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Yoga Teachers on Consuming Animals

Dietary Journeys, Barriers to Veganism, and Negotiating Ahimsa

In: Worldviews: Global Religions, Culture, and Ecology
Authors:
Jenny L. Mace The University of Winchester Centre for Animal Welfare UK Winchester

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https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8132-3447
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Steven P. McCulloch The University of Winchester Centre for Animal Welfare UK Winchester

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https://orcid.org/0000-0003-2161-1911
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Abstract

Yoga is a spiritual discipline originating from ancient India. Most notably, yoga has links with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. This research explores UK yoga teachers’ attitudes toward plant-based diets and beliefs about the moral status of farmed animals. It uses qualitative interviews as the second phase of a mixed-methodology study. In the first phase, an online questionnaire found that over two thirds of UK yoga teachers believed a plant-based diet was most aligned with their yoga practice due to the teaching of ahimsa, or non-harm. Nevertheless, over 70 % were not following a plant-based diet. Interviews revealed this dissonance was related to views about the necessity of consuming animal products for health, especially when pregnant, breastfeeding, or nourishing growing children. The communal nature of eating also meant that family moderated dietary ideals. Interviews further revealed an alternative conception of ahimsa, permitting the consumption of animals in order to prioritize personal non-harm.

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