part of my heritage is Native American. My ancestors would talk with the animal and ask it to feed them. If a deer was tracked and finally exhausted or cornered, the Indian would pray for the animal, thank the animal and give it a respectful death.
Humans have evolved to eat a varied diet, including meat, and our teeth and intestines yield the evidence that this is the case. So, is it against our human nature to not eat meat?
Cows eat grass that will have insects hidden in the leaves. Cats eat grass. What is human nature? Are we statically defined? Evolution does not stop, but it can be awfully slow. We still have teeth for cutting flesh.
When did I become a vegetarian?
Well, about 15 years ago or so I started to really crystallize the desire to become a vegetarian, but frankly, I was too selfish and lazy. At the time, I lived on tv dinners and take outs from restaurants. There are not all too many vegetarian options, so it would have taken some effort on my part. But my desire was there and I felt worse and worse in my heart as I continued to eat meat. I would sometimes be craving one of my all time favorites… a chicken cutlet parmesan hero (sandwich), and sometimes I would opt out and get some pizza instead. This would make me feel better, though my taste buds disagreed! When I meet my wife soon afterwards, I asked her to encourage me to stop eating meat. She has been a vegetarian since she was 5 years old (she simply refused to eat meat much to the dismay of her parents!). My wife actually stood back for the most part from my request. She knew I was the only person who could do the transition. As I started to eat home cooked meals more and more often, the less meat I was eating. One day, I had realized it was well over a month since I had eaten any meat at all, so I decided then, well, I have been vegetarian for the past month without realizing it, so I might as well continue!
So, for the last 6 months of living in the States, I didn’t eat meat. Then when I moved to England, I found I lacked my default veggie-option when out and about the town- a slice of pizza! England doesn’t do pizza parlors, and the pizza shops do not sell pizza by the slice! So I started eating tunafish sandwiches. This was the only form of meat I ate for a few years, and it was very occasional, so I was almost a vegetarian! Lol. Then I finally had enough. In early March 2009 I ate my last tunafish sandwich and I have not ate meat since then. It feels longer than that, but I suppose that’s because since early 2005 I have been ‘mostly’ vegetarian with some tunafish sandwiches stuffed into the middle years.
I miss meat sometimes. Sometimes I crave a nice juicy (bloody?!) cheese burger! Or a chicken parm hero! Yum!!
Maybe if you read this post, you can switch just one meal that has meat to one that does not. Get a pizza instead of a burger. Have an experiment. Who doesn’t love pizza?! If you like, leave a comment and let people know you opted out of a steak tonight and had stuffed shells instead! (Stuffed shells is an Italian (American-Italian?)dish with pasta ‘shells’ filled with cheeses and covered in tomato sauce…oh man, I haven’t had that in years! I miss American-Italian restaurants!!!)