Where is the human compassion for Animals at Christmas
Posted on December 24th, 2013

Shenali D Waduge

Except Buddhism and Jainism all other religious festivities are celebrated by denying the life of animals. Buddhists and Jains are the only religions that has festivities without culling animals as sacrifice or for food. Celebrations for Abrahamic religions of Christianity and Islam means to slaughter animals and deny them their right to life so that human beings enjoy their right to rejoice. Thus throughout the year, every celebration has meant millions and millions of animals being slaughtered to be consumed as food.

The 5th commandment says ‘you shall not kill’ does this then not refer to animals? The Roman Catholic Church permits and supports slaughter of animals for food. If animals are created by God, just as man is, where does it say that animals are to be sacrificed? How did the RCC determine that animals were created to be consumed as meat? Is it because the Church excommunicated vegetarians in the 6th century AD? Those who became vegetarians in order to save animals from slaughter were sent to hell to suffer everlasting torment while those who tortured animals were rewarded with heaven.

The Church supports stockbreeding which is also a key component of environmental pollution as an enormous amount of greenhouses gases are released from the livestock industry which are 18% higher than what issues from transportation. These greenhouse effects eventually causes floods, hurricanes, droughts and other forms of disasters we see rising all over the world. The Church should seriously address their role in helping these disasters by encouraging stockbreeding. It may be a better option to encourage compassion towards animals as it would also save the environment. Moreover, consumption of meat has been the cause of a rise in a number of diseases amongst humans and these are affecting people’s health and their purses.

What does Christmas means for animals?

Approximately 20million turkeys are killed in the UK each year and around a third of them are slaughtered for the Christmas table. Britain’s biggest turkey producer processes 100 birds a minute in the run-up to the festivities

The majority (90%) of turkeys reared for their meat are kept in windowless sheds, with some containing as many as 25,000 birds. Turkeys have to endure a number of routine mutilations, such as beak trimming and toe cutting. Beak trimming is mostly carried out to prevent or control behaviour which could result in injury. It involves slicing off about one-third of the beak, usually with a red hot blade when the turkey is around five days old (breeders may be de-beaked again at 14 to 18 weeks). This can be extremely painful for the bird and studies on de-beaked chickens have shown pain to be prolonged and perhaps indefinite. The natural lifespan of a wild turkey is around 10 years, but they are normally slaughtered between 9 and 24 weeks old, depending on the size of bird being produced.

Around 9.8 million pigs were slaughtered in the UK in 2011. 2m Pigs are reared primarily for bacon, ham, pork and sausages. Sows are first mated when they are six to eight months old, with the majority of sows in the UK being serviced by artificial insemination.

Geese are bred for their meat, feathers and fat, with around 15 million geese and ducks killed in the UK in 2011

In all, 62 billion animals died to feed Americans in 2010.
Over a lifetime, this amounts to 16,000 animals per meat eater.

An article written by Deborah Jones titled ‘Christmas without cruelty’ http://www.all-creatures.org/gcm/articles-christmas.html calls upon people to refrain from killing animals

What a witness it would be to the birth of the Prince of Peace if all Christians were to desist from colluding in the slaughter of millions of fellow sentient creatures – and replace the ‘Christmas’ turkey/goose/duck with a perfectly delicious vegetarian alternative.’

Her message is one that all Christians may like to read:

But the Bible has to be seen in its entirety. It has been put together as a collection of writings with a beginning, a middle and an end. Creation and the Garden of Eden mark the beginning; the coming of Christ on earth is the central event; and finally, there is the revelation of a new creation, when Christ will come again at the end of time. The natural world, so damaged by sin and destruction, is to be wonderfully renewed and the original harmony restored ‘at the end of time’. This new creation, the kingdom of God in its fullness, is to be one of justice, love and peace.

A sign of that kingdom to come is to live as if it were already here – in other words, to live lives of justice, love and peace. To take part in the deliberate killing of any part of creation, especially for the excuse of simply ‘liking the taste’ of a dead animal or bird, is a sign, not of the Kingdom, but of this fallen, sinful world.

One principle which most people, Christian or not, would support is that we should try to ensure that the least harm is committed in the world, the least violence inflicted and the least stress and pain suffered as possible. So it is consistent to propose that, where plants can serve human need, plants, not animals, should be destroyed for food.

The refusal to kill and eat animals has a long Christian tradition. The early monastic movement embraced total abstinence from meat. The monks modelled their lifestyle on Jesus’ forty day sojourn in the wilderness, which he spent peaceably in the company of ‘the wild beasts’. As Athanasius said of Antony of Egypt: ‘His food was bread and salt, and for drinking he took only water. There is no reason even to speak of meat and wine, when indeed such a thing was not found among the other zealous men.’ St Ambrose’s  homilies on Genesis included the following exhortation: ‘We ought to be content to live on simple herbs, on cheap vegetables and fruits such as nature has presented to us and the generosity of God has offered to us.’ Such a modest life-style would also be good for the environment and for enabling more of the world’s poor to have enough to eat. It would even benefit the health service, as the over-consumption of meat, dairy and fatty products is one source of poor health in the prosperous West.

In terms of rights, I propose that the right to choose to eat animals simply for pleasure, for taste or by convention should give way to the duty to preserve the life of animals; and the right to produce animals for meat should give way to the duty to provide sufficient healthy food for the world’s entire human population. For anyone who does claim the right to kill animals for food, Dr Marie Hendrickx, a leading Vatican theologian, asks:

“Does the right to use animals for food imply the right to raise chickens in tiny cages where they live in a space smaller than a notebook? Or calves in compartments where they can never move about or see the light? Or to keep sows pinned by iron rings in a feeding position to allow a series of piglets to suck milk constantly and thus grow faster?”

The birth of the Christ-child at Bethlehem inaugurated a whole new creation: the Kingdom of God to be experienced in its fullness by the whole of creation. In acts of loving-kindness, in gentleness, in beauty, in compassion, we can glimpse facets of this new creation. Let us celebrate Christ’s birth in a manner consonant with the values of the Kingdom; let it not be the cause of yet more suffering, more blood shed, more cruelty. Let this year see a bloodless, happy Christmas for all God’s creatures. We can pray that this is so.

12 Responses to “Where is the human compassion for Animals at Christmas”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    I agree we should STOP this mad killing of animals for festivities. I’m AGAINST meat (including fish which are also animals) eating and killing animals. In my view ONLY Tamil nationalists and Jihadists DESERVE to be killed, certainly NOT animals.

    BUT this is NOT true.

    “Buddhists and Jains are the only religions that has festivities without culling animals as sacrifice or for food.”

    We all know tens of thousands of animals are KILLED for meat to offer food for people for Wesak. “Dansal” WITHOUT meat or fish attract LESS CROWD than the ones that offer these. “Dana” for monks HAS MEAT in it. It is NOT a national festivity but a family festivity associated with religion.

    NO animal is killed on Poya Days BUT meat is SOLD on these days in supermarkets. ONLY the poor road side butcher closes down!! It is common knowledge people STOCK meat (AND liquor) before Poya Day which results in LARGE SCALE killing of cows, goats, fish, chicken, etc. leading to Poya days.

    Hindus REFRAIN from eating meat on festive days (Pongal, Siva Rathri, Sarasvathi Pooja, Deepawali, etc.) ONLY TO GOBBLE large amount of mutton, fish and chicken IMMEDIATELY following that!! They STOCK these meat BEFORE the festivities (otherwise it is very difficult to get them at a reasonable price)!!

    Sinhala-Tamil New Year is another occasion when LARGE QUANTITIES of MEAT (including fish) is produced. They start with religious observations, end with a grand meat eating lunches and dinners.

    I went for a New Year party by a Sinhala friend last year (January 1st). They did a short Buddhist religious prayer before the breakfast which included SPICY TUNA & milk rice. A VERY STRANGE combination. I was told it is a traditional food. Tuna has to be killed to make it to a plate. As it is a traditional food, hundreds of thousands of tuna have to be killed for millions of people to have it.

    I’m against ALL FORMS of direct and indirect animal killing for food, fun and sacrifice.

  2. Nanda Says:

    Lorenzo,
    Are you sure “Dansal” give away meat ? I thought they were vegetarian food only.

    There is no “killing animal or fish” for Wesak.
    They don’t sell any meat specially for Wesak. But for Chirstmas, it is like “Christ- Mas”. Turkeys specially killed for “Christ- Mas”. Prawns specially killed for “Christ- Mas”. Pigs specially killed for “Christ- Mas”.

    People offering or eating meat is never tried to be contorlled by imposing rules by Buddha. Buddhism is not about “enforcement”. It is the only religion of “Freedom”. So, there is no need to impose any rules by government.
    But when the others ( Muslims ,specially) try to insult Buddhism by doing these deeds , some rules have been imposed.
    Do not measue Buddhism by observing Buddhists or monks. Just READ. Buddhism is not about doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds. It does not end up there.
    You can’t seperate Tamil Nationisls and Jihadist. They too desrve compassion because they are doing this due to delusion. However, the governement, soldiers are not there to follow Buddhism. They are there to impose Law and Order.

  3. Nanda Says:

    Lorenzo,
    When one monk asked Buddha to impose rule of vegetarianism, Buddha refused.
    Food is another form of satisfying senses and desire ( leaving aside real hunger). Spicy Tuna was to statisfy the desires of taste, even Kiribath is.
    If Buddha could impose a rule that not to eat al all, he could have done it ( same as celibacy). Satisfying greed, desire will have no end. This is what Maha Ranee doing.
    For lay people, only 5 precepts, even that is not forced. Five precepts will contorl the desires to a good extent , if you follow immaculately.
    For Monks, just the minimum requiremnts to live. Encouragement to reduce sensual desires gradually. Therefore you cannot blame your friend by serving “spicy tuna”. But you can blame him if he kills (even Tamils), steals, lies, F whoever he likes and takes intoxicans. It is not easy to keep 5 precepts even.

    Shenali was talking about organised , methodical , traditional and purposeful killing just for Religious celelbrations.

  4. mario_perera Says:

    I’m against ALL FORMS of direct and indirect animal killing for food, fun and sacrifice.- Lorenzo

    ‘What is man without the animal…For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man’ – said the Great Red Indian Chief of Seattle

    This culture of killing has to stop. It must stop from the beginning, with ‘killing for food, fun and sacrifice’ and that means with the ANIMAL.

    We consider the animal as being dispensable, a consumable object. Even the word animal is used pejoratively. Animal comes from ‘anima’ (soul…breath of life). Remember Aristotle called man ‘ANIMAL rationale’. There is nothing pejorative in the word ‘animal’. When we kill the ‘animal’, we kill the breath of life, to which we ourselves hang on like on to a thread.With the death of the animal the bells begin to toll for man, for what is man without the animal, for what is man BUT an ANIMAL.

    Mario Perera
    Kadawata

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Nanda,

    Yes. Killing SPECIFICALLY and SPECIALLY for Christmas, Easter, Ramalan, etc. is true. INTENTION TO KILL FOR FESTIVITY – YES.

    It does not happen that way for Wesak, etc. True. INTENTION TO KILL FOR FESTIVITY – NO.

    So if you look at it from the point of view of the INTENTION, you are correct.

    But what practically happens is the SAME.

    Not all Dansal serve vegetarian food. Look at the crowd at meat, fish markets BEFORE the Wesak, New Year, Poya Day, etc. breaks. People STOCK UP these things. Or Pongal, etc.

    I’m NOT looking from the INTENTION point of view. I’m looking from a practical SAVE ANIMALS point of view (OUTCOME). For the animal it does not matter you have the intention to SPECIFICALLY EAT it for Christmas or EAT it during the holiday break of New Year, Wesak, etc., etc. Millions of people go to their home towns during this break. They buy meat items. Its the same fate for the poor creature.

    Re: Meat eating

    I don’t want a BAN on meat eating just because I refrain from it. (I don’t want a BAN on adultery just because I refrain from it.) It is MY wish that NO animal is killed for food, fun or sacrifice whatever the intention is. Intention does NOT matter. One man one vote – I’m AGAINST it. There is plenty of food out there without animal flesh. Even bodybuilders don’t eat meat nowadays.

  6. Christie Says:

    Abrahamic religions evolved in the middle east and in the harsh environment there, there are not many vegetable matter that humans can consume. Most of the vegetation is suitable for animals and people ate animals who ate the vegetation that the people could not digest.

    Understanding is important.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    Sensitive topic to debate here ….
    In my younger days, I too used to try out various meats and fish. Now I am a vegetarian but eat an egg and a little cheese once or twice a week.

    By Nature, human beings are omnivorous. That is, they can ear and digest both vegetable and animal tissue as food. However, we can see that most of the Great Apes are mostly vegetarian by choice. We are off shoots of the Great Apes and our digestive tracts, teeth etc. are similar and geared mostly for vegetarian food. It makes sense for us to be mostly vegetarian.

    The Tropics have vegetable food around the year as opposed to desert areas that Christie mentions. It makes sense for us in the Tropics to eat mostly vegetarian foods – keeps our bodies ‘cool’ in the Ayurvedic sense. Bacteria do not thrive in ‘cool’ bodies and cancers do not grow in ‘cool’ bodies. Vegetable products are far better for our health, and less animals will be slaughtered to feed us.

    Eggs, milk products, soy products can be used in place of meat/fish etc. Soy textured vegetable proteins make super burghers etc. lending itself to any favored flavors., beef, chicken etc.

    I have nothing against those who enjoy animal meats. It’s just a great pity that hapless animals have to be slaughtered to get such fare. All life forms are geared by Nature to live. All fear death.

    I guess Homo Sapiens is still evolving and we have a longer way to go ?

  8. Nanda Says:

    Lorenzo,
    A true Buddhist do not even kill a mosquito.
    I am not talking about intention only. I don’t believe animal killing increases during Wesak. There is no way it become compareble to Christmas or Eid. This the argument.
    You said “Buddhists and Jains are the only religions that has festivities without culling animals as sacrifice or for food ” not true. But it is true.

    As for food, it is the craving to various tastes that keep people eating meat. As you do, if you can give up that craving for the welfare of animals or for the intention of reducing craving, you are a grat Buddhist.

    But the reality is people ate meat 3000 years ago and will keep eating in the next 3000 years.
    If you can stop the madness of extra killing during religious festivities, it is an achievemt for the mankind.
    I am sure Shenalis’ intention of the writing is that.

  9. Senevirath Says:

    GOOD PEOPLE WITH GOOD DEEDS ARE BORN IN GOOD (pathiroopa Desha) PLACES WITH PLENTI OF VEGITATION SO THAT THEY DONT HAVE TO KILL
    NO GOOD MAN WILL SAY THAT KILLING IS GOOD IF WE CAN AVOID MEAT EATING IT IS THE BEST

    ALL LIVING BEINGS HAVE A RIGHT TO LIVEONE LIVING BEING KILLING ANOTHER LIVING BEING. BECAUSE THEY ARE HELPLESS AND NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO SAVE THEIR LIVES IS HORRIBLE AND SHAMEFULL

  10. Lorenzo Says:

    Nanda,

    But killing MORE animals for meat for ALL FESTIVE SEASONS happen in SL. That include Buddhist and Hindu festivities (AND OTHER FESTIVALS) as well.

    Since you are in SL, please go to some big fish and meat markets days before New Year (January 1) and see the mad rush to stock up meat (including fish). Butchers and fishermen KNOW this and SUPPLY the meat by killing MORE.

  11. Nanda Says:

    I wouldn’t stay that long, I trust you. January 1 is not a Buddhist festival , it is clebrated by everyone.
    Yet again, Wesak is not a festival. It is meant for time of reflection. Since shops are closed for few days it is natural that people collect food including meat.
    But the point remains, there is no killing because of Buddhism. Wesak celelbration too has gone too far. Monks are doing things they are not supposed to do. People, the same.
    Since Jesus himself killed fish to give it to people, there is no excuse.

  12. Fran Diaz Says:

    A healthy adult human being needs only 50 plus grams of protein a day. This is a small amount of protein. This amount of protein can be obtained from animal sources or by combining pulses (such as lentils, green gram etc) with starches such as rice. Pulses and starches combine to give complete proteins. It is that simple.

    Far in future, human beings may be living in homes hovering above the earth, leaving the earth itself to animal life. We may be growing our food and flavors in labs – already there are moves to produce meat in labs. with some success.

    We have to evolve in peace or perish in wars, against each other, the environment, and the rest of living creatures on earth. Controlling numbers of people is best done harmlessly such use of Neem (Kohomba plant) and not by wars.

    The Essence of all religions are basically life supportive. Buddhism very obviously so.

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