Slaughter-free Christmas: The way forward
by Senaka Weeraratna on 24 Dec 2015 0 Comment

But for the sake of some little mouthful of meat, we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy - Seneca


The greatest moral challenge faced at Christmas being a religion-based festival is to make it slaughter free. Violence towards innocent animals on a mass scale is not an ethically correct way to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the founder of a religion renowned as the ‘Prince of Peace’.


To the animals, the end of the year celebrations by the human species at both Christmas and the dawn of the New Year are tantamount to an ‘animal holocaust’. A ‘day of infamy’ from the point of view of the preservation of animal life.


Any true celebration of peace and goodwill related to religion must be based on unimpeachable non-violence and respect for the lives of all living beings including non-human sentient beings. Innocent animals in their millions if they have not been slaughtered already are now virtually on death row awaiting their turn as we get closer to Christmas.  


The vast majority of animals killed to sustain ‘feasts’ and celebrations on religious occasions are products of intense factory farming. On factory farms, baby animals are routinely subject to invasive surgical procedures without the mercy of pain relief. Millions of ‘meat’ chickens are concealed in industrial sheds, never to see daylight or feel the earth beneath their feet. In commercial hatcheries, economically ‘worthless’ day-old male chicks are crushed to death as ‘waste products’ of the egg industry. Even the dairy industry is not free from heinous cruelty towards new born male calves. They are dispatched for slaughter no sooner they are born while their mother cows weep for them.


Civilisational Values


Christmas is an apt time for reflection on our civilisational values because it is the season where hundreds of thousands of innocent animals undergo extreme suffering, exploitation, and death. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for Christmas dinner, along with ducks, geese, pigs, lambs and chickens. In western countries, puppies and kittens are given away as presents, then often neglected or discarded by new owners when the novelty has worn off.  Rabbits and foxes have their fur stripped from them to be turned into clothing and accessories.


The undeclared war that is being waged everyday against countless millions of non-human animals all over the world takes on an aggravated turn during the Christmas season. These practices are deeply unsettling to anyone who values compassion and respect for the life of others. We cannot remain silent.


Dharma Voices for Animals


The Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) was formed to give voice to the suffering of animals, because they cannot articulate their suffering. We are opening Chapters of DVA around the world because we have arrived at a moment in history where the cause of animals has to be highlighted loud and clear not only for their sake but also for our sake because it reflects on ourselves. Our sense of justice, compassion and sharing the planet earth with all those who inhabit it. 


Vesak – An invaluable precedent from Sri Lanka


There is an invaluable precedent  in Sri Lanka though drawn from another  religious tradition i.e. Vesak, where reverence and compassion for all forms of life is stressed and consequently on Vesak day an age-old custom is legally enforced – closure of slaughter houses and ban on sale of meat. A majority of the people abstain from flesh food consumption as part of the Buddhist religious tradition and practice on that occasion.


We in Sri Lanka can set an example to the rest of the world by doing likewise on Christmas day. The biggest beneficiaries would be the innocent animals. It is time that we all give consideration to their paramount interest in living until their natural life span ends just as much we humans do to each other.


Sri Lankans who celebrate Christmas should strongly consider commencing a new tradition of kindness and goodwill to all living beings by leaving meat off their plate on Christmas day. Instead of blindly aping foreign traditions mired in killing and bloodshed during Christmas, why not follow a more distinctive Sri Lankan tradition of total non-violence when celebrating the anniversary of the birthday of the founder of a religion.


Environmental damage


Becoming a vegetarian or vegan has countless benefits. Studies have shown that meat eating takes a heavy toll on the environment. A person who consumes a diet high in meat is responsible for almost twice the climate-killing carbon dioxide emissions of a dedicated vegetarian.


In respect to the environmental cost per calorie, the effect of beef consumption, for example, is horrific. The rearing of beef cattle necessitates 160 times more land and leads to 11 times more greenhouse gas emissions vis-à-vis crops like wheat, rice or potatoes. 


Perhaps the most compelling argument for choosing a vegetarian lifestyle is that abundant studies have shown that vegetarians have lower incidences of heart disease, lower BMI and lower blood pressure than their meat-eating colleagues. Colon cancer is directly associated, according to the latest medical research, with eating red meat, much as cigarettes are with lung cancer.


It is never too late to start such a fresh endeavor this season. It will save lives.  What can be more holy and noble than that?


Extend the spirit of goodwill to animals this Christmas by avoiding meat altogether on Christmas Day. That will be an unique and truly noble gesture.


The author heads the Colombo Chapter of Dharma Voices for Animals 

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