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February 09, 2007


Richard Carpenter

Shaun, this is a truly beautiful post. I am inspired by your challenge to be a vegetarian, and humbled by your self-challenge to be healthy and lose weight. Through all our many conversations since you have become a non-meat-eater, I have understood and admired your reasons, but never felt the need to take them as my own. However, now, I would like to let you know that I am seriously considering it. But in all honesty, it is not that the idea of eating meat is starting to seem distasteful to me, rather it is that your awakening that has come from this experience and your call for a right and responsible relationship to nature daily, and now especially in this post, awakens me.

let us converse.

Reagan Pugh

I echo Richard, I have been pondering the idea ever since I read this post, it hasn't left me. Not because I have a guilty concience about eating meat, but because of the awareness that you write with.

I appreciate your admission that you cannot explain your new conviction as one of the "imagination" and I think the idea over all is one that is rarely heard - what if an abstinence from meat could in fact preserve my "higher or poetic faculties?" All of the sudden the decision transcends the steak section of the menu.

I'm interested sir, thank you.

dug hail

If you guys know me at all - and if our past exchanges have shown us anything - you know that my initial instinct here is to disagree. But i've read this through several times - and i have to say that each time i come closer to understanding and somewhat believing that there could be something here for my family.

But I'll need some help understanding some things...

First of all, in Genesis (9:3) God says, "Everything that lives and moves shall be food for you." I definitely don't think that God intended for His creatures to go to slaughter so we can enjoy a quick Big Mac. In fact, a slaughter should never be the end of ANY creature. He wants us to treat all living things with respect. But is He not making Himself very clear in this verse?

Christ eats fish and honeycomb in Luke.

Much in great part to Those Awake, Alex and I have been paying much closer attention to what we are eating - especially with regards to meat. We are researching how and where we can get meat that isn't pumped with hormones, genetically altered, and inhumanely treated. It is much more expensive but there is something to be said for truly knowing what is going into our bodies. This is where we are at. This is a step.

There is something to be said for proportions, frequency of meat consumption, and our state of mind.

Question: Thoreau writes, "...which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. The hare in its extremity cries like a child."

- What does he mean by "tenure"? Is paralleling the value of the hare to the value of the boy? I'm not sure I get this one.

Shaun, your honesty and conviction is inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

richard Carpenter

Doug, great comment. You and Alex and I have talked about this in the past and I think it's a great step. It's pretty much where I stand as well. (I'm referring to carefully eating good meat). Recently in a conversation with Shaun and Brian, the two vegetarians, they shared that their reasons for eating non-meat has very little to do with the, I don't eat anything with a face, or I don't kill any living thing. Rather, it is all about responsibility to life in general (Shaun and Brian, I hope I am doing you guys justice. Please correct me here if I am wrong.) In the case of our current food system, eating meat can be a pretty irresponsible thing. But if one could eat meat in a responsible way, that is, if it were from a heathy animal that was not ruthlessly slaughtered only after being pumped full of hormones and fed all kinds of awful things, then we're ok. This is what has me, the whole thing is about respect and responsibility and not about carnivores are the devil. And honestly, for me, it's not even about those poor animals have feelings. It's about care and stewardship of every thing we have-I should take care of my car, and my computer, and my dog, and my cattle-because they are all a gift.

As for the Thoreau quote, we'll have to leave that to Shaun.

dug hail

...care and stewardship, respect and responsibility... right on. That's where we're at. So Brian and Shaun - is this to say you would eat meat if it met this criteria?

Brian Rhea


This question came up in the conversation Richard mentioned, and my answer would still be no. I've been a vegetarian for so long now (9yrs 2mos) that I don't have any interest in leaving it behind.

Richard is right, it is about stewardship and care. I don't think carnivores are the devil and while I do believe choosing animal products that have been raised respectfully is better, I have to confess that I also believe not choosing meat at all is yet another step the direction of more mindful living. At least in the arena of food. Another step (and maybe it's even more mindful than being a vegetarian) would be to abstain from fast food.

One of my favorite things about Shaun's post is that it really does come down to connectedness and proper relations. For us, this has massive implications for our food choices. But it shouldn't end there. We have a word for people who don't eat animals. What about for people who refuse to wear clothes produced in factories with unfair labor practices? Or for people who only carpool, ride their bike or use public transportation?

dug hail

Sorry to pull the Christ card here guys- but, what does this say about His mindful living and connectedness?

Brian Rhea


I'm struggling with how to answer the question. As far as Jesus' connectedness goes, clearly he wasn't lacking in the department and we know he at least ate fish. So, there's an endorsement that is basically indisputable.

But, it is Jesus we're talking about and he probably practiced more mindfulness in tying his sandals than we do in our most exuberant worship or contemplative prayer.

This is only to say that Jesus did a lot of things that I will never be able to. I don't know if this gets anywhere close to a satisfactory answer...sorry Doug...let me know how I can be clearer.

s. o

Sorry to be out-of-pocket on recent comments. Thanks for all you guys have written.
Richard & Reagan - I'm so glad you're possibly thinking through the aspects of vegetarianism. Having those new "thoughts" is the first, best (and hopefully lasting) step.
Doug - thanks for your response and your family's growing committment of mindfulness!
As to the question of the "tenure" - I do believe Thoreau is making a connection between human suffering and animal suffering. Cafaro writes about this passage,
"Thoreau equates a true humanity with greater sympathy for all nature's creatures and with a deep appreciation of their existence. If causing unnecessary suffering or ending a life unnecessarily are prima facie wrong, then we should avoid killing animals, since we arguably get no important benefits from killing them, or at least no benefits that outweigh their losses."
To me, the Thoreau quote there just reveals one aspect of his view - the deep connection to nature, and a mode to honor an animal's existence.
NOW - this is not even close to Thorea's MAIN reasons for this thesis ... I think he relies on experience and his imagination more than this. (as the latter quotes reveal)

In light of Thoreau's appeal to the imagination ... I cannot see myself eating meat again. You asked about it in a different context - with care, stewardship, etc. - and while I would be thrilled to be there, I'm quite sure I would not eat meat. Like Brian mentioned, I'm already too used to the art of being a vegetarian, and unless there was a direct NEED (physically, spiritually) to eat meat, then I would not.

Similarly, the "biblical basis" for vegetarianism is not clear. I can't argue for it. I also can't argue for much of our modern life, as it is so vastly different. I can only point to my experience, the thought I can put into what I do with my body and what I eat, and how I treat God's creation - how I am a steward. I base my vegetarianism on thought & experience. BUT, I think a great case could be made for our modern food system vs. Jesus' call for compassion, mercy, love for all the world.
All that to say, I do believe that in my context and experience, vegetarianism is the good choice.

Brian mentioned other mindful actions that are good choices as well. Let's all just hope and pray for mindfulness; and then act!

dug hail

Thanks Shaun and Brian. I respect you guys more than you know and appreciate you sharing your hearts.

Brian Rhea

Doug, thanks. And speaking of Those Awake... 5:28 a.m.? You're hardcore.

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