Christmas – an apt time for reflection on compassion and mercy towards animals
Posted on December 23rd, 2012

by Senaka Weeraratna

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A key test of a civilized society and basis of functioning communities is the protection afforded to the vulnerable. Whether those in need of protection happen to be children, the sick, aged, enfeebled, destitute, exploited humans, or animals, a value measure of civilization is the degree to which their rights and welfare are protected by law and other community practices.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Christmas is an apt time for reflection on such 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. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ In other words, the undeniable undeclared war that is being waged everyday against countless millions of non ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” human animals all over the world takes on an aggravated turn during the Christmas season without an howl of protest from ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”civilizedƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ society or the members of the clergy of various religions.

Christmas is universally flaunted as a season of peace and goodwill but this claim would remain morally diminished if the enjoyment and celebrations were to be restricted only to one species i.e. human beings, and achieved at the expense of the lives of members of other species.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  A true ethical approach at time of Christmas is not to overlook the claims of other sentient beings to be left in peace, dignity and out of harmƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s way. A genuine celebration of peace and goodwill must embrace non ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” violence (Ahimsa) even towards other living creatures.

High ideals are important for any civilized nation. It is also important for human beings. Compassion is a key ingredient in an enlightened outlook towards others. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” man himself will not find peaceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ – Albert Schweitzer Nobel Prize WinnerƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

A meat free compassionate Christmas is an achievable goal if the will is there. Peace and bloodshed (of animals) are incongruous and do not go together. That is the critical difference between the celebration of Christmas and that of Vesak. Everyone can do their part to bring peace to animals and protect their own health simply by going vegetarian on Christmas day.

ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ As humans we must remember that we are just only one category of living beings who cannot claim unlimited rights to exploit other living beings and the resources available in this planet at our whim and fancy. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ We must resolve to disengage ourselves from our valuing everything by the usefulness and gains they give to the human beings. We have a moral obligation to respect and extend our compassion to all sentient beings irrespective of their value to us.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

There is an invaluable precedentƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚  in Sri Lanka though drawn from another ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ religious tradition 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 ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” closure of slaughter houses and ban on sale of meat. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ A majority of the people abstain themselves from flesh food consumption as part of Buddhist religious practice on that occasion.

Sri Lanka can set an example to the rest of the world by doing likewise on Christmas day. The biggest beneficiaries would be the innocent animals who are now virtually on death row awaiting their turn as we get closer to Christmas.ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ 

Sri Lankans who celebrate Christmas 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 foreign traditions mired in killing and bloodshed during Christmas, why not follow a more distinctive Sri Lankan tradition of total non ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢¢”š¬…” violence when celebrating the anniversary of the birth of the founder of a religion world renowned as the ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Prince of PeaceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢?

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.


2 Responses to “Christmas – an apt time for reflection on compassion and mercy towards animals”

  1. Voice123 Says:

    Eating meat or deliberately causing suffering of animals is not essential to celebrate Christmas. Neither are any cruel killing rituals recommended.. There are growing numbers of vegetarians and animal lovers who celebrate Christmas without eating meat and they should be encouraged by Buddhists and other concerned people. Even sadder to see is so-called Buddhists in Nepal enjoying the meat of animals sacrificed in Hindu temples and so-called Buddhists in China, Korea and Japan doing things such as cutting a monkeys skull to eat its brain while the animal is still alive, cutting frogs and fish up while still alive and throwing them limb by limb into the wok frying pan, cutting the fins off sharks and throwing them into back into the sea to slowly die, putting puppy dogs and kittens into bags and beating them with stick so they are “tastier” when eaten. These are only a few examples of animal cruelty. How sad that thousands of years of exposure to Buddhist philosophy hasnt yet stamped ou such cruel practices. Is Senaka concerned about these animals also or only the Christmas turkeys?

  2. Kit Athul Says:

    Christians should refer to the Christ’s last supper. What was there Bread and Wine. Now why at Christmas so many animals are killed and eaten? For Hindus and Muslims it is different. Their gods told them to kill and eat animals.

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