My wife Suzanne and I have just taken on the role of co-leaders of the Penang Chapter of Dharma Voices For Animals. As a vegan and Buddhist, this organisation is very close to my heart. It is a non-profit organisation with members in over 50 countries and its purpose is to raise awareness of animal suffering within the worldwide Buddhist community.
Our aim is to inspire Buddhists (and anyone else) to honestly consider their deepest values and explore whether their eating habits are truly expressing those values. Two of the central values in Buddhism are compassion and reverence for life. The five ethical principles are accepted by all forms of Buddhism and the first precept asks us to refrain from harming sentient beings.
If our deepest values are compassion and reverence for life, can we, in all conscience, continue to support industries which are involved in great suffering for animals and the loss of their lives? The food industry has changed radically in recent times with the introduction of factory farms and intolerable lives for the animals being reared. There are several documentaries you can find on YouTube reporting the kind of abuse that goes on in the industry. One example is Glass Walls narrated by Paul McCartney. Even the terms free-range and organic don’t guarantee the animals had a happy life.
Our habits of eating are strongly entrenched in us from our childhood and our culture. It is difficult to go against our conditioning and the pressures of our society, family and friends. However, as Buddhist, we need to carefully examine our eating habits in the light of our Buddhist values. I have no doubt, that were the Buddha alive today he would be strongly advocating a vegan lifestyle.
It is difficult to change long-held habits. However, one can set a goal, and aim to reach it step by step. Maybe, you start by refraining from eating meat one day a week. This approach is encouraged as a starting point by the Meatless Monday movement. Personally, I like the all-or-nothing approach where you just change completely at once but I know that it doesn’t suit everyone. The point is to make your intention clear and to move towards your goal.
We hope that the Penang Chapter will become a very active Chapter which can support members and spread the message widely. Please like and share our Facebook Page and sign up to Dharma Voices For Animals here if you’re concerned about the suffering of animals. It’s free to join.
If you are a member of a Buddhist group of any kind, I would be interested to know what their opinion on this matter is.
I attach the full documentary below which was produced by Dharma Voices For Animals.
Yours in the Dharma