The Buddhist Case for Veganism

“When I think about Buddhism and veganism, it makes me think first of all about just how crucial, from a Buddhist point of view, it is to practice non-harming of living beings. This is something the Buddha said right from the very beginning: you must practice non-harming of living beings and you must behave from kindness as if all beings are your friends. This is why I became a vegetarian and then became a vegan.”
— Ratnaprabha

If you are interested to explore the Buddhist case for Veganism, here are a number of resources -

Eat Peas! Thinking about the Ethics of Veganism by Sadayasihi

Buddhism on a Plate: the case for Buddhists to go vegan by Samacitta

Vegetarianism: A Buddhist View by Bodhipaksa (accessible and practical, includes a section on Veganism) 

And here is a short story on the theme by Gareth Austin who attends the Centre.

“I am on my way to work. My girlfriend has just left me. I don’t really want to talk about it. The bus is very full and I am trying not to get elbowed in the back. I get off the bus in town a stop early and get my lunch. I don’t feel like it, but some part of me knows I have to eat. I’m a vegetarian, I’m trying to loose some weight. I buy a falafel wrap and a milkshake. When I get to the counter a woman I find attractive asks me if that’s everything I want. I buy a bar of milk chocolate.

I work in Human Resources for a very large company you haven’t heard of that owns smaller companies you have heard of. It’s too hot in the office, I say my hellos and hide behind my computer screen. I’m really not feeling it today so I eat my chocolate bar as the computer comes on. The wrapper is silver and space age on the inside. The bar pressed in perfect squares of muddy brown. It is sickly sweet and delicious and I regret buying it immediately. I read the label as I eat: vegetable fats (palm and shea), Cocoa solid 20%, milk solids 23%, emulsifiers (E442), milk. I am: 24% fat, 30% muscle and 15% bone. I am 2% calcium. I am partly cow’s milk.

I am the milk and I am the udders, and the intestines that feed the udders, the mouth and teeth neatly cropping the grass. There is not much grass here, by the gate, mostly mud that sucks at our hooves as we move through it. I am on my way to milking. It’s stressful being so close together. In front of me is a cow with one white haunch, she sometimes rests her head on my back. I feel calmer being behind her. The stalls take us, there are two rows, I can see my friend is a little further down. There is a tugging at my teats, then a pause and a steady sucking.

It feels good, coming out of my body, going somewhere. I can see I am attached to something, lines coming up from underneath me. I am missing something. The suction is so steady, not like a calf. My calf is gone, the sun has come up and gone down again, and again, and he has not come back. Just as she didn’t last spring or the spring before that. I cried, I could hear them lowing. Something come out of my body, gone somewhere. The suction stops, there’s another rubbery feel and then the bar comes up and we’re outside in the cold. I can almost taste the mealy sweetness of the feed as we head for the barn, I can see my breath.

I can’t catch my breath as I come out of the shed. I’m carrying a calf. They come out hot and wet and small enough but they’re getting a good size now. It’s been a couple of weeks, they’ve had their colostrum, their first milk and feeding in the pens. Now it’s time to separate the bobbies from the milkers. We were loading the truck when I saw him coming out slower than the others.

This isn’t my favourite part of the job, the calves are hard to control they kick and struggle if you lift them so it’s best if they walk. His leg’s hitching so he’s slow to use it. Now I’ve got one arm under the chest, one around the buttocks, like hugging. The others are looking through the bars of the truck, watchful, even the difficult bastards. I go past and put him in a holding pen. I try to do the whole thing quick. I put the bolt in at the base of his skull and he drops. The bobbies are hard enough to sell as it is. I put him aside for the knackerman and get the living stock rolling. They go slowly, bobbing, calves on a trailer move like liquid. Then I go for lunch, tell the others to take a break, everyone’s got to eat.

And I am still breathing hard. The wind comes in raw, watch it go. The white clouds my face. I am air, and milk, and meat. And the heat that moves them. And the space they fill. And the things I think I am.”