How to Eat Meat with Integrity
When we start the practice of yoga we are often taught more than just physical poses. What makes yoga unique and truly wonderful is it’s application of spiritual teachings as well. One of the things that anyone on a yogic path will likely encounter is the question of dietary choices in the context of living a non-violent lifestyle. Some yogis subscribe to a plant-based diet in an effort to minimize harm to other creatures, while others are undecided. However, plenty of yogis choose to remain omnivores.
Ultimately, the goal is to choose a dietary plan that allows you to feel karmically good about what you are eating – something that your mind and soul as well as your body – can thank you for. We can think of this approach as eating with integrity, or an extension of mindful eating. Not only are we enjoying the aroma and taste of our food with every bite, but we are also conscious of the beings that suffered or gave up their lives for us to feed our bodies and souls. Whether you are a vegetarian, an omnivore, or undecided, consider the following questions when it comes to eating meat in today’s world.
Where does our meat come from?
We all know someone (or maybe we are this someone) who frequents the drive-thru window and orders a well-known, over-marketed, and slightly suspicious meal. We all know fast food is unhealthy but perhaps the french fries and the large coke aren’t the biggest issue. If we are completely honest with ourselves, we know that by eating these things we’re certainly not helping our health. But what we may not realize is that we are also lacking regard for the animals we are consuming. This leads us to the difficult question: where is our meat coming from? Unfortunately, when we really ask a Big Mac where it came from, we are forced to confront the violent, hormone-injected business that is industrialized meat.
In recent years, industrialized meat has been under scrutiny for what it truly is. We have been bombarded with thousands of articles claiming that industrialized meat causes everything from cancer to global warming. There is certainly counter research out there for each of these claims as well. Even if we don’t believe the frightening claim that industrialized meat will cause the extinction of the planet by 2050 (see the 2014 documentary, Cowspiracy), there is absolutely no denying the violation of animal rights (consider the intense but eye-opening article from RollingStone, “In the Belly of the Beast”.
This is something that any yogi, vegetarian or not, should be concerned with. Out of sight, out of mind is all too common with consumers of industrialized meat. Refusing to watch the videos of chickens piled on top of each other or baby pigs being suffocated does not make these atrocities go away and in no way justifies endorsing industrialized meat.
Where does eating with integrity come in if we choose to eat meat?
Eating mindfully and with integrity doesn’t have to strictly limit us to vegetarianism or veganism. But, on the flip side, being a proud meat eater does not exclude us from moral responsibility. Eating meat is not unnatural; in fact, there is plenty of evidence to show that in order to be closest to our natural state of being we should consume meat to some degree. Consider this article by another YogiApproved writer, A Meat Eaters Rebuttal to the WHOS Report On Meat Being Linked to Cancer , or Authority Nutrition’s “7 Evidence-Based Health Reason’s to Eat Meat”.
But in the natural circle of life where some organisms eat other organisms, the organism that is eaten lives as natural a life as possible. It is not confined to a six-by-six pen denied the privileges of nature and exposed to an unhealthy amount of stress. We have to remember that industrialized meat is just what it sounds like: an industry. The animals produced are just numbers. Therefore, it’s important to recognize a responsibility to eat meat from more reliable, natural sources.
So let’s get to the real meat of this eating with integrity concept . . .
We know that it is nearly impossible to live a completely non-violent life, but if one concludes that eating meat is an important part of their natural state of being, then they should still seek to minimize the suffering that other beings have to endure. It is possible to eat meat and still ensure that the animal you are consuming has lived a happy and healthy life. You can do this in a variety of ways. A lot of people prefer to eat strictly wild game meat – meat they hunt and butcher themselves. They know the animal lived the most natural life possible and that it was happy and healthy before it was consumed. But if you’re not yet ready to take off into the woods with your rifle or bow and arrow, you still have animal protein options that you can feel good about.
Perhaps, for you, this will mean visiting a local ranch where animals are raised for consumption. Nothing brings peace of mind quite like knowing exactly where your food came from. If this isn’t an option, there are a lot of other ways to increase your own awareness. Read up on what humanely raised meat might mean to you on humaneitarian.org and where to find meat that is raised and processed in a way that you feel good about. certifiedhumane.org is another great resource. They are non-profit and their site allows you to not only read about all of the different requirements a product must reach to be certified as humane but where you can find these products as well.
Keep an eye out for the “Certified Humane Raised and Handled” label next time you make a trip to the grocery store. While humanely raised meat can be hard to come by and is frequently higher-priced, yogis everywhere have the moral obligation to take this next step in their karmic journey.
Wherever you are in your yoga practice and your life, I hope you will consider reexamining your dietary choices. For whatever reason you may decide to give up industrialized meat (environmental, heath-related, animal rights, or all of the above), your body, mind, and soul will thank you. Remember – Namaste includes animals as well – the light in us is the same light in them, and we can honor this by eating with integrity.