When I first went vegan over eight years ago, it was for health reasons. After watching hours of videos and documentaries on factory farming, the environment, and animal rights, my perspective changed, and then it became about ethics and morals.
As a social worker, it was easy for me to see the inequalities in the way, how animals are treated compared to humans. The unfairness and injustice became palpable.
Eventually, I realized there was a much deeper dilemma in regards to our treatment of animals: a spiritual dilemma.
As a certified mindfulness & meditation teacher with over 20 years of experience in practicing Buddhism and Christianity, I have heard several spiritual arguments for the use of animals to serve mankind.
Let’s discuss a few questions to ask yourself when weighing the spiritual dilemma of the use of animals to serve humans:
Are Animals Here for Us to Eat?
Years ago, a family member told me animals were placed on this planet—by God—for human use.
While there is freedom of thought and they have a right to hold onto their religious beliefs, I think it’s wise to challenge our belief systems when they result in the suffering of other sentient beings.
One thing we need to ask ourselves is, if we are scientifically classified in the taxonomic order as primates with a mammalian class, and if we have many comparable similarities to animals, then is it truly a valid argument for us to have dominion over non-human animals?
Biblically, there are passages that speak to the use of animals for food. However, there are also passages that can be interpreted as supportive of non-violence, and the question remains: why do we apply such non-violence merely for humans and not for our fellow earthlings?
It is also important to keep in mind the context at the time the Bible was written where thousands of factory farms did not exist, billions of animals were not being slaughtered every year for food, and hard to imagine whether animals were exploited for entertainment.
Furthermore, the nature of our societies & food culture is such that our hunger for fast food has led to the point of slaughtering billions of animals just to keep up with the pace of our own demands.
So essentially, in the time the Bible was written, animals were not being used in the way they are today (Reference, The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle). [http://www.willtuttle.com/]
Why Do We Exclude Animals From “Love thy Neighbor”?
Perhaps one of the most powerful & profound messages of Jesus Christ, mentioned in Leviticus 19:18, “love your neighbor as yourself”, is in my opinion, a potent argument for veganism and ending animal cruelty.
When we come to think of this passage, the questions we cannot evade would be: why do we not include animals in the commandment to love others as we’d love ourselves? Why do we limit this viewpoint only to humans, rather than extending the expected compassion to ALL living beings?
If our role as human beings is to be the guardians and bring peace to the world, then we should reach to the roots of our thoughts attempting to embark on a path of non-violence with a serious consideration in the interests of all living beings, and love them all as our fellow beings.
Here is a quote from Dr. Will Tuttle:
“The two fundamental teachings of Christianity… to love God and to love neighbor,—God is the infinite whole in which we all have our being, and because there is no way to extend our love to God concretely since God transcends us completely, it follows that loving God means loving and caring for God’s creation. This leads to loving our neighbor. There is no reason, biblical or otherwise, to exclude animals from our neighborhood, because they are our neighbors on this earth and we know they suffer and feel emotions. The core biblical teachings can thus be seen to point insistently to compassion for all creatures, and toward a life of responsibility and caring for all creation”.
Can We Consider Ourselves as Peaceful While Participating in the Suffering of Others?
This is the soul-searching question we must ask ourselves if we are to sincerely extend our spiritual beliefs to consider animals. After all, there’s even a belief that every human soul could symbolize their own spirit animal!
If we consider ourselves as advocates of peace and truly wish peace for the planet, then how do we reconcile that to our choices & actions causing continuous suffering to others?
It begs the question: do you believe that animals can feel pain? Do you believe that animals suffer as a result of factory farming, testing, etc? Despite what science may or may not say, do you believe that animals are sentient?
20 years ago, I delved into the world of meditation. I began practicing Buddhism. The first time I was introduced to the philosophy of animal rights was through Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh.
In his books, most notably “Peace is Every Step”[link: https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/], I learned about slowing down and paying attention to the food I consumed.
Through his teachings on Interbeing, I began to believe that I am a part of everything, right down to the food I ate. If I wanted a peaceful soul, that meant considering the food I ate because what we eat becomes a part of us as to who we are.
In essence, by eating animals that have been abused, treated with violence, and finally slaughtered, we are then bringing such violence and dark vibes into our lives.
In the teachings of Buddhism, we are all interconnected. As the saying goes, “we are what we eat”. Thus, when we ingest violence into our bodies, that violence becomes part of us, irrespective of being conscious of it or not.
Here is a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh in a statement he made to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):
“We need to consume in such a way that keeps our compassion alive…and yet many of us consume in a way that is very violent. Forests are cut down to raise cattle for beef, or to grow grain for liquor, while millions in the world are dying of starvation. Reducing the amount of meat we eat and alcohol we consume by 50 percent is a true act of love for ourselves, for the Earth, and for one another. Eating with compassion can already help transform the situation our planet is facing, and restore balance to ourselves and the Earth.”
More recently, I began practicing Taoism. Taoists believe that humans and animals are to live in harmony and balance with the Tao, or the universe.
When there is an imbalance between them, there is suffering. In Dr. Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao, Dr. Dyer offers a translation of Lao Tsu’s Tao te Ching to include animals and the environment: “Of all the troubles that are reported in the media—including wars, terrorism, famine, hatred, and disease—how many are the result of interfering with the natural unfolding of creation?… What if no one could be perceived as an enemy…where oceans, mountains, natural resources, air, plants, or animals were respected and allowed to flourish without interference?” or as Lao Tzu himself wrote over 2,500 years ago: “A (person’s) life brings nothing unless (they live) in accordance with the whole universe.”
In other words, how can we bring anything of value to this earth and to other living creatures if we don’t allow every being to live with their natural lives and freedom? How the chicken, the cow, the pig, should be left to live out their lives as nature intended instead of how we feel they should be here for us.
Here is one final quote from Dr. Wayne Dyer to sum it up:
“Begin by seeing yourself as the environment, rather than as an organism within it…Understand that you can’t survive apart from what seems isn’t part of you—for you absolutely are the air, the water, the plants, the animals, and everyone else on the planet. Change your worldview to one that completely understands that when anyone else is starving or living in poverty, so are you. See yourself in all others and you’ll find the compassion, love, and willingness which replace your belief in your uniqueness and difference.”
In essence…when animals suffer, we suffer. Understanding this can help us make more conscious decisions about the food we eat, the products we use, in the hopes of eradicating animal suffering and elevating ourselves to have inner peace, while being a force of liberation.
- 6 Convincing Reasons to Be Vegan
- Animal Cruelty Facts—Sentience, the Reality, and Our Quest for Animal Rights!
- How to Go Vegan and Stay Vegan Forever
Author: Jay VanLandingham (animal rights activist/coach) website: www.jayvanlandingham.com
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within the content are solely the author’s and not a reflection of the opinions and beliefs of the website (Vegan Universal) or its affiliates.