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Dear Kerri,

You claim that we should use as many methods as possible to help ease the suffering of animals, yet one area remains taboo. If it is your desire to truly help animals than I would ask you to consider the following possibility:

As animal activists we are keenly aware of the harm done to animals in our society. As we find this intolerable we are willing to express our displeasure to some of the worst abusers: meat purveyors, heartless scientific researchers, leaders of the fashion industry, individuals who commit extreme cruelty to animals and even to some AR organizations such as PETA and HSUS who have abandoned their original mission of protecting ALL animals from harm and slaughter....

Yet there is one group of abusers that is rarely targeted for criticism: religions that endorse acceptable harm/killing of animals to meet human need.

We as animal activists have arrived at the conclusion that animals should not be killed or harmed for human need. We see animals as autonomous beings that they are: capable of intelligence, compassion, emotions and even heroism. Most individuals following the mainstream western religions are being taught a different message. In its simplest form: God gave animals to man to be used as food.

We work very hard to tell people what we believe, but often despite our best efforts they are not capable of understanding or hearing what we are saying, as they have already been taught that animals exist to serve humans in their respective houses of worship.

Would it be easier for us to do our work and our message more readily accepted by the public if we began to address the role of religion as either a facilitator of abuse or an impediments to ending animal suffering.

Is it time to directly challenge religious leaders/institutions whose assumptions mitigate animal suffering? We often conduct letter writing campaigns to voice our protest of cruelty. Perhaps this tactic could also be applied to religious communities. We could contact religious leaders and provide them with information that members of their congregations or parishioners have left because of the cruelty inherent in a message which sanctifies the harm or slaughter of animals for man's use.

The following information can also be presented to leaders/communities of the western religions:

There is an alternate religious view which has resulted in a broader base of positive gains for animals. The following information about the Jain religion is not intended in any way to promote the institutions of the Jain religion. Nor is it meant to proselytize or seek converts to Jainism, as Jainism prohibits proselytizing and there are no religious rituals for conversion. Instead, it is the message of Jainism which is being presented:

"For there is nothing inaccessible for death.

All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like pleasure,

shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life

is dear." Jain Acharanga Sutra.

This message, called Ahimsa, non-violence to all beings, has had a profound influence on the mainstream religion of Hinduism and the Indian population. Because of it the mainstream is more open to a compassionate vegetarian/vegan diet, protective animal rights legislation and its enforcement:

Here are just a few of the broad based benefits for animals when a model of total compassion is followed:

1) India has about 350 million vegetarians. All vegetarian food items must have a green dot, so that they are easily recognized.

2) India is a no-kill nation for dogs as it is illegal to kill a dog for any reason. As part of this initiative shelter hospitals and ambulances are provided for street dogs throughout the country. In the USA 10 million healthy and young dogs are killed a year as their lives are viewed as expendable.

3) The dissection of animals is banned for ALL high school students in EVERY state of India.

4) There has been a sharp decline in the number of animals used in research in Gujarat India. This is in sharp contrast to other industrialized nations where the number is increasing and the experiments are becoming more extreme..

5) There is a total ban on the use of exotic animals in entertainment industries such as circuses.

Sometimes it feels as though we are swimming upstream against the current of the sanctified killing and permissible harm taught by the mainstream western religions. It is my hope that those animal activists who adhere to the message that all animals should be allowed to lead lives free from pain, fear, suffering and slaughter can begin to speak DIRECTLY to the religious leaders and communities who do not share this belief. It would make our goals much easier to accomplish if we could begin to make inroads into these communities.

It is my hope that we can become an organized, coherent platform for informing religious leaders that their current position of allowable cruelty to animals is unacceptable and that there are alternative views which are more compassionate

The following is an example of a Jain layperson directly, openly and respectfully confronting a Priest friend to consider the lack of compassion inherent in a meat based diet. Please note Dr Parikh has no interest in persuading the priest to switch to Jainism, but to help him understand that it is more compassionate to abstain from eating meat. Implied in this discussion is the hope that the Priest as a leader of his community can influence his parishioners to assimilate a more compassionate view of animals:

This quote is from Jainism and the New Spirituality by Vastupal Parikh, Ph.D. It is a discussion between a Jain layperson and a Catholic priest.

"I have profound respect for Christian priests and nuns who provide selfless service, kindness and care to millions of poor, sick and dying people around the world. Some even run animal shelters or follow in the footsteps of such compassionate Christian saints as Francis of Assisi! Almost every religion has such compassionate followers. However, I am dismayed that some of these individuals lose their sense of empathy when they sit down at the table for a a dinner of turkey, lamb chops or veal. How could these compassionate people 'enjoy' feasting on animals or approve of killing animals in the name of sports? How could people justify, even to their own conscience, events like the crusades, the inquisitions, the jihads, the animal sacrifice and wards in the name of God.

I raised the question about this apparent contradiction with a close friend - a Catholic priest. The occasion may not have been the most appropriate one. We were having a dinner at a restaurant. I had ordered a cold bowl of fruit salad and the priest had ordered veal.

"Dr Parikj, you don't know what you are missing" The priest was the one who opened the topic.

"Missing? How can I miss something which I have never had before?"

"That's the point. You don't even know what a pleasure it is to have a nice sizzling steak. It is heavenly!"

Father, I am an ordinary lay person brought up in the Jain tradition of self restraint and respect for ALL life. I really do not understand how anyone - let alone a priest - can derive pleasure in having an innocent little calf killed for his food. Isn't that calf your God's beautiful creations just like you?"

"Yes Dr Parikh/ God's creation indeed! So is the rest of this universe. God created it all for our pleasure, and God has given us the domain over it" This interpretation of 'domain' or 'thou shalt not kill' did not appeal to me. The word domain is in the Bible. However, does it mean 'responsibility to care for', or 'the right to kill?" I lost contact with the priest for several years after the incident. However , during an accidental meeting ...he told me that he had become a vegan (a vegetarian who avoids ALL animal products, including milk, cheese, butter, ghee, etc). One up-man-ship was beaming through the chuckle."

Don't we owe it to the suffering animals to use the most reliable method available, which has been shown to result in greater gains?

We owe it to animals to confront ALL institutions and individuals who commit or endorse their abuse, even those shrouded in the sanctity of religion.

Ruth


2/22/09

From: Kerri Milam

Subject: great statement from an AR activist....

Re: {animalrights} Monkey joins in prayer at Hindu ritual

"The main thing is to open up the dialogue, to start the debate, to break the silence. No single argument will win the day. Rather, as with any social movement for change, a lot of arguments, a lot of debates, a lot of protests, a lot of media coverage - it starts with people thinking about issues they don't normally consider - and that starts with a few activists raising issues that no one talks about ... It breaks slowly into the public consciousness over time as the movement against slavery and racism and for civil rights did. That battle is not over either. The ethics arguments are a valuable part of this, and so are the appeals to emotion. Inevitably there will be legal challenges. Already people are working on the "rights of nature" legal challenges. We still do not even have water legally listed as a human right. And existing laws have to be enforced (e.g. whale killing). If humanity survives climate change and peak oil and wars over scarce resources and if it becomes enlightened (or part of it does) this entire age will be remembered as the darkest times of human history - that time period when we all knew what we had to do and did nothing, despite the best efforts of a scapegoated minority (environmentalists, animal rights activists, human right activists). See the Trailer for the Age of Stupid: http://www.facebook.com/l.phpu=http://www.vimeo.com%2F2991411 "

Paul has shared a link to a video with you. To view the video or to reply to the message, follow this link:

http://www.facebook.com/n/?inbox/readmessage.php&t=1046837565751&aref=20681079


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