Would the Buddha Be Vegan If He Were Alive Today?

Published February 22, 2020, Page Last Modified June 27, 2023

[June 27, 2023: My caveat for this post today is the idea of Toby Ord’s Moral Trade]

During his lifetime, Gautama Buddha was not a vegetarian. He accepted whatever food was offered to him as alms, including meat. However, the Buddha was alive during the 5th to 4th century BCE when the world population was approximately 100 million people (a). There was no such thing as a factory farm back then and the way humans raised and interacted with animals probably looked much more like this:

Fat tailed sheep, Afghanistan, 1976 (Ian Alexander / CC BY-SA)

Yangshuo, China (left), Horse traffic, Balkh, Afghanistan (right) from Asia Grace by Kevin Kelly

…than this:

Rotary milking parlours at Hemme Milch Wedemark, Lower Saxony (Foto: Thomas Fries, Lizenz: cc-by-sa-3.0 de)

Would the Buddha be vegan if he were alive today?

I’m tempted to say yes. If the Buddha lived in a developed nation in the year 2020, it’s likely that any dairy, eggs, and meat that would come his way would be the product of factory-farmed animals living in extremely cruel and stressful conditions. Given the Buddha’s goal to help end the suffering of all living beings, it’s hard to imagine that the Buddha would feel comfortable (even passively) supporting a system that actively inflicts pain on billions of animals each day. What do you think? An important caveat. Gautama Buddha lived in an era before Toby Ord came up with the idea of Moral Trade.

Buddha with monkey (myself / CC BY-SA)


Zuckerman, Andrew, "Would the Buddha Be Vegan If He Were Alive Today?", February 22, 2020, http://andzuck.com/blog/vegan-buddha/


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