I recently finished reading the book A Plea For The Animals by Matthieu Ricard. He is a French born Buddhist monk that lives in a monastery in Nepal. His book is, just as the title says, a plea for the animals. He talks about the many ways the animal industry harms the environment and harms our health but the focus of the book is how animals are inherently worthy of compassion and decency.
He writes at length about how animals are treated in order to provide for our present day mass consumption of meat. In the rich countries 80-90 percent of the animals we eat are produced in industrial breeding operations. We kill approximately 60 billion land animals a year and a thousand billion aquatic animals a year for our use. And the suffering that is involved in this is immense. These animals most often, with few exceptions, are living terrible lives and have terrible endings.
Calves are torn from their mothers just after birth, chicken's beaks are chopped off without anesthesia to prevent them from pecking each other to death in their craze induced cramped quarters and pigs, likewise, have their tails cut off for similar reasons as they live their lives in small metal boxes. This is heartbreaking and hard to write and to read. And that was just once sentence. There are pages that could be filled with descriptions of the suffering. There are photos and movies. We don't want to see it. We don't want to know about it. We just want to live like it doesn't happen. But it does.
Horrible things are happening to people too. I know this and my compassion is not like a pie that can only be divided among 8 slices and then there is no more. Just because I care about animals doesn't mean I don't care about human suffering too. Probably the suffering of humans is more important that that of animals. Certainly, I believe, the life of a human is more valuable than the life of an animal. If I am on a cliffside road and a rabbit jumps in front of my car and if I swerve the people in my car die then I am going to hit that rabbit. But if I have a safe choice then I will swerve.
Not eating animals is such an easy way to significantly lessen the suffering of these fellow earth beings. It isn't hard at all. I wish there was such an easy way to lessen the suffering of humans.
One of my favorite parts of this book is the descriptions of animal's intelligence and compassion. Macaques use human hair as dental floss and when the mother macaques use the floss in front of their offspring they do it longer and slower, evidently, teaching them how to floss. Chimpanzees,by drumming on trees, tell other chimps where they are, what direction they're going and when they are stopping to rest. Elephants recognize music melodies and remember them for years. Crows can judge if other crows know where they have hidden food and if the crow believes his food is well hidden he takes his time in getting it and if not then he rushes to retrieve it. He makes judgements! These examples go on and on, including ones of animals showing care to other animals. Animals feel pain, yes, but they also feel joy and compassion.
We don't want to see. But imagine if a dog was treated like a pig. Pigs are just as intelligent if not more so than dogs. They are loving and playful. Imagine, if like pigs, dogs were crammed in small cages, abused and killed by the millions. Would you protest? Would the taste of that dog bacon be worth it?
I am not perfect. I don't blame people. We don't want to see this. Of course, slaughter houses and egg production facilities and pig houses etc are behind walls, blinded to the outsider. It is illegal to even show what happens and most people don't want to look.
It's not just the animals that suffer. The workers at these plants suffer immensely and take these jobs as a last resort. Like the animals, their voices are not heard either.
We all suffer. It is too much to look at this. It hurts too much. I just don't want to know about it and I want to go along like before. But the suffering... it continues. How can I ignore it? How can we ignore it?
From the Metta Sutta, The Buddha's words on Loving Kindness:
Whatever living beings there may be;
Whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
The great or the mighty, medium, short or small,
The seen and the unseen,
Those living near and far away,
Those born and to-be-born,
May all beings be at ease!
To See and To Love is the name of my blog. I see what is happening and love in my heart is the answer. I will love, no matter what I will love.