Mother’s Day is a time when most of us do something to recognize our moms. It’s a big day for brunch, flowers and cards. But is it also an opportunity acknowledge and celebrate the power and wonder of mothering itself. Every one of us came into this world through a mother. The mere fact that we were each incubated and nurtured in the biological miracle of the womb is something to be completely in awe of. Birth - while the most common activity on the planet - is also the most spectacular. With each birth a new life of infinite potential emerges into our world.
Mother’s Day is also a good time to honor the feminine and reflect on where our masculine and feminine energies are out of balance. Whether we are biologically male or female, each of us holds both masculine and feminine energies within. Clearly we live in a culture that rewards and encourages masculine energy. Our culture is all about being in action, having power and control, achieving goals and conquering new territory. As a woman who once strived for 20 years to be successful as a chemical engineer in the oil business, I have been fully immersed in this experience.
It isn’t a bad thing. But there is room for balance.
When we fully appreciate and integrate the feminine - as a society and as individuals - we will be on the path to authentic expression, unbridled creativity and inner peace. And as long as we undervalue or denigrate the feminine, our world will be out of balance – and in a very destructive way.
The opportunity to establish balance is before us. And it goes much deeper than we think.
Many of us consider ourselves feminists, or we support the feminist cause, and almost all of us deeply appreciate the role of mother. So there is some irony in the fact that most of us also - whether we are conscious or unconscious about it - participate nearly every day of our lives in the objectification, sexualization, confinement and exploitation of females. And the denigration of motherhood itself.
You may wonder how this can be.
We do it every day. It’s so prevalent and culturally accepted that it is invisible to us. Whenever we put milk in our coffee or cheese on our sandwich, we are a part of a process that egregiously denigrates mothering and the feminine. It’s hard to get this since we are conditioned to seeing milk being promoted to us like this:
I used to believe in happy cows too. In fact I spent decades being completely unconscious to what dairy really was. When I woke up, I was shocked by the reality. And yet it was so obvious all along.
All those products that I had trained my taste buds to love were derived from the milk of a mom. Not my mom, but a mom whose milk was intended for her baby. Like all of us, I had been brainwashed to believe that milk was good for me, even something that I needed for calcium and protein. Moreover, I thought that no one was hurt in the process.
But the truth is, I don’t need milk. I only needed milk for a very short period of my life – when I was a baby myself. And the milk that I needed was from my own mom – not from a mom of another species.
I had no idea how much I was hurting other moms and their babies with my simple glass of milk.
When we wake up and see the truth, we come to the realization that a mama cow is able to produce milk only because she has a baby. The first step to producing milk is ensuring that she is pregnant. This rarely happens the old-fashioned way. On large-scale farms where 86% of our milk comes from, she is impregnated over and over like this:
Female cows are inseminated by restraining her on what is called a 'rape rack' while a human arm is placed in her anus and 'insemination gun' is placed in her vagina to inject bull sperm into her uterus.
If she were a human, we would call this rape.
Once pregnant, the gestation period for her calf is about nine months, just like us humans. Like most moms, our cow mama is wired to nurture her baby when he or she is born. This extraordinary animal instinct - mothering energy - is perhaps the most remarkable and important activity that exists, because it determines the health and wellbeing of us as individuals, as families, and on a macro level, our entire planet. It is an animal instinct. And it is beautiful.
When I gave birth to my firstborn, I remember being overcome with the feeling that I would do anything to ensure her survival. Anything. I didn’t know a single thing about who she was or what she might become. But I could feel that the life force within me was wired to keep her safe, and I knew that I would throw myself in front of a truck to save her if I had to. She was just hours old and this was the clearest feeling I think I have ever had in my life. It was that way with each one of my babies.
Our mama cow is no different.
But since we humans want to consume her baby’s milk, her baby is taken from her typically within hours after his birth. The separation is traumatic. Devastating. Mama will get aggressive. She will wail and cry, as she yearns to be united with her baby.
I would get aggressive and wail and cry too (at a minimum!) if someone took my baby from me.
If her baby is a boy he will soon show up on someone’s plate as cheap beef or veal after a miserable short life of extreme confinement. If she’s a girl, she will likely be put in a very small lonely hutch, fed milk replacement and raised to grow up to be just like her mom. At the age of 13 months she will enter into the cycle of forced impregnation (can we say rape?), pregnancy, birth, and then have her babies torn from her, as she produces milk for humans. Milk that we have no biological need for.
This calf who was recently separated from her mom, will live the next few months in a small hutch shown in the background.
Can this story get any worse? Unfortunately it does.
The conditions these moms live in on the factory farm are unnatural with 90% of them being confined primarily to indoor operations and 60% being tethered by the neck. Practices such as tail docking and the use of growth hormones to induce greater milk yields (four times more than in 1950) are common.
But it gets worse, because this mama, in just five short years of life gave virtually everything that there was for her to give. Everything. And when her udders are spent and she no longer produces milk at the level that is economical to keep her alive, she is rewarded with an early and violent death. She would normally live to around 20 years old.
Goodbye sweet one.
About 10% of dairy cows sent to slaughter are too weak to stand.
When we choose milk, we are part of a machine that devalues, dominates and abuses the feminine and mothering in the most atrocious way.
We may excuse our behavior by saying, “It’s just a cow.” But the cow is a she. And just like us she has her own interests and desires to live and create family. It would be just as easy for someone to say, “It’s just a woman,” or “It’s just a girl” to us humans. And we know the devastation that can bring. This is the way we give ourselves license to do whatever pleases us with another.
It is time to stop. It is time to stop putting arms in anuses and insemination guns in vaginas for our own wants. It is time to stop confining moms and robbing them of their own children. It is time to stop declaring that a life holds no value because she no longer produces what is useful to us.
It is time to start living in alignment with our values of Love and Kindness, and our desire for Peace for all Beings. We are all God's creatures.
Today, let us rise up and make a pledge to honor the feminine, not just those of our own species but of all species. Celebrate motherhood in the myriad ways it shows up. Today let us lift up all mothers, all ladies and all girls and free those we are able to free. And let us honor and revere the power and wonder of the feminine on this Mother’s Day.
© carol saunders 2017
There are so many good options to replace dairy these days. Here are a few resources to guide you in your transition:
For a comprehensive look at the dairy industry you can learn more here: http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-cows-in-the-dairy-industry.pdf
I remember my childhood vividly. I grew up in northern California and had the good fortune of being able to play outside nearly every day. My childhood took place back the 60’s, way before parents were concerned about their kids being gone all day playing. So that’s what we did. We played in the hills and creeks and rode bikes everywhere…all day.
How far back can you remember?
As young children, we were so vulnerable. We were all born into a world that we knew nothing about. Our lives were a constant experiment, with our carefree natures often being shut down, reframed or fit into a world that already existed. That's the nature of socialization. When things happened that hurt our hearts or didn’t make sense, we would hear someone bigger, older or wiser tell us things like: “The world is a tough place,” “You have to be strong,” “Life is hard,” “That’s the way it's always been,” or “That’s just what we do.”
Can you remember having innocent thoughts and feelings – thoughts untainted by someone else’s view or perspective? Can you remember that first feeling of loss when your own thought or feeling was in contradiction with that of a group or the adults in charge?
I remember as a young child barely being able to breathe when I found out that our next-door neighbors (parents) were shooting blue jays with BB guns from their back porch. I couldn’t fathom why they would do such a thing. It seemed so deliberately hurtful. What could those birds have possibly done to them? I felt deeply distressed and looked for ways to stand up to the big grownups. Needless to say, I failed. Despite my best small child efforts (which were actually pretty substantial for a kid and possibly a topic for another blog) there was an adult explanation: the blue jays were eating the robins’ eggs and the robins were a preferred species.
I was heartbroken. But the case was closed. What power did I have against adult reasoning...or preferences?
Pretty much everything we have learned about life came from the adults in our world. We looked up to them. Or we were afraid of them. Either way, they taught us how to live - the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.
© Jasmin Merdan 123rf.com
When my first daughter was just two or three years old, I’ll never forget witnessing one of those indoctrinating moments. Sitting in her high chair, her grandmother placed a plate in front of her and said, “Here’s your fish, honey.” My young daughter immediately looked behind her where an aquarium stood - the aquarium that she loved to watch as she pointed and named the fish. The mental connection going on in her brain was transparent on her face. If there is such a thing as toddler confusion, that's what it was. To her young mind, she could see that there were “fish” swimming in the fish tank. She always loved watching those fish. Now “fish” was being introduced to her as something she was supposed to eat. How does that compute to a young and fragile mind?
None of us come into the world as violent beings. We are wide-eyed and eager to take in all of life. As children we reach for life. We want to touch it and feel it and get close to it. Killing in any form is not natural for a child. So never in a million years would my young daughter have reached into the fish tank and grabbed a living fish to satisfy her hunger. Nor would she have taken a knife to the throat of a pig or chicken or cow. The adult world had established this for her. We eat animals, period. We always have. It’s what we do. We kill for our food or pay someone to do it for us. She had no real choice in the matter.
None of us did really. Most of us had no clue that what we were eating was once a live animal who was killed against his or her will - the same kinds of animals we loved in storybooks. When we did learn this, it had already become an established pattern in our own lives. Over time we hardened ourselves and simply accepted the violence of life. And we lost our innocence.
Going forward, the easy path is to just keep doing what we’ve always done - accept the way of living that we were indoctrinated into. Don’t dig deeper. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t question. Don’t think too much. By all means don’t look back. Rationalize and defend. Marginalize those who think or act differently. Buy into all of it and pass it on to the next generation telling them, “That’s just what we do.”
When we accept “that’s just what we do” we accept human nature to be what it is, not what it could be. To be what it could be, we would have to take the much more difficult path of the spiritual journeyer and reclaim the parts of us that we lost along the way.
Deep inside us - maybe deeper than we can fathom - there is a piece of our innocence that was chipped away, but not destroyed. It is held in the heart of our inner child, who generally prefers to be in hiding and may even be afraid of being remembered. The inner child knows it is not safe to be so vulnerable. The outer world seems much too harsh to survive out in the open. So she (or he) stays in the dark. There may be momentary glimpses of her, when a flicker of light betrays her clever hiding spot in the form of a distant and vague memory or fleeting feeling. But the child remains hidden, safely in the depth of the soul.
Discovering and integrating our inner child into active adult living is a key to transforming human nature and consequently our world. When we bring our innocence to the light - truly love it, accept it and integrate it into our entire being - we will become much more whole. We will love ourselves more. We will be less serious and judgmental, and more open and kind. We will reignite our wonder for life and once again want to reach for it, touch it, feel it and bring it closer to us. We will choose ways to live without hurting and killing
This is what Jesus spoke of when he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)
The kingdom of heaven is not some faraway place where we go after we die. It is a place in consciousness where Peace, Love and Harmony are fully expressed and Oneness is truly experienced. It can only be fully entered into with the innocence of our inner child because without it, we are less than whole.
This is deeply important spiritual work – to question our inherited beliefs and reclaim our innocence. It is also an ongoing process. Thankfully there are some enlightened children on the planet right now who, at a very young age, are standing up to patterns/habits handed to them by their parents which run counter to their hearts (see their videos below). But for the rest of us, until we engage in that same process of questioning and do the work to reclaim our innocent natures, we will continue to cause needless suffering for hundreds of billions of our fellow beings on the planet and not realize genuine Peace within us or in the world.
I am not a psychologist, but I am happy to support anyone who is interested in doing this important spiritual work. And I bless your journey to authentic integration.
“The wolf and the lamb will live together… and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6
© carol saunders 2017
Please watch these sweet souls and let them inspire you..There are other videos of similarly hearted children which are far more heart-wrenching. I am choosing not to display them here.
There are so many issues and concerns plaguing our world today. There’s the Syrian refugee crisis, the rise of ISIS, the pervasiveness of opiates in our nation, election fallout, human trafficking, abortion, nuclear testing by North Korea, the national debt and on and on. Given all that is going on in the world, why do I bring attention to the plight of animals?
I am not going to argue here that animals are more important than any of the above issues. It’s not about what you feel is the single most important issue to you, but what is the single most important issue before you – one that has great impact and one you can actually take action on today. No other issue offers the same opportunity for you to concretely take positive personal action on today (except possibly abortion, but only if you happen to be pregnant today).
You can sit around and talk about the issues of the world with your friends, relatives and co-workers and think you are solving them. But you’re not necessarily solving anything because you don’t have that much control. You can staunchly hold your political viewpoint, support your candidates and vote when the opportunity presents itself. You can also decide to be more active and sign petitions, attend activist marches, call your representative or send money to support your causes. You can do all these things in hopes of - or with the expectation that - other people eventually will do what you want them to do to make the world a better place.
But today, you can make the world a better place. You can make the choice to inflict less harm, be kinder, and save a life. You can do all of this by deciding what to eat and what not to eat. That choice is completely in your control and has a deep and broad impact on your life, your society and the world at large.
In the United States alone, we kill animals for food at the rate of over a million an hour. I wish there was a way to make this humongous number sink in and have meaning.
Let me try this:
If we killed human beings at that rate, the people inhabiting the entire United States would all be dead in less than two weeks.
If that’s still too abstract, how about this:
At that rate of killing, if you live in the city of Chicago, you and your fellow Chicagoans would be dead in less than three hours.
But it doesn't stop. Because every three hours another population the size of Chicago is mercilessly decimated.
Does that give some perspective?
I hope you can see that this level of violence is staggering. Think of the energy that goes into that much killing. Think of the immense level of unnecessary, unwarranted and traumatic suffering of animals, who fight for their lives because just like us, they experience emotion and want to be free to live. Think of the shameful hardening of all those human hearts that are paid to be the fastest killing machines on earth. Think of their families who surely feel the effect of all that killing, or at least the hardened heart. You have to wonder, where does all that energy go?
It is a dark shadow looming over our lives. It is certainly not out there spreading good cheer in the world. Violence begets violence. And a good bit of it comes right back into our bodies when we eat the flesh of the beings who suffered and whose lives were blamelessly cut short. It is no wonder we are so anxious, hurtful to each other, and ill.
All of this begs the questions: Are we really the kind and thoughtful people that we think we are? Who are we that we would willfully cause so much suffering and inflict so much violence toward sentient beings who have done nothing to harm us? Where is our mercy? Are we not image and likeness of God? Is God not the power of Love Itself? Isn’t Love our true nature?
I believe that Love is our true nature. We learned this killing behavior from our parents. And they learned it from theirs, and so on. It is not natural behavior. No small child on her own would take a knife and slit the throat of a living animal standing before her. Rather, she would likely be curious, grin, and move closer to pet him. The innocence and curiosity of this child still lives within us and yearns to lead us to a more harmonious and light-filled life.
When we let the inner child lead us, we can instead direct our energies toward something much more enlivening and empowering, like authentic Kindness and Compassion. Think of how different our world would be if we stopped all this violence and replaced it with authentic Kindness and Compassion. The kind of Kindness and Compassion that respects every living being’s right to be treated like a some-one, and not a body with which we can do whatever we want.
Today you have an issue facing you that at first glance may not seem that important compared to all the other concerns of your day. But it is in fact the most important issue facing you today, because you have complete control to choose non-violence and make a difference now. When you choose Kindness and Compassion over killing, you bring greater peace to your life, to other beings, and to the planet.
Keep animal flesh off your plate and out of your body. Eat healthy plant-based food. And who knows? Maybe if enough of us make the choice to be Kind and Compassionate – bringing about a radical reduction in today’s suffering and violence - we will as a species regain our sense of value toward Life Itself. And the other issues just might take care of themselves.
© carol saunders 2017
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.
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):
When we look out into the world it sure looks like we are all separate beings. We have separate bodies. We have different interests. We have different perspectives and experiences. But at the core of who we are, we are creations of Divine Mind, Divine Heart, Divine Soul. We know that all matter is derived from the original ‘breath of Spirit’ or ‘Big Bang’ and we are all made up of the same stuff. As Joni Mitchell so beautifully wrote in her 1970 hit Woodstock, “We are stardust. We are golden. And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
Why am I talking about this?
When you are able to get at the soul level that ‘we are One,’ then life truly arises in a different way. You awaken to ‘there is no other.’ The belief that ‘we are One,’ calls us to know no ‘other.’ It enjoins us to Love without conditions or boundaries. As One, we understand that when we hurt another, we hurt ourselves. Jesus knew this when he taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31) and “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
But despite our knowing these golden teachings, we are generally okay with hurting those whom we deem to be ‘others’ every day of our lives.
Why is that?
I actually don’t think we are okay with it. I think most of us live busy lives and we don’t want to think about or see anything that might make us uncomfortable - even if it is staring us right in the face. In the same way that we rarely stop to be in awe of the amazingness of the Universe, we also rarely stop to question our habits, or look into anything that might cause us to feel bad. We protect ourselves by putting the things that we don’t want to see into mental closets. And we close the door, not realizing that that which is holed up inside is something that our soul is imploring us to examine.
Here’s a question to examine: “How did this food actually get to my plate?”
Since our earliest days, our caregivers placed food on our plates that was called “meat” and if we connected it to anything, it was to mental images of happy animals living happy lives on happy farms. We may have even had stories read to us or learned songs that supported that mental image.
But that’s not a true picture. I’m not sure it ever was, but I am sure that in today’s world – where the demand for meat has increased 600% since 1950 - it surely isn’t. (The Atlantic June 13, 2013 "Peak Meat" ) Here are just a few snapshots of what mass production of 'life' looks like. Google image 'factory farm' and you'll get a fuller picture.
These intelligent and emotionally sensitive beings get to see sunlight for
the first time on their last day of life...while on the transport truck
headed to slaughter.
When we were young, we believed what we were told - simply that meat is what people eat, we need it and it is good for us. We didn’t give much thought that it was actually another sentient being that we were turning into food for our purposes. If we asked further, we might have been told that the animals were actually created for us to use in whatever way we wanted.
Hmmmm. Sounds like a ‘uniquely human perspective’ to me. Do you think we might feel differently if another species thought that way about us?
So many of the things we learned as children may no longer hold true for us as spiritually minded adults. In fact, some of it is downright not helpful to keep around. We can be free - if we want - from the patterns, beliefs and habits (all rooted in separation) that we inherited. We can change our behaviors in ways that match our growth from childhood consciousness. We are ALL One. Not just some of us; ALL of us. And we hold the power to create lives that express that.
If you are willing to look, you will see that what is called ‘meat’ is not a happy animal, but a dead body of a fellow sentient being. That in itself is enough to know. But she was also likely denied everything she needed in order to be who she was born to be, kept in abysmal conditions during her short life, and killed as a youngster. Like you and I, she wanted to live – to eat, sleep and play freely in the fresh air - to enjoy a full life and hang out with companions of her choice. And just like you and I, she didn't want to be separated from her mother or have part of her nose trimmed off with a heated blade. And she surely didn't want to be cooked in the oven. No one wants that.
All beings desire freedom of movement. All babies want to be near
their mothers. Why do we do this?
Debeaking of day old chicks is standard industry practice. This is because they tend to peck at each other in unnaturally crowded conditions.
And no one wants to make this dreadful journey.
There are no federal laws protecting birds used for food from inhumane slaughter, or requiring any level of care for them during transport.
If you are still with me, thank you for your bravery. Believe me, you haven’t seen the worst. All this may be unsettling and even bring up feelings of guilt. If it does, that’s a good thing, because it means you care and you are not defending or deflecting. I encourage you to be courageous and feel the feelings rather than run away. Guilt can actually be a very powerful force for good! It is a tool of your Conscience to turn you in a direction that is closer to the ideal of Universal Love and the tenet, “We are One.” Feel it. But don’t hold onto it. Let it go. Then give yourself permission to move in a new direction. There are so many other food options available that are healthier, kinder and more life-sustaining!
Please think on these things. Today. The non-human animals who share the planet with us are not some-things. They are some-ones. It’s really very simple when you think about it. Treat them how you would like to be treated. Be Love-in-action. Remember, we are ALL One.
© carol saunders 2016
Thank you for listening. If you are moved to grow today, here are some resources that may support you.
To learn more about the emotional lives of non-human animals:
To learn more about making a change away from eating non-human animals:
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.