On the eve of Thanksgiving Day, I am moved to express how deeply grateful I am for all the people who work tirelessly for the freedom of animals. You are the angels on this planet. Unsung heroes.
For those who are on the front lines working undercover in factory farms and slaughterhouses, under the most demanding circumstances, thank you. You are doing such important work exposing one of the darkest shadows of our culture. You reveal to the world how the animals we use for our own purposes are treated. You give us the opportunity to see reality for ourselves, hold our society accountable and make better choices.
For all who are engaged in the rescue of the fortunate few animals who escape their dark fates, thank you. You are doing such important work by giving these blessed beings a free and natural life. You give the rest of us an opportunity to experience their gentle natures, individual personalities and endearing qualities. You help us to become aware and make better choices.
For all who help the animals in need who cross your paths - giving them food, comfort, shelter or a home - thank you. You are doing important work. You are showing the best of human nature to animals who may have never before experienced compassion from a human being. And your compassionate action is ringing loudly through the world and blessing us all.
For all who financially support the animal education, advocacy and rescue organizations, thank you. You are doing important work. Your generosity of Spirit and willingness to share your prosperity is what supports the movement and contributes to the evolution of humanity and the world.
For all who blog and post on Facebook or Twitter, who table at events, write books, publish YouTube videos or communicate by whatever means is available to you about the plight of our non-human animal friends, thank you. You are doing important work. Because of you our message is spreading into the world. And you give the one person who is ready to listen that day the opportunity to awaken.
For those who have heeded the call, awakened to the plight of the animals and are in the process of taking practical steps to live in alignment with your values of non-violence and compassion, thank you. You are doing important work. We all know how hard it is to change deeply rooted life patterns. It challenges us to move beyond our comfort zones. It can also challenge our relationships and sense of culture and community. But through your integrity and by your actions, you save the lives of so many animals, set an example for others for what is possible and give us all hope.
For every person who plants seeds in your daily conversations with people, encouraging them to widen the circle of compassion to include all sentient beings, thank you. You are doing important work. By gracefully and compassionately giving voice to this, over time, we will awaken the world.
I feel deep gratitude today for all the boys and girls and men and women who are a part of this movement that is actively breaking through the next moral barrier. You see the Truth - that our non-human animal friends are divine expressions of Creation with their own interests, not things to objectify for our own desires. You are in action helping our animal friends live freely and also helping people to see the Truth for themselves. You are angels. And even if the majority of our world rejects our message at this time in history, there will be a time when it will be otherwise, because of your courageous actions and powerful voice.
Ours is a movement of Love, Kindness, Compassion and Peace. It is fundamentally Good. Good for all. There will always be violence in our world as long as it is okay to hurt animals. And any move toward more kindness and less violence on our planet is good for all. Thank you to all who are tirelessly at work to make our world a kinder and gentler one.
© carol saunders 2016
"I want to thank you show my gratitude
My love and my respect for you
I want to thank you."
from Kind and Generous by Natalie Merchant
“Blessed are the peacemakers.” Matthew 5:9
At the depth of our being is Spirit. Some people call this God within. Some call it Lord. Others call it their higher Self. Whatever you call it, it is our Spirit-self that seeks to express as Love, Compassion and Understanding. Even though we often ‘miss the mark,’ those of us on spiritual paths are always striving to become a clearer expression of Love, Compassion and Understanding. We turn within for clarity and guidance.
How are you allowing your Spirit-self to guide you today? Will you allow it to bring light to the choices you make in your everyday life?
It’s really very simple. When faced with a choice, ask yourself:
Most of us like to think we are kind people. We help people in need. We may perform random acts of kindness. We give to causes we believe in or to people in need. We say nice things to other people to lift them up. We do our best to appreciate the contributions of others and to be cordial toward those who are more difficult. We do what we can to not hurt others. We also do our best to be aware of the times when we are not kind and strive to do it better the next time around. And we are certainly put off by what looks to us like unkind people or unkind acts.
But in our complex society, our impact on others can sometimes be completely invisible to us. As consumers we may have no idea if we are participating in something that is kind or not. But we can do due diligence to find out. We can give it some dedicated thought and put our minds and hearts in gear!
Here is one thing that may have never crossed your mind: eggs.
We eat them for breakfast. We use them to make egg salad or potato salad. We use them to bake almost everything. They are an integral part of a lot of what we eat. They also seem pretty benign. After all, hens lay eggs naturally and if the eggs aren’t fertilized, no harm is done; no life is taken, right?
I used to think that. For decades I had no idea that there was anything harmful in the production of eggs (or milk for that matter, but we will save that for another day). But eventually I made the choice to discover the facts. Underneath my scrambled egg breakfast was egregious cruelty, beyond the pale.
What I learned was this:
More than 300 million hens are raised on factory farms, representing 95% of the eggs that we buy. The hens are kept in crowded, unarguably abhorrent conditions. The ammonia level in the air caused by the breakdown of uric acid in their excrement is pungent and a respiratory hazard.
First image above shows battery cage hens. Second image shows free-range hens. Is this kind?
Compared to a century ago, when an egg-laying hen laid 100 eggs a year, the modern hen has been bred to lay between 250 to 300 eggs a year. Laying such a huge number of eggs can cause her to suffer from conditions such as osteoporosis, fatty liver syndrome and prolapsed uteruses. No veterinary care is provided for ailing birds. They are left to suffer and/or die.
Is this kind?
There comes a point in a hen’s life cycle when she is found to not be laying a sufficient number of eggs by production standards. She is then put into a forced molting process, where she is essentially starved for up to 14 days. This puts her body in a state of shock and induces it to produce more eggs for our consumption. Keep in mind, there is no biological reason for us to consume eggs, and there are plenty of ways to bake without them.
Forced molting is a widespread practice in the United States.
Is this kind?
To keep this machine going, you need a constant supply of new hens so of course some eggs must be fertilized and hatched. Soon after hatching, all these little chicks are separated in a mass production line by the chick ‘sexers.’ Yes that is actually a role for a person in this assembly line production. You can guess that only females are desirable for this business since they are the ones who can actually biologically lay eggs. Males born to egg-laying hens are considered useless, because they can’t lay eggs and their breast tissue is insufficient chicken sandwich material.
This is an assembly line folks. It looks like they are playing with Peeps, but these are real living beings with a desire to live, being separated by gender. Is this kind?
So what do we do with the ‘non-essential’ male chicks? They are discarded, gassed or ground up alive right after birth. And that is the awful truth. More than 260 million male chicks are killed every year in the United States alone. And if you think that your certified humane, organic or free range eggs are free of all this, even the most rigorous humane labeling certification programs in the U.S permit the killing of male chicks at the hatcheries which supply their egg farms with laying hens. It's no different with 'backyard chickens.'
Above are male chicks being suffocated in plastic bags or disposed of as trash. Below are male chicks going into a grinder alive. I spared you the video.
Is this kind?
The female chicks will grow up without any natural parenting from their mothers. At just a few days old, the tips of their sensitive, nerve-ending-laden beaks are shorn off without anesthetic. This is done to keep them from pecking each other in the unnatural confined conditions they are kept in. It would be kind of like having our fingernails pulled out to keep us from scratching at each other, because if we were crammed shoulder-to-shoulder in a small space with other people, standing in our feces and with no natural light for our entire lives, we just might do that.
Is this kind?
And the cycle continues. Eventually every hen stops producing a sufficient number of eggs (after numerous cycles of starvation) and she is considered to be ‘spent’. At that time, she is just 12-18 months old, while her normal lifespan might be 10-15 years. Regarding lifespan, this would be comparable to a seven-year-old human being. She might be transported to slaughter where her depleted body will be made into low grade food. Or if market conditions for that aren’t so great, she may simply be gassed and put in a landfill, ground up alive or slaughtered to become food for other farm animals.
On-farm composting is a means to dispose of laying hens considered no longer useful for egg production because it is considered convenient, cost effective and environmentally sound. They did nothing to us. Is this kind?
I hope you made it this far, because now we get to the good stuff: inquiry.
What does this say about our humanity?
I invite you to look at the reality as well as the symbolism here for a moment. It seems ironic that the egg is a symbol of life, and there is so much death around this so-called 'life.' We may say, ‘it’s just a chicken,’ but we (humankind) have said that about lots of ‘others’ throughout our long history, and we have deeply regretted it (or loathed our ancestors for it). So let’s not say that. She is a she. She has her own interests. And her body is completely abused and used for human desires, which are not even needs. There is also a huge denial/repression/domination of the feminine going on here, which I will write about in another blog. Today, I’ll stick to Kindness and respect for Life. For all of us who try to be kind in our lives, this is about the most unkind thing that we humans systematically participate in.
When you learn the truth about something like this, it can be enormously unsettling. Because once you know, you either have to ignore that it exists (which wastes a lot of internal energy and ultimately harms you) or make the decision to change (which takes a great deal of courage, conviction and fortitude).
The path of least resistance is to stay with what you normally think and do. There’s a part of you that - even with everything you may have just learned, and even if you think it is all horrible - will defend the status quo with statements like, “But I love my eggs; they taste so good!” or “It is just too much trouble to figure out how make a cake without eggs,” or once again, “It’s just a chicken.” Watch for those thoughts.
I know. I’ve been there. But I did change. Because for me, I knew that I didn’t want to be a part of something so terribly unkind. For me, every life deserves respect. And for the sake of the poor chickens who are forced to give every last ounce of life for a human want, for the sake of Kindness itself, and for the sake of Peace and Harmony in my soul, I chose to take action. I did not want to be a person who says/believes one thing and does another. So I found a way to live without this non-essential food that causes so much harm to other beings. And the peace I feel in my soul every time I say no to eggs is uplifting. I am in closer alignment with the Divine expressions of Love and Harmony, which admittedly I also want to see more of in the world.
For every person who takes a brave step to live more kindly, the world becomes more kind. And the world needs more Kindness, don't you think?
Be Kind. Be Love. Be Peace. Today.
© carol saunders 2016
Thank you for listening. If you are moved to learn more, here are some resources:
More about the egg industry:
What labels on eggs really mean:
Easy egg substitutes in baking:
The social world of chickens:
You think eggs are cheap protein? Take a look at this:
There will be a day when generations to come look back on us and wonder how we could have ever allowed all the suffering. They will look at us in the same way we look at the slave owners of the 1800’s or the Holocaust perpetrators and all the people who remained silent about it. How did people sit idly by when all this violence was going on? How could they not see? Why did they not act?
A few years ago I was listening to UnityFM radio. The radio show host and his guest were both bright scholarly teachers and they were discussing the gay marriage movement. They acknowledged that this last barrier was on the brink of breaking. At the close of the program the host posed a question to his listeners: “What do you think is the next moral barrier to be broken that we cannot yet see?”
I knew the answer to this! I could see it as clearly as Mt. Everest on a bright sunny day! The next barrier to be broken was the animal-human boundary. I immediately sent off an email to the show host with my answer. I was so excited to be in this dialogue with a person who in my eyes, was a spiritual giant.
His response took me completely aback. It was surprisingly dismissive.
He replied that what I was suggesting will never happen, that eating animals has been a part of human history from the very beginning - like fire - and it will always be a part of our culture.
It was a most peculiar response coming from a spiritual teacher whose radio show that day was focused on breaking historical cultural boundaries! The justification he put forth was 'history' as if history was something to which we were bound. Since when did history ever serve as a justification for anything? Slavery, child neglect/abuse/labor, domination/exclusion of women, segregation of races, alienation of homosexuals, etc. were also ‘always a part of human history.’ That is, until we awakened and saw their horrific nature. Then we changed.
What I saw that day was a very bright, spiritually accomplished person who couldn’t see that he couldn’t see.
And many years from now, people will wonder how it was that we as a people, were not able to see what is so obviously clear to them: being the cause of another being’s suffering because you want to, just isn’t okay.
Change in collective consciousness is slow. It usually starts with a small minority out in front doing what they can to point out injustices, immoralities, inequities and harmful behaviors. These few people are generally made fun of by the majority. They are marginalized and their voices are squelched and belittled. Or if they are in the spiritual arena like I am, they may be acknowledged for ‘sharing their personal truth,’ as if choosing to be kind or to not take the life of another is a personal truth.
But the thought leaders keep on. If their cause is one that will bring a higher level of ethics into the world - more Goodness, Kindness, Fairness and Love - then the message begins to spread. A few more people start to resonate with it. Those who resonate convert to the new ethics. They then join the voice for change and the sound gets stronger. Eventually it reaches a tipping point, and consciousness – along with what is considered socially acceptable or unacceptable – changes.
We saw this with the Abolitionists during the Civil War. We saw this with the Suffragettes in the late 19th century. We saw this with the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. And we saw this recently with the shift to legalize gay marriage.
And we will see this table turn for the non-human animals. We will see it!
Consciousness will change because wherever there is a cultural and personal shift toward creating a world of less harm, less suffering, less fear, less anxiety, and more love, move compassion, more care, more freedom, the Universe smiles and lights the path to its full expression.
Sometimes that shift is abrupt. Much more often it takes a long time. The time it takes isn’t our business. We must keep doing what we do, anchored in Compassion and Freedom. We are the ones. We must keep speaking. Even if we are speaking into what seems like an infinite, bleak tunnel of darkness; even if our friends or family turn away from us; even if we find ourselves in challenging or embarrassing situations; even though every day of our lives we must navigate through the violent world that we so deeply yearn to change. We must speak for as long as it takes. The animals need our Voice. Know that all the angels of Goodness are behind us, because we are a movement of Peace, Kindness and Compassion.
It’s very simple really. It’s much simpler than the movements to free slaves, give women the vote, end racial segregation or legalize gay marriage, because we can act without anyone else having to do anything.
We don’t need to wait for any big move to be made by our government. We don’t need to wait for any new law to be legislated. We don’t need to wait for Big Ag and the food companies to change their ways. We can simply choose differently, spend differently, invest differently and eat and clothe ourselves differently. By our personal actions today, we can stop being the cause of another’s suffering.
It comes down to this: in all the situations where you have the personal power to act, do less harm; do more good. Refrain from killing or being the cause of killing anyone or anything, unless you absolutely need to for your own survival. You don’t want to be abused or eaten, so avoid abusing or eating others. Non-human animals are sentient according to 2500 studies. They have rich emotional lives with the capacity to suffer and feel empathy. They want to live. They are complex social beings, not things. Let them have the freedom to be who they were created to be. Treat them how you want to be treated.
Start today. And perhaps future generations will be proud of us.
"It is man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him truly a man." Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize winner 1952
© carol saunders 2016
Thank you for listening. If you are moved to do less harm or be in action to cause less suffering, here are a few resources (or check out the resources at the end of any of my blogs):
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.