Meat free or vegan christmas – appropriate way to celebrate birth anniversary of a founder of a world religion
Posted on December 23rd, 2019

By Senaka Weeraratna

Christmas is a religion-based festival that promotes peace and kindness. Love thy neighbor is a key utterance of Jesus Christ. But can these values be sustained if we fail to extend them to all living beings. Are animals also not our neighbours? Morally entitled to our love and affection?

This moral issue arises every time Christmas dawns for celebration. Innocent animals in their millions are put to death to celebrate the birth anniversary of one man, renowned as the ‘Prince of Peace’. Can this be morally justified?

Some say that Christ was a vegetarian. If so, he will be turning in his grave, if he was aware of the pain and suffering caused to animals by man’s inhumanity to celebrate his birth anniversary.

If animals can speak they will call Christmas a ‘day of infamy’ as they are forced to sacrifice their lives for a human feast on a colossal mind boggling scale all over the world. 

In every sense of the word Christmas celebration generates an Animal Holocaust, not much different to the Holocaust of the Jews during World War Two.

The moral challenge is to celebrate Christmas on the footing of Ahimsa which means non – violence and peace. Reject merry making through causing death to millions of innocent animals. Strive for peaceful co – existence between humans and animals. Meat is murder. Strive for a meat free Christmas and save the lives of innocent animals.

We must remember that the vast majority of animals killed to sustain ‘feasts’ and celebrations on religious occasions are products of intense factory farming. On factory farms, baby animals are routinely subject to invasive surgical procedures without the mercy of pain relief. Millions of ‘meat’ chickens are concealed in industrial sheds, never to see daylight or feel the earth beneath their feet. In commercial hatcheries, economically ‘worthless’ day-old male chicks are crushed to death as ‘waste products’ of the egg industry. Even the dairy industry is not free from heinous cruelty towards new-born male calves. They are dispatched for slaughter no sooner they are born while their mother cows weep for them.

Civilizational Values 

Christmas is an apt time for reflection on our civilizational values because it is the season where hundreds of thousands of innocent animals undergo extreme suffering, exploitation, and death. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for Christmas dinner, along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. In western countries, puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off.  Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.

The undeclared war that is being waged everyday against countless millions of non-human animals all over the world takes on an aggravated turn during the Christmas season. These practices are deeply unsettling to anyone who values compassion and respect for the life of others. We cannot remain silent.


In contrast, Vesak, the Buddhist festival celebrating the birth anniversary of the Buddha is free of violence towards any living being.

Humans dread violence and death. Likewise, all living beings including the so – called food animals dread violence and death.

Compassion means sympathizing with the suffering in other beings because one sees suffering in oneself, and wishes every sentient being, including oneself, to be free from suffering and be happy. If there is a single definition of what makes one a true Buddhist, it is whether you endeavor to practice compassion or not.

This is clearly spelt out in the Karaniya Metta Sutta.

May all cultivate mettā (loving – kindess) towards all beings on an equal footing, those who live above, below, or across. May all be unhindered and without enmity.

Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life, may this protection affect all beings on an equal footing.

Whether standing, walking, sitting or lying down, may all sustain this mettā mindset (what the Buddha called Brahma Vihāra)”.

Any true celebration of peace and goodwill related to religion must be based on unimpeachable non-violence and respect for the lives of all living beings including non-human sentient beings.

An invaluable precedent from Sri Lanka 

There is an invaluable precedent in Sri Lanka i.e. Vesak, where reverence and compassion for all forms of life is stressed and consequently on Vesak day an age-old custom is legally enforced – closure of slaughter houses and ban on sale of meat. A majority of the people abstain from flesh food consumption as part of the Buddhist religious tradition and practice on that occasion.

We can set an example to the rest of the world by doing likewise on Christmas day. The biggest beneficiaries would be the innocent animals. It is time that due consideration is given to their paramount interest in living until their natural life span ends just as much as we humans do to each other.

Christians in Sri Lanka should strongly consider commencing a new tradition of kindness and goodwill to all living beings by leaving meat off their plate on Christmas day. Instead of blindly aping western traditions mired in killing and bloodshed during Christmas, why not follow a more distinctive Buddhist tradition of total non-violence when celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of the founder of a world religion.

Justice for Animals Sri Lanka was formed in 2019 under the auspices of Sri Bodhiraja Foundation led by Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera to give voice to the suffering of animals, because they cannot articulate their suffering. The cause of animals has to be highlighted loud and clear not only for their sake but also for our sake because it reflects on ourselves. Our sense of justice, compassion and sharing the planet earth with all those who inhabit it. 

Environmental damage 

Becoming a vegetarian or vegan has countless benefits. Studies have shown that meat eating takes a heavy toll on the environment. A person who consumes a diet high in meat is responsible for almost twice the climate-killing carbon dioxide emissions of a dedicated vegetarian.

In respect to the environmental cost per calorie, the effect of beef consumption, for example, is horrific. The rearing of beef cattle necessitates 160 times more land and leads to 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions vis-à-vis crops like wheat, rice or potatoes. 

Perhaps the most compelling argument for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle is that abundant studies have shown that vegetarians have lower incidences of heart disease, lower BMI and lower blood pressure than their meat-eating colleagues. Colon cancer is directly associated, according to the latest medical research, with eating red meat, much as cigarettes are with lung cancer.

Around 5 million Brits in UK will have a meat-free Christmas dinner for the first time ever. This is according to new research released by The Vegan Society.

According to the study, more British people are open to the idea of having a vegetarian Christmas than they’ve ever been. Eight percent of respondents said this year will be their first meat-free holiday dinner.

It is never too late to start such a fresh endeavor this season. It will save lives.  What can be more holy and noble than that?

Extend the spirit of goodwill to animals this Christmas by avoiding meat altogether on Christmas Day. That will be an unique and truly noble gesture. Senaka Weeraratna

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