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Yoga Journal Attempts to Discuss Vegetarianism and Ahimsa


Kill and eat me, but do it humanely, O yogi

The May 2006 issue of Yoga Journal features an article by Kate Roth that attempts to grapple with the thorny issue of the fact that, although yoga has as one of its five main principles ahimsa, or nonviolence, and that since the foundations of yoga millennia ago that has meant the non-consumption of meat, only twelve percent of yoga practitioners in the United States are vegetarians.

Judging from the article, called tellingly “Caring Carnivore,” the answer is not that contemporary American practitioners are extraordinarily self-indulgent, over therapeutized, and unwilling to accept that sometimes you have to do things that make your life inconvenient. Oh no. It’s that yoga is about choice, about not doing violence to yourself or the prejudices of your relatives and friends. It’s about avoiding extremism and anger, and anything that smacks of a principle that might challenge someone else. While Howard Lyman and Sharon Gannon of Jivamukti Yoga are quoted, animal rights groups and speakers are assiduously avoided in favor of environmentalists and health experts.

In a representative example of the supreme narcissism and lazy passivity that makes up the world of touchy-feely, me-generation yoga, one interviewee, who gave up vegetarianism because her beloved but extraordinarily tyrannical grandmother refused to accept it, concludes the piece by reflecting on her choice to eat what the piece calls “humanely raised organic meat” (spot the absent referent there). “I like to think, 30 years from now, when [my daughter] is grown,” she says, “the government and the food industry will be more responsible and responsive to the concerns of people like my daughter. . . . And that thought makes all my stress worth it.”

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