Peter wrote:The Buddha taught it is unwholesome to urge another to kill, that it is a violation of the fifth precept.
Does purchasing meat at a meat store constitute urging another to kill?
No, but it does constitute providing a livelihood
for killers of animals, torturers of animals, and it's a very big contribution to global warming, without a wholesome justification.
What if the man selling you the meat does his own animal slaughtering? That means he himself gets the money from the sale and he himself makes the decision to kill.
What if the man selling you the meat places orders from a slaughterhouse? That means he gets the money and then he urges another to kill.
What if the man selling is an employee of the store and not in charge of placing new orders? That means he takes your money but he doesn't get it. Rather he gets a set salary regardless of which items he sells you. It also means another person you never see looks at the total sales for the week and decides how much to order the next week in the hopes that the same number of sales will be made.
What if local sales numbers aren't looked at by anyone. Rather national averages are used to determine how much new meat is ordered?
What about buying vegetables in a store that also sells meat? That means economically supporting that store.
What about buying non-organic vegetables rather than organic vegetables? That means rewarding those who use pesticides to grow their food.
What about you, a doctor, treating the illness of someone who works in a slaughterhouse? By treating them you allow them to return to work.
At what point in the chain of relations and interdependencies is our behavior deemed wholesome or unwholesome?
What about giving money to a homeless person? They are likely going to spend that money on alcohol, a violation of the fifth precept. Is that act of giving unwholesome?
Even when it comes to farming, farming often relies on manure (which is produced by animal husbandry -- and the owners again often breed and sell livestock for meat), milk and all related dairy products tend to come from cow farmers who also breed and sell livestock for meat, and furthermore farming involves the killing of insects through field-plowing and the use of pesticides.
So, with both of our examples, we can see that there are problems with the extremes of moral absolutism, such as taking, "Do not kill," as a radical extreme or absolute. And that
is what I would say is the key problem. It's not that extreme vegetarianism or extreme opposition to vegetarianism is the problem, but rather, it's when people appeal to a certain fixed
standard out of craving and ignorance, without practicing discernment
to understand what is truly the middle way
, devoid of radical asceticism and hedonism.
"Do not kill" (which I would associate with humble vegetarianism) is a good guideline for skillful action, dependent on various observable factors of cause & effect. It is not, however, a divine issuance of absolute morality.