October 2 is the birthday of one of the greatest practitioners of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi. It is also World Farm Animals Day, a celebration launched nearly two decades ago to stop the suffering inflicted upon billions of terrified animals who are beaten, crippled, and killed on factory farms and in slaughterhouses around the globe—all for nothing more than a fleeting taste of their flesh.
Called the Mahatma ("Great Soul"), Gandhi taught that nonviolence begins with what we eat. "To my mind," he said, "I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man."
In his total commitment to nonviolence, Gandhi always included the animals, stating, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
These words are even more appropriate today in light of our animal factories and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals never see the sun and die in agony, piece by piece. One can only imagine what Gandhi's reaction would be to seeing calves taken away from their mothers the day that they are born and immobilized in veal crates or chickens whose beaks are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from fighting for space in tiny, cramped cages. One can only imagine his reaction to seeing fully conscious pigs screaming as they are dropped into tanks of boiling water and cows looking slaughterhouse workers in the eye as their hooves are cut off. Sadly, these are everyday occurrences: Earlier this year, the union of federal meat inspectors filed a petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that production lines move too fast for workers to ensure that every animal is dead before he or she is skinned and dismembered.
More than 50 years after his death, Gandhi remains a source of wisdom and inspiration to the world. As we pray for an end to violence and terrorism, please remember his words, "It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the Compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elemental compassion toward our fellow creatures." We may not be able to stop all the violence in the world, but we can lessen the amount of violence in our own lives. Won't you follow Gandhi's example and turn your fork into a powerful tool for peace—by keeping the broken bodies of animals off your plate?
For a free vegetarian starter kit, click here.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.