Some people ask why it is that I advocate so frequently and insistently on universal, radical compassion, especially toward non-human animals. They are of the opinion that a Buddhist monk should concentrate his efforts on sharing a “broader and higher” view of the Dharma, instead of pointing repeatedly to the cruelty that humans inflict on animals by enslaving, torturing, experimenting, exhibiting, killing, and consuming their flesh, skin, feathers, products, and secretions.
Although these persons consider that there are more important topics to discuss in Buddhism, and that I should focus on proclaiming a “more inclusive” Dharma, the Eightfold Noble Path is not a cafeteria discipline, where each person selects that which is to his liking and discards the rest.
In fact, the Buddha Shakyamuni instructs us:
“Knowing the fruit of causal effects of any action, the wise gains complete understanding of dependent origination and sees all action as it really is. By action are all phenomena determined, by action the world goes on, and by action the beings go on. Beings are bounded, conditioned, and created by their behavior. By self-taming, by self-control, and by living the moral life, only by this supremely pure state do they become noble.
“And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from sexual misconduct. This is called right action.”
The exploitation of non-human animals violates these precepts of Right Conduct, whether through depriving them of life, appropriating their secretions and products, or artificially breeding them for our benefit.
Animal exploitation impedes spiritual cultivation. Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdol states categorically:
“Eating meat, at the cost of great suffering for animals, is unacceptable. If, bereft of compassion and wisdom, you eat meat, you have turned your back on liberation. The Buddha said, ‘The eating of meat annihilates the seed of compassion’.”