Meatless Sri Lanka – A noble ideal worth pursuing as part of our ethical and moral advancement
Posted on October 27th, 2017

Senaka Weeraratna

An expanded version of the Opening Address of Welcome from Senaka Weeraratna, Chapter Leader, Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) Colombo, Sri Lanka Chapter delivered at the 2nd Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference held in Colombo on October 26, 2017.

Most Venerable Aggamaha Pandita Kotugoda Dhammawasa Mahanayake Thera, and Venerable members of the Maha Sangha, Hon.Speaker, Mr. Bob Isaacson, President of Dharma Voices for Animals and Chapter Leaders of Dharma Voices for Animals, President of the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

On behalf of the Dharma Voices for Animals, Colombo Chapter, being a Jt. Convenor together with the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, of this 2nd Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference, I welcome you all to this unique occasion. It is unique because we are gathered here not to discuss problems affecting members of our species, which are what almost all meetings of humans tend to discuss but to focus attention on the plight of other species that we humans share this planet with. It is this aspect which makes this gathering extraordinary.

It is a conference not to discuss the commercial exploitation of animals under the seemingly inoffensive terms such as animal husbandry, livestock industry, inland fisheries, goat farming, cattle farming and the like, but to direct attention to their suffering on a mind boggling scale mostly at the hands of humans that can no longer be treated as a closed book. We take great pride in the progress of civilization in regard to human rights but we have failed to maintain ethical coherence when it comes to our treatment of the other eight million species that inhabit this planet with us. We place high value on human life but almost zero value on non – human animal life. All our pretences to be civilized are put to shame by our double standards and sheer hypocrisy.

This big gap must be bridged. This Conference is a step forward in that direction.

The main objectives of this Conference are:

1) To promote DVA’s Sri Lanka Project which calls on all Buddhists to refrain from harming animals and become vegetarian or vegan
2) To require all Buddhists to become vegetarian or vegan for at least one day per week and forego flesh foods in the month celebrating vesak
3) To appeal to Buddhist clergy to consume a vegetarian/vegan diet while calling on the public to serve only plant-based food as dana to clergy.
4) To call for a ban on cattle slaughter.
5) To call for the enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill without further delay.

This Conference has two main platforms:

1) To draw attention to animal suffering, and
2) To work out remedies including personal transformation through change of diet by humans to reduce such suffering.

In this context it must be mentioned that in 2015 after evaluating more than 800 case studies the World Health Organization (WHO) gave its verdict on the cancer risks of red and processed meat. It is alarming to note that processed meat is now being classified as a ‘definite’ cause of cancer, and red meat being identified as a ‘probable’ cause.

In the wake of these findings it has therefore become a matter of urgency for all concerned people to take active steps to promote a vegetarian/ vegan diet. Buddhists in particular must set the example because Buddhism by and large recognises animal rights more than any other religion except Jainism. Buddhism holds that all life forms are sacred.

The Buddhist first precept

“I undertake to abstain from taking life.” can be given also an implied and pro active meaning ‘I undertake to save lives in danger from abuse and slaughter’ . This is exactly what the Buddha did in his time. He walked from Devale to Devale asking people to cease killing animals by way of animal sacrifice.

The first precept is not only about abstaining from taking life but it can also be interpreted to contain an implied calling to save lives in danger. Buddhism opposes all forms of animal exploitation. Killing of animals for food is contrary to Buddhist teaching. Kill and eat is not a Buddhist principle.

Greed, craving and desire to eat meat constitute a mental defilement. To eat meat without bothering to consider its true source is not right mindfulness. Kindness and compassion, and craving for meat cannot go together.

When the celebrated Russian writer Leo Tolstoy said ‘As long as there are slaughter houses there will always be battlefields”, he was merely echoing in different language what the Buddha had said in the Sutta Nipata 2, 600 years ago, 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.” (Suttanipata: 2:7:27-30:)

Wars, ethnic and religious riots and other forms of related human unrest and violence are collective karmic results of generated hatred when group-slaughtered animals, which die in great fear and hatred, are reborn as humans. Moreover the pain vibrations of dying animals are not without adverse consequences for humanity.

For hundreds of thousands of years

the stew in the pot has brewed hatred and resentment

that is difficult to stop.

If you wish to know why there are disasters of armies and weapons in the world,

listen to the piteous cries from the slaughterhouse at midnight.”

-Ancient Chinese Verse translated by Gold Mountain Monastery Staff

An Indian Scientist, Dr. Madan Mohan Bajaj in his book ‘A New Approach’ claims that the slaughtering of innocent animals and their cries before death is responsible for a large number of natural disasters such as Earthquakes e.g. Gadhimai Festival in Nepal in 2014 where over 500,000 head of cattle were slaughtered brutally was followed shortly afterwards by a Nepali Earthquake in April 2015 that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000.

The daily butchering of thousands of animals continually for several years generates acoustic anisotropy due to Einsteinian Pain Waves (EPW) emitted by dying animals. And the accumulated acoustic anisotropy is found to be related to the stress history of rocks.

The French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard in a recent article ‘ A Plea for the Animals’ explains the double standard of humans by use of the expression ‘ Cognitive dissonance ’.” You split your mind. You do terrible things to others including animals and play the role of good father at home on the other”. He says ‘if you keep on being ethically incoherent there is something in you that is not being healthy, that undermines your flourishing. It is not physically and mentally healthy to have this deep incoherence”

Public Policy in Sri Lanka

It is a national shame that the Animal Welfare Bill which the Law Commission released in 2006 is still languishing in the pipeline without any single Political party making a concerted effort to ensure its enactment. Both main rival political camps in the country are fighting shy to better the lives of animals though law reform providing greater protection and care. Animals have no votes and therefore they fail to get into the radar of public policy making except in the instances of commercial exploitation.

We must re – fashion public policy to be animal friendly like in the pre-colonial era. The Mahavamsa and the Chulavamsa provides specific examples of how Sinhala Kings cared for animals worthy of being recorded in historical chronicles as good meritorious deeds.

The concept of Justice in the Sinhala Legal Heritage was much wider than the idea of Justice rooted in the western legal tradition because it included protection of animals not only from mere cruelty.

The challenge we face is to revive Buddhist values that save lives. The view that animals are there to serve human ends even at the expense of their lives is not part of Buddhist teaching.

Heavy emphasis is placed on the idea of Reconciliation. It is the Buzz word. Why should it be confined to members of only one species? Ideally speaking Reconciliation in a Buddhistic sense must apply across the Board. Humans have been engaged in wrong doing since time memorial to other species. The least we can do is to apologise to them in the form of a catharsis though their lives cannot be restored. We are today still struggling to achieve accountability for wrongs done to various groups by more powerful forces by way of intra – species accountability. The day is not far off when there will be calls for inter – species accountability as part of ethical co – herence.

Bar Association of Sri Lanka

The legal profession especially in Sri Lanka must become proactive in the animal rights field. A life of an animal is dear to it as much as it is to us humans. It is not only a moral or ethical issue. It is also very much a Justice issue. Animals are the most inhumanely treated and victimized members of our moral community.

No lawyer worth his salt can deny this plain simple fact. To do otherwise is to draw attention to one’s insensitivity towards others or lack of a true sense of justice.

I call on the Bar Association of Sri Lanka to join us in demanding the enactment of the Animal Welfare Bill. Its deafening silence on Animal related issues including inhumane killing of stray dogs does no good to its overall image. The world is changing to accommodate animals even in national constitutions. Sri Lanka too must march forward with the times.

Public commissions of Inquiry are established at the drop of a hat in Sri Lanka to probe every conceivable alleged wrong doing except in the case of heinous crimes committed on animals e.g. slaughter houses, ritual slaughter, home slaughter, animal sacrifice and the like. The crimes perpetrated against animals live in the black hole of our collective amnesia unable to awaken our moral conscience.

Religious Festivals should be slaughter free

The screams of animals being slaughtered under most primitive unregulated conditions and in the backyards of homes during times of religious festivals go unheard and unnoticed in the corridors of power of this pre-dominantly Buddhist country. In England home slaughter is banned. Ritual slaughter is regulated and required to be performed only in registered abattoirs by skilled persons carrying a certificate. Women and children sometimes carrying blunt knives are prohibited from slaughtering animals in the backyards of their homes in England as part of ritual animal sacrifice.

All Religious Festivals in Sri Lanka should by law be made slaughter free.  A vigorous advocate of Vegetarianism, the Italian monk, Ven Lokanatha wrote a Book on the subject entitled ‘ The Crime of Killing’ which remains unpublished.

There he boldly declares

” Any religion that allows killing is false. and Why? because it is impossible to kill with any trace of love left in the human heart. The first thing that dies in the act of killing is love. A religion which permits animal slaughter is based on Greed, Selfishness, and Hatred. How can you eat animals by killing them. Your love is in your text, not in your heart. You tell the animals” Your death is my life”. I am a vegetarian Buddhist and I tell the animals: ‘ Live and Let Live’.

Buddhism is the religion of boundless loving – kindness”

Extracted from ‘ The Western Contribution to Buddhism ‘ by William Peiris

Buddhist Cultural Centre: 2017

Page 226

Our children are the protectors of animals in the future. Hence the importance of animal protection education from the very beginning of a child’s education. Legal education in both the Law Faculties and Sri Lanka Law College must offer study courses that also include units on Animal Rights along with Human Rights, or special courses on Animal Rights.

Today you will hear many voices speaking on behalf of animals at this Conference. They are drawn from a variety of fields e.g. nutrition, medicine, religion, veterinary science, law, humanities, politics etc. and backgrounds local and foreign. Animal Rights activists who are well represented in this Hall can be expected to have a field day in the ensuing deliberations. We have arranged for Conference meals in line with our animal friendly beliefs and practices – all vegan food. Vegetarianism and veganism are both gestures of renunciation. A Meatless Sri Lanka is a noble ideal worth pursuing as part of our ethical and moral advancement.

This esoteric Conference is the fruit of the labour of a number of people too numerous to mention by individual name. However it would be tantamount to an unpardonable lapse and a dereliction of duty if I fail to acknowledge three outstanding efforts, namely, the magnanimity of the DVA parent organization led by Bob Isaacson in funding a sizeable part of the expenses, the contribution of Dr. Lanka Dissanayake and her enthusiastic team from the Anagarika Dharmapala Humanitarian Foundation, in handling the logistics with great attention paid to detail, together with constant guidance in negotiating numerous twists and turns along the way, and Ms. Renuka D. Nagodavithana, DVA Colombo Chapter Co – ordinator, for her invaluable services in several areas to ensure the success of this Conference.

I thank you all once again for your kind presence at this noteworthy gathering.

Senaka Weeraratna

2 Responses to “Meatless Sri Lanka – A noble ideal worth pursuing as part of our ethical and moral advancement”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    Only if it is voluntary. I very much doubt people would voluntarily give up meat as per capita meat consumption in Sri Lanka (and all countries with an increasing per capita income year on year of more than 3%) is increasing.

    Forcing a food policy on people never works. It must not be attempted.

    Torture of animals and humans at religious shrines (including self torture) must be banned. It is barbaric, inhuman and disgusting.

    However, using one religion to demean other religions will only worsen matters. It may even worsen matters from killing animals to killing animals and humans as we saw too many times in our “Dharmadweepa”. Educating people why they should reduce meat consumption with scientific facts keeping religion and one’s own views out should be done. It is up to the individuals to take it or leave it.

  2. Fran Diaz Says:

    In an ideal world, meat eating might be dropped. May not happen for a long time ?

    Also note that lab made meat may be in the market place soon.

    Soy & Wheat protein meats are already in the market, especially in the west. For vegetarians, this is a healthy and safe alternative to animal flesh. Besides, the Soy/Wheat protein meat balls, chicken strips, sausages etc are quite like the real thing ! The switch could be made from real meats to veg meat if alternative products are made available. An adult human needs about 50 grams of protein per day.

    The good news part is that a Judge in the North has banned Animal Sacrifice.
    Tamil Nadu had banned Animal Sacrifice some time ago.

    One wonders if this ban in the North applies to the North only or is it an island wide ban ?
    Replies to this question are welcome.

    Things that can be done to save Man & Beast :
    It is far kinder to give FREE & SAFE birth control material to human adults so that populations do not outnumber the capacity of countries to support them.
    It is also far kinder to neuter any larger animals that reproduce too fast, before they outnumber the safe number zone.

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