Mention the word vegan, or merely just vegetarian, and some people want to run for the hills. There are not many people who haven’t heard of these words Vegan and Vegetarian, but for people who are on a Pagan path or people who are interested in pursuing a pagan path, they are often faced with the question: Should Pagans be Vegan? Or at least Should Pagans be Vegetarian?
When I think of Paganism, and spirituality as a whole, I think of a deep-rooted connection with the divine, and within that divine comes with it all of the beauties and treasures of life and of nature, and that connection extends to every human and creature that I share this planet with.
For me, to truly connect with Spirit is to connect with your deeper consciousness, to have a deeper understanding and realization that many people may not have been able to access yet.
It is truly a gift when we are able to feel that divinity is not only within ourselves, but all around us, in every form imaginable: Fellows humans, animals, plants, trees, flowers, rocks, the rivers and oceans, the gentle breeze that blows through the air, the fire that warms our hearts and earth that connects us to this incredible divinity.
This is the Pagan path in a nutshell. Pagans feel connected to the earth and everything in it.
Paganism is an earth-based path. It is seeing oneness and beauty in the earth and all that is within the earth. The earth is sacred and Pagans follow the natural cycles of nature. The Earth is seen as a pagan’s temple, the trees and plants and animals are seen as divine brothers and sisters, and both a male and female deity are worshiped.
It is intended to be a very peaceful and deeply spiritual path, and most pagans that I have met in the past are just that: Peaceful and calming, but also aware of the many ignorant beliefs about Paganism
We’ve established how Pagans feel about the planet, the earth, nature – whatever you wish to call her. But what about the creatures that co-exist with human life?
Pagans naturally love animals. They feel an infinity towards them, because they are one of the representations of nature, which is already loved and respected so much.
So how do Pagans feel about eating meat, and even more to the point, should pagans be following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle?
I’m going to be exploring this question from both sides of the coin, and then talking a bit about why I, as a Nature loving spiritualist, who identifies with a Pagan path, chooses to eat a vegan diet.
Vegan and the Planet
Just in case there is any confusion: A vegan diet is when no animal products are eaten (meat, fish, eggs, dairy, gelatine and honey) A Vegan diet encompasses a lifestyle, rather than just a diet.
Vegetarianism is when meat and fish are abstained from, but dairy and eggs are still eaten.
Some vegetarians will eat only eggs from ethical sources such as pet chickens, but still abstain from meat, fish and dairy.
Many people are switching to vegan or even just vegetarian diets for health reasons, crediting the plant-based diet for things like weight loss, clearer skin and reversing disease, to name but a few.
Going Vegan or Vegetarian for ethics and the environment are also huge factors for people choosing a more plant-based way of eating, especially since the release of films like Cowspiracy and Earthlings.
In fact, in the UK alone, within the last two years, vegan figures have increased by 700%, resulting in 7% of the population now identifying as Vegan.
By choosing a vegan diet, you are, among other things, helping to conserve water, protect land and animals, prevent deforestation and make more land available to grow crops.
When seeing how much good it does for the planet (what we in theory worship) how could we as Pagans not want to support the Vegan way of living?
Paganism and the Earth
The first thing that springs to mind is the meaning of Paganism: an earth-based religion or earth-based path. Pagans celebrate the cycles of nature, the changing of the seasons and the moon phases. To a Pagan, these nature changes are delightful, and the natural happenings within nature are there to help guide and advise us.
If the earth is that important to a Pagan, it would be automatic thinking to assume that Pagans deeply care for the earth, and this is true!
Treading lightly on the earth and treating her with kindness and respect is one of the key foundations to Paganism.
However, if you knew that something was harming the earth so greatly, and that you had the power to stop it, would you?
Would you as an earth worshiping Pagan take notice, and step up and make a choice?
One of the hardest things to hear is that you cannot be a meat-eating environmentalist, and even though I was not a member of Greenpeace, or someone who would chain myself to the trunk of a tree, somewhere inside, as someone who identifies with Paganism, I knew that I simply couldn’t ignore it.
If you care for the planet, you may have heard that the most efficient way that you can contribute to helping to save it, is to not eat meat, and seeing as Pagans respect and love the earth so much, shouldn’t more Pagans be adopting a meat free lifestyle?
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that an estimated 7.3 million hectares of forests are lost each year, in order to utilize the area for buildings, wasteland and grazing animals etc.
It is also estimated that in 100 years, there will be no rain forests left!
The above two statistics that I have quoted are two of many scary and harsh truths regarding deforestation and global warming!
Okay, so you may be thinking “this is a sad fact, but how does this relate to meat eating?”
Well those trees that are being cut down to use as pasture lands for grazing animals?
Those grazing animals are your meat!
In fact, according to an article published on the Meat Free Monday website, an area the size of Italy was cleared in 2017 – just to raise cattle for meat consumption!
Despite this fact, impoverished communities are also been robbed of possible land in which crops could be grown to provide healthy food sources, but instead these green spaces are been used so that animals raised for meat can graze!
If this information doesn’t alarm you, then surely the fact that forests are being cut down at such a rapid rate, and for no good reason, should sadden you?
It is very easy to get hold of resources, research and scientific studies over the internet, explaining just how bad meat consumption is for the environment, but still many people don’t bat an eyelash.
As Pagans, we regard the earth as our home, our temple, our place of being, a place where we see divinity, how can we possibly ignore these alarming statistics, and the figures that I am mentioning in this article are only the tip of the iceberg!
One statistic which shocked me, was one found on Cowspiracy’s website:
“Animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions”
It doesn’t sound like a lot, until you read that the fact of 18% is more than all the combined exhaust fumes from all transportation!
By consuming meat, a person becomes a part of this statistic, and if humans do not drastically decrease their meat consumption, it’s going to increase year after year!
As Pagans, we should be the first to raise our hands to try and decrease these statistics!
The Wiccan Rede
The Wiccan rede states ‘and harm none.’
It doesn’t say ‘and harm none, except animals’, and many Pagans take it upon themselves to choose as to how far they will take that statement.
Some Pagans think it should include animals, and some don’t. I have even come across some Pagans who choose to apply it only to mammals.
Many people think that by not killing the animal themselves they are not contributing to the actual ‘harming’ of the animal, but simply eating something that has already died.
The thing is, is that we vote with our dollars. If we purchase something, we are funding the industries that are responsible for putting that product on the shelves, and thus are indirectly causing harm.
The Spiritual Factor
If there is one thing that I have always struggled to comprehend, it’s how a deeply spiritual person can consume animal flesh.
As Pagans, we are automatically spiritual people as we deeply feel that oneness and connection with others, with the planet and animals.
Taking that spirituality further, wouldn’t it be correct in saying that we care not only for the divinity around us, but within us as well?
I know I do, and I want my spirit and my psyche to be as clean and as pure as I can.
Taking into account that as human beings, none of us are perfect or above anyone or anything else, but keeping our bodies, minds and souls as clean, clear and as positive as humanly possible should be a priority in every Pagan’s life!
Animals on factory farms live short and brutal lives. From the moment they are born, their deaths are planned. They are scared, petrified and in pain, and bear in mind that the cheaper the meat you buy is, the more brutal the slaughter of that animal was, as everything is done as simply and as cheaply as possible with no regard for the animals well-being.
Hygiene is also an issue. So are medicines and anti-biotics that were ingested by animals, and the quality of food that they ate while they were alive. – because that will have a direct effect on you when you eat that animal flesh!
The bottom line is, do you really want to be ingesting all this pain, fear and suffering?
Any Pagan knows that something like this would deeply affect us.
At the end of the day, aren’t we all connected?
Arguments for eating meat
Why abstain from eating animals when plants are equal in divinity?
True, after all, plants grow, live and die, and many Pagans defend eating meat, saying that plants are also alive just like humans and animals, but yet we eat them as well?
What about the plant’s feelings?
The thing about plants, is that unlike, animals and humans, they don’t have a central nervous system. They cannot feel pain, so while it may be highly disrespectful to cut trees down or deliberately trample on flowers, they are not sentient beings who feel pain, fear and love.
We’re all part of nature and we’re all animals. It’s a natural cycle of nature.
Isn’t is natural to do what nature intended?
Sure, but what do you consider to be natural?
Natural to me, is when a lion, who was genetically built to outrun, capture and eat it’s prey, will then have his snack right there in the wild – flesh, blood and bone! However, what I don’t consider natural is when animals bred in captivity, where they are artificially inseminated just so that more animals can be born into a life on a factory farm where they will be tortured and killed in the most brutal manner, and then reduced to little bits of what is considered ‘edible’ in a little cellophane package.
Then we move on to the hunting side of things.
Many Pagans argue that by hunting their own food, not only are they obtaining their ‘food’ naturally but they are not contributing to the commercial factory farming industry.
This is indeed very true, however it still doesn’t detract from the fact that by taking an animal’s life, you are still taking life. You are disrupting Eco-systems and the natural order of animal families in the wild.
Does Spirituality mean something different for everyone?
When I think of Spirituality, it goes deeper for me. When someone claims to be a deeply spiritual person, I listen, not so much as to what they say, but what they don’t say.
You can tell me over and over again as to how Spiritual you are, and how you meditate every day, and how connected you feel, and my personal favourite – how you practice peace and love to all, but if your mantra of ‘peace and love to all’ does not include animals and the environment, I simply cannot take you seriously as a spiritual teacher.
I recently came across a ‘spiritual teacher’ who spoke beautifully. This person spoke of love and peace, and calmness within one’s life. Spoke about compassion for one another and the planet, and all doing our bit for the environment, but then in the next breath, this person announces ‘OMG bacon!’
It really saddened me. All those lovely words that were before were just ruined by this one comment. It just makes no sense as to how can you speak of love and peace while consuming bacon of all things?
It just not the sort of thing, that I as a spiritual person would want in a spiritual teacher. To me, it just goes against the true essence of what a peaceful and spiritual life stands for.
So, back to the question, should all pagans be vegan or vegetarian?
It’s seems that this is a question that does play on the minds of many Pagans, and there are different reasons and opinions as to why Pagans should be or shouldn’t be Vegan, or even why it doesn’t matter.
At the end of the day, we all have different viewpoints, and if you are part of a coven where the other people don’t share your viewpoints, you have the right to leave – that’s what I did!