A Question for Vegetarians

I have a question I have always wanted to ask a few vegetarians, and perhaps this is a good place to finally do so…

Is there that much difference between an animal and a plant?

Rhubarb

In recent years, and especially after reading Stephen Harrod Bruhner’s book The Secret Teaching of Plants, Derrick Jensen’s book, A Language Older Than Words and learning more from other Earth poets and students of Nature who read her book through direct and conscious experience such as Goethe and Thoreau, this distinction has become less and less clear to me. When a plant is eaten it is sacrificing its own body so that we can live, it is the same with an animal.

Currently both plants and animals are being horribly abused, disfigured and treated inhumanely, we think of cows stuffed into factory farms or of lab rats being experimented on to further the development of new drugs but there are also vast green deserts of genetically manipulated soy, and all the other terrible things we do to plants in the name of science and feeding the world. It does make me sad that the poor underdog, plants, have no Vegetation Activists to protect and defend them from these disrespectful and abusive attitudes. But I suppose it is even worse for rocks and minerals that are considered to have absolutely no personality.

In my experience plants are beings too, they like to be paid attention to, to listen to music or hear your voice talking to them and interacting with them. I had a favorite old tree when I was living in New Zealand. I used to go and sit on its branches. I would practice craniosacral therapy on this ancient old being, and, listening to that tree — it’s deep roots and far reaching branches — taught me more than I fully understand about patience, foundations and balance. We call certain plants volunteers, which is a fitting term but also a huge understatement for what plants actually do for humanity. In legends from every culture in every corner of the world, there are tales of how different plants sacrificed themselves to heal or help humanity. Sometimes, the plant was even originally a human that sacrificed itself to become a plant and provide food for humanity as in the case with corn.

As a result of these questions and thoughts on the interconnected nature of Nature and the fact that we have to make choices which are often also sacrifices in order to survive, I have never labeled myself a vegetarian, although I have, at various periods in my life not eaten meat. I also confess to putting more weight on the value of animal life in this sense, because I pay more attention to where the animal is raised than I do with the vegetables I eat. If I buy meat, I generally am buying bones as they are cheap and usually the only part of a pasture-fed, consciously raised animal I can afford.

Tree

I also really like meat, I must confess, and am not always so restrained. It is difficult to afford both pasture-fed meat and organically grown vegetables. In Myanmar they have a three month period that they call Buddhist Lent and during this period people often become vegetarians to gain merit, but they also must not drink alcohol, and it is a time of purification. Many traditional cultures have this type of a system built into them, where people will have a period of fasting or of self-control. This may be something to look into as it seems to work well from a health perspective of both the body of the individual and the larger system in general.

It is also important, in our transition to a sustainable world, to be able to take these things into consideration. Most of us do eat too much meat and this is not healthy for the environment especially if the meat is coming from factory farms, but getting overly self-righteous about anything be it ‘green living’ or anything else ends up encouraging more of the divisive attitudes which we all need to overcome in order to work together. It is often the toughest thing to be able to work together when basic beliefs or life-style choices are made into a reason to hate and detest each other.

More Resources

The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability

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