Buddhism respects the animal, as a living and sensitive being in its own right. The first Buddhist precept (pânâtipâta veramani) taught to practitioners is not to kill. However, eating meat presupposes that one kills an animal beforehand with the precise intention of eating it. For Buddhism, all life is precious and privileges, in all circumstances, non-violence (ahimsâ). The Buddha condemned all kinds of sacrifices during his lifetime. At the time, there were not only animal sacrifices, but also human ones. With regard to the violence inflicted on animals, a sutra tells that one day, when the Buddha was going early, like every morning, accompanied by his monks, to the city of Râjagrha, capital of the kingdom of Magadha, he crossed paths with children who were having fun torture a snake. He says to them: « Know that every act bears its fruits which end up maturing one day, in this life or in a later life! »
What about meat offerings?
However, not all Buddhists are vegetarians. Some like His Holiness the Dalai Lama have been eating meat since his doctors decided several years ago that being a vegetarian was unsuitable for his health. And others adapt to the circumstances. It is also a proven fact that the Buddha ate meat when his meal offerings contained it. Moreover, his last meal was a dish of wild boar offered by the blacksmith Tchounda. In Asia, it also often happens that monks, entirely dependent on lay disciples for their food, clothing, lodging and medication, accept offerings of meat foods. Such is the tradition. No one should reject an offering made with devotion and respect. The Buddha is said to have declared that the monks could eat meat provided that the animals were not slaughtered with their intention.
It is a proven fact that the Buddha ate meat when his meal offerings contained it.
The relationship of Buddhism to animals is very specific, because it is accepted in this tradition that some of our rebirths took place in the animal kingdom. Including for the Buddha. This is why it is recommended to symbolically consider each animal, and not just pets, as a member of our family in its own right. Isn't it true, at least in the West, that we often criticize certain dietary customs related to our animals that we qualify as familiars, thus demonstrating a certain speciesism?
Climate change teaches us that we must change our eating habits and consume less and less meat. This is in line with Buddhism and the well-being of all living beings.