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Yoga, Ahimsa and Consuming Animals: UK Yoga Teachers’ Beliefs about Farmed Animals and Attitudes to Plant-Based Diets

Centre for Animal Welfare, The University of Winchester, Sparkford Road, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK
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Animals 2020, 10(3), 480; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030480
Received: 14 February 2020 / Revised: 5 March 2020 / Accepted: 9 March 2020 / Published: 13 March 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Animals in Public Policy, Politics and Society)
Yoga is a holistic discipline originating in ancient India. Yoga has links with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism based on a shared philosophical framework of unity with all beings and belief in ahimsa, meaning non-harming. There is debate in the international yoga community about the spiritual, ethical and health-related links between yoga and plant-based diets. This questionnaire-based research investigates the beliefs about the moral status of farmed animals and attitudes towards plant-based diets of UK yoga teachers. The research found that: (i) UK yoga teachers have very progressive beliefs about farmed animals; (ii) around 30% of UK yoga teachers follow a plant-based diet, which is 25 times the proportion in the general UK population; (iii) nearly 75% desire to follow a plant-based diet; (iv) over two thirds regard plant-based diets as best aligned to their yogic practice; and (v) UK yoga teachers with more progressive beliefs about farmed animals and greater knowledge of agriculture abstain from consuming animal products to a greater extent. The high proportions of UK yoga teachers following vegetarian and plant-based diets, relative to the wider population, are likely based on applying the principle of ahimsa, or non-harming, to farmed animals and abstaining from consuming their products.
Yoga is a holistic discipline originating in ancient India. Yoga has links with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism based on a shared philosophical framework of unity with all beings and belief in ahimsa, meaning non-harming. There is debate in the international yoga community about the spiritual, ethical and health-related links between yoga and plant-based diets. This mixed methodology research investigates the beliefs about the moral status of farmed animals and attitudes towards plant-based diets of UK yoga teachers. A sequential mixed-methods design employing a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews is used. This paper focuses on the questionnaire-based phase of the research. Key results are: (i) UK yoga teachers have very progressive beliefs about the moral status of farmed animals; (ii) 29.6% of UK yoga teachers follow a plant-based diet (n = 446), which is 25-fold the proportion in the wider UK population; (iii) 73.9% desire to follow a plant-based diet; (iv) 68.6% regard plant-based diets as best aligned to their yogic practice; and (v) UK yoga teachers with more progressive beliefs about farmed animals and with more self-reported knowledge of agriculture abstain from consuming animal products to a greater extent. The far higher proportions of UK yoga teachers following vegetarian and plant-based diets, relative to the wider population, are likely based on applying yogic teachings such as the principle of ahimsa through abstaining from the consumption of animal products. View Full-Text
Keywords: ahimsa; Buddhism; consuming animals; Hinduism; Jainism; plant-based diet; spirituality; veganism; vegetarianism; yoga ahimsa; Buddhism; consuming animals; Hinduism; Jainism; plant-based diet; spirituality; veganism; vegetarianism; yoga
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Mace, J.L.; McCulloch, S.P. Yoga, Ahimsa and Consuming Animals: UK Yoga Teachers’ Beliefs about Farmed Animals and Attitudes to Plant-Based Diets. Animals 2020, 10, 480.

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