Is Giving Badges to Boy Scouts Right or Is Mock Meat Right?

Of late, a couple of folks asked me about eating mock meat and all. Some friends did ask me about it as well in the past, and come to think about it, this is a question that had been asked, since perhaps the start of mock meat itself! It seems contradictory to actually advocate vegetarianism on one hand and on the other hand, fabricate realistic mock meat to satisfy one’s taste buds. Why should one do this? Why can’t we be real to ourselves and just eat meat or vegetables depending on our inclinations? Can there be a middle-ground?The main thrust of the counter-argument against mock meat is that if one were to choose to be a vegetarian out of compassion for animals, why would anyone still savour the taste and smell of meat and consequently create mock meat up to the extent of actually becoming an industry in itself. Wouldn’t one be hypocritical at best?

As far as hypocrisy is concerned, at face value, it may seem to be the case and that is where most people get stuck. They find themselves failing to rationalise to themselves the morality of eating mock meat. Are we still being compassionate to animals or are we outwardly compassionate, but inwardly cruel? Are we feigning kindness but really murderers at heart. Here, I would like to draw an analogy about Boy Scouts. Hopefully, it will help us see mock meat in a different light and enable us to become happy, non-sectarian vegetarians who are equally happy with leafy meals and those complemented with mock meat.

We know how Boy Scouts train and mold little boys into confident, rugged and intelligent individuals who delight in helping others and serving the community at large. Some of us are good natured at heart, and we incline towards helpfulness and kindness naturally without the need for reward or recognition. Some of us would even shun the limelight as goodness should be good enough in and of itself. There are others who instead, need nurturing to develop or bring out that goodness in them. This nurturing can come in the form of Boy Scouts training where they are required to participate in regular community services in order to progress on their ‘career’ as a scout.

Such external motivation steers them towards participating in the act of helping others while lessons inculcate the value systems conceptually. Over time, such good naturedness can become ingrained and at the later part
of their life as an adult, some may continue to help others even without the need for rewards or recognition. Some may still require that even later in life while others may even need more prodding since peer pressure’s influence could have weakened by then. Still, as long as it works, at least the needy and desolate are being helped. While it would be ideal to have everyone to be helpful and charitable without material rewards or recognition, at the very least, help is still rendered and effective even when some rewards and recognition are needed. The presence or absence of rewards or recognition does not and should not diminish the fact that help is received; at the most, it perhaps reflects on the moral or spiritual maturity of that person, but who are we to judge anyway?

In a similar way, there are those of us who are inclined towards vegetarianism naturally while there are others who aren’t. Some need a bit of incentive or substitute to pick up the new habit or diet. Mock meat is one such incentive for some. For them, they may actively need that comfort zone as a ‘migratory path’ from being a non-vegetarian to being a vegetarian. While such substitutes avoid a direct link between meat and one’s meal, clearly the Buddhist application of vegetarianism does not stop there. It is not an end in and of itself. Vegetarianism serves as a practise to help develop compassion. The right contemplation that should accompany vegetarianism is to reflect on all sentient beings as one’s mother (or father, siblings, etc) and in that light, break the notion that “chicken is farmed for food”, that they are merely “livestock”, but are fellow sentient beings. In that aspect, then vegetarianism goes beyond the meat and the meal, and nourishes one’s heart with compassion. Seeing vegetarianism correctly as a means to compassion and not an end in compassion itself, one would then also realise that a person who is not a vegetarian is not necessarily uncompassionate, for afterall, there are many paths towards compassion. Seeing the fault at both extremes, one would not fault those who need mock meat nor mock those who take meat.

The other argument is that the alternative to mock meat vegetarianism is natural vegetarianism. NV is coined in by me to describe a somewhat vegan diet, except that one does not eat any mock meat at all. Proponents for NV sometimes counter that it is both healthier to eat NV and at the same time better for the mind, since one is not engaged in the taste, smell and perhaps form and texture of meat. Mock meat is often heavily processed and flavoured to mimic the form, smell, taste and texture of meat, so it is probably safe to say that mock meat as a whole is probably less healthy than a NV.

According to various unscientific studies (conducted on myself over the past 7 years), I’ve found that taking mock meat on a moderate level neither improves nor impedes health. For some folks, breaking the monotony of green-vegetables with a bit of mock meat may actually serve to increase appetite and result in better nutrient input from the greens. Being a good monk 😉 , I eat what is given and don’t reject nor hanker for mock meat. Neither do I need mock meat to whet my appetite since the one main meal per day regime guarantees a certain level of hunger by late morning the next day. Granted, the monasteries I’ve stayed in over the past few years serve a good mix of green leafy vegetables, beans, roots, herbs and mock meat, so I don’t really see any unhealthy balance that might result. I dare say that moderation in food is key, mock meat or greens alike.

I hope that through this simple article, we get to appreciate mock meat and perhaps vegetarianism at another level and perhaps see them in a different light. For myself, I’m an alms-eater and as long as it is allowable and given at the appropriate time, I would consume it, and that includes vegetables and meat, mock or otherwise.

11 thoughts on “Is Giving Badges to Boy Scouts Right or Is Mock Meat Right?”

  1. This is somewhat similar to chewing nicotine gum by those who are trying to quit smoking. Seen in this light, mock meat is like an aid to transition. On the other hand, from a purist point of view, if one wants to be a vegetarian, why still hanker for meat in imitation or other form?
    My own suspicion: its very boring just eating vege and fruits only. Variety is the spice of life! If one is not supposed to eat meat (for compassion reason), then it is alright to eat mock meat since no animal is killed! So, this lead to a question: Isn’t eating mock meat satisfying the desire for real meat without the guilt (of killing)? If this is the case, it is indeed a mockery.
    For me, unlike the good monk, if I go fully for vegetarian, it is for health reason. So mock meat or not is not an issue since compassion is not a factor here. In the natural world, all living organisms are part of the food chain – animals, plants, etc. In cannibalism, man eat man! Maybe we shd come up with mock man!

  2. Thanks George for your comments! 🙂

    Yes, you can see mock meat as a nicotine gum, and you are right about the purist point of view as well. And that’s what I am saying, that in reality, purist concept don’t always apply. Ideally, people should just know what to do, but in reality, we don’t always know. And as a transition, at least by eating mock meat, they are moving one more step towards vegetarianism.

    Yes, if that is indeed the case, then it is a mockery, but that is not the case. As I said, it is meant as a
    migratory path, a transition.

    As for being natural and all, many things are unnatural. Our spectacles are unnatural as well. Are we going to throw them away? The key thing is, how does being natural or unnatural help bring about more peace and happiness.

    And on mock man, yeah, if cannibals can adopt mock man, then it might be a little less gory. Last I check, you are not a cannibal right? 🙂

  3. I have no issue with vege, fruits, nuts and animals – be they cats, dogs, pigs, cows – which some religions forbid eating them. I have no issue with man too!
    I guess being a vegetarian is not so difficult – just eat vege. I think it will take more than compassion to be humantarian …. to just eat human!

  4. oookaay George … so I think we are all quite clear that you are not into vegetarian food and are quite a fan of meat. And yes, it’s not so difficult being a vegetarian really.

    I appreciate your humour and entries, keep them coming. And in case if you have any real queries to clarify, let me know, I’ll be happy to help. In the meantime, hypothetical scenarios are also welcomed!

  5. I am not adverse to vegetarian food nor do I crave for meat at every meal. I see benefits in a vegetarian diet and I also see it from the point of nature or human anatomy to be precise. If nature wants human to be pure carnivorous, we would be having jaws full of saw, somewhat like a croc. Also, we need a pair of legs similar to a panther. Otherwise, human will never be able to catch his meal, nor chew it to digestible bits.
    But bio-science is on its way. We not only will have GM food but also clone meat! So there won’t be any killing. Just key in your choice of meat, even exotic or endangered ones, and the computer will formulate the genetic code for cloning. Could you work on this with your computer engineering background?

  6. *grin*

    I think I’ll stick to my day ‘job’ and focus on the Buddha’s teachings and meditate. Better leave something so intricate like bio-science to the specialists … *grin~

    That said, GM food is one thing but clone meat is another altogether. Think I’ll write a separate post about later.

    btw, the gathering for SBF English class is on this Sunday morning. I’ll confirm with Eric again today. Shall we have it at KMS? There are plenty of space around …

  7. This Sunday is fine. And so is KMS. Now and then, it is good to go up Bright Hill.
    Would you be showing us the BBQ area?

  8. What is mock meat anyway?

    “The ‘mock meat’ used in Chinese vegetarian restaurants is gluten. The Chinese call it “heart of the wheat”. This is made by mixing flour with water to form a dough, then washing off the starch (many, many times) until the protein-rich gluten is left.

    You can buy frozen gluten from some market tofu / vegetarian stalls. They come in various shapes and sizes, including “large intestines”, “sausages” (with black fungus enclosed) and fist-sized lumps which my vegetarian stall holder calls “durians”.”

    So mock meat is actually a good protein supplement, apart from eating lotsa beans. It’s just the colouring, flavouring and chemical compounds added it to change the texture that spoil its good name. If you buy frozen, unflavoured, uncolored, non-artifically textured gluten from vegetarian supermarkets, that’s good for health. Don’t get the wrong idea. It was called mock meat make it easier for those accustomed to a diet with meat, if I am not wrong.

  9. > The ‘mock meat’ used in Chinese vegetarian restaurants is
    > gluten. This is made by mixing flour with water to form a
    > dough, then washing off the starch (many, many times)
    > until the protein-rich gluten is left.

    I’ve heard that the production of gluten wastes a tremendous amount of water, as is required in the process to wash off the starch. So perhaps, we should discourage the consumption of gluten? Anyone knows exactly how much water is wasted in the production?

  10. It’s true, Hockguan, that ‘mock meat’ is actually made from mostly beans and mushrooms. It’s really the additional stuffs added that can potentially make it unhealthy.

    Kinox, I’ve seen how gluten are made and yes, it does use up quite a bundle of water. Some temples that make their own gluten may use that water for the plants. Others may not. Exact water consumption is unknown to me.

  11. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.  I wonder if it would be more effective if you contacted the respective Buddhist organisations.  I will leave this comment online for a few days for you to reply, after which I will take it offline for followup if you can contact me. 

    Be Good, Be Mindful, Be Happy!

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