Is it really wrong to eat meat? My mind often dwells on this issue and I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve been having.
The Native American Indians were extremely spiritual people and there are writings that show just how much…
Beautiful poems about the “great spirits” and the wonder of nature. In the movie The Last of the Mohicans we see the killing of a deer and the great honour, respect and thanks given to the creature and sadness that it was necessary for survival…
I know… it’s just the movies but I’m guessing this was well researched, I can imagine that’s the way it was…
Quite often though, we see that the eating of meat is at odds with spiritual cultures although certainly not all. Some do allow the eating of meat. It makes you wonder about the oft used Genesis quotation…
“Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”
It’s unlikely that these cultures have overlooked the bit in Genesis. Apparently, the other bits in the bible where we are instructed to eat meat is due to our continuing ‘fall’ or something like that. Hmmm… more confusion.
I came across something a while back that really made me think. We think of vegetarianism as being more ‘humane’ and yet the harvesting of cereal crops kills countless little mammals and nesting birds that have taken up residence. Now, if we were all to give up grains, there would be tons more fruit trees and that would be great for nature and the top-soil erosion problem.
The growing of vegetables would have the same problem though maybe with the mechanized harvesting in the modern world. Vegans folks have also told me that the dairy industry is far more cruel than the meat industry in its treatment of animals.
Cute, frolicking lambs
Come spring, we see the little frolicking lambs and all say ‘ahhhh’ together. Don’t we just love them? It touches our hearts to see new life, lambs, baby seals, little kittens, just about any baby. But I wonder if this isn’t cultural…
Farmers it seems who are not cut off from the realities of life don’t have this sentimental viewpoint. The fact that we never get involved in the killing softens our hearts to the realities of life certainly as they exist today.
In a Jamie Oliver programme where he travels Italy, the youngsters are involved in the nitty gritty of eating meat from a very young age.
On the clip I saw, they were preparing a wild boar that they’d just shot. It wasn’t pretty and the children didn’t like it much.
The question is: Which scenario is true? Is our love of the animals ‘human’ and killing truly abhorrent to us? Or is the opposite true — that eating meat is natural and we’ve all become soft!?
In The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Eckhart Tolle explains…
“If a fish is born in your aquarium and you call him John, write out a birth certificate, tell him about his family history, and in two minutes he gets eaten by another fish — that’s tragic. But it’s only tragic because you projected a separate self where there was none. You got hold of a fraction of dynamic process, a molecular dance, and created a separate entity out of it.”
But the same folks who might cry for John are not crying for the trout they have on their dinner plate.
(Eckhart Tolle isn’t vegetarian by the way, according to his partner Kim Eng, he “eats anything.”)
Also, our sentimentality seems to be selective. Its sad for a little lamb to die but not for a fly or a wasp. Seems the better looking the creature is, the more we love it. Hmmm…
The native Maori were keen and able fishermen that had a fondness for… I think it was octopus or squid stomachs… what it was doesn’t really matter here, only the point that in their culture, they had no problem with pulling a squid out of the water, taking out its stomach there and then and eating it with gusto.
My own mind is not made up…
In my heart I’m just like everyone else who says ‘ahhhh’ when they see a baby lamb. Is it cultural? Who knows… not me. I guess we all have to make our own choices. The spirituality issue is not clear either, I recently read about one guy who claims he couldn’t ‘make progress’ as a vegan and has never felt ‘closer to God’ now he eats meat. Go figure.
Certainly the current treatment of farm animals is shoddy to downright inhumane and that in itself is probably enough to think about being vegan. But it’s really a separate issue. Farming animals does not necessarily need to be cruel. It just is at the moment. You could certainly source your food from people you know and trust. I get my eggs from my neighbor’s daughter who keeps them in her garden.
Given that it’s undeniable that we came from a meat-eating ancestry in the stone age, the issue is certainly not cut and dried. Perhaps seeking out local organic small holdings is the way to go if you choose to have animal products.
The compassionate hunter?
These cultural norms may stem from a need to stay healthy. Whether we need animal foods and what foods they replaced in our diet is a whole other subject. Even some vegan advocates are today looking into whether some humans are “obligate carnivores” and have a biological need for some animal foods.
It’s hard to square it all away — are we really the paradoxical “compassionate hunter”?
I have a theory — it may pan out to be true even :-) There’s this thing called the “Savannah Hypothesis,” you know, we left the trees and scavenged the savannah way back when — millions of years ago.
Well, I reckon for millions of years, pre-humans lived off bone marrow and brains of dead things, along with whatever fruits and seeds and leaves they could find. Bear with me here…
If you think about it, it solves all the puzzles. Bone marrow and brains are rich in essential fats that would have allowed the massive development in our brains to get us to where we are today. Also, it involves no killing, so at that point there was no need for a killing instinct (we still don’t have it).
Also, and this is massive — marrow and brains are an almost inexhaustible supply of food that no other animal can get at. Apes, as we were back then, have the advantage — opposable thumbs and a good intelligence.
So, we were probably the only creature that could harvest this natural resource and it didn’t involve killing anything.
I’ve studied tribal cultures quite a bit and hunters will often eat the marrow as a treat or reward after a kill (as well as the raw liver!). One reporter tried marrow for the first time and loved it straight away — so it seems we have the taste for it too.
As far as the lambs vs. wasps thing goes, I reckon we connect more deeply with the lamb than the wasp, and also of course, the lamb won’t sting us! But I know people who won’t hurt even a fly — just instinctively.
So what to do?
Again we all have choices, and science needs to get up to speed and figure out precisely what effect long-term vegan diets have.
When putting together the Happy Guide diet, I needed it to be healthy, practical and appealing to the mainstream, so it does include meat, fish, eggs etc. The alternative would simply have put off too many people.
Is it wrong to eat meat? If you have any views that would give clarity to the issue, it’d be great to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Michael Kinnaird is the author of Happy Guide, the result of a 20 year exploration into what works for health and happiness.
Read Chapter 1 “The Happiness Secret”
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