Why I'm Not A Vegetarian
As an environmentalist and a practicioner of Buddhist meditation, I am often asked why I am not a vegetarian. There is a major reason for this.
The cows, the chickens, the pigs, the ducks, the sheep and the goats are some of the most successful animal species on the planet. There are vastly more cows than there are tapirs or antelopes; and the reason is that cows are raised for food. If cows had not been raised for food, there would be much fewer cows, if any at all. Which means that these species owe to people's hunger for meat their existence in the numbers that there are of them.
Killing animals to eat is not evil. Animals kill other animals to eat also. There are two real problems to watch out for: Cruelty and unsustainability. Clubbing dolphins or baby seals to death, or skinning foxes alive, is cruel, and strong measures should be taken to end these ugly practices. Animals don't do such things, and people, who are supposedly better than animals, should neither.
Unsustainability is hunting things, or burning things, to extinction; and that too is a grave wrong. It's one thing to kill an animal for food, another to extinguish a whole species or hopelessly imbalance an ecosystem. The issue there is very much a moral one. One should not be destroying things that he cannot recreate. Nobody at this time knows how to create a rainforest. Nobody at this time knows how to create an animal species from scratch. Which means that we have no right to destroy such things.
The problem therefore is not with eating meat, but rather with cruel and unsustainable practices. Raising cows and chickens for food is not wrong; being cruel or unsustainable is. This problem will not be resolved by everyone becoming vegetarians. It will be resolved by people determining not to engage in cruel and unsustainable practices and confronting those who do.