When I was sixteen years old and I read a book by John Robbins: May All Be Fed: A Diet For A New World and was impacted to core of my being. It changed my life to say the least, and inspired me to become vegan, which at that time in history was almost unheard of and mostly a very strange idea. For several years I adhered to a strictly vegan diet; but as time went on I didn't keep to it.
Some years later, during my first year of University, I was introduced to the Philosophy of applied ethics and the work of the Australian Humanist Peter Singer. I became aware of the horrors afflicted on many animals in the name of scientific testing and particularly the hideous things done to the chimpanzees used for biomedical research, and as a result their intense suffering the undeniable signs of trauma they displayed both during and after this torture. I learned about a organization called the Fauna Foundation in Quebec, which is the only chimpanzee Sanctuary and rescue centre in Canada, and became a fierce advocate for these helpless victims. Once again a fire was sparked within, and I began to re-examine my beliefs and whether or not I was supporting what I knew to be true through my actions.
About a year later, I was introduced to the practices and philosophies of both Buddhism and Yoga. I resonated with them deeply, and wanted to integrate them more fully into my life. During this time of exploration it became apparent to me that to uphold the values of ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness) I would need to look more deeply at the impact of my dietary choices on the welfare of all sentient beings. Although I had never returned to eating land animals or birds, I had gone back to eating fish, dairy and eggs from time to time. It was around this time I once again shifted my lifestyle towards primarily a vegan diet.
I don't want to get all preachy, and I will be the first to tell you that I am not always 100% dairy-free; when we are in India, where the cows are still treated with love and respect, I am not rigid about following a strictly vegan diet; and we still use honey sometimes, and I still own some leather. However, in my heart of hearts I feel that the treatment of animals is an important issue that cannot be easily dismissed or overlooked for anyone who cares about our planet and the beings we share it with.
Ignorance is an easy defence to shroud our carelessness; but these days it is not very difficult to find out the truth. Mostly it is not an inability to find out what is really going on, as much as individuals have a desire to keep their eyes and hearts closed. Mainly, we do not want to know the tragic truths of how some of our own treat those of another species, simply because it will sit heavily on our conscience; thus, we would rather live cheerfully unaware.
The time has come that we can no longer deny the facts that animals feel and experience pain and suffering, just like us; and like us they express degrees of emotion, and seek their own comfort to avoid pain or discomfort. Pain, like all our other senses, is conveyed to the brain by nerves. Just as we respond to external stimuli through the senses of sight, touch, taste, smell, or hearing, animals do as well. In many cases animals are more sensitive to these stimuli, and much more developed in a particular areas of receiving information through a specific sense organ then humans are, which potentially might make their suffering more acute in some instances.
When the Yoga Sutras talk about ahimsa (non-harming) and satya (truthfulness) it states that they are maha-vratam (supreme vows) and that these virtues are to be practised in relation to all creatures, in all places, times, and circumstances. (Patanjali Yoga Sutras: II:31)
It all comes down to reducing our tendency to cause harm, either directly or indirectly, regardless of intelligence, strength, social class, civil rights, race, sex, or species. It takes nothing away from a human to be kind to animals, or other humans, and it is within our power to take care not only of each other, but of the all beings everywhere, as well as our planet.
So let us be both bold and kind, as we go forth and create a New World together.
If you haven't watched this show already. I ask you to take the time and do so.
Commit to watching at least the first 40 minutes.
It is so worth it, and it just might save your life.
As long as there are slaughter houses there will be battlefields.
For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.
Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.