One of the greatest problems faced by human society and something which allows the continual slaughter of innocents, and here I’m talking about people, is the ability and tendency humans have to live in denial, to turn away from what they know to be real and to live their lives as if it were not real and happening every day. Out of sight stays comfortably out of mind, and if ever brought to a person’s attention is usually glanced at, physically and mentally, and then quickly forgotten.
Thinkers throughout history to modern day have seen how this habit of turning away is created by people’s dietary programming and habits. From childhood most people are habituated into not only eating animal products, but also denying the exploitation and suffering involved in the practice.
We are the living graves of murdered beasts
Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites
We never pause to wonder at our feasts
If animals, like men, can possibly have rights
We pray on Sundays that we may have light
To guide our footsteps on the path we tread
We’re sick of war we do not want to fight
The thought of it now fills our hearts with dread
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead
Like carrion crows we live and feed on meat
Regardless of the suffering and pain
We cause by doing so. If thus we treat
Defenseless animals for sport or gain
How can we hope in this world to attain
the PEACE we say we are so anxious for
We pray for it o’er hecatombs of slain
To God, while outraging the moral law
Thus cruelty begets its offspring: war.
I don’t agree with some of George Bernard Shaw’s views, but he had a point in the poem above. But he isn’t the only one to see that what goes around comes around. Tolstoy made the observation that as long as there were slaughterhouses there would be battlefields.
As long as we tolerate violence of any sort, there will be violence of every sort. As long as humans regard it as normal to slaughter animals for food for which there is no justification other than the trivial pleasure we get from eating or using animals, they will regard it as normal to use violence when they think that something more important is at stake.
Animal advocates oppose ‘speciesism’ for the same reasons that racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination are opposed. Opposition to one logically implies a rejection of the other forms of discrimination.
If we want a nonviolent world, we must embrace nonviolence in our own lives. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see in the world. Veganism is an important element of a nonviolent life as there can be no doubt that all animal foods and animal products are the result of violence. As a female character in Psyclone observes, ‘there are few things as obscene as the practice of repeatedly raping a captive female to keep her pregnant and lactating, stealing her newborn babies for slaughter or slavery, and using her breast milk’, [Ed…until she’s spent and then slaughtering her] But in its broadest sense, veganism is the cultivation of a society that renounces domination and systematic killing.
This is the core of animal-rights theory: the claim that all conscious beings, human or not, should be allowed to live on their own terms, not the terms set down by those who seek to control and exploit. That non-human animals are not only conscious but, in fact, share traits commonly held to be exclusively human is supported by an extensive and growing body of scientific research. The research demonstrates that all animals, not just human animals, are sentient. Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Currently a lot is known about animal sentience and animal emotions, more than most people are aware. Behavioral and neuroscientific research shows that animals’ lives aren’t all that private, hidden, or secret. For various reasons that information is taking a while to percolate through to general awareness, leaving the old “privacy of mind” argument as an excuse to maintain the status quo concerning our wanton abuse of other animals.
As an aside, there’s a parallel here with the knowledge that the Earth is round. This article from The Campaign for Philosophical Freedom explains how the round earth theory was actually proved by the Greek scientist Eratosthenes in the 3rd century BCE, and that information suppressed for for hundreds of years for sociopolitical reasons.
As well as far-reaching ethical considerations, there are also very practical aspects to the decision to cut out or reduce meat and dairy eating, as pointed out by Lord Stern of Brentford. In an interview with The Times the former chief economist of the World Bank and Professor of Economics at the London School of Economic said: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.” Lord Stern, the author of the influential 2006 Stern Review on the cost of tackling global warming, predicted that people’s attitudes would evolve until meat eating became unacceptable. “I think it’s important that people think about what they are doing and that includes what they are eating”
That his prediction that people’s attitudes would evolve is taking some time to be realised is a sign of how slowly we as a species do evolve. But evolve we must, individually and collectively, for there to be any hope of peace in the world.
And then there is the issue of the increasingly toxic content of farmed meat due to the cocktail of injected and fed pharmaceutical drugs, and the truly disgusting additions to the feedstock of many farmed animals.
Following posts will go into detail regarding the ethics, environmental economics, and health aspects of meat and dairy. For now I leave you with some of the points made in the No.1 best seller The World Peace Diet by Dr Will Tuttle (more on this book and Dr Tuttle next time):
Everywhere, though, the truth is popping up! It’s increasingly difficult to avoid hearing and seeing the obvious. Eating animal foods destroys the Earth. Drives global climate breakdown. Drives species extinction. Drives ocean depletion and forest devastation, drug addiction, disease, soil loss, water pollution, acidification, toxification, despair, and the mentality of exploitation and elitism and war.
Even if we are benumbed to the degree that we are not concerned about the suffering of animals, and we are only able to care about other humans, we soon realize that the human anguish caused by eating foods of animal origin requires us to choose a plant-based diet. Human starvation, the emotional devastation required to kill and confine animals, the pollution and waste of water, land, petroleum, and other vital resources, and the injustice and violence underlying our animal food production complex all compel us to abandon our acculturated eating habits.
The ripples that radiate from our choices to eat foods from animal sources are incredibly far-reaching and complex. They extend deeply into our essential orientation and belief system, and into our relationships with each other and the created order. From every perspective we can possibly take, we discover that our culturally imposed eating habits are numbing, blinding, and confining us.
The violence on our plates reverberates through our bodies, our minds, our culture, and throughout our world. How can we or our elected representatives act wisely while the blood that is running through our veins and brains is polluted with hormone, drug, and pesticide residues, cholesterol, and the fear, panic, and psychotic depression lived by the animals we eat?
Compelling our children to eat animal foods gives birth to the “hurt people hurt people” syndrome. Hurt people hurt animals without compunction in daily food rituals. We will always be violent toward each other as long as we are violent toward animals – how could we not be? We carry the violence in our stomachs, in our blood, and in our consciousness. Covering it up and ignoring it doesn’t make it disappear. The more we pretend and hide it, the more, like a shadow, it clings to us and haunts us. The human cycle of violence is the ongoing projection of this shadow.
We are all beings of light and awareness and love, born into a culture of violence, ignorance, and exclusion. We take on its darkness and fear, and the core ritual used by our culture to effect this is our daily meals, where we are forced to participate in routine killing by eating and buying the flesh and secretions of imprisoned, terrified animals. Our path to freedom lies in freeing these animals; veganism is the spiritual and practical key to happiness and peace for all.
It seems that we humans are ripening spiritually, and I believe that there is nothing more important at this stage of our spiritual evolution than developing compassion for all living beings, and transforming our eating habits to reflect more compassion and awareness.
The spiritual and cultural revolution that calls us must begin with our food. Food is our primary connection with the earth and her mysteries, and with our culture. It is the foundation of economy and is the central inner spiritual metaphor of our lives.
When light shines, darkness simply disappears without a trace. No fight is required. Letting the light shine through, breathing deeply and fully, we partake of the infinite, moment after moment.
More to follow.