If Vesak can be meat free, why can’t Christmas?
Posted on December 12th, 2016

Senaka Weeraratna Chapter Leader Dharma Voices for Animals, Colombo, Sri Lanka Chapter

Christmas is meant to be the season of joy, of holiday greetings exchanged, of gift-giving, and of families united.

Is Christmas truly the season of joy for all?

Does gift – giving during Christmas cover all forms of life?

These are valid questions, morally speaking.

There is a big difference in the celebration of Vesak (it marks the birth of Siddhartha Gautama, his Enlightenment and Mahaparinirvana of the Buddha) and Christmas.

Vesak is meat – free. Compassionate towards all living beings. Its celebration is inter – species. Buddhists feed both man and animal during the Vesak period.  No harm is done to animals as part of celebration of Vesak.

In contrast during Christmas there is a holocaust of animals. Mass shedding of blood and heavy consumption of meat. The highest per capita consumption of meat for the entire year. It is virtually the saddest period for most kinds of animals. Christmas celebration is intra – species as it is confined only to one species i.e. human beings, at the expense of lives of millions of non – human  sentient beings.  No one thinks of extending compassion to animals during Christmas. No lives of animals awaiting slaughter are saved.

In Buddhism, reverence and compassion for all forms of life is heavily stressed and consequently on Vesak day an age-old custom in Sri Lanka is legally enforced – closure of slaughter houses and ban on sale of meat. Buddhists generally abstain from flesh food consumption during Vesak as part of the Buddhist religious tradition and practice.

Given our unique situation, we in Sri Lanka can set an example to the rest of the world by emulating ‘non – harm’ to animals practice on Vesak Day, on Christmas day. The biggest beneficiaries would be the innocent animals. It is time that we all give due consideration to their (animals) paramount interest in living until their natural life span ends just as much we humans do in respect to each other.

Those who celebrate Christmas 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 and even beyond. Instead of blindly aping Western Christian traditions mired in killing and bloodshed during Christmas, why not follow a more distinctive Sri Lankan ( Sinhala ) Buddhist  tradition of total non-violence when celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of the founder of the religion?

Practice ‘Abhaya – dana’ for Christmas

Abhaya – Dana is basically ‘ Gift of Life’

Why not practice ‘ Abhaya – dana’ as part of Christmas gift – giving?. Abhaya-dana means giving of protection or freedom from fear, asylum to someone including non – human sentient beings under threat. It is usually Buddhists who collect money and save cows from slaughter and give them Abhaya – dana. Why cannot Christians and followers of other religions do likewise at least on days of their religious festivals? Why not feed animals in the Zoo and stray animals on the streets? Revive the Balu – Kaputu Dana (feeding dogs and crows) which is a hallowed tradition in the Sinhala Buddhist culture still visible in the country side.

The greatest moral challenge faced at Christmas being a religion-based festival is to make it slaughter free. Violence towards innocent animals on a mass scale is not an ethically correct way to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the founder of a religion renowned as the ‘Prince of Peace’.

Peace and Blood shed (of animals) are mutually contradictory beliefs or double think.

Those who celebrate the birth anniversary of Jesus Christ as a champion of peace while at the same time participating in killing and eating (or causing to kill and eat) huge chunks of meat engage in conduct that can best be described as ‘doublethink’.

Doublethink is the act of simultaneously accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct,

To the animals, the end of the year celebrations at time of both Christmas and the dawn of the New Year are tantamount to an ‘animal holocaust’. A ‘day of infamy’ from the point of view of the animals whose lives are sacrificed or robbed and body parts stolen and cooked for the merriment of humans.

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.  Innocent animals in their millions if they have not been slaughtered already are now virtually on death row awaiting their turn as we get closer to Christmas.

We can reduce this number of deaths by declining to eat meat.

Intensive factory farming in preparation for Christmas

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.

Civilisational Values

Christmas is an apt time for reflection on our civilisational 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.

Dharma Voices for Animals

The Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) was formed in 2011 to give voice to the suffering of animals, because they cannot articulate their suffering. We are opening Chapters of DVA around the world because we have arrived at a moment in history where 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.

Make Christmas Meat – Free

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.

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. Make Christmas Meat – Free. That will be an unique and truly noble gesture.

Senaka Weeraratna

Chapter Leader

Dharma Voices for Animals, Colombo, Sri Lanka Chapter

But for the sake of some little mouthful of meat, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy – Seneca

Farm animals are not future Buddhas donating their flesh out of compassion for those of us who have developed a craving for it. They are victims of our greed from whom we steal the most precious gift any of us has: life.”

Norm Phelps ‘The Great Compassion: Buddhism & Animal Rights’

2 Responses to “If Vesak can be meat free, why can’t Christmas?”

  1. Lorenzo Says:

    For me X-mas has been meat free for the past 10 years (and every other day).

    Vesak is NOT meat free. DANSAL that give food with meat or fish have MORE PEOPLE. NO people in the queue at DANSAL without meat.

    Even DANA to monks is NOT meat free!! They REFUSE DANA without meat!!

    I’m totally against killing animals including fish. Humans can survive without meat.

    But I will NOT support MUSAA WAADAA to stop ADINNA DAANAA.

  2. Christie Says:

    Let people eat what they want. You are another guy brainwashed by Hinduism and supported by their money.

    Buddhism does not ban people eating meat.

    This movement is one of the Indian tools of weakening the Sinhalese who ate meat for more than 100k years.

    Lentls and Urid are not grown in the island. We did not eat Thosa and Lentis until the Indian colonial parasites came here.

    Why don’t you eat your Wade and Thosai, go to the toilet and shut both ends.

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