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It is a long story and there is no definite answer to it. In Buddha's earliest teachings, the Tripitaka, he did not forbid his disciples to eat meat. |
if meat were put into a monk's alms bowl, the monk was supposed to eat it. Monks were to gratefully receive and consume all food they were given, including meat.
As usual, there is no rule without exception.
If monks knew or suspected that an animal had been slaughtered specifically to feed monks, they were to refuse to take the meat. On the other hand, leftover meat from an animal slaughtered to feed a lay family was acceptable.
The Buddha did exclude some kind of meat. It was strictly forbidden to eat horse, elephant, dog, snake, tiger, leopard and bear meat. To eat any other kind of meat was permissible. In today's Theravada Buddhism, which includes Chinese, T b., Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese Buddhism, vegetarianism is encouraged but to eat meat is not prohibited. Mahayana Buddhism (Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka) does emphasize vegetarianism but again, it is no strict rule. Even in Thailand we can find many Buddhists, incl. monks, who eat meat. Mahayana Buddhism does of course have some sects that follow the Lankavatara sutra, this means they are strict vegs.
Let's also not forget if a vegetarian does not eat meat he does use numerous other products that lead to animals being killed (soap, leather, serum, silk etc.) Why abstain from one while using the others? Even Southern India's Hindus (in Kerala for instance) do eat fish. I know only of one r3ligi0n that strictly prohibits killing of animals and this is Jainism.