Valmiki Ramayana, the original narration of Ramayana, has a total of 537 chapters, and over 24,000 verses, arranged into six kandas, or books. There are only two references to meat, and over a hundred references to vegetarian diet.
of one is :-
The Ayodhya Kanda has 119 chapters. Chapter 20 describes Mother Kaushalya's grievous lamentation on hearing from her son Rama, that He has been banished to the forest. Rama tells her in verse 29,"I shall live in a solitary forest like a sage for fourteen years, avoiding meat and living with roots, fruits and honey". Can we validly infer from this that Lord Rama ate meat while in Ayodhya, and now He promises to avoid it in the forest? The exact words used are 'hitva aamishham'. 'aamisham' refers to meat and 'hitva' refers to 'disregarding' or 'with the exception of' (Monnier Williams dictionary). Traditionally, in Vedic culture, when a son leaves home to go to distant lands, he reassures his parents, that he would abide by strict moral codes and never deviate from the religious principles. Say a student promises his parents when going to stay in the hostel, "I won't drink alcohol while in the hostel." Does this mean that he is drinking it while at home? Obviously not. Similarly it's in this mood that Lord Rama assures His mother that he wouldn't stoop low.
*Rama was a Prince prior to going on his exile to forest. He could do anything, as was common for other princes in India and abroad of his days.
Nowhere, did I say anything about what rAma ate or drank as a Prince. Hence, rAma taking meat in Ayodhya, as a Prince, is immaterial for me.
*His step mother kaikEyi did not ask his father for the arrangement of rAma living like a muni (hermit). Her demand was that he should go to forest, and that her son bharata should be made the king. rAma had unnecessarily and hastily made a promise that he would like a hermit, abstaining from meat. Had he broken the promise after some weeks or months, we need not have bothered much, because he, lakshmaNa and Sita MIGHT HAVE found that going was tough in forest without non-veg. Necessity compels people to break promises. He made a similar promise to the tribal king Guha, before crossing the river Ganga. The promise was 'to live like a hermit suriving on fruit'.
The problem here is, rAma broke both of his promises, the very next day of entering the forest.
The key laughable event here you can see in the Book of Childhood (the bAla kAnDa). It is almost the preamble to rAmayAna. :
PART 1, CHAPTER 1, VERSEs 2, 3 and 4, SANSKRIT:
kahnu asmin sampratam lookee gun`avaan kaha ca viiryavaan
dharmagnaaha ca krutagnaha ca satya vaakyoo dhrud`ha vrataha.
See the last two phrases: satya vAkyO = one who speaks truth. dhruDha vrataha = a person who is strong in adhering to vows (oaths).
sarva bhuuteeshu koo hitaha = who is the benefactor of all living beings.
Now you will get the questions: 1. How strong was rAma in keeping vows; 2. how strong was he in telling truth.3. how strong was he in benefiting all the living beings (3 people killing four deer in one day and throwing away major part as not-edible. For 3 people, one deer would have been easily adequate, as a deer might have weighed at least 30 pounds.
4.Why could not they (Sita-rama-lakshmana) satisfy themselves with one deer?
ybrems: about your comment comparing rAma to a student going abroad
This comparison is not really relevant because rAma was already acting as de-facto heir apparent of the king for 17 years after his marriage (rama's marriage). We would think that he was a responsible person and that he would not make loose breakable promises.