Bodhisattvas in Burlington

Please help me.

Please help me.

I met some vegan Bodhisattvas in Burlington last week. It’s a small city just west 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.


The 1st Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference

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!

Senaka writes:

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.


Master Hai Tao

Other speakers were: 

  1. DVA President, Bob Isaacson who spoke on the Buddha’s Teachings on Sentient Beings and How We Can Live Kinder.
  2. 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.
  3. CARE Founder & President Ms. Soyoun Park ( a Leading Animal Rights Advocate in South Korea)
  4. 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?”
  5. 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.

Senaka Weeraratna

Organizers: left to right. Seated: Albert Mah, Professor Changil Park, Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, Ananda Mahinkanda, Ms. Soyoun Park, Bob Isaacson, Senaka Weeraratna, Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, Lakshman Hettiaratchi, Major - General Sardha Abeyratne. Standing: from 5th ( Park, Sang -Kyu, Basumitra Barua, Lee, Tae - Ghill)

Organizers: left to right. Seated: Albert Mah, Professor Changil Park, Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, Ananda Mahinkanda, Ms. Soyoun Park, Bob Isaacson, Senaka Weeraratna, Venerable Thich Phuoc Tan, Lakshman Hettiaratchi, Major – General Sardha Abeyratne. Standing: from 5th ( Park, Sang -Kyu, Basumitra Barua, Lee, Tae – Ghill)


Dharma Voices for Animals members attending the 28th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Seoul, South Korea.

Left to Right Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, Albert Mah, Senaka Weeraratn,a Bob Isaacson, and Ananda Mahinkanda

Left to Right Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, Albert Mah, Senaka Weeraratna, Bob Isaacson, and Ananda Mahinkanda. Taken at the Hotel Skypark, Kingstown,Dongdaemun, Seoul on September 26, 2016.



Additional Resources and Links

Lanka Web report

The Buddhist Channel report of this event

1st Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Website

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.