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Correspondence with a Hunting Priest

The following is a correspondence between Father Joe Clausen and animal activists concerned by his attempt to justify the 'peace' he derives from hunting: http://www.all-creatures.org/discuss/godshunters.html

As Father Claussen feels he cannot continue in the discussion, it is my hope that he will read the following:

THE VEGAN PRIEST:

Dear Father Claussen,

I am deeply concerned with the less than compassionate views you have expressed, both for the animals that you kill and the individuals who are pained by the joy you find in this violence. The language you use to dismiss their concerns does not show the sensitivity one would expect from a member of the clergy. Essentially you say too bad, there is nothing I can do about it and that's reality. You do not take into account that each one of us has the ability to reduce the violence and killing in the world:

"Unfortunately though, we can’t go back in time and prevent the fall of man and all that came as a result. We simply have to live in reality. And the reality on planet earth is that something must die (animal or plant) for something else to alive."

This statement also indicates a serious flaw in your perception of reality. Living beings are not things. They have an inner spirit, a life force, that is not present in inanimate objects. Perhaps this is the root of your ability to destroy them with such ease and joy.

In addition you dismiss their concerns as emotionally driven, yet you refuse to acknowledge the facts. Every living being has an interest in avoiding suffering and preserving its existence. This was accurately observed thousands of years ago by a teacher of the Jain religion of India, Lord Mahavir:

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

Citing the scriptural passages you do to suit your own agenda, while ignoring the reality that you are violently taking the lives of living beings and callously dismissing the concerns of those who find your actions intolerable is an indication that your concept of compassion is in need of re-evaluation. With this in mind I have enclosed the following discussion between a priest and a Jain layperson, Dr Parikh Vastupal.

Jains do not seek converts, but rather to support and encourage the value of Ahimsa: unconditional compassion for ALL beings.. They are respectful of the beliefs of other religions and do not challenge these beliefs, so Dr Parikh's Catholic friend was not threatened, rather he was open to his message of the connection between spiritual well-being and compassion for ALL:

"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 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 wars 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 Parikh, 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."" Jainism and the New Spirituality by Vastupal Parikh, Ph.D:

So You see, there are members of the Clergy who once they realize the cruelty inherent in violently taking a life for their own pleasure, have the spiritual discipline to change their ways. It is my hope that as their number increases your position will become even more difficult to justify.

Best Wishes,
Ruth Eisenbud

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