I met some vegan Bodhisattvas in Burlington last week. It’s a small city just east of Toronto, Canada. They were standing on the corners and in the intersection of Appleby Line and Harvester road. They were holding a vigil, bearing witness, and sending love in all directions.
We all know what a vegan is: a person who due to ethical and moral reasoning has decided they cannot take part in the cultural norm of eating, wearing and using animals any longer. On the other hand, a Bodhisattva in the Buddhist tradition is the archetypical example of highest ethical potentiality a human can achieve. Bodhisattva’s by definition are driven (this life and life after life) to help all sentient beings become free from suffering. Bodhisattvas are completely compelled by love and compassion for all sentient beings. The famous quote from the Buddhist monk Shantideva (8th-century, India) sums up the Bodhisattva aspirational activity with the following four lines:
“As long as space endures,
as long as sentient beings remain,
until then, may I too remain,
and dispel the miseries of the world.”
If there are Bodhisattvas on the planet today the Toronto Pig Save volunteers are impeccable examples.
Sabbe Sattva (Pali: All Beings)
From the very beginning, 2,500 years ago, the Buddha taught all sentient beings should be helped in any way we could and not be harmed. All sentient life was precious in the Buddha’s eyes. He felt, reasoned, and knew all sentient life forms have wants and needs, can experience pleasure and pain, and they will struggle to live with every breath. None want to die, all want to live, and in this we are all the same.
Appleby Line and Harvester Road
The slaughterhouse transport trucks roll in one after the other off of the 403 on to Appleby Line and stop at the light signal at Harvester road. Left blinker signals go on and a team of Bodhisattvas converge onto a dangerously small thirty-inch patch of concrete in the middle of the road. Armed with nothing but water bottles and love, they gently stroke the snouts of the pigs inside the harsh all metal transports. Evidence of defecation and vomit permeate the air, floors, legs and snouts. These incredibly intelligent beings reach out of holes to interact with the activists who tell them they are “sorry, I am trying to make a difference and wake people up.” They tell the pigs, “I love you” and show them the most kindness these beings have ever felt in their entire lives.
Pigs are one of the smartest, cleanest, and sentient animals on the planet. You can see it in their eyes. They are checking you out. They are figuring you out. They are looking right at you with curiosity, and in some cases fear, from the metal holes in the slaughterhouse transport. You can tell each has their own personality.
It is well documented that newborn piglets learn to run to their mothers’ voice and recognize their own names and that mother pigs are known to sing to their young when nursing. Pigs are very clean animals, cannot sweat, and will not soil themselves when they are giving sufficient room to live. Those who run sanctuaries have documented they enjoy music, playing with balls, exploring, sunbathing, and getting massages. Pigs dream, like to snuggle, sleep nose-to-nose and are continually communicating with each other. It has been documented they have over 20 words and vocal sounds from courting each other to simply declaring, “I’m hungry.” It is generally felt that pigs are smarter than three-year-old human children, cleverer than dogs, and can be taught to use joystick-controlled video gaming devices. They have as good a sense of direction as “Lassie” and are known to be able to find their way home over long distances. “I know of no other animals [who] are more consistently curious, more willing to explore new experiences, more ready to meet the world with open mouthed enthusiasm. Pigs, I have discovered, are incurable optimists and get a big kick out of just being,” according Johannesburg Zoo director, Lyall Watson, author of The Whole Hog.
My teacher, Gelek Rimpoche, says that any killing is immoral from a Buddhist standpoint. He believes it creates terrible negativity for all of us in this life and the next. These negative activities can be against yourself and others. In general, any actions that hurt are immoral/wrong action and any action that helps is moral/right action. Helping and serving all sentient beings is moral. Building positive karma (action/activity) is moral and helps build merit. Therefore, in perfecting morality one restrains from wrong-doing, benefits rather than harms sentient beings, and accumulates merit.
When we look at the situation the world is in today we find a terribly messy tragedy. Forty-five percent of the entire planet’s surface and sixty percent of all arable land is devoted to livestock (sentient being) agriculture, either in the form of pasture or growing feed grains. Seventy percent of all said grains grown are fed to seventy billion animals (sentient beings) not people, yet one billion humans go hungry everyday functionally starving with six million children actually dying of starvation annually. We are running out of fresh water by draining aquafers faster than they can recharge to irrigate grain crops. We ignorantly choose to filter our protein through animals in a terribly inefficient manner rather than eating plants directly. It can take eight to fifteen pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. It can take between 1,800 and 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. Thirty to fifty percent of all anthropogenic (human generated) greenhouse gas emissions are caused by activities related to raising, killing and eating animals, i.e. our attachment to eating animals.
In a completely negative action, which today is scientifically irrefutable, we know it hurts us to eat the bodies of sentient beings causing us to be obese, get cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Thus we are killing the planet, ourselves, and the animals we choose to eat — creating three negativities.
Aspiration and Action
Gelek Rimpoche says there are two aspects of creating the mind of a Bodhisattva: aspiration and action. Many of us are very comfortable with the first form. We aspire and intend to do the best. We have good aspirations and intentions. The second aspect, action, takes courage and energy and it is where the most progress is made. Aspirational couch potatoes don’t change the world. Starting with aspiration we need to then follow it up with action. Intending not to hurt and kill but then doing so gets us nowhere. Hiding behind culture, taste, laziness, and the dubious three rules (when it is not seen, heard, or suspected that a living being was killed for you personally) is a sophistry of denial and delusion.
Right action can be seen on the corner of Appleby Line and Harvester road. It is here that the future for the planet is being fought. It is here where humanity is being exemplified.
While in the U.S. next week, on Thursday, November 24th, we will celebrate a holiday called Thanksgiving and many will dine on the dead carcasses of sentient beings, at the intersection of Appleby Line and Harvester road you’ll find twenty or more vegan Bodhisattva activists holding signs, beseeching those driving by to take notice, and giving unconditional love to sentient beings on death row. For the pigs it is their last left turn in this lifetime before they enter the gates of the slaughterhouse never to return. When you stand on the sidewalk beside the slaughterhouse you can hear the screams and squeals of terrified individuals fighting for their lives inside and on the outside you can see the tears of people and hear their tender words, “I am so sorry, I love you, and I will always love you!”
Which side are you on?
Toronto Pig Save website
Photos from Thursday, November 17, 2016 by Louise Jorgensen
Photos from Thursday, November 17, 2016 by John Bussineau
Facts about what happens at Fearman’s Pork and other pork producers:
- 4 to 6 months old
- 200 per truck
- 50 trucks per day
- Deafening screams of terror heard from the street
- Forced into a gas chamber
- Throats slit
- Dragged through scalding water (some still alive) = Bacon
“When the suffering of another creature causes you to feel pain,
do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering one,
but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can to him
who suffers, and try to help him.” ~ Leo Tolstoy
The Save Movement is comprised of groups around the world who bear witness of pigs, cows, chickens and other farmed animals en route to slaughter. Our goals are to raise awareness about the plight of farmed animals, to help people become vegan, and to build a massive love-based, grassroots animal justice movement.
The Save Movement started in December 2010 with the inception of Toronto Pig Save. Today there are close to 40 groups in Canada, the US, Australia and elsewhere.