Why I don’ eat meat.
Earth groans under the weight of our collective consumption. We say we want peace and happiness and then run the direct opposite direction.
When I was in college, I tried a vegetarian lifestyle, because it was cheaper. I cooked more for myself than when I was not vegetarian, and what I cooked was healthier. I stopped relying on animal products as a source of nutrition, so I was more aware of what I ate. After graduating from college, I took a bicycle trip around some places on the west coast. It was a two-month trip, and I didn’t know what was going to be available, so I went back to an omnivorous diet. After this trip, I knew I was coming to Japan, a great time to get back to vegetarianism I thought. That was a mistake. I have a photo of me after I ran a cross country race through the mountains in Kyushu, which scared me at the time. I was much too thin, because I was refusing meat, but didn’t know how or what else to cook, so I went to eating anything that I could cook. The problem was that I knew there was stuff out there that I could eat and avoid meat, but I didn’t know how to cook it. Then there was other stuff out there that others had cooked, and nearly everything had some meat something in it, so I was refusing it. That was a problem.
Then I had the great good fortune to spend some time with the monks at a small Soto Zen training temple in Kumamoto, Shogoji. There the monks cooked and ate what amounts to a vegan diet, but would eat anything that people gave them as offerings. I remember the monks politely accepting a tray of hamburgers one day from a follower. I asked what they would do with them, and they said that they would eat them. They were a gift, and gifts were accepted without judgement. About that time I also became to understand “the middle way.” There are various ways of understanding this, but as for accepting gifts, it made lots of sense.
Then came the greatest influence on my life to date. I married a wonderful woman who literally saved my life and that of my son. Her family lives a Macrobiotic lifestyle. Her father had a serious chronic skin disease that would soon have ended his life had he not gotten it under control. He was bandaged head to foot, like a mummy, and had been all over the country for every kind of treatment available. Finally one day they heard that Michio Kushi would be speaking nearby, and after hearing his presentation, they decided to stake their lives on the principles he introduced. From that day my father-in-law ate brown rice almost entirely, which he chewed 200 times before he swallowed. He stopped all other medication. He drank only tea and ume sho bancha. He slowly recovered, added more foods, and now he lives and works, is an avid badminton player, and rides his Harleys. My wife had atopic dermatitis, a skin ailment that makes her skin crack and itch. Since she started eating Macrobiotic, that has cleared up. When I met my wife, my son and I were taking asthma medication. We both had problems breathing in the Fall and Spring. Since we started living with my wife and eating the food she prepares, we have not needed medication, and all of our symptoms have vanished.
I can’t say that Macrobiotics is a meat-free lifestyle. The premise is that people should eat food that is appropriate to the place where they live, and avoid chemical additives of all kinds. This does not preclude meat or animal products, as they may be the only food available to some people in some regions. What it does mean is that people who live where I do have minimal meat requirements. Humans in general don’t need much meat. Give the way our teeth are arranged a look. In the back we have grinding teeth for grains and vegetables. We have four canine teeth for meat, and we have cutting teeth in the front for biting off pieces of fruit or other plants. If you compare our teeth to those of cats or dogs who eat much more meat than we do, you can easily see the differences.
Since this is not strictly about Macrobiotics, I will not give a complete explanation of the principles. What I will say is that Osawa and Kushi’s principles were also aimed at making the world a more peaceful place. Refined sugar is certainly one problem. Refined sugar consumption has been linked to violent behavior, hypertension, and learning impediments. In one study violence in prisons declined after refined sugar and starch was eliminated from prison diets. In 1991 Singapore banned sugary soft drink sales from all schools and youth centers, showing the danger that sugar poses to the mental and physical health of children.
I have found no evidence that the consumption of red meat leads to violent behavior, like with sugar, but I certainly want to avoid steroids and other medications fed to the animals, and the negative energy that accumulates in the animals as they are kept and killed in inhumane conditions. I want nothing to do with the suffering of these unfortunate beings or the people who inflict the suffering. It is very difficult to avoid all contact. Even though I do not buy meat, I buy from companies who also sell meat. I would rather avoid those companies also, but I practically have little choice.
I am not vegan, and would eat meat raised in ethical conditions like on Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms, food offered to me by friends, or animals hunted in the wild, but will not eat or feed to my children the majority of meat available. It is just much easier to avoid it all together.