Plus - Letter to the Editor

Barbarous acts of cruelty to animals in the name of the gods

Writing on animal sacrifice (“Massacre of the voiceless and shame of a nation”, Sunday Times, September 5), Lalani of Nawala calls for a banning of such acts before the 2,600 Buddha Jayanthi. But why stop only an annual “bilipuja”, when millions of animals are slaughtered daily for consumption?

The sacrificial ceremony referred to is an annual event. Besides the Buddhists who are physically present at the ceremony, there are other Buddhists who play a part in the sacrifice by paying the temple authorities to carry out the ritual on their behalf, while they stay at home, probably to observe “pansil.”

The appalling cruelty inflicted on animals in this sacrifice, which is supported by a Hindu sect, has stirred up a storm of protest. UNP Member of Parliament M. Swaminathan has called for legislation to prohibit the ritual sacrifice.

The sacrifice of animals is nothing new. It has been carried out at temples, kovils, mosques and churches for centuries. Animal sacrifice is as old as the human race.

India has banned animal sacrifice, but before the ban the torture and killing of animals was widespread. In parts of India, live horses were pushed into burning pyres in the worship of the god of fire.

There is a village called Kadabali, on the Bangalore-Mangalore highway, that was famous for catching and torturing foxes during the annual harvest festival. Some of the foxes were given to children, who tie firecrackers to the animals’ tails and limbs. The shock and the burns sustained from the lit crackers killed the foxes instantly. The adults took over the remaining foxes to worship the deity Kavedi; the animals were tied up and thrust into chariots that were taken in procession, and firecrackers were lit in the same way.

In Karnataka, animal welfare groups held a similar protest on August 29, 1998, exactly 12 years ago, against the sacrifice of some 500,000 animals every week at a kovil. But to no avail.

How many of the bhikkhus who gathered in Chilaw to protest are vegetarians? In Munneswaram, they kill 500 goats and 1,000 chickens once a year. Here, in Colombo alone, some 300 head of cattle are slaughtered daily, while islandwide more than 300,000 chickens are killed and more than 30 million metric tons of fish are gathered every day.

In the Nipatha Sutta, the Buddha advised the Brahmins against mass animal sacrifice. In the Samyuktha Nikaya, King Prasanjith abandoned a planned ritual sacrifice of 400 sheep and 500 male calves, at the Buddha’s request. Acts of compassion towards animals occur throughout Buddhist literature.

According to Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha discouraged the eating of flesh. In the Mahaparinirvana Sutta, the Buddha discusses the negative karmic effects of meat consumption. On the eve of the Parinibbana, the Buddha said, “Eating of meat extinguishes the seeds of great kindness.”

In a long passage in the Sutta, the Buddha speaks out forcefully against the eating of meat, saying that meat consumption is karmically unwholesome. The universal ideal of Buddhism is to work unceasingly for the permanent ending to the suffering of all living beings, not humans only.

A completely vegetarian diet is a natural and logical outcome of the moral precept against killing. If at least half the Buddhist population stopped eating meat, we could avoid the sacrifice of millions of animal lives every day.

K. K. S. Perera, Panadura

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