In previous posts, we have discussed how the most important factor in the cultivation of Dharma is generating Great Compassion, and have invited all Dharma practitioners to compassionately save the lives of animals.
Here are eight actions you can take to help animals:
1. Move Toward a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet
Over 95% of the cruelty to animals in the United States occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries —which confine, mutilate, and slaughter over 9 billion land animals each year.
Since our diets are the leading cause of animal abuse, this is the best place to start helping animals —by choosing kindness over cruelty every time we eat.
By adopting a vegetarian diet, you can spare the lives of over 50 animals each year. That adds up to thousands during a lifetime.
Of course, adopting new habits can be challenging at first. Although some people become vegan overnight, most people look at becoming vegetarian or vegan as a process, and take time to develop new eating habits.
To learn more about how to incorporate more vegetarian meals into your diet, explore http://www.chooseveg.com/. The site has tips, recipes, videos, and everything you need to help make the switch.
2. Teach Yourself and Others about the Issues
After you’ve adopted a vegetarian diet for a while, you may notice that people start asking you a lot of questions about it such as:
•”Where do you get your protein?”
•”What will we do with all the animals if everyone goes vegetarian? Wouldn’t they take over?”
•”Don’t you need to drink cow’s milk for calcium?”
Sometimes, people are simply trying to justify their own habits of eating animals by posing such questions, but other times people are genuinely interested in learning more. If the tone feels argumentative, gracefully end the conversation by smiling and calmly saying, “Thank you for your interest in vegetarianism. If you would like to learn more about it I suggest you visit http://www.chooseveg.com/.”
However, for those people who are genuinely curious and interested in learning more, these conversations can be a wonderful way to help animals and share information.
Learn as much as you can about factory farming and vegetarian issues —this way you will be better able to share with others why you’re a vegetarian.
Most people have never been exposed to the idea of vegetarian eating before, and you will likely be the first person who shapes their idea of what vegetarians are like, so strive to be knowledgeable, patient, respectful, and joyful —regardless of how hostile someone might be to you.
Finally, if people are asking you health-related questions, it helps if you are healthy yourself.
3. Support the Buddhist Practice of Saving Lives
Life release, “tsethar” or “so jin” in Tibetan, is a Buddhist practice of saving lives. By buying animals that are destined to be killed and releasing them in their native environments, life release puts compassion into action. Unfortunately, most of the time we hardly realize that as human beings we have this precious opportunity.
Although every life is precious, the process of living inevitably causes us to take the lives of other living beings. We cannot completely prevent this situation because as long as we walk, breathe, eat, and so forth, we cause the deaths of many creatures. However we can cultivate mindfulness, and try to reduce taking lives to the best of our ability. We can also offer a gift of life and protection through the practice of Life Release. No matter what our lifestyle is, we can do this practice. It benefits those who offer the gift of life as well as those who receive it. And regardless of the religion we practice, its results will be strengthened if the practice is conducted with an aspiration that all beings without exception enjoy happiness and a life free from any harm.
In Buddhism the practice has two aspects: 1. The act of saving lives, 2. the blessing of the prayers that accompany life release. For more information on Life Release, please visit http://www.sojin.org/, http://www.shabkar.org/, or contact us at GreatMiddleway@gmail.com
4. Become an Online Activist
If you have a personal website, or profiles on MySpace or Facebook, consider adding a vegetarian website or quote in your email signature. Some links you may consider are http://www.chooseveg.com/, http://www.shabkar.org/, http://www.sojin.org/, or http://greatmiddleway.wordpress.com/
5. Distribute Information
One of the most effective techniques for educating others about the health and ethical benefits of a plant-based diet is by distributing literature in public places with heavy foot traffic.
The great thing about distributing literature is the lack of preparation time required. At the right time and place, just one person can hand out hundreds of brochures in less than an hour.
We recommend passing out “Why Vegan?” brochures, which you can order in bulk from Vegan Outreach, and “Why love one but eat the other?” brochures which you can order from the Mercy For Animals Literature Store http://www.mercyforanimals.org/literature.aspx, or explore BVA’s pamphlet at http://veganpamphlet.com/pamphlet_home.html.
Since younger people tend to be very interested in vegetarianism —and open to change— college campuses and concerts are particularly good places to leaflet.
Let’s be really conservative and assume that only 1% of the people who receive a brochure decide to go vegetarian after reading it. If you pass out 200 leaflets in an afternoon, that’s at least two new people who may become vegetarian. (200 leaflets x 1% = 2 new vegetarians)
Based on annual slaughter statistics, the average vegetarian saves over 50 animals per year (about 35 land animals, and many more sea animals). If we assume that, on average, those who go vegetarian stay vegetarian for at least one year, that equates to at least 100 animals saved just from a few hours of leafleting. (2 new vegetarians x 50 animals per year = 100 animals saved per year)
How many other activities can you think of that anybody can do, which can save at least one hundred lives in just a few hours?
6. Organize a Video Showing
If you are involved in an organization such as:
•a student group
•an environmental organization
…consider organizing a video showing to teach others about the issues.
There are numerous excellent documentaries available. Please visit http://www.chooseveg.com/videos.asp for some options.
In addition to organizing local screenings, another way to show videos is to air them on public access television.
7. Veganize Your Cafeteria or Local Restaurants
If you’re a high school or college student, consider organizing a campaign to get more vegan options in your school cafeteria.
If you’re not in school, consider approaching local restaurants about carrying more vegan options.
8. Utilize the Power of the Pen
Don’t underestimate the power of the pen — or keyboard! Writing letters to the media, businesses, and legislators is a great way to speak up for animals.
The animals are counting on you. Your actions, your voice, and your volunteering make a difference. Thank you for having the courage and moral strength to act for animals and be the voice of the voiceless. With your help, we will create a more compassionate world for all sentient beings.