"An it harm none, do what ye will" - just how far does this extend into our lives? Many vegan and vegetarian Wiccans believe that it extends to when we eat meat. Yet, eating meat is something many Wiccans do. How can these two viewpoints be reconciled? Does it really come down to personal choice?
Should Wiccans consume meat? The short answer is that it comes down to what you believe and which gods you worship. For some, meat will never be ok. But for those who eat meat, Wicca is not a forbidden path. Read more to find out why.
We Are Products Of Our Culture - And Sometimes, That Includes Meat
If you’re American (I am), then animal protein is likely a huge part of your life - and so are dairy products. We grew up hearing about the important role that milk, eggs, fish, and beef all play in strong bones and healthy immune systems.
While many people in the world do not eat animal protein, they’re still products of their culture. If eating animal products is taboo in their society, their diets and foods reflect that. They've likely been exposed to meat eaters and have formed strong opinions about the diet and foods that westerners eat.
Consider two cultures' foods and diet. In the United States, it is common to hit McDonald's for a late night cheeseburger, eat one from your uncle's grill on Labor Day, or even enjoy a nice steak on special occasions. These animal products are all delicious. Yet, in India, cows and other animals are sacred, and most Hindus follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. India has a long history of vegetarianism and many people view eating animals as barbaric. Why hurt animals? We need them just like we need the wind or water in nature and magic.
My point is that your cultural background - where you were born and raised - is more likely to influence whether or not a person's diet has animal products than anything else. Where you come from strongly influences your diet and what you believe about foods. There are millions of vegetarians and vegans out there who get all of the nutrition that they need from plants, not an animal product. And likewise, people who eat meat are not necessarily evil or bad.
Arguments For Vegetarian Or Vegan Wiccans
Alright, let's say that you're feeling called to turn away from foods containing animal products. Your gods, your beliefs, they're all pointing to vegetarianism. Most Wiccans will not take this path - but that's fine! You've got some strong evidence on your side:
- Vegetarians get all the nutrition they need from fruit, vegetables, and legumes while animals provide nothing useful
- Eating meat is likely to come with diet related health problems like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
- The planet is in danger - eating meat-laden foods makes it worse! Every time you eat a chicken breast or piece of beef, that causes greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming.
- You are less likely to get sick from poorly cooked food - as long as you wash your vegetables, your diet is safer.
- Many fruits and vegetables go to waste in supermarkets, so buying those helps out the supply chain
- A vegan diet forces you, by its very nature, to be creative with your food in the kitchen.
A vegan diet is a reflection of our beliefs as witches, and our bodies tend to be a reflection of the food we eat and the diets we maintain. Those who choose to not eat animal by products are living their morals out in the natural world by changing their eating habits. A vegan diet most of the time is better than a meat-eating diet most of the time - for food, for animals, and for health.
Arguments Against A Vegetarian Or Vegan Wiccan Diet
Generally, consuming meat is seen as a "lesser" sin than eating a sentient being as part of our diet. We're made to be omnivores, so why would we deny that part of ourselves? Most people can't maintain a vegetarian or vegan diet anyway, so why make the effort?
There are many reasons to keep a non-vegan diet. Humans are, by nature, omnivores. We came to power on this earth by hunting and gathering, not just farming. Our spirit is as much in respecting and honoring the death of an animal as it is in trying to live peacefully. Yes, to kill an animal is significant, but it's not necessarily a sin.
Many stories of gods and goddesses have the Sacred Hunt contained within. A hunt is a type of ancient magic lent to us from the ancestors. The energy and respect we have for hunting must be honored, even if we no longer take part in the killing ourselves.
On a more practical note, many Wiccans believe that their energy levels are better when animals are a part of their diets. Many struggle with body health and image when their diets are mostly carbs with little fat or protein. At the end of the day, meat is an easy way to get fat, protein, and taste into our meals.
How Do I Decide If I Want To Be Vegetarian?
When it comes down to making a decision of meat in your diet, especially if you consider yourself Wiccan and want to follow the Wiccan Rede, there are some things you should know. You must remember, whether or not you choose to eat animals is ultimately your own decision.
If you are deeply spiritual, which you probably are, then you should engage with the idea of vegetarianism well before you begin on that path. Make sure that you want to consume a vegan meal for the right reasons, and not because it's a fad or your friends are doing it.
Do some meditations on the role of food in your life. Do you love the fruits that you consume as food? Do you love the dairy products that you use to nourish your body? Do you enjoy a vegan meal of rice, beans, and vegetables? Or do you only feel fulfilled with a bit of fish and chicken in your life?
Is it ethical to consume meat in Wicca?
Not all meat consumption is unethical. You can choose to purchase or harvest meat that is ethically sourced, which is better for the earth and the environment. Free-range chickens produce better, more ethical eggs. There are small, local dairy farmers that will give you milk or cheese that is better for the environment, too. Just like magic, you can choose how you eat food and improve your diet throughout your life.
If you're coming from a place of respect, with a concern for your own health and wellbeing, I think you're bound to make decisions that improve animal welfare. This is true for your diet even if you don't completely give up meat. There are many plants that can provide protein, and many ways to consume meats, grains, and sugar without feeling bad about it. Nature is vast, and there are many foods that we can eat that don't cause loss of life or do harm to other creatures. Humans are, by nature, creative.
Vegetarians and vegans are just trying to respect the earth as they know and love it. Many Wiccans feel a strong love for the earth and its spirit, and so, they may choose to follow a mostly vegan or vegetarian life. But Wiccans are as diverse as any other humans, and as long as we're clinging to our tenet to "Harm None", I think we'll be alright.
What Does A Vegan Diet Include, Anyway?
The whole idea of a vegan diet is to avoid animal products entirely. It really is the embodiment of the spirit of "harm none", and most vegans will only eat fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other non-animal foods that don't hurt lives. Vegan Wiccans will eat a piece of fruit but avoid seafood. They will have some bomb-ass roasted asparagus, but will skip the eggs and dairy. Only a very small percentage of the world is vegan, with many more over identifying as vegetarians so that they can still enjoy eggs and dairy.
There are no statistics on what percentage of Wiccans are vegan, but I imagine that it's similar to the world's percentage breakdown - less than one percent. That's not to say many Wiccans won't enjoy the occasional vegan meal, but it's just hard to be completely vegan in today's world. The foods available to humans are so vast, and so many diets just have some form of meat or dairy food in them.
If you want to try a vegan diet, though, don't be afraid. You can get all of the vitamins you need from grains, fruits, and vegetables. Don't let the meat eaters scare you - vegan bodies are just as healthy as omnivores. Your body will be just fine on a vegan diet, and who knows - you might feel like you have more magic and wonder in your life as you're avoiding harm to living things. Just remember: our preferences, and diets, by nature, change through time. So don't be afraid to revisit your diet restrictions if the gods and magic are calling you to something different. The only judge of your choices is you. "Do no harm" is completely your interpretation, and no one else's.