by James McBride
“May all beings be safe and free from suffering. May all beings be well. May all beings be happy.”
In a recent Sunday morning sitting, during Kurt’s teaching focused on Metta, a thought occurred to me. I talked about it briefly during the discussion period and mentioned the documentary film, Cowspiracy, that Andre´ told me about last year. I would like to elaborate.
Metta meditation does not generate ethereal pulses of energy which directly affect external circumstances or beings. Metta or loving kindness meditation or the development of benevolence, the strong wish for the happiness of others, does result in personal health benefits and an increase in social connectedness as well as indirect benefits to others as a result of the meditator’s increase in empathy and caring. However, sitting there that Sunday morning after having shared the opportunity to hold another being with my eyes, it occurred to me that there is a significant and more concrete form of Metta that we could be radiating to all sentient beings – the reduction and elimination of support for the animal agricultural industry.
There are many reasons why animal agriculture causes suffering. First, according to a UN report, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases compared to transportation sources (all cars, trucks, buses, trains, ships, planes and so on) of 13%. Some other studies taking into account the loss of carbon sinks put the figure much higher than 18%, some close to 50%. Second, animal agriculture results in severe water depletion and water pollution as well as soil depletion and a stress on land use resulting in the destruction of rainforest and other forests. Third, animal agriculture has contributed greatly to social injustice and global inequality and extreme and selective consumerism that has been labelled “environmental terrorism.” Fourth, the animal agriculture industry treats animals horrendously, so badly that it is estimated that close to 80% of all antibiotics produced are fed to industry animals in order for them to survive their treatment and living conditions. It is also reported that Prozac has been added to their feed to numb them in order to deal with the extreme suffering and stress. Finally, it is well established that reliance on animal products for our nutrition has led to increased morbidity, heart attacks and strokes.
What can we do in addition to developing caring and compassion on the cushion? It seems to me that we should stop and be mindful, see things clearly, make an effort to inform ourselves about animal agriculture. “It’s like this now.” Then we should do what we can, given our life circumstances, to reduce and eliminate support for it as well as spreading the news, the Dharma of agriculture.
There are lots of articles and videos online that examine the impact of animal agriculture. The YouTube video of Chris Hedges interviewing the co-directors of Cowspiracy is informative. This is a link to the trailer of the documentary film itself. This is a link to a European documentary, The Meat File, which also discusses the issues.
There are some who dispute these claims or specific details. It is a controversial matter and a lot of energy has gone into downplaying the impact that animal agriculture has had including Ag-Gag laws squelching reporting of the atrocities of the animal agriculture industry. If you have the stomach for it, watch the film, Farm to Fridge.
So, what can we do to reduce and eliminate support for the animal agriculture industry given our life circumstances? What can we do while maintaining a gentle regard for ourselves keeping in mind our circles of concern and circles of influence? “May we be well and free from suffering.” I started down the path about four years ago after watching the documentary, Forks Over Knives, and then buying the cookbook that resulted from the film.
As revealed in Cowspiracy, environmental groups have shown reluctance to even acknowledge a problem let alone address it for fear of alienating patrons who have strong meat and dairy food habits. Let’s not turn away from it. With Mindfulness (sati) and Clear Comprehension (sampajanna) of Purpose, we can set out on a path of transition to a plant based diet, gradual or abrupt, leading to reducing animal and dairy food products and eating vegetarian or vegan.
May our hearts open and love awaken for all sentient beings. May all beings be safe and free from suffering. May all beings be well. May all beings be happy.