According to the Vanijja Sutta on Right Livelihood:

"Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.

The first precept forbids taking of a life.

The ability to freeze, store, transport and sell meat later was not possible in the time of the Buddha.


  1. Is it ok for someone observing the first precept and Right Livelihood, to be a frozen meat retailer, supplier or importer selling frozen meat sourced from elsewhere (but is not involved with the actual farming and slaughter of animals)?
  2. Is it ok for someone observing the first precept and Right Livelihood, to work as a cashier or general worker in a supermarket or hypermarket (e.g. Tesco, Target or Aldi) that sells many things including frozen meat?
  3. Is it ok for someone observing the first precept and Right Livelihood, to work as an employee in a logistics company (like FedEx) that stores and transports all types of products including frozen meat?
  4. Is it ok for someone observing the first precept and Right Livelihood, to work as a chef or waiter in a restaurant that serves meat dishes, using only frozen meat (no live animals)?
  • I closed this as a duplicate of Can lay people be involved in the weapons business? because the other topic already has answers which examine the limits and intent of the same sutta.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 1, 2018 at 15:49
  • @ChrisW I would argue that it doesn't necessarily have to relate to a sutta and I doubt it is so much a duplicate that it needs to be closed. Also, you engaged the question yourself with an awesome comment(IMHO) to an answer a long time before you closed the question. Also, it says the question is an exact duplicate but obviously the answer I wrote for this question can't just be pasted into the other question. I wasted a lot of time. -Metta New Year
    – Lowbrow
    Jan 1, 2018 at 16:49
  • @Lowbrow I reopened it so you can post your answer.
    – ChrisW
    Jan 1, 2018 at 17:02

8 Answers 8


The reason the Buddha suggested we abstain from certain things is not because of the morality of the actions themselves, but because of the effect these actions have on our minds.

The fact that you are even asking this question illustrates there is some sort of mental suffering/inner conflict that has arrisen. This is the suffering we are attempting to avoid by abstaining from specific actions. This is what the Buddha warned us of.

You are always free to do whatever you wish! I would just suggest you not do something that brings you suffering.


The very fact of you asking that question conveys what kind of business meat business is.

I would like to present it from Thich Nhat Hanh perspective on Right livelihood (Mahayana):

In forgetfulness, we may separate ourselves from the butcher, thinking his livelihood is wrong, while ours is right. However, if we didn't eat meat, the butcher wouldn't kill or kill less.

It is better not to do any meat business at all, or deal with meat at all. We can do better, and not at expense of other beings; humans are omnivores, killing and participating in killing is not required.

  • I realise this was down voted because it doesn't conform to dogma. However, allegedly we should not take anything for granted in Buddhism. In developed countries, eating meat has no other value than selfish taste pleasure; refraining from not eating meat is volition that makes a difference by reducing demand on meat and therefore, directly cutting down suffering. Another aspect is changing collective consciousness and environment, what I noticed is that when people see that one refrains from eating meat, they quickly adopt the same stance and this further works toward alleviating suffering
    – user13383
    Jun 26, 2018 at 9:42
  • And I am not referring there to meat by offering, but the act of purchasing meat, which implies that butcher does, in the long term, kills animals for us, since we create demand.
    – user13383
    Jun 26, 2018 at 9:48
  • I've seen a (non-Mahayana) argument that avoiding (the purchase of) meat doesn't alleviate suffering, e.g. because mice and so on die when plant-crops are pest-controlled and harvested (instead of animals dying when they're slaughtered for meat). Even so I don't disagree with you.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 26, 2018 at 20:13
  • 1
    Yes I have heard this argument. Scale of animal death and suffering from pest control versus deliberate industrial slaughter in conventional way is negligible. All the animals coming from a conventional industrial way require giant amounts of grain and crops. Note that this doubles the impact due to inefficiency of such meat growth and fact that all these grains would go to us instead - straight. On top of that, we gravitate towards better and more humane pest control systems these days that become non-harming, with bigger resource use. Yet, not many people decide on these due to greed.
    – user13383
    Jun 26, 2018 at 20:53

My answers to Question 1. No.

Question 2 Yes

Question 3 Yes

If you are selling meat, you are directly involved in the business of buying meat from people who kill the animals.

If you work as a cashier or logistics, you have nothing to do with the killing of animals.

  • This answer is the same as the answer of Dhammadhatu that was scored down thrice by the sīlabbata-parāmāsa-sangha. Nov 26, 2020 at 5:19

The chosing of words here: a lay follower should not engage in five types of business is very conductive and wise.

"Engage" -> three doors of conduct, mental, by signs or direct by body.

When ever you may get the feeling to engage, to be involved, to feel not well with it, try to change and fix it. It's in most cases not really possible to generalize useful for many in certain details, but the main objectives are to find freedom from remorse by keeping precepts and once they grow to a matter of heart and leave the level of outwardly "rituals" or justification of all variants, the wise and conductive way is to follow ones heart and uprightness. Whether such is made by changing whole things or by changing ones also executed level of engagement in a non-denying way, a non-hypocratical but honest way, might be also different case by case.

At least, once aware and clear of effects, mental approve, not to speak of enjoying benefit based on suffering of others, althought not ordered by signs or words, not done bodily and direct, such mental kamma has effects.

That is why it is suggests but not often forwarded, since difficult from most, or certain "dangerous" to lose persons favors: "a lay follower should not engage in five types of business".

Especially in SE-Asia it is very seldom straight and un-flowered forwarded.

Maybe a sample is useful to make it more alive: There is a young family making their live by selling pork is soup and the householder drives daily his motorbike through the villages to sell "fresh" meat from pigs. They usually love giving and when ever on alms coming till their village, not only meeting the husband on his hurry selling drive, they would joyfully offer some of the noodle soup. It has needed a very long time till my person was able to "give a little back", to meet the proper occasion so that they would be able to listen, propably understand. Some days ago the mother of the pair was visiting, and while joyful prepearing alms was moaning on and on "Ohh, steedy ill... permanent sick..." After the round after the meal, the house was crossed again and turning now around, asking "who is permanent sick" my person was explained that the young householder was subject - not much wondering - and got invited to sit down and possible help. So they have been carefully been taught about the issue of livelihood and the protection of silas in regard of sickness and livespan. Not surprising the couple would have prevered to hear a blessing or what ever "miracle" and not much of joy to hear that, yet nevertheless listening... My person had not met the meat driver since this day and did not came till their house since this occation. May it not only be a "the Dhamma is right" but also have possible turned to a longtime better.

One needs to know and understand that sure 40% and more people are actually engaged in meat - or animal trade business and the rest of 55%in other un-lucky trade. Why should the reallity in the west or modern world be much different? Only because the whole way from killing till the serving of food is more defuse and not so easy traceable does not mean that "reality" and less care, or not seeing an alternative, not able to let go of certain things, needed to let go, are not different even more worse.

While people observe things here in the neigborhood here, "reality" enters the homes over there via TV, youtube or SE... who's today not merely just an employee rather than business owner... who is informed and aware, free to choose his ways or not.

What about all the modern occupations and harmful trades, deriving issues?

Step to more remorseless livelihood as soon as issues are traced. There is much more benefit of a seldom to gained live is taking on the "lower" and "simplier", not so material benefical ways to earn a living and to be possible just a servant, house keeper or helper, cleaner... what ever. Its good to be modest and prefer highest Protections:

To have much learning, to be skillful in handicraft,[8] well-trained in discipline,[9] and to be of good speech[10] — this is the greatest blessing.

To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation — this is the greatest blessing.

To be generous in giving, to be righteous in conduct,[11] to help one's relatives, and to be blameless in action — this is the greatest blessing.

There is nothing wrong in being gifted a blessed to be able to accumulate a lot of wealth proper and in rightous earned ways, but it is not wise at all to let go of ones virtue and life at easy for what ever amount of outwardly gain.

"Lesser (of certain things outwardly) is more (peace, happiness and ease).", a prover tells.

Good results require certain hard work: that's the Noble truth of Suffering, and there is just one way out and proper conduct to continue with most possible ease, if still wishing to wander on, take and pay, before or afterwards.

Nearly 24:00 and the sound of hunters gun is to be heared from the near other mountains forests, sometimes just the barking of the deers is the loudest... screeming after a spouse...

Make good use of possible highest blessings gained and give causes so that such effects are not only seeked but gained, as sure as birth is followed by death.

"From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. What do you think, monks? Which is greater, the blood you have shed from having your heads cut off while transmigrating & wandering this long, long time, or the water in the four great oceans?"... The blood you have shed when, being water buffaloes, you had your water buffalo-heads cut off... when, being rams, you had your ram-heads cut off... when, being goats, you had your goat-heads cut off... when, being deer, you had your deer-heads cut off... when, being chickens, you had your chicken-heads cut off... when, being pigs, you had your pig-heads cut off: Long has this been greater than the water in the four great oceans.... "Why is that? From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on. Long have you thus experienced stress, experienced pain, experienced loss, swelling the cemeteries — enough to become disenchanted with all fabrications, enough to become dispassionate, enough to be released."

That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, the monks delighted in the Blessed One's words. And while this explanation was being given, the minds of the thirty monks from Pava — through lack of clinging — were released from fermentations.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commercial purpose or other low wordily gains by means of trade and exchange.]


The direct translation of Right Livelhood (by Bhikkhu Bodhi) says:

RIGHT LIVELIHOOD (1) Avoiding Wrong Livelihood “These five trades, O monks, should not be taken up by a lay follower: trading in weapons, trading in living beings, trading in meat, trading in intoxicants, trading in poison.” (AN 5: 177; III 208)

this is all that's said - beyond it is people's interpretations. This is my answer.

But if we want to go further, it may be of interest that the Buddha included cattle raising as an acceptable way to earn a living in AN 8.54 (also direct translation by Bhikkhu Bodhi):

“There are, Byagghapajja, four things that lead to the welfare and happiness of a family man in this very life. What four? The accomplishment of persistent effort, the accomplishment of protection, good friendship, and balanced living. “And what is the accomplishment of persistent effort? Here, Byagghapajja, whatever may be the means by which a family man earns his living— whether by farming, trade, cattle raising, archery or civil service, or by some other craft— he is skillful and diligent; he investigates the appropriate means, and is able to act and arrange everything properly. This is called the accomplishment of persistent effort.

One of the principal features of the Buddha’s teachings is that they were spoken to accord with the varying spiritual and mental needs and dispositions of the listeners.

As said in Essence of the Heart Sutra: The Dalai Lama's Heart of Wisdom Teachings

There is a verse in which Buddha urges his followers to take his words as they might accept from a jeweler a metal that appears to be gold: only after seeing that the metal does not tarnish when burned, can be easily cut, and can be polished to a bright shine should the metal be accepted as gold. Thus, the Buddha gives us his permission to critically examine even his own teachings. Buddha suggests we make a thorough inquiry into the truth of his words and verify them for ourselves, and only then “accept them, but not out of reverence.”

Another point to consider is the purpose of the teachings on Right View and Right Livelihood. As Bhikku Bodhi writes in his book The Noble Eightfold Path -

Though the principles laid down in this section restrain immoral actions and promote good conduct, their ultimate purpose is not so much ethical as spiritual. They are not prescribed merely as guides to action, but primarily as aids to mental purification.

and later quotes the Dhammapada:

To avoid all evil, to cultivate good, and to cleanse one's mind — this is the teaching of the Buddhas.

To this end, making a living destroying stuffed animals might be incompatible with your spiritual life, given the human tendency to anthropomorphize.

So my suggestion is to read the suttas and put them in context for the time, and apply them to the context of your life.


Pornography is also "meat" industry of "animals for slaughter". The Buddha said:

...the world would have fallen into promiscuity, as with goats, sheep, chickens, pigs, dogs and jackals. Lokapala Sutta

... corrupted too with prostitutes— that’s the way to disaster’s woe. Snp 1.6


Clearly animals suffer unjustly when they are used for human economic activities.

But it is also now a well-established fact that more than half of the greenhouse gases emitted by humans today are as a result of human’s desire for flesh, according to the UN, taking into account the entire process of raising, slaughtering, packaging, refrigerating and shipping animal flesh for consumption. So all humans are suffering also.

Even in the case where someone raises their own animals for slaughter, the animals suffer, though the secondary effect of contributing to human ecocide through climate disruption is lessened somewhat (less shipping, refrigeration, and packaging involved).

So is it ok to be a receptionist at a slaughterhouse, or a stock clerk in a supermarket selling animal flesh? Clearly no, but that doesn’t mean you are not abiding by the precepts—if you have no choice. We live within a corrupt and corrupting economic system that does not account for suffering, environmental destruction, nor climate destabilization.

What about a shoe salesman? Animal skin is often thought of as a waste product of butchering animals, but economically the value of the two products, flesh and skin, doesn’t justify considering either to be a waste product. So is it ok to sell leather shoes? Clearly not. But this question rarely comes up. Yet, in the case of both flesh and meat, the desire for them is unnecessary and ego-driven. How can any of you question the seriousness of any association with this industry?

From the Mahayana perspective (Surangama, Brahmajala, and Lankavatara sutras) the justification for the above points are clear. For example, from the Surangama:

The next important hindrance and allurement is the tendency of all sentient beings of all the six realms of existence to gratify their pride of egoism. To gain this one is prone to be unkind, to be unjust and cruel, to other sentient beings. This tendency lures them into the bondage of deaths and rebirth, but if this tendency can be controlled they will no longer be lured into this bondage for right control of mind will enable them to keep the Precept of kindness to all animate life. The reason for practicing dhyana and seeking to attain Samadhi is to escape from the suffering of life, but in seeking to escape from suffering ourselves, why should we inflict it upon others? Unless you can so control your minds that even the thought of brutal unkindness and killing is abhorrent, you will never be able to escape from the bondage of the world's life. No matter how keen you may be mentally, no matter how much you may be able to practice dhyana, no matter to how high a degree of Samadhi you may attain, unless you have wholly annihilated all tendency to unkindness toward others, you will ultimately fall into the realms of existence where the evil ghosts dwell.

There are three ranks of these ghosts: the highest are the mighty ghosts, the next are the Yaksha ghosts who fly in the air, and the lowest are the Raksha ghosts that live under the earth. Each of these ghosts has his double that disguises itself as having attained enlightenment. After my Parinirvana in the last kalpa these different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment. But how can any faithful follower of the Lord Tathagata kill sentient life and eat the flesh?

You of this great assembly ought to appreciate that those human beings who might become enlightened and attain Samadhi, because of eating meat, can only hope to attain the rank of a great Raksha and until the end of their enjoyment of it must sink into the never ceasing round of deaths and rebirths. They are not true disciples of Buddha. If they kill sentient beings and eat the flesh, they will not be able to escape from this triple world. Therefore, Ananda, next to teaching the people of the last kalpa to put away all sexual lust, you must teach them to put an end to all killing and brutal cruelty.

If one is trying to practice dhyana and is still eating meat, he would be like a man closing his ears and shouting loudly and then asserting that he heard nothing. The more one conceals things, the more apparent they become. Pure and earnest bhikshus and Bodhisattva-Mahasattvas, when walking a narrow path, will never so much as tread on the growing grass beside the path. How can a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings?

Pure and earnest bhikshus, if they are true and sincere, will never wear clothing made of silk, nor wear boots made of leather because it involves the taking of life. Neither will they indulge in eating milk or cheese because thereby they are depriving the young animals of that which rightly belongs to them. It is only such true and sincere bhikshus who have repaid their karmic debts of previous lives, who will attain true emancipation, and who will no more be bound to wander to this triple world. To wear anything, or partake of anything for self-comfort, deceiving one's self as to the suffering it causes others or other sentient life, is to set up an affinity with that lower life which will draw them toward it. So all bhikshus must be very careful to live in all sincerity, refraining from even the appearance of unkindness to other life. It is such true hearted bhikshus who will attain a true emancipation. Even in one's speech and especially in one's teaching, one must practice kindness for no teaching that is unkind can be the true teaching of Buddha. Unkindness is the murderer of the life of Wisdom. This is the second admonition of the Lord Buddha as to the keeping of the Precepts.

  1. Not OK because you are profiting from the bulk slaughter of animals (rather than using meat for occasionally personal nutriment).

  2. OK because you are merely an employee rather than business owner.

  3. OK because you are merely an employee rather than business owner.

  4. OK because you are merely an employee rather than business owner.

  • 1
    What's the basis for this, how did you arrive at this answer? Are you distinguishing between employee and business owner? If a company offered me a job making weapons, or acting as a butcher, would that be OK because I'd be an employee not an owner? Conversely is anyone with mutual funds, index-linked or passive investments culpable, because they're shareholders of innumerable businesses?
    – ChrisW
    Jan 1, 2018 at 11:23
  • Shareholder is a business owner, The teaching is about "wrong business". If the employee is slaughtering the animals, this is also wrong livelihood. But the question asks about a "cashier" or "general worker". The cashier is a cashier. The answers to these questions & answers are straightforward. Jan 1, 2018 at 18:33
  • 1
    Right, the people who try to avoid all kinds of harm are called Jains, not Buddhists. It would be tough to find anything to do at all if we had to avoid any connection with harm at all.
    – user2341
    Jan 2, 2018 at 23:36
  • "the people who try to avoid all kinds of harm are called Jains, not 'followers of the Buddha'" would that be also right @nocomprende ? ... very, very vage but possible also sadly right previous statement thinking on right resolve... and so (self) called Buddhists. Feb 12, 2018 at 16:40

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