October is Vegetarian Awareness Month

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, and begins with October 1st being World Vegetarian Day. October 2nd is World Farm Animals Day, a day that coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, and exposes and memorializes the tragedy of modern “farmed” animals.

“Treat others the same way you want others to treat you.”

– Luke 6:31

Once upon a time, very few people in North America were privy to the wonders of the vegetarian diet. The times they are a changing, however, and more and more citizens of the world are recognizing the practical value of the vegetarian lifestyle. While many of us are aware of the health benefits of a plant-based diet, there are many other reasons to choose vegetarianism that lie outside of our own self-interest. Offering basic decency and kindness to living beings in animal forms is a good place to start. To help put an end to cruelty to others is a necessary step towards living a humane life, and if we do not participate in helping to solve the miseries in this world, then certainly we must be contributing to the problem.

It is important to note that at one time it was considered normal and commonplace to buy and sell human slaves, a practice that is generally abhorred by the civilized world at present. Early on in the attempt to end human slavery, many individuals stood up and fought for their belief that what was occurring was wrong. Those people were often frowned upon, scorned, resisted, mocked, derided and even hated. Eventually, however, these brave individuals were joined by the masses in changing a practice that was immoral. Consider this fact as you read on.

October is Vegetarian Awareness Month, and begins with October 1st being World Vegetarian Day. October 2nd is World Farm Animals Day, a day that coincides with the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, and exposes and memorializes the tragedy of modern “farmed” animals. This 19th annual observance is devoted to educating the public about the horrors of modern factory farms, auction yards and slaughterhouses, and improving the condition of farm animals.

According to FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement, www.farmusa.org), U.S. meat conglomerates and international financial institutions are pushing food policies and trade agreements that would double world production and consumption of meat and milk in the next 20 years. The focus of this year’s World Farm Animals Day is to prevent the export of factory farming to developing nations. Massive factory farming operations are set to eventually breed, cage, mutilate, manhandle, and slaughter an additional 50 billion cows, sheep, chickens and other sentient animals each year. The world is already seeing the damage from a meat-centered diet from North America and Europe. Imagine a world where every nation consumed as much meat as we do in North America. There would be environmental disasters that make our present state seem Eden-like. A resulting draw down of world grain supplies to feed additional livestock can create wider spread famine, not to mention additional impacts on soil, waterways, habitats, already fragile ecosystems, local customs, unacceptable burdens on economies, and an agricultural colonialism that would further exploit indigenous farmers.

“There is no difference between the worry of a human mother and an animal mother for their offspring. A mother’s love does not derive from the intellect, but from the emotions, in animals just as in humans.”

– Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides)

Let’s be honest. Animal industries are industries of shame. It is a shame that the whole world must endure, one affecting every nation on Earth. The cold-blooded slaughter of 45 billion, yes billion, cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other sentient animals each year worldwide is a heavy burden on the conscience of every one of us, whether we are aware of it or not. There is no question that the present-day, war-centered consciousness has a direct correlation to the meat-centered diet that is becoming standard around the world. If we cannot even treat the least among us, those at our mercy, with gentleness, then how can we expect to live as peaceful human beings?

The world’s factory farms and slaughterhouses not only cause immense suffering to a staggering number of animals, they also help breed virulent, drug-resistant pathogens from the over-use of antibiotics and drugs, helping to destroy the already over-stressed environment. Most of the modern age’s sickness and diseases, like heart disease, cancer and diabetes, can be directly linked to the consumption of animal flesh and fat. A billboard I recently saw summed it up perfectly: “It is the 21st century. Are you still eating animals?”

“Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.”

– Mr. Rogers on why he chooses a vegetarian diet.

Faced with saturated markets, changing consumer’s preferences, higher costs, shrinking subsidies, and stricter environmental regulations, U.S. meat conglomerates are setting their sights abroad. Quickly becoming the dominant means to produce meat, eggs, and milk products, factory farming treats animals as less than alive, as mere resources, as machines that can be callously used and thrown away (killed, butchered, murdered, eaten). Let us be clear about the fact that every animal has the same capacity for pain and suffering that we do. Every day, millions of animals are de-horned, de-beaked, branded, castrated, beaten, kicked, hooked, speared, suffocated, cut, pounded, and often stuffed into cages no bigger than the animal itself, usually without any anesthesia (to cut costs).

The shocking truth is that consumption of meat is rising. 9 billion, 713 million animals were killed for food in the U.S. alone in 2000, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The total number is expected to rise 1.9% in 2001. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 45 billion animals were killed worldwide for food in 2000, including 306 million cattle, buffalo, and calves, 1.2 billion pigs, 795 million sheep and goats, and 42.7 billion chickens, ducks, turkeys, and geese. This is only in one year! Clearly, a holocaust of nightmarish proportions is occurring all the time. It is not surprising to note that the National Center for Health Statistics reports that in 1999, 1.29 million, or 54% of all U.S. deaths were attributed to diseases for which consumption of animal products represents a substantial risk factor.

While we may not be able to solve all the world’s problems, we do have the power to choose mercy and gentleness at the grocery store and at the dinner table. This October, please consider trying a vegetarian diet. After one month, I am sure you will notice the joys of vegetarianism, and many animals will notice as well. Some other options, if you wish to help the plight of animals, are to decide not to wear fur or leather; support vegetarian restaurants and ask for vegetarian menus when traveling; choose only products from companies which do not test their products on animals; boycott circuses and other places that abuse or exploit animals; and learn how to cook tasty vegetarian foods that you can offer to friends and family as an example of a vegetarian diet. You will be directly contributing to a better planet for all of us, all of our children, and for the billions of animals who wish to live as much as we do.

The shocking truth is that consumption of meat is rising. 9 billion, 713 million animals were killed for food in the U.S. alone in 2000, according to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

What you have in your mind?