What, and Who, Is on Your Plate this Easter?
Though for many of us Easter is not much more than a bacchanalia of sugar (hello chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps!) and an excuse to drink mimosas at brunch, the religious significance of Easter and the reason we began celebrating it in the first place is the resurrection of Jesus, symbolizing the eternal life we can all achieve through embracing Divine Love.
Yet so often we celebrate Easter, and other spiritual and religious holidays, by mindlessly consuming products that have caused unconscionable suffering to other sentient beings—products that are destroying our planet, not to mention wrecking our own health.
The holidays highlight our societal disconnect and schizophrenia when it comes to our relationship with animals. We go to church or temple and commit ourselves to noble ideals and principles like Unconditional Love and Universal Justice, and then we go home to feast on the remains of some poor creature who was deprived of any kindness or mercy in his or her unnaturally short and pathetic life.
Somehow food is often carved out as an exception to our spiritual and ethical practices. And yet, rituals and disciplines around food are found in every major religious and spiritual tradition.
Strict Jews avoid pork and pork products, shellfish, meat and dairy at the same meal, and many observe a host of other kosher dietary restrictions. Most Buddhists are vegetarian, as are most Hindus. Catholics give up most meat on certain days during Lent. Muslims don’t eat pork, and they fast during the holy month of Ramadan. For those of Bahá’í faith, it’s during the holy month of Ala when fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset. The list goes on.
The observances differ, but in all cases there is some understanding that what we eat can either bring us closer to or drive us away from God, or the Divine, or our own highest nature.
Almost all animal products on the market come from factory farms. Most of us have some idea that the hidden lives of these animals is a dark one filled with pain and immense physical and emotional suffering. Time and time again, undercover investigations shatter the fairy tale illusion we want to believe that the meat, eggs, or dairy on our plate is in any way wholesome, natural, or consistent with our own ethics and values.
>>> Scientists tell us pigs are smarter than our dogs, even smarter than our three year old human children.
>>> Mother cows bond so deeply with their calves that they typically bellow for days after the dairy industry steals them away from her.
>>> Chickens have at least 24 different vocalizations, each communicating a different message ranging from stress to comfort, and they experience pain in the same physiological way humans do.
>>> The lambs we so often eat at Easter or serve on the Passover Seder plate are taken from their mothers and usually slaughtered between six weeks and five months old.
>>> Americans don’t generally consume a lot of lamb, except at the holidays when we cap our celebrations by feasting on these quintessentially innocent and gentle babies.
Animal agriculture is also probably the greatest threat to the environment today, with the livestock industry producing more greenhouse gasses (the greatest contributor to global warming) than the entire transportation sector. And if that’s not bad enough, an animal-based diet is associated with just about every major disease we see in the West, including many cancers, Diabetes’s 2, heart disease and obesity, among others.
Most of us know something about how bad our food system has become, and we are uncomfortable with the realities of animal agriculture. So the obvious thing to do is go into total denial and pretend these facts don’t exist. Rather than giving up the products that cause so much harm to billions of sentient beings (we slaughter 10 billion land animals a year in the US alone), that are destroying the planet, and making us sick, we just try our best not to think too much about it.
When we sit down to a special holiday meal we should not have to shut down emotionally and intellectually.
This holiday season, we can deepen our spiritual practice by extending it to what we eat.
Simply bringing awareness to what, and who, we eat will lead us to make choices that help us live, and eat, in harmony with our own values and ethics and the eternal spirit of compassion and universal love that we celebrate this holiday. With so many plant-based options available, no life needs to be sacrificed this Easter, or any other day.
Author: Tracey Narayani Glover
Editor: Renee Jahnke
Image: Deb Durant (provided by Author)
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