When I was about four years old, I remember one of my parents' friends getting a kick out of asking me what I want to be when I grow up. With a big grin and bigger voice, I would shout up to him (he was also my parents' tallest friend), "I wanna be a vegetarian!"
I've yet to fulfill my childhood intention, but, other than the obvious suffering caused by raising and slaughtering livestock, there are several reason's I'd like to eat less, if not any, meat. There's the pollution caused by all the cows and pigs in the world releasing methane gas into the atmosphere. There's the fact that the amount of food required to raise an animal is disproportional to the amount of food produced, which really doesn't make sense with all the hunger in the world. And then there's all the diseases; bird flu, swine flu, mad cow... On the news a couple of weeks ago, it showed a man in his house, just below a spot in the mountain where infected livestock had been buried. He turned on his hose and the water ran red with blood. I can't help but notice a problem when shown something such as that.
That said, even eating vegetables, fruits, and plants, I can't take for granted that they are life forms as well. Having incarnated into this realm, we must eat something, but we should be just as grateful for the plants that contributed their offerings. Chong Go Sunim once said, his teacher, Zen Master Dae Haeng, whispered during meal time, "All eating is stilling."
Here's a bit of a silly song, by the Original Sloth Band, a 1970's jug band from Vancouver. It's about a guy who's developed a rather unusual relationship with the flowers and vegetables...
Just a reminder that they have feelings too!