I'm not sure what the person's spiritual path has been for h/she didn't say. I can only speak of my own, twisted walk up the slippery mountain of spiritual awakening.
Without going on endlessly about this teacher and that, and who and where, I will start with my first experiment with vegetarianism. I don't even remember how long ago that was, but it lasted a couple of years. Unfortunately, my motivations were, at that time, purely for health reasons. I didn't feel any better, so I gave it up. The next inroad into vegetarianism came many years later when I began following Sathya Sai Baba's teachings. After a year of struggling with his proclamation that he was "God incarnate, and so are all of us," I had a series of miracles in my life that was directly related to him. One of his teachings is strict vegetarianism—for compassionate reasons.
Well, I have always been appalled at the way our meat is produced and how the animals are treated. I am an animal lover and could no longer condone being a part of the problem. It just seemed spiritually contradictory to eat meat, so I quit. I didn't miss it at all. In fact, it opened up a whole new world of culinary art for me. I learned to cook vegetarian and loved it. I became very creative in the kitchen. But, being who I am, I couldn't just leave it at that. No! I had to go out and preach the good word about "meat is murder." I was unbearable to be around. I attacked people in supermarkets, preached whenever I could. Even threatened to divorce my husband if he touched meat. I was not a nice dinner guest. I was the worst kind of good works activist. I had a cause!
I included some dairy and eggs in my diet but was careful about where they came from and how the animals were treated. I should also mention that I was also a strict believer in whole, natural, organic foods too. No refined sugars, grains, or processed foods were allowed. Although I fudged on that one a bit when eating in restaurants.
So here I was, the Kali of vegetarians, a force to be heard! After several years of this, I had another "miracle" in my life. Sathya Sai Baba came to me and said, "EAT MEAT!" "But," I protested, "you say eating meat is one of the worst things we can do. What are you saying???" He replied with the most incredible compassion and joy, "It is worse to be attached to not eating meat than eating it." My attachment to my cause was a wall in my spiritual path. I had to let go of what I ate and just eat what my body tells me will nourish it. So, I started eating meat again. And, I also still enjoy vegetarian meals too. When I stepped out of my attachment to vegetarianism, I found that many enlightened beings eat, or ate meat. Yogananda was not a strict vegetarian, for example. Just as I don't believe that the unbaptized will go to Hell, I don't believe that non-vegetarians are barred from enlightenment.
My path has taken me along the Taoist route. Things just are. There is balance in the world and we are continually striving to find the "sweet spot" of enlightenment, or spiritual clarity. Death is just a part of life. We all feed on death. Even plants survive on the (at least in the natural world) soil that is made nutritious by the death of other plants, insects, and microbes.
When I was a vegetarian, slaughterhouses were not shut. Chicken and egg ranches did not change their evil ways. Stockyards were still filled with frightened, sick, and miserable animals. My measly efforts made no difference at all. However, eating meat or no, there has been progress in the treatment of animals in the years since I was on my soapbox. For example, thanks to an autistic woman, Temple Grandin, many slaughterhouses are now practicing more humane methods. PETA is pissing off people right and left. See: http://www.peta.org/actioncenter/ .
There is (or was, I'm not sure) a bill of rights for animals proposed in congress. Animal rights activists are making a difference. I think there was a law passed about the treatment of chickens. It may not be enough, but it is a real and definite start of something that can only continue to grow. Also, it seems that humane ranching and farming is a growing trend. I hope so anyway.
We are all governed by our beliefs. The ranter in my email has a strong belief that one cannot be spiritual and still eat animals. I used to be in alignment with that belief. I am no longer governed by it. I did not kill the animal and would not do so. If I had to live on my own, yes, I would probably be a vegetarian again, or at least a scavenger of road kill. Well, maybe not the roadkill thing. EEEEUUUU. As a human being in a simian body, I am an omnivore by physical nature (more about that later). As a spiritual seeker, I do not condone the inhumane treatment of animals.
As a spiritual being, I believe that we are NOT the body and that death is a natural part of our cycle of living. It is not the death of the animal, but the treatment of it that concerns me now. I work in ways to do my small part in helping to change the practices of those who raise and kill the animals that we eat. This, I think now is more important than simply not eating meat and wearing a badge of, "See how spiritual I am." I bless those who do both, not eating meat AND working to change the cruel ways in which our meat is produced. That is not my path. I will, and do eat meat. Not only at the dictates of the one who was my teacher, but by the dictates of my own beliefs about what is physically best for my current body.
When I was a vegetarian Nazi, I twisted facts around to suit my current beliefs. One was that Jesus was a vegetarian. Jesus, if he existed (Oh Yeah! Send me your angry letters about Jesus! I can take it), was probably NOT a vegetarian. Meat is mentioned often in the Bible. The Jews slaughtered (sacrificed) animals 24/7, well, maybe not on the Sabbath. Not sure about that and too lazy to look it up right now. AND, if he existed, JESUS WAS A JEW!
I also, like many vegetarian believers, twisted the facts about our physical bodies being omnivorous by nature. There is a very flawed article about the shape of our teeth and the length of our intestines proving that we were meant to be vegetarian. So not accurate. The article is often quoted, although I'm not sure where it originated, by the Jains (a Hindu sect). It states that:
Carnivores have claws for killing and that we do not. Not so. Although our finger and toe nails are not used for killing, they are in line with the finger and toe nails of other omnivorous apes. And, yes, most of them are omnivorous.
Carnivores have sharp front teeth for tearing meat and that we do not. Again, only partly true. Omnivores, like us, have both sharp and flat teeth for tearing, slicing, biting, and chewing both animal and plant foods.
Stomach acid in carnivores is twenty times as strong as that in herbivores. That may be true, but we are omnivores and produce a variety of stomach acids to digest a variety of foods. Our acids digest meats just as well as it does plant foods.
Carnivores perspire through their tongues. True, but we are neither carnivore, nor herbivore.
Carnivores have longer intestinal tracts. Biologically, we are inline more with omnivores than any other group.
Although the Internet abounds with everyone defending their own beliefs and calling them "facts," It just aint so according to science. See: http://www.biology-online.org/articles/humans-omnivores.html for some good info.
Now, all that aside, I believe that we, as 2 million year old opportunistic eaters, can live just fine without meat. And, I also believe it would be a better world if we did not include the mass slaughter of animals in order to keep us in bacon. But this isn't happening any time soon. In the meantime, I am following my spiritual, inner guidance and blessing my meat before I eat it (like the Native Americans traditionally do) and working physically and spiritually to raise consciousness about the treatment of food animals.
If Jan chooses to condemn me for my beliefs, then bless him/her. It is not up to me to criticize. And, I will continue to follow my own heart on this matter. If that same heart suddenly tells me to stop eating meat again, I will. But, until then, I am an omnivore on a spiritual path, working toward raising the consciousness of those producing our meat.
Om, shanti. Namaste, Prema Swarupa