Letter writer: Craving a burger? Consider karma first

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Another article in the Mountain Xpress on butchery, this time titled “Sacred Sacrifice: An Upcoming Butchering Workshop Focuses on Using and Honoring All Parts of the Animal” [Oct. 7]. Again, I am left feeling perplexed and sad over this subject.

There is nothing sacred about killing another being. Eating meat is a choice, and there are choices other than meat. If it is hard to arouse compassion for the tender lives of animals, one can usually arouse compassion for oneself.

As a physician, I can clearly say you will have a healthier body by making different choices. Not only for yourself, but for the planet. Global warming is the result of many issues, and raising livestock is a strong contributor.

If the suffering of animals, your own body and the planet are not enough to override your desire for a hamburger, consider karma. From a Buddhist perspective, taking the life of another is a heavy karmic deed. We are contributing to this in many ways, even if we do not hold the knife to the throat of the animal and give this job to someone else.

For those of you wanting to learn this “sacred” profession, I would encourage you to expand your view, both with your heart as well as with your reasoning.

— Miriam Hard


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45 thoughts on “Letter writer: Craving a burger? Consider karma first

  1. donathan_white

    It’s hard though when meat is what you grow up eating and meals always required a meat component and usually a lot of it.

    • Cynthia

      There are a great many plant-based “meats” and cheezes on the market, and they are growing more plentiful and more delicious all the time. Maybe you could start by having a “meatless Monday” as many school districts and individuals do across the country.

  2. Yared Sharot

    > There is nothing sacred about killing another being.

    Plants are living beings. Go back to biology 101.

    • Cynthia

      Yes, plants are living beings, but they do not have the sentience–the emotions and intelligence–of animals. For any person concerned about the well-being of plants, however, a plant-based diet uses orders of magnitude fewer plants that a diet of animal products. Animal agriculture uses 7 to 10 times more resources (energy, water, land, etc.) than a plant-based diet.

        • Cynthia

          My point still stands. Even if you assume that plants are fully conscious, sentient beings as are animals, unless you only eat dead plants you are consuming far fewer plants in a vegan diet than in consuming animal products

    • Stewart

      The letter below addresses the “plants are living beings” statement above. It appeared in the Mountain Xpress on May 10, 2006,
      The moral community extends to animals
      I sincerely don’t mean to be offensive or insulting, but if those who oppose animal rights would research the issue before sending in their letters, they’d find that many of their objections have already been silenced by animal-rights philosophers. Instead, every few months or so, the same unsound arguments are put forward, and we animal-rights activists have to write in to refute these self-serving rationalizations.

      The most recent example is Christopher Dorin’s excellent rebuttal [“If I Only Had A … Carrot,” April 12] to Chantal Saunders [“Animal, Vegetable or Mineral?“, March 29].

      How many more times must we show that plants aren’t sentient beings? If you honestly believe plants can feel pain, go vegan and reduce the number of plants that are “brutally slaughtered” and fed to the animals you eat. Perhaps you should administer pain relief to the grass before you mow your lawn. Do people really think shucking corn and ripping the skin off a cat are morally similar actions? Or is this an attempt to stop the argument? An attempt to defend the indefensible behavior of eating meat?

      Perhaps these people think animals matter so little that they have no moral standing. If you feel this way, what would convince you that animals matter? What does it take to be included in the moral community? Is it not enough that animals can feel pain? If you set the criteria any higher than this, you also exclude a number of human beings from the moral community.

      Why is it that even our most trivial interests (the pleasant taste of dead flesh) trump the most vital interests of animals (to live free from human torture)? What’s stopping us from expanding our circle of compassion to include all sentient beings, even those not like us? Please think carefully about these questions. For more information, visit http://www.animal-rights.com and/or read Mark Rowlands’ Animals Like Us.

      — William Kelly

  3. Lulz

    LOL, just grind up leftover babies from PP and eat them. Of course after valuable body parts have been sold lulz. Lefty loonies ignore the slaughter under their own noses LOL. Does karma apply there too?

  4. Jack Horner

    We evolved as humans primarily on a diet of meat – for the last, I don’t know, hundred thousand years? – climate change has occurred over the last century – it’s the Industrialization of meat and vegetables that has led to a massive increase in CO2 emissions. The actual production of meat can be done in a ecologically responsible way. I think making that link is slightly lazy, and ultimately hurts your argument.

    • ApePeeD

      Climate change has occurred for thousands of years. A good example is… the Ice Age?

        • jack horner

          I should also say that I am a vegetarian. I just think generalizations/flimsy arguments do more harm then good. The focus should be on animal dignity and if you want to talk about the contribution of the industrial food system to human induced climate change, that’s great, just don’t attribute it to meat eating in general because, like I said, meat eating can be done in an ecologically sustainable way.

    • Cynthia

      Animal agriculture, even in a more “natural” setting than factory farms, still uses far more land than a plant-based diet. And killing is killing . Animals fear slaughter as much as a normal (as in non-suicidal) human would fear being murdered. It is argued that there would be no more hunger in the world if all people ate plant-based diets. I can’t prove that scientifically, but it stands to reason …

  5. Stewart

    Well said! You are in good company:

    A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite.”

    Leo Tolstoy

    • Cynthia

      Let me pile on to Stewart’s Tolstoy quote with some favorites of my own: Pythagoras: Animals share with us the privilege of having a soul. // Plutarch: But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh, we deprive a soul of the sun and light and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. // Chief Seattle: If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls the sons of the Earth. // Mahatma Gandhi: The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. // American Naturalist John Muir: During a 1000-mile hike to the Gulf of Mexico Muir wrote about animals as “beautiful in the eyes of God … part of God’s family, unfallen, undepraved and cared for with the same species of tenderness as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth.”

      • Cynthia

        I’d like to also add this quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged. It is a kind of theological folly to suppose that God has made the entire world just for human beings, or to suppose that God is interested in only one of the millions of species that inhabit God’s good earth.” Speaking for myself, I always go back to a poem by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke: “I live my life in widening circles, that reach out across the world. I may not complete this last one but I give myself to it.” Others–Albert Einstein and Albert Schweitzer–wrote of the need to enlarge our circle of compassion to include all living beings. To me this means not eating or otherwise abusing them in any way (e.g., circuses, laboratory research, hunting and other forms of “recreation”, wearing animal hides, etc.). None of these practices are necessary to live “happy and healthy lives” (Edgar’s Mission).

        • The Real World

          TOTAL animal fan here. However, I am quite aware that if animals are not used for testing of products and pharmaceuticals there are only 2 options remaining:
          1 – you TEST these things on humans.
          2 – all sorts of other ways are utilized to test safety and efficacy which result in enormous additional costs and long delays before humans can benefit from new therapies. Many, many people will complain loudly about both the huge, necessary price tags and the very slow approval rates.

          Sometimes, we have to make hard and difficult choices. For plenty of things in life there is no panacea.

          Secondly, I learned just recently that there are some diseases (incl auto-immune types) where some long-recommended remedies from respected Doctors have included switching to a very basic and very clean diet. Meaning: lean, pasture-raised, junk-free meats, fresh organic veggies/ fruits, little dairy, refined sugar or flours, alcohol, etc. You get the idea. Apparently, many people have been able to keep their disease under control or at bay adopting that regime.

          Having mentioned those exceptions, I do understand and generally believe that it is not necessary for us to kill animals to survive well on this earth. And I do buy the argument that the act of killing, period, is not in our own or humanities best interest.

          But, just please realize that there are valid exceptions to almost everything.

          • Cynthia

            Thank you for this very thoughtful reply. Certainly in the more-than-a-century of “scientific” research on animals, there have been some breakthroughs that have benefited humans. But more recently, it is becoming clear that much—perhaps most—research on animals does not translate to humans. Not surprisingly, since our systems are different from those of mice and cats and dogs and primates, etc. Happily, there are increasingly superior methods for replicating human systems. (See more on this below.) This is a matter I follow closely given that my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, conducts maternal-deprivation experiments on baby rhesus monkeys. (See our campaign opposing this at “Not in Our Name, http://www.uwnotinourname.org/.) Guess what? When baby monkeys are taken from their mothers at birth, isolated in a cage, and subjected to frightening things like looming human figures and fake snakes, they get anxious and depressed. I could have told them that without spending many millions of taxpayer dollars via National Institutes of Health grants! Or if the baby monkeys are given time with their mother, she is drugged and her nipples taped so there is no succor for her baby. This heightens the baby’s confusion, panic, and depression. What could be more insanely inhumane? Scan this PETA webpage for photos and video from numerous research facilities, if you can bear to watch (http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/primates-laboratories/ ). My heart aches. On the bright side, there are indeed alternatives to this kind of research. Check out the website of CAARE (Citizens for Alternatives to Animal Research and Experimentation; http://www.caareusa.org/?utm_campaign=kidney_organoid&utm_medium=email&utm_source=caare .If you subscribe to their regular postings, you’ll receive items like this one that came yesterday titled “Lab-grown kidneys test drugs without animals and more!” Returning to diet, check out this video about why LGBTQ activists “Came Out for Animal Rights” (http://www.care2.com/causes/lgbtq-activists-share-how-they-came-out-for-animal-rights.html#ixzz3pAH22lQP). A young man in the video says it best: “Are we going to be in the twenty-first century and live together and share the planet with the animals, with the trees? And for me when I went vegan it was about, I want to be on a peaceful planet. Eating a murderous vibe, it was like why would you choose to do that once you know? Why?” Indeed, the times they are a-changing! And in many respects, the Millennial generation is leading the way as they embrace veganism by the millions.

  6. FRANK


    Backyard Butchers Shut Down In Orange County ⋆ Hudson Valley News Network
    The Hudson Valley SPCA Law Enforcement Division lead a rescue operation today to save nearly 200 farm animals.

    • jack horner

      I agree with the ethical vegetarian argument and I think it is strongest when kept to that. The science does not in any way prove that a vegetarian diet is on the whole more healthy than a carnivorous diet – in some cases its true but in others the opposite is true. Therefore I think you are hurting the vegetarian argument by making that claim and citing the PCRM, a pseudo science organization funded by PETA. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicians_Committee_for_Responsible_Medicine#Criticism

      • Cynthia

        I’d assert you weaken your own argument by giving the link to Wikipedia. If the reader goes to that link, he/she will see the picture is far more complex and nuanced than your comment suggests.

  7. Zia Terhune

    If the writer wants to butcher animals and eat meat, I wish she would just go ahead and eat it and stop the spiritual crap. The animal getting beheaded doesn’t care and neither do I.

  8. James

    Unborn babies are brutally cut into pieces every week in Asheville by the planned parenthood abortion facility. As human beings, they have a much greater right to life over animals. In addition, planned parenthood and other abortion mills have botched countless abortions over the years, leaving many women with serious health complications and permanent infertility. How can we even think about the livestock industry when HUMAN BEINGS are being legally murdered and maimed in our own country?

    • J W

      what does abortion have to do with eating animals? you can choose to eat compassionately three times per day while also choosing not to have an abortion….If you are pro-life then great, go veg too as animals feel all the same pain as humans do. There are many resaons to eat healthier in fact even the Rebublican contender for President, Ben Carson who is pro life is also a longtime vegetarian (well until recently when he realized that it would go over like a lead balloon with republican primary voters… Still for most of his life he has been veg. A plant based diet is bipartisan :)

    • Stewart


      To answer your question, I would like to share the piece below.

      It happened again. My husband and I had taken our three kids out for the afternoon and I happened to be wearing a shirt with an animal rights message: “Respect your fellow Earthlings.” Beneath the words is a drawing by cartoonist Berkeley Breathed of a young woman extending her hand to a cautious group of animals, including a chimpanzee, a dog, a bird, a bunny and a pig.
      Not exactly in your face, but it made at least one person see red, because without warning, he was in my face. His features were twisted in anger and his index finger was pointed right at my nose. My kids were startled. The eight-month-old, in a pack on her dad’s back, burst into frightened tears.

      “You care more about animals than people!” the stranger shouted, spit flying from his mouth. “You should be saving babies from abortion, not worrying about pigs! You would rather help animals than unborn babies!”
      Without saying a word, my husband and I guided our family past the furious man, who continued to yell epithets until we were out of his shouting range. No point in arguing with someone who’s about to throw a punch.
      Such incidents are shocking, particularly when my young children witness them. But they’re hardly surprising. I’ve heard the same accusation dozens of times. It’s usually tossed up like a trump card, delivered with a smug look that says, “Now I’ve got you! Nobody can admit to caring more about cows strung upside down in the slaughterhouse than about babies!”
      I’ve heard plenty of arguments against my belief that might doesn’t make right, that we have no right to cage, eat, experiment on and wear animals on our backs simply because we hold the guns and whips and knives. But the abortion accusation is the most puzzling. Why single out animal rights activists? Did the angry man at the beach approach the fellow wearing the Miller High Life shirt and accuse him of loving beer more than babies?
      There is a lot of suffering in the world and all of it needs to be addressed. Why waste time vilifying people who are already trying to alleviate some of it? My guess is that the angry man at the beach doesn’t accuse telephone operators, teachers, bankers, garbage collectors or any other working people of loving their jobs more than babies. He probably doesn’t stand outside movie theaters accusing filmgoers of wasting their time on mindless entertainment while unborn babies die. No, the angry man’s ire is reserved for those who are trying to end cruel, outdated practices, like shoving shampoo down guinea pigs’ throats and watching tigers jump through burning hoops; for those who know we’d be healthier, and the animals better off, if we didn’t consume decaying flesh; and for those who believe fashion shouldn’t involve bloodshed.
      And this is what betrays the angry man. He isn’t thinking so much about saving unborn babies as he is about preserving his turf. He is threatened by the suggestion that we should “respect our fellow Earthlings” because, if he did, he might have to make a few adjustments in his life. After he puts down his “Abortion Is Murder” sign he couldn’t stop for a Big Mac, for example.
      Certainly, it’s easier to make me the villain than face the fact that experimenters still starve and shock animals in “food aversion” studies. But if he labels me a hypocrite, he can dismiss the notion of “respect” for all. I happen to be pro-life. Many animal rights activists are. Many others believe abortion is acceptable, for both humans and animals. It’s not easy to categorize us. We are Democrats and Republicans, men and women, young, middle-aged and old, liberal and conservative; we are college professors, store clerks, writers, priests, ex-hunters, homemakers, actors, dentists, researchers, secretaries, students, veterinarians and mail carriers.
      What we share is the belief that there is an alternative to every cruel act. We believe that if we can stop suffering regardless of what species the victim is we should stop it.
      Still, I sympathize a bit with the angry man at the beach; I used to be him. I used to eat animal flesh, wear leather shoes, and munch popcorn at the circus while elephants twirled before me. Facing up to the pain I supported every time I smeared mayonnaise on a ham sandwich was momentarily uncomfortable, but finding another, better way was surprisingly easy. The most important lesson I learned is that we don’t have to choose between people and animals. There is no competition between us; sharing our compassion with animals only makes us better human beings.
      Kathy Guillermo is a writer for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of “Monkey Business: The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement.”

  9. J W

    PCRM is not the only group advocating for a vegan diet and the American Dietetic Association (a pretty conservative group for Registered Dieticians) has a very favorable view of vegan and vegetarians diets and it is their position that well planned diets such as these confer health benefits and reduce certain types of disease. As for the environmental impacts of one’s food choices, the UN, The University of Chicago and even Al Gore all categorically state that the single most important thing that humans can do to reduce carbon emissions while improving the condition of the planet (water, the forests, the oceans, wildlife etc) is to adopt a plant based diet. Go vegan and no body gets hurt :)

  10. How is it that so many freaks landed in one place? Please take your self-righteous BS and go back to wherever you came from! We’ve been eating meat since we crawled out of trees, it’s why we have enormous brains (clearly a waste of energy for most). If you wanna eat toxic, DNA altered soy and think you doing the right thing, be my guest. But I’m eating a MFing steak for dinner.

    • Yared Sharot

      > How is it that so many freaks landed in one place?

      That’s pretty bad, when someone on MountainX asks this question.

    • Stewart

      If showing kindness to other living beings makes me a freak, then I will happily be one. But I think you calling compassionate people freaks says more about you than it does about us.

      • Zia Terhune

        I care about humans and non-humans. I want to stop such needless suffering in this world. Does that make me a freak?

        • miriamhard

          Thanks to everyone for your comments. Since I wrote the article, it seems fitting to reply. Gratitude for all those who liked the article and gratitude for all of those who disliked the article! My intention was to express myself with what is true for me with the hope of planting seeds for change. I grew up in the midwest so grew up with meat in my diet. I know it is a big step for those accustomed to meat in their diets to contemplate change. It can feel threatening. I respect each person’s personal decision. It is a big decision. For me , when I gave up meat in the early 1990’s , I did it gradually, first red meat, then poultry, later fish. I would encourage those opposed to my letter to just pause, notice how your body feels when you think about this subject, pause again, and just be incredibly gentle with yourselves. I would also comment that I feel a love for babies can coexist with our love for animals. It feels to me we are meant to just keep expanding our circle of compassion until it becomes unbearable. And then expand a little more…

    • Cynthia

      Please consider this simple question from Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Australia: “If we could live happy and healthy lives without harming others… why wouldn’t we?”

  11. Not one of us is innocent. 1) Eating a vegan diet does not preclude the killing and maiming of animals. Billions of rodents, worms, birds, and other animals are crushed and cut to pieces when crops are planted and harvested. Imagine what a plow does to a nest of mice. 2) Unless a vegan is eating organic plants, such diet causes great environmental damage caused by GMO crops and the attendant use of pesticides – not to mention the health consequences of ingesting those pesticides. 3) Do you eat quinoa? Google it and see what the Western appetite for quinoa is doing to South American indigenous farmers and communities.

    • Cynthia

      I would not argue with the points you have made. But please consider this (again, as I mentioned farther above), It takes far, far, far more plants of any kind (organic, nonorganic, GMO-contaminated, biodiversity/rain forest-depleting, and the list goes on) to support a diet that depends on animal products than a totally plant-based diet. And the harm to “rodents, worms, birds, and other animals” that you cite is also multiplied many fold. I appreciate that you care about these small creatures. I do too! Let’s all open our hearts and do everything possible to minimize our harmful impacts on their lives, as well as on the larger animals and fish that are farmed or captured for human consumption. If I might indulge myself, I wrote the following Letter to the Editor that was published in the Mountain Xpress this most recent Mothers Day. See https://mountainx.com/opinion/letter-writer-celebrate-mothers-day-with-kindness-to-animal-mothers-too/
      <<Letter writer: "Celebrate Mother’s Day with kindness to animal mothers, too". Posted on May 6, 2015
      "This Mother’s Day, let’s reflect on the largest population of mothers in our country: the many billions of female cows, chickens, pigs and other animals on our farms. How do they rank as moms?
      "Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher, wrote that the love between a mother animal and her young is not different from a human mother to her child. Many other great thinkers over the ages have discerned this. Charles Darwin, for example, wrote, “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery.”
      "Take mother hens, for example. They speak to their chicks even before they are hatched, with the mother clucking softly and the chicks peeping back from inside their shell. An expectant chicken plucks a bald spot on her belly so she can warm the eggs and chicks once they’ve hatched. In fact, chickens are such devoted mamas that they often adopt orphans of other species like kittens, puppies and bunnies.
      "Turkey hens, too, are devoted mothers who are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save them.
      "Pigs in the wild live in groups of two to six sows and their young. If the other mothers are also nursing, mother pigs may share caretaking and even nurse one another’s babies, so that foraging sows have more time to find food.
      "Female goats are patient, highly nurturing mothers and therefore are often used to foster orphaned or rejected lambs, calves, horses and mules.
      "Cows naturally nurse their babies for up to three years, and the strong bond between mothers and their offspring lasts long after the calves have matured. Cows love affection and grieve the loss of their loved ones. Both mothers and their newborn calves may cry pitifully when separated; the heart-rending cries of mothers have been known to last five days.
      "These are just a few short examples of the mothering behavior of farmed animals, who are some of the best mamas in the animal world. Let’s honor these noble mothers this Sunday and every day by dining compassionately and leaving meat, dairy and eggs off of our plates.
      "Asheville is richly endowed with restaurants for every taste and pocketbook where you can eat a vegan (plant-based) meal, from the fine dining at Plant restaurant (165 Merrimon Ave.), to down-home Southern cooking at Bean Vegan Cuisine (2145-A Hendersonville Road, Arden), to raw and 100-percent organic delights at Elements (233 S. Liberty St.), plus two vegetarian (primarily vegan) mainstays in the Asheville restaurant scene, both downtown: Laughing Seed Café (40 Wall St.) and Rosetta’s Kitchen (116 N. Lexington Ave.).
      "In addition, if you’d like to meet some of these mothers and other wonderful animals living out full and natural lives, Western North Carolina is rich with sanctuaries: Animal Haven of Asheville, Goat Mountain Ranch Sanctuary in Leicester, Full Circle Farm Sanctuary in Weaverville, and the Chicken Rescue and Sanctuary [in Hendersonville] also featured recently in the Mountain Xpress [“Don’t Chicken Out: How to Responsibly Care for Your Backyard Chickens,” April 29]. (Be sure to contact the sanctuary before visiting.)
      "Oh, that all mothers could be honored and blessed this Mother’s Day!
      — Cynthia Sampson, Asheville

  12. c

    In India , right now, Hindus are killing Christians and Muslims for eating beef,..oh, wait,…I thought that being a vegetarian made you non-violent and morally and peacefully above everybody else….newbies.

    • Cynthia

      What people in other parts of the world do is their karma. What each of us does in our own daily lives is ours! May you live in peace.

  13. c

    Since karma is invoked, karma has to do with intention and what was or is in one’s heart. You can eat a chicken, having hated that chicken, and wanting it to suffer and die with sheer sadistic glee, or, eating it simply for nourishment – as evolution has allowed. Each act has different karmic outcomes. I’ve heard many times the argument that society would be better, less violent, if people didn’t eat meat. There is no proof of this psuedo philosophy. It is wishfull thinking based on nothing and screamingly defies logic – that all the challenges of human existence would be wiped away if all abstained from meat: like there would be no hate. anger. greed,fear,….Silly.

    • Cynthia

      I spent twenty-one years in the field of international conflict resolution. I have a Masters and half a PhD (all but dissertation) so I know something of the theory of conflict and peacemaking/peacebuilding. I’m a coauthor and coeditor of several volumes of case studies of religiously motivated peacemaking. A leading way that identity groups (cultural, religious, racial, class, etc.) justify warfare, even genocide, is by dehumanizing “the enemy other.” In other words, they see them as less than human–as “pigs” or “dogs” or whatever animal is scorned in their culture. I have often thought that when the day comes that humans value all of life, that might be the day that peace comes on Earth. Call me idealistic. There’s no way that I can possibly prove this. But perhaps take a moment to ponder this scenario and let it play out in your imagination. Consider too, though, that time is running out for such an imagined outcome to occur. The environmental crisis could eclipse it, and animal agriculture is a major contributor in a multitude of ways to ecological breakdown. How much wiser it would be for humans to become the agents of their own evolution!

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