East and West, Buddhists have often failed to recognise the importance of a vegetarian or vegan diet as a real contribution to the reduction of suffering for animals, birds and fish. Many people assume Buddhists are vegetarian as part of their philosophy of kindness and compassion for all creatures. Sadly, this is far from the truth.

Buddhists, who are vegetarian or vegan, are a small minority including monks and nuns. There is certainly much emphasis in the Buddhist world of respect and kindness for all sentient beings but there has been neglect of this ethic in terms of diet. There are voices in the Theravada, Tibetan Mahayana and Zen tradition, as well as in the West, campaigning for people to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet out of compassion for all creatures.

Why become a vegetarian or vegan

  1. Out of compassion for creatures with a face – animals, birds and fish.
  2. Creatures killed for food experience fear, terror and pain in factory farms, trucks and crates used for transport of animals and birds, and time waiting to be killed in the abattoir.
  3. UN estimates that more than four billion animals worldwide  are killed every month. USA slaughters 20% of these animals. Animal and birds are killed for consumption and animal experiments. They also die due to loss of habitat, fur trade, hunting, shooting, sport and lethal injection for sick pets. The seas are plundered worldwide killing billions in total of whales, sharks, dolphins, sea fish, river fish, fish farms, lobsters, crabs etc. Mammals and fish also die due to recreational sport, pollution, oil spills etc.
  4. If the crops used to feed farm animals fed human beings instead, it would put an end to hunger in the world.
  5. Poor nations in Africa export grain to the West to feed farm animals.
  6. Land used for grain will feed 12 times as many people as the same amount of land used for grazing for farm animals.
  7. Many countries feed growth hormones to certain farm animals such as calves and cows. These hormones can also make their way into the food chain for humans at the dinner table at home and in restaurants. Mixed with grain, crushed male chickens, who cannot lay eggs, crushed meat and bone products have been used to feed cows. Farm animals are vegetarian.
  8. Vegetarians and vegans generally live healthier and longer lives, weigh less, with much less possibility of obesity, heart attacks and various kinds of ill health due to poor diet.
  9. With massive destruction of wildlife, half of the world’s rainforest have been destroyed to clear ground especially to graze cattle to make beef burgers. 90% of the soya grown on former rainforest land is used to feed animals. The burning of the forests causes up to 20% of all green-house gases that contribute to climate change.
  10. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
  11. Protein is present in rice, soya, humous, tofu, almonds, wholegrains, spirulina, tahini, beansprouts, peanut butter etc. Much protein in meat is lost in the lengthy cooking process. The meat industry has campaigned intensely so the West obsesses about fear of protein deprivation.
  12. Farm animals experience the same kind of sensitivities as babies and very small children.