Animals and Abrahamic Religions

I often refer religious folks to documentary A Sacred Duty and I’ll now remember these quotes by Marguerite Yourcenar and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Original quotes (I translated these from) by Yourcenar will be in the next post.

“I have seen firsthand how injustice gets overlooked when the victims are powerless or vulnerable, when they have no one to speak up for them and no means of representing themselves to a higher authority. Animals are in precisely that position. Unless we are mindful of their interests and speak out loudly on their behalf, abuse and cruelty go unchallenged.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu – The Global Guide to Animal Protection

There were all the elements of an animal folklore, almost as rich as that of Buddhism, in Christianity but dogmatism and the prioritising of human selfishness took over. It seems that a movement allegedly rationalist and secular, humanism, in the recent and abusive sense of the word, which pretends to be concerned only about human realisations inherited from this watered-down christianity from which knowledge and love for other beings have been removed.

What, to me, seems to matter is to have the concept of life enclosed in a different form. It is an immense gain if we can realise that life exists not only in the form we experience, that one can have wings instead of arms, optically more sophisticated eyes, gills instead of lungs. Then there is the mystery of migrations and communication between animals, the genius of certain species […] Then there is always, I think, the moving fact that an animal possesses nothing but their life that, too often, we snatch from them.

Marguerite Yourcenar

There’s a number of specifically vegan muslim communities on facebook in English, Arabic or both. Otherwise see this section of the IVU website among others and this blog which speaks of veg*nism. Easter 2014 edit: see this discussion on Christ and Buddha at Sistah Vegan. I’m reminded of Yourcenar’s quote but I’m not familiar with the religions or texts.

Note: I have linked the blog for those who may be interested but can’t see the above documentary.

Animals and Hinduism

This is technically part 2 of this Animals and Religions series. I never thought BUAV’s association with religious organisations looked potentially effective, curious to see the impact the new video [neither captioned nor subtitiled, previously embedded here, something happened where my blog replaced it with a sega, so look for Vanaron ka Udhaar] will have, perhaps song is the best medium to carry the message to Hindus? I had met the vet involved in monkey breeding, a Hindu, who came to a ‘debate’ to defend the monkey trade and call anyone who didn’t support it terrorists. There was otherwise no apathy at the event (public screening of Earthlings, that the BBRH municipality sponsored kindly) but it’s disheartening to witness the levels of individual apathy concerning absolutely every issue here (by most, not only religious folks).

An example of this apathy may well be reflected in comments to the video on YT: One comenter said ‘May Hanuman help [the monkeys]’. Will people help them too? In a country far from secular, one could think this ‘trade’ shouldn’t be happening in the first place. We need to help raise awareness, help bring a stop to this! When politicians use religious and cultural places as their personal platform, I wish religious leaders who have pledged support to BUAV would confront them on the monkeys’ behalf but it seems unlikely.

Whether or not one is inspired by the ancient epic where Hanuman is a character, bottomline: hinduism claims to preach ahimsa. What actually happens in our lives and everyday life is anything but ahimsa. Arguably himsa is a defining trait of our world but we ought to strive to do the least possible harm. Should temples and monasteries not at least quit dairy? And tell people that animal testing entails false claims that it is potentially helpful when it is actually harmful? Are they making people aware of viable alternatives to vivisection? Are they telling people that animal reseach is scientifically unsound? Would people believe them when people have been brainwashed to be skeptical of even the few scientists who can speak about this openly without repercussions (funding issues or worse)? Are they reminding people that most detergents on sale in this country involve pointless and cruel tests on animals? It’s relevant, people shower specifically to attend a Hindu ritual or temple. If they hear of any issues at temples or monasteries, people hopefully follow up on them and become more aware and perhaps likely to act.

Many people go on religious pilgrimage to India regularly and because of the demographics most Mauritians surely know a relative, neighbour or friend who goes there. The culture here is such that one may ask for purchases one cannot find here, usually these entails jewellery and clothing, in Tamil or Marathi regions, and Benares and so on, mostly silk – cruel silk, or in what conditions were the gold or stones mined (emphasis on pilgrimage!)?

Ahimsa by the way was borrowed from Jainism. “There are a number of animal sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas such as mantras for the sacrifice of a Goat in the Rig, the Horse sacrifice and the Human sacrifice in the Yajur, whilst in the Jyotistoma three animal-sacrifices are performed. The Yajurveda is considered the Veda of sacrifices and rituals, and consists of a number of animal sacrifices, such as mantras and procedures for the sacrifices of a white goat to Vayu, a calf to Sarasvati, a speckled Ox to Savitr, a Bull to Indra, a castrated Ox to Varuna and so on. During the rule of the Buddhist king, Ashoka Maurya, an edict was passed and from then on, social reaction with regard to the sacrificial (brahmanas) texts can be traced. A reaction against these sacrifices came from the Charvakas, who documented their criticism in the Barhaspatya sutras in the 3rd century BCE.” See Ahimsa, vegetarianism and other food customs. Ghee is considered food for the privileged hindu casts, Ambedkar said in 1936 that it is something untouchables were to stay away from. Ghee is still in its special place, even used for burning sacred lamps in hindu monasteries that run on donations (and while it is a product of murder of a calf and immense suffering).

“The main battle is not the Mahabharata, but the fight between Krishna and Jarasandha who is killed by Krishna. Ultimately, the Pandavas and Balarama take renunciation as Jain monks and are reborn in heavens, while on the other hand Krishna and Jarasandha are reborn in hell. In keeping with the law of karma, Krishna is reborn in hell for his exploits (sexual and violent) while Jarasandha for his evil ways. Prof. Jaini admits a possibility that perhaps because of his popularity, the Jain authors were keen to rehabilitate Krishna. The Jain texts predict that after his karmic term in hell is over sometime during the next half time-cycle, Krishna will be reborn as a Jain Tirthankara and attain liberation. Krishna and Balrama are shown as contemporaries and cousins of 22nd Tirthankara, Neminatha. According to this story, Krishna arranged young Neminath’s marriage with Rajamati, the daughter of Ugrasena, but Neminatha, empathizing with the animals which were to be slaughtered for the marriage feast, left the procession suddenly and renounced the world.” Jain version of Mahabarata. While I can’t elaborate in this post, I must add: the concept of karma is an oppressive tool (often an excuse to condone violence or apathy).

Kavadi – the unseen side

There were Thaipusam celebrations on the island of Mauritius yesterday in (not only) the Tamil community, it’s a public holiday and a major religious event. Every kavadi or paalkoddam/paal kavadi carried piously on shoulders and heads who surely don’t know better, are not figurative burdens but real blood, sweat and tears. (En français)

Le lait

They are the blood of new-born calves (kept away from their mother, practically starved, killed and sold as veal meat on a parallel market), the sweat and tears of their grieving mother who has been raped again and again all her life for all she stands for – a milk machine. Bulls are routinely raped for her artificial insemination. Industries have ‘rape racks’ and purchase ‘rape kits’ for these ‘procedures’ of forceful impregnation or forceful semem collecting, using confined animals treated with neither respect nor pity. This is likely to be not only in Australia or countries from which we import milk (and where video footage has been made), but in your local dairy farms and the animals are discarded in any way deemed convenient by farmers when they are too old, e.g. for pet food. I don’t know what percentage of old cows are rescued by the only sanctuary I know there is, in Moka.

Promoting the consumption of, and consuming, milk or dairy entails stealing milk meant for calves, sending male ones to be killed for veal and suede, or to be reared for beef; as the female calves grow up to become milk providers. This would happen even if Mauritius had pastures (at the expense of its wild animals and/or instead of schools/malls/golf courses, or farmers would have to consider exploiting giraffes for milk) and bovine animals roamed around and propagated their genes freely. Later old cows would be turned into leather; even India is a big exporter of bovine leather and transports cows to certain states where killing them is allowed, footage seen in documentary (freely available to anyone with internet access, there was also a free public documentary screening in Mauritius years ago). It is not surprising how these issues can be ignored, we can look to our own lack of knowledge around such issues or to our indifference, which also harm poor human workers who work in the leather industry handling toxic chemicals.

There is a scientific explanation for eating habits most Kavadi devotees have outside of fasts but also for those within fasts. Humans are not natural necrovores but are addicted to natural chemicals in meat and it can be hard to quit the habit but harder perhaps to quit caso-morphines, the naturally-occuring drug in milk that is more concentrated in yoghurt, buttermilk and paneer. There are chemicals present in milk usually aside from pus and blood (and estrogen which harms women’s health as well as men’s), such as antibiotics and even morphine in trace amounts according to research papers. It can be hard to stop the addiction to casomorphines during 3 weeks, before the cravings and withdrawal symptoms cease. There may be ‘traditional’ explanations that were invented for modern exploitation (as the caste system was invented for human exploitation) but there is no moral explanation for it, least of all in times where we know it is not necessary but harmful to human health. Milk is a drug besides being a product of cruelty, and it is being directly promoted by and in religious celebrations.

It’s easy to make milk from nuts or coconut, and to make yoghurts and cheeses (see next blog post). Surely making these would be in line with what Tamils claim the fast entails. Not only those who have carried a kavadi or paalkoddam but all those with any indian heritage have those traditional copper containers. If one pours in soy, almond or coconut milk and the contents of 4 acidophilus capsules for each litre, leaving it covered in the sun all day, would produce soy, almond or coconut yoghurt, even if you’re not in Port-Louis or Australia. Behind a closed window or somewhere sunny but sheltered from the breeze would keep it warm. Solgar acidophilus capsules are perfect for this, available at Nature Verte, 3 locations now. Make it in stainless steel? I bought a glass jar from PicknPay and it got extremely rusty within a month, old recycled jars last. Here people would rather buy dairy yoghurt from cruel businesses than have free homemade plantghurt from homemade milk, seemingly. The hypocrisy astounds me.

Some photos and background story on Kavadee, I didn’t hear of anyone having vegan fasts – the page is mistaken to generalise this.

Cruelty is a fundamental sin, and admits of no arguments or nice distinctions. If only we do not allow our heart to grow callous, it protests against cruelty, is always clearly heard; and yet we go on perpetrating cruelties easily, merrily, all of us— in fact, anyone who does not join in is dubbed a crank. ~ Rabindranath Tagore