Why Animals Matter:

A Religious and philosophical perspective





About think Differently About Sheep

Sentient Sheep

Sheep in religion and mythology

Sheep in Art

Sheep Breeds

Help Our Sheep


Animal Rights

Factory Farming

Animal Rights and Why they Matter

Sentience in Farm Animals

Farm Animal Facts

Why Animals matter:
A Religious and Philosophical perspective

Vegan Rambles

Photograph Gallery


Animals in art

Art Gallery

Clip art


Graphic Quotations

Portrait Gallery: Animals do Not all Look the Same


Useful Links: Action You Can Take


A Memorial to Sooty

A Memorial to Joey

A Memorial To Patch


Return to Why Animal Rights: Matter A Religious/Philosophical Perspective

Why Animals Matter: Buddhist Quotations

Page one Introduction, History and Basic teachings
Page Two Why animals matter in the Buddhist tradition 
Page Three Reasons why Buddhists should be vegetarian or preferably vegan
Page Four Modern Day Buddhism and vegetarianism/veganism

Page Three

Reasons why Buddhists should be vegetarian or preferably vegan

Why should Buddhists be vegetarian or vegan? This can be a very confusing question as despite the clear cut teaching of Buddha many Buddhists find ways to justify the taking of the life of other sentient beings, even though the first precept and scriptures clearly state the teachings of Buddha in this regard.  Ambiguities arise from the account of the Buddha's death which many believe was the result of eating tainted pork. However rather like other religions such accounts should not necessarily be taken at face value and the interpretation of such events have been distorted with the passing of so much time and the mistranslation of ancient languages. 

So what actually happened to Buddha? Did he eat pork?

Buddha died from eating a type of mushroom called a "pigs foot", considered as a special delicacy.

When Buddha and his followers arrived at the village of Pava, Cunda, the son of the village goldsmith invited the group to partake of a meal called sukaramaddava, or "boars delight". Here is where the controversy lies: some scholars believe this was a special meal, a speciality of mushrooms which when translated from the language of the Brahmans is called the "pigs foot", while others claim it was literally a meal of boar meat.

Consider this comment from The key to immediate Enlightenment by Supreme Master Ching Hai

If we translate directly from the language of late Brahmans. This kind of mushroom is called the "pig's foot". It is just like when we call a kind of fruit Langan( in Chinese this literally means the "dragons eye". There are many things that by name are not vegetables but actually are vegetarian food, such as the "dragons eye". This mushroom in the Brahmanic language is called the "pig's foot" or pig's joy.

The key to immediate Enlightenment by Supreme Master Ching Hai

You can see clearly why confusion may arise, both a boar and the mushroom have a connection with pigs;  a boar of course is a type of pig, the dead flesh of a pig for consumption is as I am sure you are aware called pork and the mushroom was called pigs foot. Why was the mushroom called a pigs foot? This is a type of mushroom that does not grow above ground, its presence underground is difficult to locate without the aid of a pig who enjoys eating this mushroom. The pig locates this delicacy by his keen sense of smell and having found one he uses his foot to dig it up. Hence the name Pig's Foot.

This confusion is regrettable. Moreover the confusion may well have been perpetuated by those who simply wish to find an excuse to eat meat. There is no proof of course but here surely one has to use some common sense.  The answer to this confusion is surely simple. Why would Buddha teach the five precepts number one of which is to refrain from killing all beings if right at the end of his life he eats meat?

Buddha and many of his principle adherents directly forbid the eating of meat.

Below are examples from Buddhist scripture which advocate the abstention from eating flesh and harming other creatures.

If we eat the flesh of living creatures, we are destroying the seeds of compassion
Surangama Sutta *6)

Buddha as previously mentioned  practiced and taught the law of Ahimsa, which means nonviolence and which became part of the Indian religious tradition and considered a very important step towards spiritual awareness and enlightenment.

Buddha taught his followers

For the sake of love of purity, the Bodhisattva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood, etc. For fear of causing terror to living beings let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh...

It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself, when he did not order others to kill it, when it was not specially meant for him. Again, there may be some people in the future who .. . being under the influence of the taste for meat will string together in various ways sophistic arguments to defend meat eating .

But... meat eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place is unconditionally and once for all prohibited... Meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit .

The above abbreviated extracts from the Lankavatara sutra where quoted from Buddhist writings: From The Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson.
Here you will find more quotations from Buddhist scripture
History of Vegetarianism -Buddha (?563-483 BC) - vegetarian?

According to tradition, these are the actual words of the Buddha as he entered Lanka and conversed with a bodhisattva named Mahamati:

If you would like to read the Lankavatara Sutra on Meat Eating please click the link below:


The Lankavatara Sutra composed 2,500 years ago is a Mahayana (a sect of Buddhism) text; Mahayana Buddhists are vegetarian. The Lankavatara sutra clearly and most strongly condemns meat eating and states that eating meat should be avoided as the  presence of a meat-eater causes terror in animals, who believe the meat eater likely to kill them.

This particular admonition refutes the idea some Buddhists often use to justify the consumption of flesh saying that it is permissible to eat meat if you yourself have not killed the animal or that the animal was not purposely killed for you. Such an idea contradicts the first precept, that of causing no harm to any living being; actions which result in the taking of life, either directly or indirectly, surely contradict this basic Buddhist precept.

From Where does this notion arise?

Buddha may have under very limited circumstances allowed his monks to eat meat. Keep in mind that monks in those days existed by begging and at times it may not have been possible to refuse meat if it was given. In such circumstances the Buddha may have made the following statement:  

I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected (that the living being has been slaughtered for the bhikkhu). I say that meat may be eaten in three instances. (a bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk)

However in the Lankavatara Sutra referred to earlier Buddha says:
"It is not true, Mahamati, that meat is proper food and permissible for the Sravaka ( a hearer, hence a pupil or beginner) when (the victim) was not killed by himself, when he did not order others to kill it. When it was not specially meant for him."

Consider the following extraction and quotations from Hsu Yun Buddhist Association Inc

It should be remembered that in the Buddha’s time the monks existed solely by begging and that it was not possible to turn away meat without offending the giver or for that matter, the animal from which the meat came. Further it was not always possible to have vegetables due to climatic and soil conditions as evidenced by the following taken from the Chapter on "The Enlightenment of Others" / Prohibition against killing in the Surangama Sutra, pg. 153:"Ananda, I permit the Bhikkhus to eat only the five kinds of pure flesh which are the product of my transcendental power of transformation and not of animal slaughter. You, Brahman, live in a country where vegetables do not grow because it is too damp and hot and because of all the gravel and rock. I use my power of compassion to provide you with illusory meat to satisfy your appetite. How then, after my nirvana, can you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be my disciple?"

In the Lankavatara Sutra the Buddha said; "Mahamati, in this long course of transmigration here, there is not one living being that, having assumed the form of a living being, has not been your mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter, or the one or the other, in various degrees of kinship; and when acquiring another form of life may live as a beast, as a domestic animal, as a bird, or as a womb-born, or as something standing in some relationship to you; (this being so) how can the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who desires to approach all living beings as if they were himself and to practice the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any living being that is of the same nature as himself?

The Buddha may have permitted monks to eat meat under very limited circumstances. Would he allow monks to eat meat today? It is very doubtful, as there are many alternatives to meat and the Buddha clearly indicated that not eating meat was preferable if at all possible.

Hsu Yun Buddhist Association Inc. Vegetarianism in Buddhism

"The 'not killed specifically for his benefit' excuse, says Katherine Perlo, a doctor of philosophy and long-time Buddhist,"comes from the Jivaka Sutta, which-whether inserted into scripture by meat-eating monks (as asserted by Roshi Philip Kapleau), or mistranslated (as asserted by Dr. Tony Page)-is, as both scholars agree, totally inconsistent with the prevailing Buddhist values, especially the first precept of non-injury and the principle of 'right livelihood' which proscribes the occupations of butcher, hunter, and fisherman. Even if one accepts the Sutta's message, it's at the very most a concession to meat-eaters, never an encouragement."

Extract from an Article concerning the use of a monk to advertise meat:
Hillshire Farm Incident Indicative of Problems in Western Buddhism

Buddhist Channel | Buddhism News, Headlines | US Midwest | Hillshire Farm

Of course it is extremely doubtful indeed that Buddha would allow the eating of meat produced in the hellish cruelty of the factory farming system. In fact there is no doubt whatsoever that he would most strongly condemn such appalling cruelty to any animal. 

Moreover today it is not necessary for anyone to eat meat and the eating of meat casues other human beings to starve as land is given over to growing feed for animals which could other wise be used to grow crops to feed people. Commonsense must prevail here, times have changed, Buddha lived a long time ago in a very different era. Today he would not make any concession under any circumstances as plant food is available to all. People starve because of greed, there is enough land to adequately provide vegetable food for every person.

Also one should be aware that with any religion, teachings over time may be altered to suit the needs of those practitioners who wish to indulge in habits that are forbidden. The overwhelming majority of Buddha's teachings forbids killing animals and eating meat.

Below is an extract from a publication, Taking a Stand By Ven. Abhinaya, a Buddhist monk in the Thai Theravada Tradition.

People become vegetarians for different reasons, but to abstain from eating meat because one thinks it is better for health or for ‘making merit,’ or from the consideration that a chicken or fish might have been one’s relative or friend in a previous lifetime, are not Buddhist reasons for being vegetarian. A Buddhist abstains from eating meat because he knows it is right to abstain, and not from what he might get, personally, from doing so. He is a vegetarian for the sake of the animals, not for his own sake; he considers the effects of his actions upon others.

Mind of our own

Forget about what the Buddha may or may not have said about eating meat; He died a long time ago, and none of us ever met Him. We are not the slaves of the Buddha—or are we?—but have minds of our own, which He exhorted us to use. The animals are being killed right now, often with our tacit consent and approval. What do you think about this? While it means food for many, money for others and sport for some, for the animals themselves it means suffering and death. Surely, this deserves some thought. We should not be so subjective, always looking at things from our own viewpoint, wondering how we can make use of things for our own ends. The viewpoint we should look at meat-eating from is that of the animals, is it not? Try to put yourself in their position, and see how it feels.

Now, reading this, some people—monks and non-monks —will probably fall back on the old worn-out argument: "But Buddhist monks are not allowed to ask for anything special for themselves, saying, ‘I like this’ or ‘I don’t like that.’ They are supposed to eat whatever people are kind enough to offer to them, without making a fuss and causing inconvenience to their supporters." Yes, it is good for monks to refrain from being fussy and choosy, but if they were to request people to offer them only meatless food, they would not be asking for themselves, but for the sake of the animals; their asking would be altruistic instead of selfish. And it would benefit the people who offer as well as the animals, for their offerings would involve less suffering and so would be more meritorious. From every point-of-view, therefore—including health and economy — vegetarianism is better. And, as for the lame excuse that, without eating meat, we would not get enough nourishment and would be weak and sickly, well, what about elephants, horses, cows, buffaloes, etc.? They are herbivorous, and are not weak! It is our minds that are weak, not our bodies! So, why hesitate? Is it because of attachment to taste? Is it because we might find it inconvenient to change our diet? Do we live to eat, or eat to live? In order for us to eat meat, the animals must be killed. Is that not a great inconvenience for them?

It is highly recommend that your read the entire publication: shabkar.org/download/pdf/Taking_a_stand.pdf

No matter what Buddha said or did not say all animals killed in factory farms or elsewhere in today's world are slaughtered for you to eat.

Think about it.

Again common sense should prevail here as of course if people continue to eat meat, animals will continue to be slaughtered. Eating meat whether directly or indirectly causes the death of an animal, butchers kill animals to make money, if people did not eat meat butchers would not kill animals. It is as simple as that!  If you buy meat it has been killed for you regardless of the fact that the employees in factory farms, slaughter houses and butchers do not know who precisely receives it matters not. To cite such an exception is clearly meaningless, invalid in the modern world and simply a play upon words, if you eat meat you are complicit. Moreover perhaps you should also consider that by buying meat you also cause harm to the person who killed the animals as of course killing affects ones karma and consequent spiritual progress and a detrimental re-birth. Anyone of any intelligence can plainly see the fallacy and hypocrisy of this notion, even if there where no scripture to directly refute this idea the fact remains: whether you kill the animal yourself or go to your local butcher or supermarket or dine in a restaurant, meat eating is killing by proxy.

This is a very unfortunate notion and one often advocated even by eminent Buddhists. However this is what the most eminent Buddhist, the 14th Dali Lama has to say about meat eating :

" I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when we there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat.

Surely "I do not see any reason " is confirmation enough.

There are many ways that people try to mitigate the simple fact that they are killing animals and thus breaking the commitments of the first precept. For example sometimes rituals are used to mitigate in some kind of Karmic way the killing of non human creatures.

Why was Buddha not more specific?

Well actually I personally think he was very specific and the majority of his teachings prohibit meat eating either directly or indirectly.

Also consider the general religious philosophy of the times in which Buddha lived.

In ancient India the concept of Ahimsa was well known and understood among religions like Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus do not substantially see as different the soul within the body of a human from that of a nonhuman animal. Therefore ahimsa as a rule of conduct applies to all creatures and implies a ban on meat eating, butchery, hunting, the use of animal products procured by violent means  or any other harmful action. Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means to do no harm, to do no violence, it is a moral rule of conduct against killing or injuring living beings, it is tied to the belief that all such negative actions as violence accrue karmic consequence of a detrimental nature. The admonition not to kill living beings meant both human and
nonhuman and was therefore obvious and needed no explanation.

In the Lankavatara sutra cited earlier Buddha explicitly prohibits the eating of meat, fish and any animal products which are the result of harming and killing of any sentient being.

Consider, that even if the Buddha himself did not spell it out in so many words surely it is common sense that if you eat meat you are breaking the first precept either directly or indirectly. Furthermore Buddhism and indeed any religion should be progressive and modern; the contemporary image of Buddhism is one of a religion that encourages a vegetarian or vegan diet as the logical interpretation of the first precept.

Most people in the west simply assume that Buddhists are vegetarian.

Consider: How can a Buddhist practice no harm towards any being and eat meat produced in a factory farm where animals suffer appalling cruelty,  or wear cosmetics tested on animals and which contain animal derivatives, or condone experiments. How can we have a spiritual experience when we burn candles made from animal derivatives (tallow and stearic acid) or wear shoes made from the dead skins of slaughtered animals.

In Christianity there is often posed the question what would Christ do. Buddhists should perhaps pose a similar question, what would Buddha do? Do you think that Buddha wants you to eat the flesh of sentient beings who have lived their days in terror, suffering unimaginable pain and torment in a factory farm, would he want you to eat the dead flesh of a sheep who has been transported overseas in terrible conditions standing in their own faeces and being put through a grinder alive when they become sick, these cruelties and more happen to sheep transported from Australia to the middle east.*7) Check out how animals are treated in factory farms. Find out where you meat comes from Animal Rights

In the modern world there is no need to eat meat as the Dalai Lama says in the quotation above. In fact, as mentioned earlier the consumption of meat in western countries not only destroys the life of the animals who are reared and slaughtered but also is of detriment to our own species. Did you know that during the Ethiopian famine the  Ethiopian government was sending grain to western countries to feed their factory farmed animals? Now in the modern world the eating of meat is not only injurious to nonhuman animals of course but also to humans, and the environment as vast swathes of rain forest are cut down to provide fodder for animals to satisfy the appetites of western meat eaters.

Buddha said that we cannot live at the expense of other beings, eating meat is done at the expensive of myriads of sentient beings who just like you want to live.

All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.
All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.

Dhammapada, 129-130.

From what you have read here already it is clear that Buddha was against animal sacrifice and meat eating. Here is another consideration to take into account. The practice of Metta.


Not harming and indeed actively caring for animals should be part of the practice of Metta

What is metta?

There is a concept in Buddhism called Metta, a Pali word (Maitri in Sanskrit) translated as universal loving kindness, friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship, kindness, love, sympathy, and active interest in others, with good will free from expectation and possessiveness. It is one of the ten pāramitās of the Theravada school of Buddhism. The term Pāramitā means perfect or perfection and refers in Buddhism to the cultivation or perfection of virtues as a way of purifying Karma, the practice of Metta is a way of helping an aspirant of Buddhism to lead a good life, to develop universal compassion on his progression towards the goal of Enlightenment.

Below is a quotation from the Karaniya Metta sutra,
Discourse On Loving-Kindness (Metta) given by the Buddha. Sutras are Buddhist canonical scriptures regarded as records of the oral teachings of Buddha.

Let one contemplate and wish:
May all beings be well and safe.
May all beings be happy.
Whatever living beings there may be—
whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
the great or the mighty, medium size, short, small, or large,
those seen and those unseen, those dwelling near and far away,
those born as well as those yet to be born—
may all beings be happy at heart.

Read the full discourse and information about Metta:
Discourse On Loving-Kindness

Metta indicates friendship and nonviolence and most importantly a strong desire or wish for others to be happy, not only humans, but all beings. It is a specific form of love, the type of caring for others independent of self interest and has been compared to the love of a mother for her child or conversely the child for his for her parent, a selfless love absent of all self interest. Metta is a boundless feeling of love not limited to one's own family, religion or species, it is universal. 

The universal compassion of Metta is cultivated by the practice of medication known as  Mettā bhāvanā  a meditative practice to bring about the cultivation of universal loving-kindness. Loving kindness meditation in contemporary times is a very popular form of mediation. In this meditation the practitioner recites specific words and phrases meant to evoke the feeling of boundless love, compassion and warm heartedness towards all beings. Although self interest should never be the motivation when ones loving kindness is directed towards all beings it is expected that one will find true happiness in another person's happiness and wellbeing.

Mettā bhāvanā meditation is a tool if you like to direct feelings of loving kindness towards all creatures human and nonhuman, stranger and family, people we may not like as well as friends,  even oneself

Metta practice is often based on a method traditionally associated with the 5th c. CE Pali exegetical text, the Visuddhimagga, (the path to purity)

The six stages of mettā bhāvanā meditation which are most commonly found involve cultivating loving-kindness towards:

A good friend
A 'neutral' person
A difficult person
All four
and then gradually the entire Universe

As a mother even with own life protects her only child, so should one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.
The Metta Sutta

He who both day and night takes delight in harmlessness sharing love with all that live, finds enmity with none.
Samyutta Nikaya.

For one who mindfully develops
Boundless loving-kindness
Seeing the destruction of clinging,
The fetters are worn away.

If with an uncorrupted mind
He pervades just one being
With loving kindly thoughts,
He makes some merit thereby.

But a noble one produces
An abundance of merit
By having a compassionate mind
Towards all living beings.

Those royal seers who conquered
The earth crowded with beings
Went about performing sacrifices:
The horse sacrifice, the man sacrifice,

The water rites, the soma sacrifice,
And that called “the Unobstructed.”

But these do not share even a sixteenth part
Of a well cultivated mind of love,
Just as the entire starry host
Is dimmed by the moon’s radiance.

One who does not kill
Nor cause others to kill,
Who does not conquer
Nor cause others to conquer,
Kindly towards all beings —
He has enmity for none.

(Itivuttaka, 1.27)

I have good will for footless beings,
good will for two-footed beings,
good will for four-footed beings,
good will for many-footed beings.

May footless beings do me no harm.
May two-footed beings do me no harm.
May four-footed beings do me no harm.
May many-footed beings do me no harm.

May all creatures,
all breathing things,
all beings — each & every one –
meet with good fortune.
May none of them come to any evil.

Anguttara Nikaya IV.67

The above is a selection of quotations from What the Buddha said about metta
What the Buddha said about metta | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

Concerning Animal rights and the Obligation of a Buddhist to his or her fellow creatures, it is surely incongruent to practice Metta or Metta meditation whilst involved in harmful practice to any being. Eating meat, consuming milk or eggs, wearing, leather, wool or silk all causes harm to other beings and cannot be part of the life of a Buddhist. Keep in mind that this discourse, the Metta sutra, was spoken by Buddha. I think the implication is clear that as a  practitioner of Buddhism harming animals in any way is not in keeping with the principles of Metta or ahimsa or any of the teachings of Buddha

More Metta quotes

In gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.

Sutta Nipata

Even as a mother
protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish
all living beings.

Sutta Nipata

Being a vegetarian makes it easier for us to increase our loving kindness and compassion.
Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu

In Buddhism there is the concept of the middle way. Simply put adherents should take the middle road avoiding extremes. Concerning the killing of other beings it is diffluent to avoid killing entirely. For instance the cultivating of plants brings about harm to insects and small creatures such as rodents. However Buddhists should be mindful of this fact and avoid harm whenever possible and it is certainly possible to avoid meat which as we have said not only harms animals but people also as land is given over to feed live stock which could go directly to feed people. Milk is easily avoidable and people in many parts of the world are in any case lactose intolerant and it is mostly western cultures that drink milk. Eggs are avoidable and for reasons of health this is highly desirable also. Honey is a luxury which is easily avoided. Its also possible to abstain from the use of leather, wool and silk, there are many other alternatives in our modern society.

Next:Page Four Modern Day Buddhism and vegetarianism/veganism


6) In Buddhism, the term "sutra" or sutta refers mostly to canonical scriptures, many of which are regarded as records of the oral teachings of Gautama Buddha.




Important please note:

I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.

Copyright, accreditations and other matters, please read