Why True Buddhism Is Vegan
If there is any major world religion whose adherents ought to be vegan, it is surely Buddhism, yet vegans are a minority among those who call themselves followers of the Buddha. There are even so-called Buddhists who eat meat, but in this article I will argue that eating meat directly contradicts the teachings of Buddha himself. When it comes to eating animal products, there are many Buddhist teachings that make it quite clear that true Buddhism is vegan.
The very first precept of Buddhism states: “I undertake to observe the rule to abstain from taking life.” This principle applies to the lives of both humans and non-humans alike. There is no distinction drawn here between killing humans and killing other animals. Killing includes all forms of sentient life. In fact, this precept is generally interpreted as a commitment to the principle of ahimsa, or nonviolence, compelling Buddhists to not only refrain from killing, but to strive to perform the least possible amount of harm to others.
Buddha prescribed a very simple path to enlightenment for all his followers, known as The Noble Eightfold Path. Although the ‘steps’ on this path are numbered one to eight, they are to be viewed and undertaken simultaneously. Number 5 on the path is ‘Right Livelihood’ and the Buddha has laid out specific examples of what is NOT considered right livelihood so that adherents of the Dharma (the Buddha’s Way to liberation) do not get led down a wrong path. In the Vanijja Sutta, not only is the meat trade among the professions specifically forbidden by the Buddha, but it also references ‘business in beings’, which is to say, making money through the buying and selling of sentient beings per se or from their exploitation.
Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, explains the significance of right livelihood thus: “The way you support yourself can be an expression of your deepest self, or it can be a source of suffering for you and others.” Clearly, causing suffering to yourself or others is not in line with the Buddha’s Dharma.
In the Brahmajala Sutra, the Buddha taught his disciples very expressly that they themselves should not kill, or incite someone else to kill, or participate in the planning of a killing, or…