The first ever Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference was held on September 30th, 2016. One would imagine that Buddhism and Animal Rights, which go hand-in-hand since Buddhists care for all sentient beings, would be celebrating its 20th or 30th annual conference but unfortunately that is not the case. While Buddhists consider all sentient life as precious and sacred many practitioners and teachers are not vegetarian, let alone vegan. This unfortunate situation is going to change thanks to 2 organizations: CARE and DVA who are attempting to create a dialogue within Buddhist communities globally.
The following write up was shared by Senaka Weeraratna, who is the Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) Chapter Leader for Columbo, Sri Lanka.
Thank you for sharing Senaka!
The first Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference co-hosted by Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) and Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth (CARE) was held at Hotel Skypark Kingstown, Dongdaemun in Seoul, South Korea on Friday September 30, 2016, immediately after the conclusion of the 28th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists Conference in the same city.
It was a full day Conference.
One of the Resolutions adopted at the Conference called upon the Government of Sri Lanka to take immediate steps to have the Animal Welfare Bill enacted without delay. It said that it would be tantamount to an inexcusable lapse if Sri Lanka were to celebrate in year 2017 the UN Day of Vesak at an Inter – Governmental level, without extending appropriate legislative protection in line with Buddhist values and Sri Lanka’s historical animal friendly cultural heritage, and modern standards of care and treatment, to animals.
The keynote speaker was the well-known Buddhist monk and animal advocate Venerable Master Hai Tao from Taiwan. He spoke on Compassion for All Beings.
Other speakers were:
- DVA President, Bob Isaacson who spoke on the Buddha’s Teachings on Sentient Beings and How We Can Live Kinder.
- Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara (Veterinary Surgeon and Chapter leader of the Kandy Chapter of DVA in Sri Lanka ) who with his team have generously given free treatment to more than 50,000 animals. Dr. Nanayakkara raised the question, is it consistent with Buddhist teachings for humans to kill animals in response to overpopulation? Instead a method consistent with the Dhamma is readily available: the spraying and neutering of dogs, cats and other animals.
- CARE Founder & President Ms. Soyoun Park ( a Leading Animal Rights Advocate in South Korea)
- Professor Chang – gil, Park ( Ph.D.) of Sungkonhoe University, Seoul and President of Voices for Animals. He spoke on the topic ‘ What can Buddhist organisations do to protect world laboratory animals?”
- Film Director Ms. Yun Hwang ( who has made a documentary film on introspection of the modern livestock industry and its interaction with Animals). She spoke on the topic ‘ Mercy and Peace of Eating’.
The various speakers dealt with issues related to implementation of humane animal control methods, spraying and neutering of animals, animal experimentation, animal agriculture and plant-based nutrition.
There were two workshops held at the conference: the first focused on Advancing the Cause of Animal Rights in the Buddhist Community and the other at the end of the Conference dealt with the moral issue of Living Kinder and Eating Kinder – using what was learned at the Conference for the Welfare and Happiness of All Beings.
A delicious vegan lunch which was entirely plant-based (no animal foods) and reflecting Korean cultural tradition and cooking was served to the delight of visitors from overseas.
Among the distinguished attendees at the Conference were Mr. Phallop Thaiarry ( Secretary – General of the World Fellowship of Buddhists), Mr. AJ Garcia ( President, CARE), Dato Ang Choo Hong (Malaysia), Ms. Loh Pai Ling (President, Buddhist Missionary Society, Malaysia), Mr. Lee, Tae – Ghill ( Director of Committee, Lay Buddhist Association of South Korea), Mr. Park, Sang – Kyu, Dr. Lee Chi -Ran, Mr. Basumitra Barua (Bangladesh), Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan ( Australia), Mr. Senaka Weeraratna ( Chapter Leader , DVA Colombo, Sri Lanka), Mr. Lakshman Hettiaratchi( Sri Lanka), Mrs. Sandamali Hettiaratchi ( Sri Lanka), Major – General Sardha Abeyratne (Sri Lanka), Mr. Albert Mah ( DVA Chapter Leader, Perth, Western Australia), Mr. Ananda Mahinkanda (DVA, Los Angeles, USA), a Nepalese Buddhist leader, and Mr. Senarathna Liyanage (Sri Lanka).
This conference was the world’s first Buddhist animal rights conference. It is indeed noteworthy that Buddhists in increasing numbers are now engaging in animal advocacy and refraining from consuming animal foods because they want to go further with their practice of kindness and compassion which applies to all living beings and not just humans.
To them ethical and moral considerations in exploiting animals for food, skin, fur, experimentation and entertainment are equally important as Buddhist philosophy. Kill and eat is not part of the Buddhist Tradition. The Buddhist First Precept which recognizes the right to life of all living beings of all species without hierarchical discrimination, and Right Livelihood as a key component of the Noble Eightfold Path, were heavily emphasized at the Conference.
At the end of the Conference several Resolutions were adopted.
The conference ended with a Group Photograph being taken. The organizers hope that this conference will be the starting point and they plan to hold more in the coming years in conjunction with the General Conferences of the WFB.
Dharma Voices for Animals members attending the 28th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Seoul, South Korea.
Additional Resources and Links
The Buddhist Channel report of this event
Donations for CARE: If you wish to support conferences like this and the work ahead, please consider a donation
Dharma Voices for Animals (become a member today, it’s free)
The Buddha and Animals – a 50 minute movie produced by Dharma Voices for Animals explaining why Buddhists should consider giving up meat.