Often when I bring up the plight of non-human animals, my friends will come back with the question, “What about people? Don’t you care about people?”
I used to wonder why this question would come up, but I am no longer startled. The answer is, of course I care about people! That’s why I am in the people business. I am here to raise consciousness on this planet in every way. As we evolve, we will not just talk about Oneness and Universal Love. We will come closer to actually living it. And as we come closer to living in alignment with our deeply held beliefs, we will become bolder, more authentic people. We will be less internally conflicted, and more at peace. We will be freer.
Professing our belief in Oneness and Universal Love while simultaneously hurting, killing and eating other beings makes for a crazy interior life. If we give it any consideration, we are simply not able to reconcile our sense of ourselves (the idea that we are good and caring people), our beliefs (the ideas that we are all One and killing is morally wrong), with our actual behaviors (the fact that we pay other people to kill innocent sentient beings because we want to/like it).
You will likely want to defend yourself against that last phrase. After all, you don't really like to hurt or kill anyone. Or you certainly don't want to think that you do. So if you actually do, it must be something that you can't help doing, that you absolutely need to do, or that you are supposed to do. Alternatively, you might think that there is something wrong with me and/or what I am saying to you.
You might then respond/deflect with comments like, “But animals are meant for us to eat,” or “Human beings need meat for health/survival,” or “From the beginning of time, we have always eaten animals,” or "But I only buy certified humane products," or “What about plants?” or “Lions eat other animals,” or “People are more important than animals,” or “Alaskan Eskimos live on only meat,” or “What about abortion?” or “Our human body is designed to consume animal products,” or “I don't want to look at this – you are making me feel guilty,” or any number of other responses that keep you (or me) distracted and not having to actually reconcile behaviors with values and beliefs. (By the way, I hear these responses/questions all the time - I did not make them up. Sometimes they are legit inquiries. More often they are diversions. Brief answers can be found at the bottom of this blog.)
This is called cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time; performs an action that is contradictory to their beliefs, ideas, or values; or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas or values. (Scientific American, 1962 v. 207, L. Festinger) The inner anxiety causes us to rationalize, defend, deflect, project, blame, live unconsciously, split off or pretend. Rather than look at ourselves and take steps to be in better alignment, we shift our attention to something or someone else. Cognitive dissonance is the place in our consciousness where we shore ourselves up, rationalize/ignore our discontinuities, terminate reflection and inquiry, and stop growing. It is antithetical to the spiritual path!
When we are on the spiritual path, we seek to grow our consciousness. We seek to broaden our understanding of all Life and deepen our relationship with the Divine. We seek to become more of our spiritual nature and less driven by ego. Given that, wouldn’t it follow that we would naturally be grateful to have our inconsistencies exposed so that we may more closely tune ourselves to Harmony, Love and Peace? This is our heart's true desire.
But that’s not how it always goes down.
Awakening can be messy business. It forces us to look at our lives honestly. The good news is, when we awaken, we can actually get out of the nightmare that we are living in. I call it a nightmare because that is what it is for the animals. I believe it is also a nightmare for our souls that yearn to fully embody Kindness and Compassion. In this nightmare (which we inherited) we are humans who purposefully, repeatedly and systematically reproduce sentient beings – beings who have awareness, personalities, experience suffering, have their own interests and desperately want to live. We produce them so that we can do to/with them whatever we want, including but not limited to shortening their lives with a violent death. And we do all this when we have no biological or situational need to do so. In every other arena in our society we would find this abhorrent.
My friends, Oneness is Oneness. Kindness is Kindness. Universal Love is Universal. It applies indisciminately to everyone. It cannot co-exist with using other beings for our personal wants any more than it can co-exist with human slavery.
At the depth of our being, we know this.
You may not yet be ready to wake up completely, but perhaps finding this page is evidence that the voice of your higher Self or inner child is knocking at your door.
Let it lead you.
© carol saunders 2016
Thank you for listening.
If you are interested in looking into a plant-based lifestyle, here are a few links that might help you:
Here are brief answers to the questions hypothetically posed in the above blog. They will likely be handled in separate blogs at a later date:
"But animals are meant for us to eat." Says who? We made this up! It's not even in the Bible. All beings have their own purpose.
“Human beings need meat for health/survival.” Humans have no inherent biological or nutritional need for animals products. We also live in a society where there are so many healthy plant-based options. See the links above for guidance.
“From the beginning of time, we have always eaten animals.” There are dissenting views on this. Here is one of many that claims it is not true. From a cultural perspective it's irrelevant though. Would you use history to justify other human activities like slavery, child labor, war, living without indoor plumbing, etc.? We are evolving.
"But I only buy certified humane animal products." Beware of misleading labels. They want to mislead you so you feel better about your purchase.
"What about plants?” Plants have no central nervous system and are not sentient.
“Lions eat other animals.” Yes they do. And we are not lions.
“People are more important than animals.” I will never ask you to elevate the importance of animals above people. You are welcome to think that humans are more important than non-humans. I am asking you to consider non-human animals as sentient beings - a who, not a what. Choosing to not kill animals for food or clothing doesn't take anything away from any of your efforts to help humanity.
“Alaskan Eskimos survive on only meat." Yes they do. It shows how resilient the human body is! They also don't have community gardens, farmers markets, Kroger or Whole Foods like the vast majority of us do. We have choices.
“What about abortion?” This is deserving of its own blog. What I can say now is these are separate issues.
"Our human body is designed to consume animal products.” No, it really isn't.
“I don't want to look at this – you are making me feel guilty.” I understand. It is hard to look. But looking is how we grow. Remember that guilt is a mechanism of the psyche to help us to align our behaviors with our values. Do not dwell in guilt but pay attention to it! It is telling you something! This is definitely worthy of a future blog.
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.