During a recent board meeting of the spiritual center I lead, we were discussing having a potluck luncheon after a special event. There was concern that it might be difficult to get community buy in if I wanted it to be vegan. I understood that and responded by assuring everyone that I did not have a vegan agenda. As soon as those words left my mouth, I started reflecting on them. Was I telling the truth?
Yes, I was being true. I don’t have a vegan agenda. People may think I do, but my agenda goes way beyond that. Mine is an agenda of Oneness, Peace, Kindness, Universal Love, and their sister, Nonviolence. That’s the world I want to live in. That’s the world I am co-creating.
It’s also true that I am unapologetically vegan. Being vegan is an expression of Oneness, Peace, Kindness and Universal Love. It is a key part of my spiritual path – the path to becoming an authentic, integrated human who lives in alignment with her beliefs and values. It is a huge step toward compassionate and nonviolent living.
As a minister, there are many times when I want to shout out to my spiritual community (in the same way that Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore unabashedly did), “This is the way to live!” But I refrain, because I know most of them are so attached to their culturally inherited lifestyles that they are simply not yet able to hear. Instead I look for openings within people – especially those who say or think they want Peace and Love. When I see an opening, I say what I can to shine light on some of the ways they may be living contrary to their stated desires. These ways show up in many forms – how they project their shadows onto others, how they live in blame, resentment, worry or unforgiveness, how they hold onto shame, are self-critical or gossip about others. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but people get it. To have Peace and Love, we must be Peace and Love. We are all doing this important spiritual work.
But misalignment also shows up in other daily habits, like what we actually eat and wear, which largely come from taking the lives of animals. Light needs to shine there too.
Almost everyone is blind to this. As a species, we’ve lived with using and abusing animals for so long it is nearly invisible to us. We prefer it that way, because if we don’t see or think about it, we avoid facing our own contributions to violence. Even the most highly conscious peace lovers and social justice warriors have a hard time seeing this. But it is in plain sight when we do the difficult work to look.
Animals are sentient. They experience fear, suffering, anxiety, joy and empathy.
In today’s world, everything about meat eating is contrary to all that we spiritual journeyers value and hold dear. Everything. Yes, we may lovingly gather with family and loved ones around a traditional meal (which has meat at its center). We may be grateful for the food and thankful that it brings us together and nourishes our bodies. We may even say grace to express our appreciation. All this looks like Peace, Kindness and Love…what could be contrary about it?
What makes it contrary is the fact that there is a victim of violence on our table, a someone we choose to not see. In this case, our culture has taught us that the someone is a something. We may call it roast, pork, chicken fingers, or hamburger, but in reality, it is the body torn from a being who had her own value, feelings and social structure, and she desperately wanted to live. While alive she was also likely confined, mutilated, abused, and raped (what else do you call repeated forced ejaculation of males and insemination of females?). Nothing about her own innate nature was respected or allowed. Even if she was in the 1% who are not subjected to horrific factory farm conditions, she undoubtedly experienced suffering, fear and anxiety as she was killed in the slaughterhouse. No one is calm in a death line. And if that isn’t enough, she faced her slaughter while she was still a child or adolescent at best.
Broiler chickens are slaughtered at the rate of nearly 300 per second in the USA when they are just 47 days old. They would naturally live 10-15 years.
Pigs used for pork or bacon are slaughtered at the age of 4 months to a year.
They would naturally live 15-20 years.
Turkeys have been bred to be so large they can no longer mate naturally. 100% of turkeys are inseminated, as are 85% of pigs and 75% of dairy cows.
We have so many food choices today that are healthy, readily accessible and do not cause this suffering. We could choose these.
The hard truth is, we choose meat (killing) simply because we want to. We aren't hunting for basic subsistence like our ancestors did. We aren't living in balance with nature like native peoples did. We don't need meat for our health. It is a habit and a pleasure. And our pleasure matters more to us than their lives.
Think about this. Whenever and wherever it happens to people, we condemn oppression, exploitation and killing, unless it’s in self-defense. People who kill because they want to are called terrorists, murderers or psychopaths. Are we that different from them?
There’s an important human element too. The widespread use of antibiotics in farmed animals creates antibiotic resistant bacteria in our bodies. This poses a significant risk to our health. Low income communities situated near large scale farms are devastated by massive feces and urine pollution. These people are unable to go outside their own homes because of the stench, and they suffer from chronic health problems, not to mention severe property devaluation. The slaughterhouse worker and his/her family suffer from the psychological impact of constant killing, incurring four times the national average of violent arrest, with significantly higher rates of alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse and suicide. That just names a few of the impacts that meat consumption has on our fellow humans. There are many more. If we used our land to feed people instead of animals we would have enough food to feed the whole world. We are not taking care of ourselves, our non-human animal friends or our human brothers and sisters.
Feces and urine waste from hog farms in North Carolina
To create the world we desire and to have the inner freedom that comes from walking our talk, we must look at the ways we are out of alignment, and then change. That’s the spiritual path.
Yes, I have an agenda. My agenda is Peace, Kindness and Universal Love. In light of that, I do my best to live in line with those values. I consciously choose to not exploit any sentient being. And hopefully I inspire others to do the same. Because knowing that I am causing the least harm possible in the world is an utterly fabulous way to live.
As for our potluck, I will bring some delightful plant-based food. Even though most people will think it is just my thing, I will know that it is spiritual action - an expression of all that we value and hold dear. Peace. Kindness. Love. And I trust that the light of Peace, Kindness and Love will land in someone’s heart and stir them to awaken. It always does.
© carol saunders 2017
Rev. Carol Saunders
I am an ordained minister, speaker, writer and lover of all life. In 2010 I founded a spiritual community in Deerfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have recently transitioned it to a weekly interactive gathering and podcast called The Spiritual Forum. Being a voice for the animals and a light for the spiritually-inclined who are willing to seriously examine the self and begin to awaken, are what Spirit has called me to be. I am here to support anyone who wants to move toward living in closer alignment with their deeply held spiritual values. Our world needs more Love, Peace and Kindness. We can make that happen. But we won't be able to until we transform some of the violent and unkind ways of living we inherited from our culture. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Kind. Today.