Tag Archives: eating meat

Why It Counts to Be a Conscious Carnivore

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The romantic ideal of the traditional, barnyard-and-a-haystack family farm is all but dead in the ground. Over the past half-century, the majority of our livestock farms have become large enterprises owned by giant corporations. “Big Agriculture” as it is sometimes called, has developed technologies to maximize profits and efficiency without thought towards the health and well being of the animals.

While we have made enormous strides in the time it takes to obtain meat products – in the 1920s, the average chicken took 16 weeks to reach 2.2 pounds, today a modern chicken only takes 7 weeks to reach 5 pounds –  this has come at price.

Today approximately 95% of the red meat in the US comes from animals raised on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), or farms where the animals are confined and fed for at least 45 days out of the year. Such “farms” hold hundreds or even thousands of animals, and the resultant waste is a major source of pollution. To encourage growth and prevent disease, the farmers give the animals growth hormones and antibiotics. Consequently there are numerous health and environmental concerns associated with CAFOs, and some courageous filmmakers have taken it upon themselves to explore these implications further: Continue reading

Vegetarianism Revisited: Finding A Spiritual Diet Right For You

I changed my diet after 13 years of being vegetarian. It was a big lesson in not getting caught up in diet dogma. If you’re like me, when you started really paying attention to life as a spiritual practice your diet changed. Maybe you cut out coffee, ditched the chocolate, stopped eating meat and fish and starting eating raw. If you’re also like me, many of the changes threw your digestive tract into a tailspin and found your body saying, “Hold on a minute! What are you doing to me now?!”

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When starting a spiritual practice it’s natural to reflect on different aspects of life that were often left unexamined. I went from being a meat eater, to eating only fish, then transitioned into a period of following a vegan diet followed by a raw diet. I learned that my body really felt much happier without dairy, but it couldn’t get enough nutrients from a raw only diet. So for 13 years as my body has continually changed so has my diet.

The big shock came this summer when I felt really depleted and ill and a nutritionist suggested I eat fish again. I didn’t even know how to prepare it since it has been so long! Immediately after eating sardines and oysters (neither of which I live very much) I felt an energetic charge that I’d not had for a very long time. I’ve also talked with other vegetarians (one who had been vegetarian for 37 years) who have recently started eating fish and say they too feel a big boost in their energy levels.

While I’m not saying it’s not good to be vegetarian or vegan, I feel it’s important to stay grounded on the spiritual path and really listen to what the body needs. For me, right now that means a little fish a couple of times a week. This will probably change again as my body continues to change.

This past summer after 13 years of following a vegetarian diet I began to eat fish again. I’d fallen ill and found myself so depleted that my body could not get the necessary nutrients from vegetable proteins. Over the years of my spiritual practice I’ve noticed that different wisdom traditions prescribe different eating practices. Some say to forego pork; others say to cut out all meat and fish.  Specific teachers create other rules like “no onions” or eat only raw foods.

Moving into spiritual naturally invites reflection on diets and often some adjustments are needed. I cut out coffee and I cut down on processed sugar and carbs.  I’ve experimented with many of the diets including vegan, where I cut out dairy – which I found beneficial, and an all raw diet where I realized my body could not get the nutrients it needed from suddenly shifting to only uncooked foods.

But as the body becomes more sensitive it may also mean recognizing allergies to gluten in certain wheat products or intolerance of dairy products. Maintaining a healthy body creates a solid basis for sound spiritual practice. I find that by seeking equilibrium and gentle, slow change as opposed to rapid jumps and starts, my body feels happiest and healthiest. What’s yours saying?

Often spiritual-minded individuals forget that we are also physical beings in a physical body. If the body isn’t healthy, vibrant and sound doing spiritual practices will be much more challenging. If you feel called to change your diet pay attention to your physical body and be practical about its needs. I find that by seeking equilibrium and gentle, slow change as opposed to rapid jumps and starts, my body feels happiest and healthiest. What’s yours saying?

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