Home » Letters » Is Animal Liberation & Veganism Extreme?

Question: Why liberate animals when going vegetarian is already practice of compassion?

Answer: This is a wonderful but passive means. In addition and contrast as an active means is liberation of animals about to be killed (especially for food).

Question: But animals are sometimes freed into wrong environments?

Answer: Most live animals openly on sale in markets will be killed in less than 24 hours – when bought to be cooked on the same day. Rather than letting them die in great fear and agony under the knife, it is always kinder to connect them to the Triple Gem, by sincere chanting and dedication of merits, and for release for natural living and dying in nature. Of course, we should look for ideal environments, but the truth is, there is never a perfect environment (even for humans), and even if they do not live long in an ideal place, they will definitely live longer than if they were brought to the chopping board. As such, it is already prolonging of life. Animal liberation is to save physical lives, but more importantly, to jumpstart spiritual lives.

On an additional note, it was advised by the Eighth Patriarch of the Pure Land Tradition Great Master Lianchi, that animal liberation is best done adhering to three guidelines – of not having a fixed time, location and kind of animals liberated. This effectively delinks supply from demand, by not presenting any form of predictability for sales. That said, even if there is some supply and demand link, the opportunity to link the animals to the Triple Gem is still precious.

Question: Okay. Back to vegetarianism, it is sometimes stretched to the ‘extreme’ as veganism in the name of Buddhism, though the Buddha was ‘not’ even a vegetarian. What do you think?

Answer: Vegetarianism was advocated by the Buddha as one of the Bodhisattva precepts in the Brahma Net Sutra, for how can we more effectively guide beings to the end of suffering if our consuming demands it, even if indirectly? Veganism is simply not consuming or using animal products such as meat, milk, cream, cheese, honey, leather, wool, silk… which are possible only due to extreme lifelong exploitation and eventual killing of these animals. As such, there is nothing extreme about being vegan. Here is more on why objection towards veganism (and vegetarianism) is the real extreme instead: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/01/why-veganism-is-not-an-extreme-way-of-life Veganism is an official Buddhist practice that can be immediately voluntarily taken up or gradually worked towards, ideally in the spirit of Bodhisattva practice to harm less beings.

As the Mahayana sutras record, the Buddha gradually encouraged (as some are not ready straightaway) a clearly vegan lifestyle. This is stated by him unequivocally in the Surangama Sutra, which is upheld with great esteem by more dedicated Mahayana practitioners, as can be seen at the bottom of page 215 to 216 at http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/surangama.pdf It should be noted that the Buddha listed non-consumption of meat and use of other animal products there. There is actually no record of the Buddha having eaten meat personally, even when offered to him, while there are many teachings of the Buddha urging non-consumption of animals, as can be seen at http://shabkar.org (The Buddha’s last meal was not pork but truffles called ‘pig’s delight’. Meat received only by random alms was permitted for monastics by the Buddha, while lay consumers do not receive alms as they choose to be part of the supply and demand loop of what they buy.)

Share This:

3 Responses to “Is Animal Liberation & Veganism Extreme?”

  1. Robin Chan November 4, 2013

    Animal liberation as an active act of compassion is debatable.

    Like any other acts of compassion, it must come with wisdom and skilful actions.

    In ancient times, we get our food from the nature environment in the wild and forest. Nowadays, our food sources are never from the wild or captured from the forest but from commercial farms and most of the animals to be consumed as food are farmed animals. Farm animals do not know how to look for their food or hunt in the wild.

    Releasing farmed animal in any manner to a nature does not ensure survivability of the animal and is committing murder of the animal because of our intervention. What difference does it makes if animal are killed by the butcher or eager Buddhists who release them and let them die on their own.

    Animal liberation is a futile and ineffective way of caring for life in this new world. Buddhists who hope to collect Merits out of this exercise is extremely ignorant and is only feeding the animal traders and encouraging them to import more for the new group of customers.

    Deep ecology encourage human to stop manipulating nature for their ego and greed. Buddhist show always use their wisdom in such exercise.

    Active compassion for animals can be channelled to support food for spray animal, stop buying animal and it’s products, stop fishing as a hobby and care for all animals we come to contact with.

  2. It is good to reread the article above before reading the below…

    Animal liberation as an active act of compassion is excellent – if, like any other proper acts of compassion, it comes with skilful wisdom. Nowadays, many animals are still captured from the wild. Even if animals are commercially reared enslaved from birth, we must remember these important points from the article above –

    ‘Most live animals openly on sale in markets will be killed in less than 24 hours – when bought to be cooked on the same day. Rather than letting them die in great fear and agony under the knife, it is always kinder to connect them to the Triple Gem, by sincere chanting and dedication of merits, and for release for natural living and dying in nature. Of course, we should look for ideal environments, but the truth is, there is never a perfect environment (even for humans), and even if they do not live long in an ideal place, they will definitely live LONGER than if they were brought to the chopping board. As such, it is already PROLONGING of life. Animal liberation is to save physical lives, but more importantly, to JUMSPART SPIRITUAL LIVES.’

    (Note the capitalised words above for emphasis.) Not releasing such animals on the brink of being killed for food VERY soon (as above, for example), ensures certain and hastened deaths of the animals through buying consumers, which is why dissuasion of PROPER liberation of such animals is to actively urge them to be murdered sooner, without connection to the Triple Gem. Such dissuasion creates immense negative karma that is unimaginable. Here are important teachings linked to animal liberation.

    “Among all negative karma, that of killing is the heaviest.
    Among all positive karma, that for releasing life is the highest.”

    – Acharya Nagarjuna (Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom)

    “All beings treasure their lives the most.
    All Buddhas treasure all beings the most.
    If one saves other beings’ lives,
    one fulfills the wishes of all Buddhas.”

    – The Buddha (Avatamsaka Sutra)

    Animal liberation done properly is a fruitful way of caring for the physical and spiritual lives of many beings who would otherwise die much sooner and without connection to the Triple Gem. If we are animals trapped and awaiting for slaughter, we will surely appreciate a prolonged life, plus blessings of refuge in the Triple Gem, which increases our chances for better future rebirths. Anyone against this is ignorant of this main purpose of animal liberation from the Buddhist point of view. Proper animal liberation is never merely for merits – but is an expression of selfless compassion.

    The 8th Patriarch of the Pure Land tradition Great Master Lian Chi advises that animal liberation done properly involves not fixing the kinds of animals bought, the time and place of practice. This is to effectively de-link demand from supply, while giving new leases of physical and spiritual lives. As the article above says, BOTH passive (e.g. veganism) and active compassion (animal liberation) are needed for the physical and spiritual welfare of animals.

    If any readers here are not vegan or vegetarian, please consider doing so. Here are irrefutable reasons to go vegan: http://www.viva.org.uk/going-vegetarian-vegan/going-vegan/reasons-why And no, they do not even require Buddhist perspectives to make great sense, for common sense based on being well-informed in terms of the climate crisis and such will do, as the link shows.

    Let us REALLY do what we can for the spiritual and physical lives of all mother sentient beings, including animals. Not doing so is to go against the Bodhisattva actualisation of Bodhicitta. May all beings be free from harm and danger. May all beings be well and happy.

    Related Links:

    Life Release (Kagyu Website)
    http://www.kagyu.org/ktd/liferelease.php

    How to Practise Animal Liberation Wisely
    (DVD for those ill-informed about REAL Buddhist animal liberation)
    http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=12,6426,0,0,1,0

  3. eatkinder November 5, 2013

    Me and my friends dread the truth that there are still many humans who…

    1. continue to devour MANY animals in their lifetimes,

    2. while with the pretense that they care for all animals, talking much about compassion, Bodhicitta and such,

    3. yet not personally practising or encouraging vegetarianism or veganism.

    It’s sheer hypocrisy. Hope all will awaken to genuine compassionate ways of life soon.

Leave a Reply

Name (required please)

Email (required, will not be published)

Website (optional)