Here’s an argument that I’ve danced with for years: where do we draw the line on the Buddhist precept of not killing. Having just gone through a round of anti-biotics, I knowingly killed lots of things in my body. The name of the drug regimen “antibiotics” even means “against life”. What’s more, I’m glad that I’m now better able to care for my kids because I was aided in “murdering” the bacteria that was flattening me. Violation of the first precept? I wonder.
And what about my Vedanta friends who don’t eat anything that has a face? Or my Dharma friends who smugly proclaim their vegetarianism on ethical grounds yet dig into tuna fillets that have been seared rare on an open grill, but won’t touch any lamb? Is it the cute principle? When I ask they can’t really say.
Whatever your stance, it’s a great place to observe our attachments.
…before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently graze.