“Those who, by their purchases, require animals to be killed have no right to be shielded from the slaughterhouse or any other aspect of the production of the meat they buy. If it is distasteful for humans to think about, what can it be like for the animals to experience it?”
—Dr. Peter Singer, Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
There is one more, huge spiritual benefit of going vegetarian and for many people, it is the main reason they abstain from meat. It is certainly the main reason spiritual and religious people have long understood that the conscious abstention from meat consumption is necessary as the foundation for spiritual awakenings. What is it? What could be bigger than accruing the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism? What’s the big whammy?
Vegetarians do not participate in the cruelty involved in meat production.
The fact is, no one wants an animal to suffer.
This is an interesting fact. Why is it almost unbearably painful to watch an animal suffer? For a sizable portion of the human population, it is more difficult to witness an animal suffer than to watch a person suffer.
Like children, animals are innocent. We rejoice when animals are thriving and content, living their lives in accordance with nature. Likewise, we are greatly pained when they are helplessly tormented. This is the most natural and universal sentiment among our species no matter if it comes from God or is brought by the wisdom of millions of years of evolution.
“Earth is generous with her provisions, and her sustenance is very kind; she offers, for your table, food that requires no bloodshed and no slaughter.”
Wait a minute. Don’t humans sit atop some imagined pyramid with all other creatures below us? Doesn’t God above favor humans over all others? Aren’t humans morally superior to the ‘lesser’ creatures?
Happily, these questions are well beyond the scope of this book!
However, I might point out that the more you read about animals, the more you connect to the complexity, awe, and precious nature of all life on the planet; the more you grasp the importance of extending our compassion and moral and physical protection to all forms of life. Exercise your curiosity and compassion with these fabulous reads: When Elephants Weep by Jeffery Moussaieff Masson; Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy by Matthew Scully; The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman; The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness, by Sy Montgomery; and Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans by John Marzluff and Tony Angell. These are among hundreds of books exploring the surprising and amazing dimensions found in the animal kingdom. The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben rocks your understanding of the world; you will never look at a forest the same way again.
Yet billions and billions of animals suffer horribly at the hands of humans as we make these innocent beings into meat.
Meat producers and their co-conspirators, meat eaters, can try to ignore it, pretend it doesn’t happen, or act as if they don’t really care how much a chicken, pig, sheep, or cow suffers on the way to a dinner table, but their suffering registers psychologically, physically, psychically, and spiritually.
For those few people who do not really know what happens to animals headed to our dinner plates, or for any thoughtful person who needs to fully grasp the awesome power of a vegetarian diet, let us shine a light on those doomed, four-legged and winged creatures and their lives of pain and suffering and deaths.
“The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But can they suffer?”
—Jeremy Bentham, philosopher, theologian
These days, farm animals face the harshest of lives. Corporations have taken over the world’s farms and assembly line production is the cruel means by which we turn living animals into food. The sheer quantity of meat demanded by consumers prohibits any and all humane treatment, even the smallest act of mercy. Each and every one of these billions of animals is born into suffering, a suffering that does not end until the day that the animal is slaughtered. Because of the staggering number of animals involved, it is literally impossible to grasp the magnitude of the cruelty involved in meat eating.