The Dharma Voices for Animals : Giving voice to the voiceless
Posted on October 23rd, 2017

Shenali D Waduge

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.~ Mahatma Gandhi ~

The 2nd Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference is to be held on Thursday 26th October 2017 at the Sri Sambuddhatwa Jayanthi Hall. When humans are not humans to each other can we expect humans to be humane to animals? Sadly, not. However, we cannot go on like this and as compassionate advocates for rights of animals and peace in general we need to unite and be counted and increase everyone standing with us for Ahimsa to all sentient beings.

  • The international fur trade kills 2million cats and dogs annually.
  • Every year, more than 1.1 million animals in USA are used for the purpose of research and testing of different kinds of products.
  • Research by Cruelty Free International and the Dr Hadwen Trust suggests that at least 115 million animals may be used in experiments worldwide each year.
  • in 2011, almost 11.5 million animals were used in experiments across Europe. The worst offenders France, Germany & UK used 17,896 dogs, 3,713 cats, 358,213 rabbits, 6,686 horses, 6,095 monkeys, 675,065 birds, 77,280 pigs, 28,892 sheep, 30,914 cattle, over 1,000,000 fish and over 8,500,000 rodents for experiments.
  • Due to genetic manipulation, 90% of broiler chickens (chicken bred specifically for meat production) have trouble walking.
  • millions of dogs and cats are often bled to death and skinned alive for their fur.
  • 71% of domestic violence victims report that their abuser also targeted their animal.

Living in the 21st century, boasting of being ‘developed’ than the people that lived in stone age days we have to sadly accept reality that not millions but billions of animals are abused, neglected or treated cruelly. What is the humanity we have to boast of when man’s treatment towards man is no better than his treatment to animals?

With the rising world conflicts and the abuse animals are subject to Leo Tolstoys famous quote is apt As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields”.

Buddhism offers solace in the concept of compassion to all – everyone and everything that feels pain.

It was in tapping the principles of Buddhism and to raise one’s voice for the voiceless animals that Bob Isaacson a former human rights lawyer, created the Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) in 2011 as a non-profit organization based in San Diego, California, USA.

What he created in 2011 today has thousands of members across 58 countries with 27 chapters in 4 continents. DVA promotes reverence for all, respect for all, peaceful co-existence between man and animal through promotion of vegetarianism/veganism, conserving wildlife, humane treatment to animals in different habitats. DVA has also been active in promoting the need to enact the Animal Welfare Bill.

The concept of compassion & ahimsa for all is nothing that anyone can take offence against or reject or even neglect & ignore. It is the heartless and cruel who would. As such for starters DVA encourages people to at least allocate a day a week to declare it a ‘Meatless Monday” by foregoing taking any type of meat. Foregoing meat the entire month of Vesak is another suggestion. Encouraging a vegetarian/vegan diet for Buddhist clergy is one that the dayakas would also need to include when offering dhana. The call to serve only plant-based food as dana to clergy would be a monumental achievement especially in days and times where processed food is not only killing us slowly but diagnosing us with ailments for which no cures can even be found.

The DVA school initiatives is also noteworthy from primary to tertiary and even the Sunday Schools. Children and animal are the best partners to create a better world but children must be brought closer to animals at a young age. Children and animals bond naturally. Both aware of the vulnerabilities each other share. Both automatically able to generate unconditional love and compassion for each other. Sadly, children who are subject to witness animals being slaughtered, killed, maimed and harmed will naturally grow up into believing that their role is to follow the same procedure of harm to others. Such children watching a cow’s throat slashed will grow up to believing the animals was born to be killed and eaten.

If children grow up learning to love the environment, wanting to grow trees instead of cutting them and replacing with concrete, if children grow up loving animals, running home to feed their pet, feeling sad when others are ill-treating animals and generating inner compassion for every moving thing that cannot speak, the world would surely become a brighter and more loving place.

To build such a world takes time, but it takes effort and efforts come when there are initiatives put in place to reach those objectives. If we grow up teaching our children that animals are born to be killed and eaten, teaching them that human pain is different to animal pain, human sorrow is different to animal sorrow and animals have no feelings, that child will grow up showing no mercy for animals. Sadly, this was not so under former Kings of Sri Lanka. Eating or killing animals was banned by royal decree, vast stretches of land was declared sanctuaries for animals and birds – such was the cultural heritage the people of Sri Lanka developed. All that changed when explorers that loved to eat meat descended and taught our people to do the same. Today, we are struggling to return to the cultural and noble compassionate heritage stolen from us and replaced with hate-cruelty-and feeling joy in watching the pain of the voiceless.

Sri Lanka has a challenge before it, we need to look at the Bhutan example of departing from having zoos. Today, our zoos are open till late night and the animals have no sleep in their 24×7 service to man. We are exporting live animals for slaughter and this raises the question of right livelihood. Can we not make profits or money in better ways? Must it be only from killing and taking the life of another? Can we not find better entertainment than paying to see animals perform in zoos and are we so ignorant as to the torture these animals are subject to before their performance and how many are likely to be tortured if their performances do not make us clap or laugh! Can we not understand the grueling experiments conducted on animals as the first phase to it being eventually practiced on us? Just look at what monkeys are subject to and then realize that the same is going to be tried out on you in a similar yet more sophisticated way.

Shenali D Waduge

2 Responses to “The Dharma Voices for Animals : Giving voice to the voiceless”

  1. Senerath Says:

    Shenali forgot the insects.
    Number of insects killed could be 10 times the human population by chemical warfare practiced in developed countries. It is called Pest Control , a yearly activity in every household ( Not in my house).
    There is a company called Rentokil ( Rent-to -kill ?) in Sri Lanka too.

  2. dingiri bandara Says:

    Are people aware that in Switzerland, that brag so much about human rights and animal rights while providing safe haven to terrorists and criminals, cat and dog meat is consumed in some parts of the country? Cat meat is said to be a Christmas delicacy. One will be surprised to learn in how many so called civilized countries that talk about animals rights, dog meat is consumed.

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