Compassion for other species

Children have a natural love for animals, until they are taught differently. In the rural township where I live, many animals roam through the streets from free-range chickens to untended pigs. 

I keep a fence around my garden; otherwise, everything in it would be eaten. As it is, the monkeys eat the coconuts and the leaves of a few of the trees.

The 14th Dalai Lama says, “It is easier for some people to start with compassion for other species than it is with compassion for other human beings.  But the two can’t really be separated. Every day, millions of animals are killed for food. That is very sad.” 

“We human beings can live without meat, especially in our modern world. We have a great variety of vegetables and other supplementary foods, so, we have the capacity and the responsibility to save billions of lives.”

I became a vegetarian in a culture where animals are consumed every day. In fact, in school, we learned that without the protein of animals, we couldn’t live. It was a terrifying lie that I believed.

His Holiness points out, “Certain killing is purely a ‘luxury.’ Hunting and fishing as sports, for example, are just nonsense. Other killing for example, the native people of Alaska killing fish for eating because it is a central part of their northern diet, is more understandable. But perhaps, the saddest is factory farming. The poor animals there really suffer.” 

“I once visited a poultry farm in Japan where they keep 200,000 hens for two years just for their eggs. During those two years, they are prisoners. Then, after two years, when they are no longer productive, the hens are sold.” 

“That is really shocking, really sad. We must support those who are attempting to reduce that kind of unfair treatment.”

My relatives were hunters. They’d bring home dead squirrels, deer, even raccoons. I’d watch the corpses being butchered, skinned, and cleaned. Witnessing caught fish struggling to get back in the water horrified me. 

But it was not until I started boiling lobsters alive for summer parties, that the whole truth hit me: I was murdering living creatures.

“Even in warfare, it is better to be aware of the suffering of others and our own discomfort for causing them pain,” the living Buddha admonishes.

“Warfare is killing. It is one hundred per cent negative. The way it is mechanised today is even worse. Where warfare remains ‘humanised’, I mean where it remains in touch with true human feelings, it is much safer. It is very dangerous for the warrior to forget about the suffering of others in order to achieve some small benefit. I am thinking here of some Tibetan butchers.”

“Although they make their livelihood as butchers, at the same time, they show kindness and love towards the animals. Before the slaughter, they give the animal some pills, and after they finish, they say a prayer. Although it is still killing, I think it is better with that kind of feeling.”

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