The following excerpt is taken from an exchange of words between a brahman ascetic and Kassapa Buddha. According to scriptures, Sakyamuni Buddha had also declined to make vegetarianism a compulsory practice. Kassapa Buddha was the Buddha before Sakyamuni Buddha.
In the ancient society of India, the consumption of meat is considered impure and thus considered unbecoming for a religious person to eat meat. It is therefore a point of criticism that is often thrown at Buddhist monks, who beg for food and eat any food that is being offered.
If we look deeply at the Buddhist intent of spiritual practice and also the reply of Kassapa Buddha, then it becomes apparent that Buddhist are more concerned about the “inner” quality of spiritual practice and not fixated with “external showmanship”. In this exchange, the consumption of meat is deemed disgusting by the brahman ascetic and he critiqued the action as ‘Raw Stench’.
Let’s see what Kassapa Buddha said.
Killing living beings, hunting, cutting, binding, theft, lying, fraud, deceptions, useless recitations, associating with the wives of others: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat.https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/KN/StNp/StNp2_2.html
We should not misunderstand that Buddha is encouraging us to eat meat. I think, Buddha is trying to address a fundamental weakness of people. That is the tendency to be distracted by the “showmanship” of superficial actions of others and conclude wrongly whether a person is meritorious or holy.
In all practicality, I think it will not be wrong to say that our demand for meat drive the supply chain. However, not everyone can change or are willing to change their dietary habits/ craving.
From a Buddhist perspective, it is more important to change the mind. That is the root cause. Then it becomes a natural process of becoming less attached to meat and it’s taste.
Therefore, along the same line of logic, creating mock meat with soy protein because of craving is stenchful. Becoming arrogant because one is a vegan is stenchful.
The act of killing and hunting etc is clearly considered disgusting by the Buddha. However, the action of eating meat to sustain our life is not. I think this is Buddhist practicality or the “Middle path”.
It is fun to sit and contemplate the “apparent” contradictions. Perhaps we will gain some wisdom in the process.
May all be well and happy.