As a spiritual person, I really wrestle with what I eat. I’m willing to pay more for free range eggs and grass fed meat, especially if I know the farmer. Often items are labelled organic when they really aren’t or only meet the minimum standards. A good example of this is crops grown from organic seeds, but have been sprayed with pesticide.
Whenever, a group of Pagans get together for a meal, there is at least one vegetarian at hand to take the others to task for eating meat or other animal-based products such as cheese. At a recent group meal, another member spoke out pointing out that scientists have proven in several studies that plants have feelings. They respond in panic and pain when cut or harvested. Many studies have been done with people speaking kind or harsh words to plants. Those who were praised did much better. There have been studies of plants even being empathetic and attempting to help other plants using their root system. This revelation stopped the sanctimonious vegan in mid-rant. Everything she ate experienced pain too.
As a person who lived on a farm and ate whatever we raised, which at times was cows, pigs, and chickens, I feel qualified to address the issue. As a farm kid, I grew up among the free-range chickens and grass fed cows. My exposure to animals made me much healthier than my city counterparts who lived in clean, animal free zones. I never had contempt for the animals or abused them. The livestock all had personalities and names. I knew which hen would peck me while I gathered eggs. On the same hand, I had as much respect for the plants both those in the garden and all around us.
The argument against meat was that it took too much resources to raise a cow as opposed to a bushel of wheat. (It is the reason many cultures raised goats because they can exist on much less.) There is also the issue that non-meat sources don't keep a person as full. Children and adults who gobbled down a bowl of cereal for breakfast are starving by lunch. So, going meatless results in eating more, which is no longer the big savings the vegetarian first thought it would be for the planet or pocketbook. ( I will agree at this point that Americans do eat more than a serving at a meal.) When I switched to a protein shake in the morning I was no longer hungry until two in the afternnoon as opposed to the ten am hunger pangs with cereal.
Meat taking more resources than grain used to be a true thing, but now with so much insecticide and herbicide used in grain production, along with the use of genetically modified seed that the very act of grain farming is destroying the land. I saw this first hand while living in a rural farming community. There was a huge lake in the area that all the farm land run-off went into. Environmental scientists showed up at the lake whose water we drank, bathed, and laundered our clothes in.
The reason for their visit was to examine the impact of chemical run-off from the surrounding farms had on the eco-system. They found frogs with three legs, some with no front legs, three eyes, and others with transparent skin. The fish that swam in the lake were gradually dying out because they had become sterile from the toxins. Even though the study was published, nothing was done about the run-off. As a family, we stopped drinking the water, but we couldn’t stop using it for bathing or laundry. The farmers weren’t anxious to change their ways since companies such as Monsanto made farming into a less laborious process with high yields with modified seeds.
As far as eating meat, it’s a personal choice. Although, some blood types need more iron-rich protein than others. Basically, eating meat is the only way to get the needed amino acids. We as a species were originally hunter/gatherers, we were not fast food junkies or carb-holics. Certain Pagan tradition insist on eating meat while others do not.
If you’re unaware of where your vegetables come from, then even as a vegetarian, you could be contributing to the toxic factory farm issue. There are alternatives such as growing your own organic garden, farmers’ market or local Co-ops. Let’s get back to the meat and animal based products.
We never judge a bear for standing in a stream and fishing for trout or salmon. If we did not eat meat as a planet, there would be no reason to raise chickens, cows, pigs, turkeys, and other marketable animals. So, the animals some people hoped to save would cease to exist. Trust me; cows are too big to be kept as pets. I do agree, they could have a healthier lifestyle as opposed to living in a feedlot . As a bear person, eating meat is what I do. Just as a horse person might only eat grains and vegetables.
What I resent is people implying that somehow meat eaters are not as spiritual as vegetarians. The current Dali Lama, and all the Dali Lamas who came before him, ate meat. Buddha ate meat. Jesus ate meat. Should I assume they weren’t enlightened?
One of my favorite publishers, Hay House has a series of diet books. One deals with eating only a paleo diet, another with the importance of eating fat, another with a vegetarian diet, and one more about consuming meat broth. I respect the company and believe they wouldn’t put out an ethically unsound product. It shows a wide range of eating preferences throughout the spiritual community.
A Druid friend explained that when she picked something she offered up something in exchange, even if it was only gratitude. I do believe our food, no matter what it is, deserves honor for serving as nourishment. It had a job and did it well.
Often when we are dining together, everyone will bring a non-meat dish to feed the vegan in our midst, but often this is a fail because there could be butter or cheese in the dish. Usually, I just bring fruit or nuts since anything else is too problematic. As for my own diet, I don’t eat sugar in any form. I try very hard to avoid it, but I imagine in group settings I probably ingest some. It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes, we compromise for the benefit of fellowship.
Every grain, every grass, and every animal in the forest feeds the ecosystem. With this is mind, I want to be part of the system. Every year, I plant flowers and herbs that feed bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and maintain an organic vegetable garden. Rain barrels collect water for the plants. There is even a small unfenced rabbit garden for my furry friends. Multiple birdfeeders hang from the trees along with the bee houses hidden back behind the barn. Part of the yard grows wild to allow both the fairies and bees a place of peace.
As for the vegan ranting, I will assume it is a growth process.
*Photo: Some people could be offended by the beer and wine. Still, others the salt shaker would somehow upset their spiritual path.