Global Animal Holocaust – the Countdown has begun
by Janaka Perera, AsianTribune.com, Dec 21, 2007
Colombo, Sri Lanka -- Every year this festive season heralds the commencement of an animal holocaust. It is a period of terror and agony for the millions of innocent, defenceless animals who go unwillingly to their deaths so that man can feast on their flesh and make merry.
In the old days in civilizations such as that of the Incas in South America, human beings were sacrificed to please the gods. The hard fact is that neither human nor animal sacrifice washed away anyone's sins.
In his day the Buddha admonished the Brahmins for engaging in needless animal sacrifice to appease their gods. The concepts of Ahimsa (non –violence towards all living creatures) and Karuna (compassion to all sentient beings) propounded by both Mahavir – founder of Jainism - and the Buddha became well established in Indian society. Vegetarianism spread throughout the land. They became the corner stone of India 's culture and civilization. Mahatma Gandhi upheld these values with fervour in the 20th century.
During the time of the Buddha, many kinds of sacrifices were practised by Brahmins who were the priests of the Vedic religion. The Buddha did not see any value in these sacrifices, primarily because they were entirely external rites. If one could speak of a 'right sacrifice', it had to be something that was internal or 'spiritual'.
"I lay no wood, Brahmin, for fire on altars
Only within burneth the fire I kindle"
- says the Buddha, mindful of the Brahmins' practice of tending a regular 'sacred fire' and pouring oblations into it for the various gods of the Vedic pantheon.
The Buddha rejected animal sacrifice
The Buddha rejected animal sacrifice in no uncertain terms. For example, when he was told of a 'great sacrifice' that the king of Kosala was about to perform, where 2500 cattle, goats and rams were to be immolated, he declared:
"Never to such a rite as that repair
The noble seers who walk the perfect way."
And, in one of the Jataka stories (Bhuridatta), the future Buddha is reported to have said:
"If he who kills is counted innocent,
Let Brahmins kill.
We see no cattle asking to be slain
That they a new and better life may gain;
Rather they go unwilling to their death
And in vain struggles yield their final breath.
To veil the post, the victim and the blow,
The Brahmins let their choicest rhetoric flow".
A particularly touching discourse of the Buddha on animal sacrifice comes in one of the most ancient Buddhist texts, the Sutta Nipata. Here in a discourse on the ethical conduct fit for a Brahmin (Brahmana-dhammika Sutta), the Buddha speaks respectfully of ancient Brahmins who spurned the taking of life and never allowed their religious rites to be tainted by the killing of animals. But corruption set in and they started the practice of animal sacrifice. When the knife was laid on the neck of cattle, the gods themselves cried out in horror of that crime of ingratitude and insensitivity perpetrated on an animal that was to humans such a faithful worker, such a sustainer of life.
Discourse with Kutadanta
In the piece known as the Discourse with Kutadanta, the Buddha tells Kutadanta of a worthy sacrifice held in ancient times under the guidance of a certain enlightened Brahmin counsellor. In this sacrifice no living thing is injured; all the labour is voluntary and the sacrifice is offered not only on behalf of the king, but of all the good. The Buddha then tells Kutadanta of even better forms of sacrifice.
In the course of this discourse, as Mrs C. A. F. Rhys Davids points out (Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, article on Sacrifice/ Buddhist), the stations in the road to the good life - the perfect lay life and the perfect religious life - are set forth as so many degrees of sacrifice, each better than the other. Thus the highest sacrifice is the abandonment of the sense of self - i.e., the sacrifice of ego-centredness, leading to insight and wisdom.
It is not a matter for surprise that the Buddhism along with Jainism, the other great religion of Ahimsa, as well as several sects of Hinduism, rejected animal sacrifice, although many other religions approved of it to some extent or another. The Buddha in fact was outspoken in his criticism of animal sacrifice.
Sympathy with the suffering of animals and other sentient beings is at the core of the Buddhist compassion or loving kindness (Metta). Says a verse in the Dhammapada, the most popular of Buddhist texts:
"All fear the rod
Of death are all scared.
(Understanding others) from one's own example,
One should neither kill nor cause to kill."
'For all is life dear'. This is in simple terms is the 'philosophy' behind the Buddhist ethic of Ahimsa: other living beings are like us; we should treat them the way we want to be treated ourselves. This is the spirit behind the first precept which enjoins us neither to kill, nor to encourage killing as clearly explained in the Dhammika Sutta. This is the spirit that prompts the Noble Eightfold Path to forbid the trade in flesh and engaging in fishing, hunting etc. for those who profess to follow that Path. (For further details, see 'The Buddha was against Animal Sacrifice' by Professor Mahinda Palihawadana – in the Sri Lankan newspapers The Island of May 14, 2000 and the Daily News of August 02, 2000)
Right to Life of Sentient Beings
Every sentient being has a fundamental right to the completion of its natural span of life.
But to a modern world where market economics and amassing of material wealth is the be all and end all of life, compassion for animals holds little meaning.
However there are some theistic religious groups that fortunately think differently from that of the mainstream popular traditions that show no mercy to dumb creatures. And these include not only some Christian but also Islamic organizations. Of course these views will undoubtedly be challenged by those who want to continue with the killing spree. But that need not concern those whose goal is to end animal slaughter.
Muslim Voices against Animal Sacrifice
In an article entitled 'An Islamic Persepective Against Animal Sacrifice', Shahid 'Ali Muttaqi, a leading Muslim theologian (islamveg.com) observes:
"Sacrifice is not a pillar of Islam. Nor is it obligatory during Hajj, it's accompanying 'Id or the 'Id al-Fitr. This is not to say that it did not, or does not happen. However, we must look at the occurrences in a contextual manner, understanding not only the pre-Islamic institution of sacrifice, the Quranic reforms concerning this practice, and the continuance of sacrifice in the Muslim world, but also the nature in which the Quranic revelations occurred. For it seems with many people, both non-Muslims and Muslims alike, context is the key that they are missing.
... With this in mind let us start with the situation as was in pre- Islamic Arabia in regards to animal sacrifice. Not only did the Pagan Arabs sacrifice to a variety of Gods in hopes of attaining protection or some favor, or material gain, but so too did the Jews of that day seek to appease the One True God by blood sacrifice and burnt offerings. Even the Christian community felt Jesus to be the last sacrifice, the final lamb so to speak, in an otherwise valid tradition of animal sacrifice (where one's sins are absolved from the blood of another).
Islam however broke away from this long standing tradition of appeasing an "angry God" and instead demanded personal sacrifice and submission as the only way to die before death and reach 'Fana' or 'extinction in Allah.' The notion of 'vicarious atonement of sin' (absolving one's sin's through the blood of another) is nowhere to be found in the Quran. Neither is the idea of gaining favor by offering the life of another to God. In Islam, all that is demanded as a sacrifice is one's personal willingness to submit their ego and individual will to Allah.
One only has to look at how the Quran treats one of the most famous stories in the Judeo-Christian world: the sacrifice of Isaac - here, in the Islamic world seen as the sacrifice of Isma'il - to see a marked difference regarding sacrifice and whether or not Allah is appeased by blood. The Quranic account of the sacrifice of Isma'il ultimately speaks against blood atonement."
Shahid 'Ali Muttaqi further says:
"But for those of us living in the modern world, we have to seriously question practices that not only have lost meaning (in our present circumstances) but also are contributing to needless bloodshed and environmental destruction (not to mention the health problems incurred by meat eaters).
Furthermore, the majority of animals used for sacrifice during the Hajj are not even raised or killed in a Halal manner. These days the numbers of animals needed are so high that the majority are imported from New Zealand and other countries. The raising of these animals (along with those for meat and wool export) is contributing to the environmental destruction of New Zealand 's eco-system.
Furthermore, these animals are shipped in brutally overcrowded conditions where large percentages regularly die from either disease, being trampled or from heat exhaustion. This is not humane. This is not halal. And we can't ignore this reality. It's not enough to acknowledge that the situation is unfortunate. We as Muslims must not only change our own actions that help create this situation, but also speak out for the protection of Allah's innocent creatures. We're not living 1400 hundred years ago, and whether some of us like it or not, the world is changing.
The Prophet(sal) ate primarily dates and barley, only occasionally eating meat …. Meat Eating (and in relation to it, animal sacrifice) are not intrinsic to who the Prophet(sal) was or to what he preached. And most of the current research shows that humans are healthier on a vegetarian/vegan diet (ultimately proving we do not need to eat meat, and therefore, no longer have any justification for animal sacrifice in a modern setting)."
According to Islamic scholar Dr. Zakir Naik, a Muslim can be a very good Muslim despite being a pure vegetarian. It is not compulsory for a Muslim to have non-vegetarian food ( Islamic Voice Monthly Vol 12-12 No:144 - December1998/ Shaban Ramadan 1419H)