While studying zoology in my early twenties, my class on vertebrate zoology had strong impact on my thinking. I had started studying zoology as a student of philosophy searching for a greater understanding of the human condition. I reasoned that since humans are mammals, understanding mammals would further my understanding of humans. Further studies of the mammalian nervous system demonstrated inescapably that all mammals and probably birds physically sense the world in ways that are identical to the human experience. They experience pain the way we do. When our meat arrives at the slaughterhouse so exhausted from a terrifying it cannot comprehend, collapses on the ramp off the truck, and is jolted back to consciousness with a cattle prod, it feels the exhaustion and pain just the way a human would. Its sense of terror may or may not be human-like, but its eyes clearly demonstrate that it is terror, nonetheless. When the hen, its breast so distorted by breeding for size that it can no longer stand, has its beak cut off, and is stuffed into a wire cage where it can do nothing but stand stationary and defecate on its neighbors in the cage, the physical sensations it feels are closely approximated to what a human would feel under similar circumstances. I realized that large scale cheap meat manufacturing was completely unethical, patently immoral. People who purchase the product enable and perpetuate wholesale torture and its resulting misery on a scale unmatched in history. I became a vegetarian.

Decades later, I encountered Buddhism.  My vegetarianism was reinforced by the Buddhist precept advising followers to not kill sentient beings. Like many, I thought Buddhism entailed being a vegetarian. The Theravada canon demonstrates that this is not the case. The Buddha's position on eating meat is nuanced, but he was certainly not a vegetarian. It is clear that any acquisition of meat for dietary consumption must be done in a manner that produces minimal suffering to the animal. Several Buddhist traditions view vegetarianism as an ideal way of life, but few, if any, require it of lay people or of the monks. What is clear, however, is that the 16 ounce steak at the typical restaurant is morally problematic for many reasons.