After my buddy Jeremy and I hung out the other night, he invited me to a late concert. I said no. I had a date. Because Jeremy is a vegetarian, I couldn’t share what that date was.
I rode my bike to the Whole Foods at Bowery and Houston. I snuck in, hoping no one I knew was there. I milled around the produce section for a few minutes, trying to lose PETA agents who might be on my trail. My covert ops were meant to obscure my destination: the butcher. My date was with meat. We hadn’t gone out in over 4 years.
I’ve been a vegetarian off and on for 16 years. My reason historically has been the environmental toll meat production takes compared to a vegetarian diet. My last spell started when I was dating a Mahayana Buddhist. Mahayana’s believe in an elaborate system of reincarnation, with possible rebirths in hell realms, ghost realms, and many other nasty sounding places. One of the lower realms is the animal realm. Contrary to the idealized version of animal life many people hold, Mahayana’s believe that animals are in a state of near-constant suffering, forever at the mercy of their needs, lacking consciousness to transcend them. Where you go in the next life depends on your end-of-life karmic balance; basically a matter of how much negative karma you’ve burned off during your life.
A Bodhisattva is someone who tries to rid himself of negative karma and achieve Buddhahood (or at least higher rebirth). He achieves this by devoting himself to freeing all living beings from suffering. Aiding to that suffering means lower rebirth for you.
I decided to go veg to cover my bases. I didn’t want to risk lower rebirth. But even if Buddhist beliefs were hogwash, I could see that most livestock live lives of nonstop, abject suffering. This is particularly true of livestock raised in the industrial-agricultural meat complex, where animals are shot up with growth hormones, steroids and antibiotics, force-fed, stuffed into diseased and shockingly small spaces, and killed in brutal ways. I wanted no part of it in this lifetime, much less pay for it in the next.