That’s of cause a topic, which leads the whole Buddhist community permanently to an issue of discussion and to speculate.„Buddhism and diet: Do Buddhist have the right to take something from animals?"
It’s maybe a little generalize and there are also Buddhists who nourish in a vegan way. For example: why do we take milk form cows, which is in its proposition not for us, but for their calves. Meanwhile they are lesser and lesser treated to the milk of their mother, but cuddled up with other fluids, fatted and murdered. Of cause not from Buddhists, but in feeding on milk and the products out of it, we also accept the killing of calves or the sweating of the cows! For sure, in the times of Buddha it wasn’t that extreme, but today it is!
It’s the same with eggs from chicken and other bird, which should result as their offspring. While we eat them, we accept the killing of male chicks. If we eat for example one egg a day, there would except 70 chicken being abused and killed and male chicks of the same amount after hatching been pureed or gassed.
Even if monks have to eat all which was offered to them, it would be easy for lay people to bring it home and change it! Of cause Buddha refused to let his monks become Vegetarians, but in those days there was no factory farming and also laypeople would not had eat meat every day or given to monks. It is something that quarrels inside of myself since a longer time; how to handle this: As the Buddha had given the precepts to everyone, I guess it is necessary to think about it nowadays.
What is your view?
Even if it may sound strange, but it is exact the anchor-less situation which leads where it should lead to. We can also say, that it’s the force to constantly change ones livelihood and eventually bring it to an optimum, whereupon the optimum is not found in nostrums, nostrums which regard less or even no mindfulness.
Basically we have to discern between eating meat and crave for meat and thereby keep or eyes on compassion (virtue). This compassion can be of much value to help ourselves to get engage with our actual problem and this is actually our hunger or thirst (i.e. greed, craving).
If there is no craving, there is no suffering, neither for us nor for ourselves. If there is no craving for meat, there is no share on the death of a being.
Now we could come to the conclusion – and there are enough who think in this way – that the solution could be found in a vegetarian or vegan craving. To abstain from the pleasure of meat is for sure a well first training, if somebody is strongly consumed to the pleasure out of it. But as it is the case, greed and the suffering that is conditioned by it, appears as a utterly law of nature, which will become clear if we spend some honest thoughts on: how many living beings need to be systematical destroyed – not to thing on their habitats, which we take from other being (animals) – to come to vegetarian food? Although there are no clear references in the scripts, that plants themselves are no living beings and not part of Saṃsāra (to uphold an opposite look for example "Vāsettha Sutta" MN 98, where plants are mentioned in the devolution of becoming).
There are even remarks, whereupon plant are classified on a very holly level, if one likes to start with a discrimination of life forms in Saṃsāra (some scientific studies can be found in Plants in Early Buddhism - the Far Eastern Idea of the Buddha Nature of Grasses and Trees) . There are many who construct diverse ideas about sensitivity, no sensitive or sentiment beings, and believe that there is no problem in hurting a living being which is not able to feel. But also in the famous Ahi – Sutta (AN 4.67), which Buddha provided his disciples to protect them against harm – after a monk died, caused by a snack bite – does not allow any discrimination between different kinds of live:
May all creatures (sata),
all breathing things (pāṇā),
all beings (bhūtā)
— each & every one —
meet with good fortune.
May none of them come to any evil.
This wish, this kind of unlimited goodwill naturally can only be developed in a livelihood which makes it possible to adopt a way of acting which is in accordance with this thought. Otherwise it would be just an hypocritical attitude, which would cause you stresses and strains sooner or later and would not protect at all. Anyway, it is important to keep the measure in regard to ones honest conscious about what is spotted as a being, without letting this measurement being a comfortable excuse.
The more circumspectly the consciousness in regard of the plurality of fellow living beings grows, the more pure it matures that it is not really the kind of food that actually matters, but more over a matter of how one comes to his food. It is always intention that leads to an act and that is also the place where we should or need to work.
So moderation and reduction of sense desires has priority in the Buddhist practice, adverse models or ideas which would enable us to rest and give real virtue a lesser rank. "Live feeds on live." That is a truth, which the Buddha-to-become – according a story – realized with horror as a he was a child, taking part on a harvest festival with his king father. He could not share the joy of the people while he observed the oxen struggle in the field and while the plough demolished everything running into it. Sitting aside and watching the nature he observed: The insect feeds on the flower, the frog feeds on the insect, the snake catches the frog, the eagle assails down on the snake, the hunter shoots the eagle and the remains of the hunter will feed the flower in the future.
With this determination, the whole mass of suffering in the world becomes clear and broad and with it inevitably emerges the aspiration which lies behind the Noble Eightfold Path: The escape from the wheel of rebirth and death, the sealing of anadipsia for identification, the ending of craving, possible even in this very existence.
To concern oneself intensively and honest with the food chain, seeing oneself being a part of it and facing the suffering, is equal in meeting the heavenly messenger. Whoever meets the three heavenly messengers (aging, sickness and death) face to face and has the fortune to come in contact which the teachings of the Buddha (which would be the fourth messenger), will in all probability start to develop right view, which is the entrance of the eightfold path.
"And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view."
— DN 22
Here the „Knowledge with regard to stress“ is the unavoidable ascertainment that all compounded things, all which has come to birth is subject to aging, sickness and death and it’s also clear that all this things are subject to suffering. The food chain underlies the chain of codependent arising – “the origination of stress” – and the fact, that there is also a changeable cause in depending arising mentioned the “cessation of stress” as a possible solution and turns out to the “the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress”.
Right view is the forerunner on the Eightfold Path and is responsible if the practice is effective and successful or not. As long as we seek for an way around it and run after it, we secretly keep the view that there is an worthy alternative to the Eightfold path. The believed alternatives divert us constantly from the path and lead us often to seeking refuge in philosophical bears to justify or intentions.
Right view lead without fail to right intention (resolve):
"And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve."
— SN 45.8
Here we find already the first appendages to improve the situation in regard of nourishment, which is the forerunner of compassion but also of wisdom: “The resolve on on renunciation and the resolve on harmlessness”
Right intention is the origin of right speech, right action and consequently lead to right livelihood. All these path factors are turning around on right effort to bring them into a perfection in which a kind of virtue is developed that makes our mind easier and protects us form additional defilement (mostly very subtle and unconscious) out of the everyday life, as well as it takes more and more regard on other beings.
One might think that right speech does not act a part in regard of food, but we will see, that right speech in terms of questions like “how should I feed?” may have a lot of influence, for example if there are given recommendations.
"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech."
— SN 45.8
In right speech are the two elements, intention to renunciation and the intention to harmlessness included. As it seems, our society has naturally developed a kind of intention to abstain form harming and hatred as well as harmfully ways are broadly considered as something negatively and sorrow inductively among the most people. That is why we do not find any alive animals on our meat markets today, as it is still usual in the most countries of Southeast Asia. On one hand it’s a nice situation but on the other, it’s a very trappy jugglery, which leads us easy into illusion, if we would not be heedful investigate beyond the suggestion around us. There has been developed a broadly demand on “clean” food, but it is the nature of market to feed on craving and this greed seeks for its ways anyway, as well as craving seeks for ways to increase market to escape from obvious critics. However, the decision is due to whom who leads an action, where ever he might be in this moment.
Through nice packing and through manufacturing till reaching unrecognizable conditions, the complexity of this lie easily suggest many, that we live in a very cure world but the suffering behind is just banished and hidden behind the walls of our palaces. For a virtues Person, it would be easier possible to come to food in a wholesome way anywhere in an “undeveloped” Country, as he would and could take care of the whole process till he gains food by himself, if he is mindful. If he feels the need for a coconut, he is able to climb carefully up the palm and is able to gain some food without hurting countless beings or even kill them. As for the “modern” Human, who has become the victim of his own snugness over the centuries, it has grown much more difficult, even if the most people from poor countries would regard their way of live much lesser sorrowful. How comport is able to “avenge” we are able to face this nowadays easily, thinking on lifestyle-related illnesses and diseases and we will also be able to draw the line to the appearance of a multiplicity of psychological diseases.
Now there are numerous lies or excuses we favor and adopt, which displace the wise way of renunciation and modesty iteratively. One of those would be “If you are compassionate, do not eat meat”, which leads till vegan diet and all its health and providing stresses, as well as to countless new discoveries, rejections and with it to a mass of time waste. At least it runs out into some ascetic self harming perversions. Next to the running refrigerator, special manufacturing and the business boom of diet for those who like to be the good, it’s easy to lose sight of the burning rainforests in our world, which are at least the places where all saints of the three times have been (and maybe will) developed and gained their wisdom, and now are systematically cleared and disappear step by step as well as their inhabitants, not less for the sake - many might call - “the good”.
Now there are also constantly growing ideas of gently killing and “species-appropriate” husbandry and rearing of “food”, which is of cause attached to feelings of pity and guilty but for sure not with thoughts of compassionate origin. Therefore it is very important issue to explain the aim, the underlying intention and kind of acting of a disciple of the Buddha very exactly and haunting, not display a lie which causes much more misery, more as if one would to abstain from giving any advice.
That across-the-board ideas are leading also to enmity is also easy to seen, if we look to the ongoing discussions of the different schools about “what a Layman and a Monks should eat”. And here we find the third aspect of the right intention “freedom from ill-will (free from enmity)”. A struggle of “who is the more compassionate” and forgetting just to focus on one’s own virtue (which is more secure that ideas of compassion) as well as unexplained criticism on the livelihood of others, can (and do) lead to long-lasting antagonism. We are all not perfect yet and only less of us are living according to the highest virtue aside of the ordinary live.
Therefore is very good to remember the own right intention and to internalize it entire, as it operates on both sides of the coin – aversion and passion – and this provides the mean that leads to success, aside of extremes, on the middle path and is pulling on the real cause, by coeval letting go of hypocritical thesis and putting things into action. Sometimes it’s even necessary to stay silent about nourishment, if someone's capability of comprehension is lacking.
If we continue form speech to action, it’s clear that not-harming not-killing is the highest precept in our training. But it is also nessesary to keep in mind “We are not perfect yet, but we are earnestly willing to sharpen our ways” Here it is important to see the intention in relation to the present understanding – the awareness – to find the right solution. And we do best if there are fewer speculations.
"And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity. This is called right action."
— SN 45.8
If we are in the situation of a laity live, we will try our best to abstain from taking life. Now there could be the case that someone is building the bridge, that he is not killing if he is buys meat form the butcher or from the supermarket. This bridge after it is erected, breaks down, when we consider if the butcher would slaughter pigs if there is nobody who appetite for its meat.
The intention and it's caused desire do have - even it looks indirectly - direct impacts. It may look different if somebody offers meat out of a non-commercial intention (e.g. emergency slaughter or death of a animal). There is also no real reason to reject an offer of meat if it is given without intention of gaining a return and if it does not draw a disconcerted picture to others. If friends or benefactor just hold the believe, that one would like to eat meat but is just not allowed to kill, it could be easy that this offer has an unwholesome intention behind. So there is no way to go around the necessity to declare ones attitude towards life exactly, if one does not like seeing others be forced to unwholesome deeds as well. This will also close the backside door of dispending responsibilities and keep us working on our desires and the roots of it. If we know that somebody is killing or orders to kill for our own sake, we would not only except, but also nourish it and gain our sure share of it. So a meat faddist is not able to rest behind a well expressed and maintained excuse without burden his conscience knowingly or unaware. The same way would work for the vegetarian faddist, if he would refuse offered, and reject whatever is near.
Hence it grows clearly, that one automatically will eat relatively less meat, even one does not abstain form eating meat, but by “only” abstaining form taking live.
Regarding the vegetarian nutriment, it’s maybe good to keep „abstaining from stealing” a little in mind. The closer food might be, the lesser one would take something which is owned by others respectively causes others heavy burdens. The regional seasonal vegetable might be a little beside of one’s amenity, but do not carry that much unwholesome side effects, as it would, if we demand on exotic fruits from oversea. From our neighbor (that might be our farmers and farm shops) we know more exactly how they come to be able to sell their grown food. We might be not shocked – as we might have experienced already well – that on most places, where food is produced low priced, there are less till no thoughts on sustainability and ethics.
But it would be naturally also another "lie into the pack", if we would drive with our car to the 20 km remote bio farmer with the intention to reduce suffering, if we consider how many beings let live on the surface of the streets and on our windshield, not even thought of gasoline. Even so the safekeeping and preparation of our food has much adverse impacts on our environment as well as on other beings. Simply and nearby food, as well as lesser thinking ahead – in matters of fear: “Would I have to less tomorrow” – how one could gain his food is mostly much more wholesome as to develop complicated systems of supply.
Hereunto a little anecdote of Ajahn Fuang would explain the buddhist attidute very accurately:
Once a woman who had been studying with him for only a short while decided to prepare some food to donate to him. Wanting to make sure it would be something he liked, she asked him straight out, "What kind of food do you like, Than Phaw?"
His answer: "Food that's within reach."
If one spends his live in the country, it’s probably easier to choose the ways of coming to food in accordance to his virtuous development. Living here on the countryside maintaining oneself more from fruits and unfertilized eggs and shared milk could be a possibility to relay on actions in matters of food, which are not that strain. Ultimately, things are more enjoyable if one has taken care of them by oneself and with conscientiously. It also develops appreciation and gratitude naturally.
And the third aspect of right action does not simply carry a message regarding sexually overindulge, but is again a hint to reduce sensual desire. We can keep on recalling to mind this aspect of right action in matters of food. And this is of cause the most important approach in matters of Dharma and food. Health and moderate form in a way a circle. Modesty secures health not only physical but mental as well. At least the reduce of unnecessary ingestion and abstaining from untimely food intake is a well known ancient practice, which does not only lead to one’s own welfare but reduces the sorrow of many other beings as well:
"Bhikkhus. Ariyan disciples in this Religion reflect thus:
"'All arahants, for as long as life lasts, eat at one time only and do not partake of food in the evening. They abstain from food at the 'wrong time'."
"All of you eat at one time only and do not partake of food in the evening. You abstain from food at the 'wrong time.' For all of this day and night, in this manner, you will be known as having followed the arahants, and the Uposatha will have been observed by you. This is the sixth factor of the Uposatha.
- AN 8.41 (Uposatha Observance, 8 sila)
as an natural extension of the basic gifts out of virtue:
"There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life [equal for the other 4 basic presepts]. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans...
- AN 8.39
To frame his meals on fixed times or even reduce it generally does not only have good impacts on our virtue and mindfulness. There is much truth behind the assertion that mindfulness and virtue is the greatest protector of other beings.
But it is also necessary to remark, that such things should not lead to feeling of helplessness, which happens only if our thoughts are too much attached to the past or the future. We can quite trust our natural gratitude, if we have to make a decision without ponder constantly all causes and effects outside, but concentrate on our intentions right here and now.
Over all we can withdraw, that if a person honestly deal with a subject of the Eightfold Noble Path, it is necessary to accommodate his livelihood that his conscience meet the requirements according to his perception and consciousness. A challenge which should be done sober-minded and step by step but not missed.
Although there are often other conventions and habits which are much more harmful for other beings as our diet and we should not lose sight of them as well. To lead a spontaneous livelihood in regard of food, but acting excessive in matters of all other sensual pleasures, we do neither improve our nor the situation of other beings.
With increasing modesty the necessary amass oodles of wealth allays and the everyday live grows more consciously and will lesser be parted to something we tend to separate in labor and leisure, a synthetic border between “that’s me” and “that’s my duty”. The “I” and the “must” are growing together and approach each other, and as will and self-identification are deeply connected with our suffering we lift the problem on both sides and bring them to a better, which is more according to reality and insight. The livelihood will naturally lesser be separated into live enforcement and live enjoyment, the daily live grows simpler and happiness grows naturally with its honesty.
"And what is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This is called right livelihood."
Regarding the maintenance and the daily business, Buddha advised his lay disciples in matters which kind of livelihood would lead to trouble and should therefore be not followed by earnest followers:
"A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison."
— AN 5.177
Here we can see that the Buddha did not take stock in to trading of living beings and obviously he didn’t want that such business is a matter of enrichment for his disciples, but he also mentioned to abstain, even form being ensnared with them. Even here one might come to the conclusion that vegetarianism might be the solution for this problems, but it could be that one loses track of “being not engage in business with poison” as without this big business we would rarely have food on our hypermarkets in our industrial days. Also the business with weapons might be also not considered well, if we look on the giant machines which clear and process our fields.
All that leads us on some demands to a very important aspect of right livelihood: honesty “having abandoned dishonest livelihood”
So the Buddha points out "the benefits to be obtained" in the Adiya Sutta (AN 5.41, that welfare can only be really enjoyed if one has “earned through his efforts & enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained” and “provides himself with pleasure & satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly” for himself as well as with those one should share.
No matter how great or small the possession and wealth might be, it’s amass through own effort and own power leads to a well-being, that does not burden the conscience, makes the mind more at ease and does - even if the wealth might decay one day – not lead to sorrow and pain.
It is obvious that the Eightfold Path invites to an ongoing process of advancement to gain the corresponding fruits. We are also able to see that the subjective situation of any person is different and underlies a constant changing and therefore it does not make sense to give any patent medicine to laypeople aside of the simply remarks which naturally foster into the right direction. We need to put effort to change our personal frame and necessarily need concern and to learn in letting go, to be able to render our livelihood accordingly.
Also it becomes clearer why monastic people are living like they live and why there are so many rules to be observed in matters of food if one joins the path of highest virtue and secure. This livelihood enables ahead (if one is already able to let go of all mundane things and the worldly way of live) to be not directly involved in problems of ordinary life, which does not necessary means that it is always done correctly. Also her we find imaginative bypasses around the highest livelihood: to nourish exclusively on what is freely given. Therefore it’s difficult for a monk if he does not spend his days in going for alms by himself, and do will burden his conscience. In our present society, where there is less understanding for “abstaining to be involved” – which is in fact directly operating – dominates and "engagement" is a leading word, it’s probably not always possible to follow the highest virtue, but also here intention and snugness are playing as a ruling matter to handle the key to a live with clear conscience. Also here it depends on the individual person, even it has more impact on others and therefore much more responsibility.
With right view at the back of one's mind and the suffering which is caused by taking what is not given, we now easier understand why those on “leftover” nourishing monastic and ascetics are traditional called “Prah karuna” (lord of compassion).
But also his ordinate disciples, who maintain their body on what is already taken to much but shared at least, who nourish on leftovers, the Buddha didn’t unfasten the cord and advised how one should consider food, even it is given without strings. Its best described in the Puttamaṃsūpama-Sutta (SN 12.63):
A Son's Flesh
"There are, O monks, four nutriments for the sustenance of beings born, and for the support of beings seeking birth. What are the four?
"Edible food, coarse and fine; secondly, sense-impression; thirdly, volitional thought; fourthly, consciousness.
"How, O monks, should the nutriment edible food be considered? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, have set out on a journey through the desert, carrying only limited provisions. They have with them their only son, dearly beloved by them. Now, while these two traveled through the desert, their limited stock of provisions ran out and came to an end, but there was still a stretch of desert not yet crossed. Then the two thought: 'Our small stock of provisions has run out, it has come to an end; and there is still a stretch of desert that is not yet crossed. Should we not kill our only son, so dearly beloved, prepare dried and roasted meat, and eating our son's flesh, we may cross in that way the remaining part of the desert, lest all three of us perish?'
"And these two, husband and wife, killed their only son, so dearly beloved by them, prepared dried and roasted meat, and, eating their son's flesh, crossed in that way the remaining part of the desert. And while eating their son's flesh, they were beating their breast and crying: 'Where are you, our only and beloved son? Where are you, our only and beloved son?'
"What do you think, O monks? Will they eat the food for the pleasure of it, for enjoyment, for comeliness' sake, for (the body's) embellishment?"
"Certainly not, O Lord."
"Will they not rather eat the food merely for the sake of crossing the desert?"
"So it is, O Lord."
"In the same manner, I say, O monks, should edible food be considered. If, O monks, the nutriment edible food is comprehended, the lust for the five sense-objects is (thereby) comprehended. And if lust for the five sense-objects is comprehended, there is no fetter enchained by which a noble disciple might come to this world again.
"And how, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a skinned cow that stands close to a wall, then the creatures living in the wall will nibble at the cow; and if the skinned cow stands near a tree, then the creatures living in the tree will nibble at it; if it stands in the water, the creatures living in the water will nibble at it; if it stands in the open air, the creatures living in the air will nibble at it. Wherever that skinned cow stands, the creatures living there will nibble at it.
"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered. If the nutriment sense-impression is comprehended, the three kinds of feeling are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of feeling are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.
"And how, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a pit of glowing embers, filled to cover a man's height, with embers glowing without flames and smoke. Now a man comes that way, who loves life and does not wish to die, who wishes for happiness and detests suffering. Then two strong men would seize both his arms and drag him to the pit of glowing embers. Then, O monks, far away from it would recoil that man's will, far away from it his longing, far away his inclination. And why? Because the man knows: 'If I fall into that pit of glowing embers, I shall meet death or deadly pain.'
"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered. If the nutriment volitional thought is comprehended, the three kinds of craving are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of craving are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.
"And how, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered? Suppose, O monks, people have seized a criminal, a robber, and brought him before the king saying: 'This is a criminal, a robber, O Majesty! Mete out to him the punishment you think fit!' Then the king would tell them: 'Go, and in the morning strike this man with a hundred spears!' And they strike him in the morning with a hundred spears. At noon the king would ask his men: 'How is that man?' — 'He is still alive, Your Majesty.' — 'Then go and strike him again at noontime with a hundred spears!' So they did, and in the evening the king asks them again: 'How is that man?' — 'He is still alive.' — 'Then go and in the evening strike him again with a hundred spears!' And so they did.
"What do you think, O monks? Will that man, struck with three hundred spears during a day, suffer pain and torment owing to that?"
"Even if he were to be struck only by a single spear, he would suffer pain and torment owing to that. How much more if he is being struck by three hundred spears!"
"In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered. If the nutriment consciousness is comprehended, mind-and-matter are thereby comprehended. And if mind and body are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple."
- SN 12.62
Considering on food leads right form the beginning through the four noble truth till the highest aim and release.
For the Buddha it was important that one observes his intentions constantly, as they are leading to actions which in result will form our consciousness equal as our world. The more solid the virtue division of the Eightfold Path grows, the better we are handling virtue in our daily live, the better will be our success in manners of meditation and the resulting insight. This will in return give rise to a naturally virtue as a matter of course. And who knows, maybe one day, as we might have pattern our ways with generosity toward to those who lead out of compassion the virtuous way of life, provided by the Buddha in his advised whole, we have gained the merits to be able to walk the holly way by ourselves. With patient we work step by step on our happiness, as well as for the happiness of all other beings.
Better than to relay on any thought construction is to be always honest to oneself, to one’s intentions as well as to his present situation and to improve all step by step with the right effort:
"One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one's right effort...
"One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one's right effort...
"One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one's right effort...
"One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one's right effort...
"One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one's right effort."
— MN 117
Or the whole teachings of the Buddha compressed in one sentence:
The non-doing of any evil, the performance of what's skillful, the cleansing of one's own mind: this is the teaching of the Awakened.
If one would be confronted with reproaches in matters of his diet – something which is brought to an absolute level in regards of what food (even through Buddhist teachers those days do so) and less according to what the Buddha wisely had taught - it’s from my point of view, never wrong to display the aims of the Buddhist practice thoughtful and with patient. One does not only support the prosperity and surviving of this ancient tradition, rather than to sharpen the borderlines between giver and receiver. In that way the whole solidarity inspires to grow into a better livelihood, with it's deeds for everybody taking part on it. Thereby it’s also not that difficult to confess if one is not prepared for one or the other renounciation yet while still pulling on both strings of the roots of ill at the same time: On greed – by practicing modesty - and on hatred – by practicing in abstaining form taking live. The successful practitioner is marked by what is going on in his mind and not by what is resting on his plate.
„You are what you eat. And if it does not harm, you conscience does not head.”
Even vultures are broadly mentioned as cruel beings in our culture; a certain mindset to act a little similar to a vulture might be not the most worse advice for a layperson. There are quite less beings who personalize a picture of compassion like those animals.
Next before the end here maybe a saying of Ajahn Fuang would fit:
"We human beings have long tongues, you know. You sit around and suddenly your tongue flicks out to sea: You want to eat seafood. Then it flicks around the world: You want to eat foreign cuisine. You have to train your tongue and shrink it down to size."
The original question is in a sense also directed on monastic people as well and can maybe be answered if we say in this way: The more people are understanding the way of the Buddha, the more it will be possible for monastic people to keep the rules while staying on one place which are not really made to stay (climate). Laypeople and monks as well as nons have direct influence on each other. If the generally understanding of compassion (which is at the beginning of cause leaded by expectation and attachments) grows mature with wisdom, monastic people would also find an easier way out of the antagonism of “wanting to help by not violating the precepts”, gaining the freedom which is necessary to work for the welfare of all beings and continuing this tradition for a long time. So it will be possible for them to practice without strings, not being involved and dependent on any deals and therefore able to teach the plain and straight Dhamma in the right way without restraint out of demand and freely.
The question „Do Buddhist have the right to take something from animals?” can be answered definitely with “No” and that is not limited to those who like to call them Buddhists. There is also never a reason to break one’s conduct of virtue for the sake of any task. Neither direct nor indirect does any being have the right to take something from another being. But we all have the duty to do our best in repaying our dept out of generosity of others and gratitude and work on reducing our desires, sharing what we already possess and make our step by step journey out of the circle of greed. All which is physical necessary for our quest to our own welfare and the welfare of all other beings, we should consider like the flesh of our only son and this should be shared with those walking the same way, may they walk ahead or behind of us. Merits are only increase-able if we abstain from unwholesome deeds at the same time, according to our natural possibilities. To take for the sake of giving does rarely carry any merit, in fact only relinquishing does lead out of the wheel and it’s the nature of the dynamic of the eightfold path, that in the case one does not have anything to share, it inevitably would lead him to strive for perfection to be able to stark to give for the first time in live. This happens if right view matures to a strong conviction out of understanding. Till this time, if one is not ready yet and not able to abstain form all the sensual pleasures of ordinary live, one would need to take care that taking and giving might find a balance and share surplus gaining where ever fructuous soil is be found.
May this simply word (and poor English) be from some benefit for your personal way and the welfare of all beings.