Universal Brotherhood Includes
Another Reason to be Vegetarian
by Stephen Knapp
I know some people may not want to consider the information in this section. Others will feel this has nothing to do with establishing world peace and unity. However, there are numerous ancient religious texts and contemporary authorities who feel otherwise. Therefore, we can consider that if we really want to establish peace and brotherhood among all people, we should take it a step farther to include the animals.
As I have said before in my book, Toward World Peace, we need to see the spiritual nature within all living beings, and that includes the animals and other beings as well. Universal brotherhood means nonviolence to humans AND animals. It consists of understanding that animals have souls. They are alive, conscious, and feel pain. And these are the indications of the presence of consciousness, which is the symptom of the soul. Even the Bible (Genesis 1.21; 1.24; 1.30; 2.7; and in many other places) refers to both animals and people as nefesh chayah, living souls. Those who eat meat, however, because of their desires to eat animals or see them as a source of food for one’s stomach, are not so easily able to understand the spiritual nature of all beings. After all, if you know that all living entities are spiritual in essence, and that all living beings that are conscious show the symptoms of the soul within, then how can you go on killing them? Any living creature is also the same as we are in the respect that it is also a child of the same father, a part of the same Supreme Being. Thus, the killing of animals shows a great lack in spiritual awareness.
Many portions of the Vedic literature describe how the Supreme Being is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, humans as well as the animals, and is alive in the heart of every living being. Only those with spiritual consciousness can see the same Supreme Being in His expansion as Supersoul within every creature. To be kind and spiritual toward humans and be a killer or enemy toward animals is not a balanced philosophy, and is an exhibit of one’s spiritual ignorance. On a national level, to maintain so many slaughterhouses for the sake of satisfying the human beings’ taste for eating flesh will continue to produce reactions that will constantly disturb the very peace we are trying to establish in the world.
We have to consider the amount of fear and pain animals are forced to endure when taken to the slaughter house. There are countless stories of how in fear cows cry, scream, and sometimes fall down dead while inside or even before they are taken into the slaughter house. Or how the veins of dead pigs are so big that it shows they have practically exploded from the fear the pig felt and the adrenalin that was produced while it was being led to slaughter. This certainly causes an immense amount of violence to permeate the atmosphere, which goes out and falls back on us in some form. Furthermore, the adrenalin and fear in the animal also produces toxins which then permeate the body of these animals, which meat-eaters then ingest. People who consume such things cannot help but be effected by it. It causes tensions within them individually, which then spreads in their relations with others. This is one of the reasons why we may experience quarrels, hostilities, or even international tensions and wars.
We may respect our fellow human beings, but unnecessary violence to animals is also unwanted and sinful, as the various quotes that follow from different religious texts will confirm. People who prescribe the killing of animals out of voracious selfishness are guided by their lower animal propensities. Our true human and spiritual nature can never fully shine if we do not refrain from such habits of killing and abusing other creatures.
The ancient Vedic text of the Manu-samhita (5.45-8) says, “He who injures innoxious beings from a wish to give himself pleasure never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. He who does not seek to cause the suffering of bonds and death to living creatures, but desires the good of all beings, obtains endless bliss. He who does not injure any creature, attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat.”
The Bible (Romans 14.21) also says, “It is neither good to eat flesh, nor to drink wine.” However, how many people who claim to be Christians continue to do this on a regular basis? Therefore, how can they call themselves real Christians? And another biblical commandment (Exodus 23.5) instructs to help animals in pain, even if they belong to an enemy.
The Buddhist scripture (Sutta-Nipata 393) also advises: “Let him not destroy or cause to be destroyed any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world.” It is also said in the Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.”
An important principle of Jainism is related in the Sutrakritanga (1.11.33) which explains, “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”
For Jews, the Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18B) forbids the association with hunters, not to mention engaging in hunting. So if people are going to be true Jews or Christians, they should follow the tenets of their religion. Otherwise, anyone may profess to be of any religion, yet not be a true follower because of failing to regard the principles.
Some Jews and Christians are convinced that sacrificing animals, as mentioned in certain parts of the Bible in the Old Testament, justifies meat-eating. But in the New Testament Jesus preferred mercy over sacrifice (Matthew 9.13; 12.7) and was opposed to the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21.12-14; Mark 11.15; John 2.14-15). One of the missions of Jesus was to do away with animal sacrifice and cruelty to animals (Hebrews 10.5-10). So how can Christians continue to sacrifice animals for the sake of their tongue if they claim to be followers of Christ?
We especially find in Isaiah where Jesus scorns the slaughter and bloodshed of humans and animals. He declares (1.15) that God does not hear the prayers of animal killers: “But your iniquities have separated you and your God. And your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear. For your hands are stained with blood. . . Their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed innocent blood. . . they know not the ways of peace.” Isaiah also laments that he saw, “Joy and merrymaking, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine, as you thought, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (22.13)
It is also established in the Bible (Isaiah 66.3), “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” In this regard St. Basil (320-379 A.D.) taught, “The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts.”
In an article called “The Golden Age Must Return: A Catholic’s Views on Vegetarianism,” written by the Chairman of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare in London, Reverend Basil Wrighton, it establishes that a vegetarian diet is consistent with and required by the tenets of Christianity. The article further explains that the killing of animals for food not only violates religious tenets, but brutalizes humans to where violence against other humans becomes inevitable.
In this way it can be understood that a true religionist, one who is always thinking of the welfare of others, never tries to cause anxiety for any creature, human or otherwise. Therefore, we should understand that killing other living entities for one’s food is an act of cruelty to others and should be avoided.
So, even though there are areas in the world where a meatless diet is difficult to follow, or that meat is a basic part of a region’s cultural ways, we must consider that if we really want peace, we must also think of the well being of others. That includes the other nonhuman living beings. It is not that we must always go out of our way to provide the animals with all the comforts of home. They can usually provide for themselves, at least those in the wild. However, we should find alternatives to killing animals to satisfy our appetites, especially when there are plenty of other healthy foods available. Otherwise, there must be reactions to such violence. We cannot expect peace in the world if we go on unnecessarily killing so many millions of animals for meat consumption or through abuse.
As Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. On the universal scale this is called the law of karma, meaning what goes around comes around. This affects every individual, as well as communities and countries. As the nation sows, so shall it reap. This is something we should take very seriously, especially in our attempt to bring peace, harmony, and unity into the world. If so much violence is produced by the killing of animals, where do you think the reactions to this violence goes? It comes back to us in so many ways, such as the form of neighborhood and community crime, and on up to world wars. Violence breeds violence. Therefore, every several years there is a big war in various areas of the world which causes wholesale slaughter of people. This is a reaction of nature for the immense cruelty produced by humankind. Humanity may not see this, but the reaction must be there. Thus, quarrels and wars appear between any group, such as Protestant and Catholic, Russia and Afghanistan, Muslim and Christian, or so many others. This will continue unless we know how to change.
Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, asked, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?” He went on to say, “I personally believe that as long as human beings will go shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”
In conclusion, we can mention the March 10, 1966 issue of L’Osservatore della Domenica, the Vatican weekly newspaper, in which Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini wrote: “Man’s conduct with regard to animals should be regulated by right reason, which prohibits the infliction of purposeless pain and suffering on them. To ill treat them, and make them suffer without reason, is an act of deplorable cruelty to be condemned from a Christian point of view. To make them suffer for one’s own pleasure is an exhibition of sadism which every moralist must denounce.” Eating animals for the pleasure of one’s tongue when there are plenty of other foods available certainly fits into this form of sadism. It stands to reason that this is counterproductive to any peace and unity we wish to establish. It is one of the things we need to consider seriously if we want to improve the world.