A Compassionate Sri Lanka: DVA to establish chapter to give voice to animals
Posted on July 20th, 2015

Shenali D Waduge

 

The Buddha stands out as the foremost religious leader in history to first speak up for the rights of animals and place a moral obligation on each and every human being to refrain from taking the life of another living being; and call on everyone to radiate compassion and loving kindness to all living beings with a boundless heart on par with the love and affection shown by a mother in protecting with her life her only child.   Whereas Mahavira ( Nigganta Natha Putta) leader of Jainism, a contemporary of the Buddha, echoed similar sentiments in asking his followers to revere life of others, the Buddha went one step further.

 

If Jainism requires that the monk should suppress all emotions of hatred and revenge, the Buddha lays on him the further command, that he shall meet all living things, yea, the whole Universe, with a feeling of kindness” (p. 104). The Buddha is the first to express the fundamental law that ethical spirit quite simply in itself means energy which brings about what is ethical in the world” Albert Schweitzer in ‘Indian Thought and Its Development’ (1935)

 

Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA), a non-profit organization, originating in San Diego, California, USA is the first international Buddhist organization taking up the cause of animal rights worldwide. Its President and co – founder is Mr. Bob Isaacson, lawyer. Its mission is to give meaning to the Buddha’s teachings by being the voice for animals. It has a far flung membership in 40 countries. It has recognized the growing stride of veganism and vegetarianism particularly in western countries where non-vegetarianism is being increasingly linked with global warming, cardiac attacks and various forms of pollution. Meat eating at the cost of the lives of billions of innocent animals invariably results in gaining weight followed by countless ailments. The message is clear.

 

I’ve found that a person does not need protein from meat to be a successful athlete. In fact, my best year of track competition was the first year I ate a vegan diet.”

 ― Carl Lewis (winner of nine Olympic Gold medals and one Silver medal)

 

Sri Lanka Chapter

A preliminary meeting to establish a Sri Lanka chapter of Dharma Voice for Animals was convened by Senaka Weeraratna, Attorney at law and pioneering animal rights activist, and attorney Ms. Lakmali Udugampola in the presence of a distinguished audience at the Royal College Union premises in Colombo on 18th July 2015.

 

Buddhism is integral to the national identity. Sri Lanka is the home of Theravada Buddhism. Over 70% of Sri Lanka’s population is Buddhist despite invasions and incursions following colonial occupation. The animal-friendly society followed by the Sinhale Kings through the dasa raja dharma soon became replaced by meat consumption succumbing to the will of the colonizers. From a non-meat eating animal-loving society large numbers of the Sri Lankan populace began to consume meat. That animal lovers have failed to push to enact the Animal Welfare Bill in Sri Lanka despite its release by the Law Commission in 2006 speaks volumes of the total indifference of our law makers to engage in any meaningful law reform of principal animal welfare statutes. That the maximum punishment for a heinous crime committed against an animal is still a fine of Rs. 100 (as set out in the governing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Ordinance, No. 13 of 1907 enacted by the British Raj) has generated shock and disbelief even among those who love Sri Lanka within and outside the country.   

 

The Chapter of DVA that will be formally launched in Sri Lanka in October 2015 aspires to tap into the non-violence of Buddhism inculcating the global past history when royal decrees (in Sri Lanka) banned killing of animals, established animal hospitals as early as 341 AD making Sri Lanka a model country following the central tenet of the First Precept – no harm to all animals.

 

Nepal earthquake and animal sacrifice in Ghadimai

Senaka Weeraratna in his presentation covered through examples the recent earthquakes in Nepal and China and posed the question whether there was an underlying connection between the mass sacrifice of over 500, 000 innocent animals in Ghadimai in Nepal in December 2014 to appease Gods and the huge earthquakes that devastated Nepal in April 2015. Likewise the regular earthquakes that engulf China; do they have any connection to the culling of animals in festivals e.g. killing of over 10, 000 dogs and countless number of cats at the Yulin Dog meat festival?   That nature feels the pain of animals and punishes nations and people that do not protect animals was a powerful message drawn from these examples.

 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/trending/dog-meat-festival-in-china-takes-place-despite-massive-online-protest-1.3123266

 

Lisbon Earthquake ( 1755 )

Weeraratna also referred to the Lisbon earthquake. On November 1, 1755, the greater part of the city of Lisbon, Portugal, was destroyed. Besides the earthquake, a tidal wave (Tsunami) followed and wrecked the shipping in the river Tagus on which Lisbon is built. In addition to that, fire broke out and completed the work of destruction. Sixty thousand were said to have lost their lives, and the property damage, although it cannot be estimated accurately, was huge.

 

The event had a major effect on the cultural consciousness of much of Europe. Voltaire was one of many philosophers, theologians and intellectuals to be deeply affected by the disaster. Catholics attempted to explain the disaster as God’s wrath, invited by the sinfulness of the people of Portugal and the presence of Protestants and Jesuits; Protestants blamed the Portuguese for being Catholic, and were thus punished by God.

 

One significant literary outcome was the poem on the Lisbon disaster by Voltaire. It is widely regarded as an introduction to Voltaire’s later acclaimed work Candide and his view on the problem of evil. It is considered one of the most savage literary attacks on Optimism in the power of God. Voltaire was convinced that there could not possibly exist a benign, all-loving, or intervening deity who aggrandized the virtuous and punished the sinful. He asserted instead that the disaster revealed the weak, helpless, and ignorant nature of humankind. For Voltaire, people might well hope for a happier state, but that was the logical limit of their optimism.

 

That no such moral voices were raised in Asia over the mass culling of animals in Nepal, China and other countries or attempt made to connect the bloodshed to Karmic effects even at a collective level i.e. earthquakes, Tsunamis,  except a deafening silence on the part of Asia’s media and citizenry reinforces the thought provoking question raised by Kishore Mahbubani ‘ Can Asians Think? Understanding the Divide Between East and West’. 

Senaka Weeraratna then quoted the Sutta Nipata showing the Buddha’s disgust of animal sacrifice, and the Dhammapada on the karmic effects awaiting animal abuse.

 

Sutta Nipata

Suttanipata: 2:7:23-26: But largesse (of the king) fired their (Brahmins’) passions more to get; their craving grew. Once more they sought Okkāka; with these verses newly framed: As earth and water, gold and silver, so are cows a primal requisite of man. Great store, great wealth is thine; make (cow) sacrifice!

 

Then the king, the lord of chariots, persuaded by these Brāhmins, killed hundreds of thousands of cows in sacrifice. Cows sweet as lamb, filling pails with milk, never hurting anyone with foot or horn -the king had them seized by the horns and slaughtered by the sword.”

 

The Buddha expressed his horror as follows:

Suttanipata: 2:7:27-30: Then the gods, the Pitrus (ancestral spirits), Indra, the Asuras, the Rakshasas cried out as the weapon fell on the cows, Lo! This is injustice!” Of old there were only three diseases -desire, want of food, and decay. Owing to the killing of the cattle, there sprang ninety-eight diseases. This old sin of injury to living beings has come down (to this day). Innocent cows are killed. Priests have fallen off their virtues.

 

This is how,” The Buddha concluded, Kshatriyas and self-styled Brāhmins and others protected by rank destroyed the repute of their caste and fell prey to desires.”

Dhammapada

 

The Dhammapada says as follows (in the section on Punishment 10)

” Whoever inflicts punishment

on those who do not deserve it

and offends against those who are without offense

soon comes to one of these ten states:

cruel suffering, infirmity, injury of the body, fearful pain,

or mental loss, or persecution from the ruler,

or a fearful accusation, loss of relations,

or destruction of possessions,

or lightning fire burning one’s houses,

and when one’s body is destroyed the fool goes to hell”

 

Work in store for DVA

The nascent Sri Lankan chapter is now drawing up its objectives that seek to become a voice for animals and establishing a compassionate society obliging every citizen to show kindness to all living beings. The group also aspires to campaign to include animal welfare into election manifestos and policy making and create Ahimsa as a guiding principle in all State affairs. Dharma Voices for Animals also seeks to reform education at all levels and provide humanitarian education to raise awareness and develop consciousness on animal welfare and protection as well as extend the subject to the legal fraternity. In essence the goal and objective of Dharma Voices for Animals is to build an animal friendly cultural heritage and reconnect to Sri Lanka’s former heritage based on religious and cultural values. 

 

The group also discussed the need to follow the Bhutan model by phasing out zoos and ending the export of live animals for slaughter as well as promoting plant based alternatives to meat consumption and ending the use of animals as entertainment and sports. The group also brought out the need to phase out animal experimentation and have clear labelling of all products enabling customers to make informed choices.

 

There are 7 billion people in the world. More than 150 billion animals are slaughtered every year. The future wars will be about food and water. To create sustainability we must be at one with nature and all living beings. We must help protect the environment and create more greenery. A noble effort was inaugurated on 18 July 2015 and needs momentum by drawing all communities who wish to be champions of change in fostering an animal-friendly culture in Sri Lanka.

 

The audience comprised leading animal rights activists such as Ms. Sagarica Rajakarunanayaka (Sathwa Mithra), Mrs. Irangani de Silva (Animal Welfare Trust), Ms. Lalani Perera (Attorney and Animal Rights activist), Ms. Ashani Gopallawa (Embark) among others.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0MWAAykFuc&feature=youtu.be – a film by Dhamma Voice for Animals

 

 Shenali D Waduge

2 Responses to “A Compassionate Sri Lanka: DVA to establish chapter to give voice to animals”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    The pain the slaughtered animals undergo in immeasurable. Their suffering is endless. They are totally helpless. But their feelings are strongly communicated to the Thoughtsphere of the Planet Earth and to the Universe at large.

    These negative energy forces changes the entire spiritual landscape and brings us back nothing but pain.

    Being Buddhists how can we spread metta to a broader area which include all living beings, while enjoying eating their own flesh robbed by us.

    The chicken we eat could have been our own mother in many lives ago. The beef we eat may be belongs to our own father many lives ago. Lord Buddha has told that every one of us were related in another life time. Anyone we meet in the street or any animal we contribute to get killed could have been our own mother in another life.

    This is so complex but clear. Why should we knowingly do this grave mistake.

    Animal farming consumes more water from the planet earth, which could have preserved for consumption of all living beings. I read somewhere that to produce 1 kg of meet we spend many times water than producing 1 kg of vegetable food.

    The negative energy created by slaughtered animals are coming back to haunt us, the arrogant and selfish HUMANS

  2. Independent Says:

    “The pain the slaughtered animals undergo in immeasurable. Their suffering is endless. They are totally helpless. But their feelings are strongly communicated to the Thoughtsphere of the Planet Earth and to the Universe at large.”

    How about my suffering ? But I try very best to understand the ignorance of the FOOLISH I every day clash with and I don’t hate them. Problem is more I behave purely more the suffering of the foolish people who do so much unjustifiable crime to create my suffering. I need to stop this to prevent their suffering.

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