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Briefly, it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. - Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 373.Animals do not and cannot communicate with us humans verbally, and as we happen to place a high value on verbal communication, there is an ongoing argument that I often witness - prominently among Westerners - regarding those who knowingly eat meat and those who do not. During these encounters and discussions, things can get personal, but why should they? It’s about the animals, not us:
…Cruelty to the animal is more painful because man has a tongue and he sighs, complains and groans when he receives an injury and complains to the government and the government protects him from cruelty; but the poor animal cannot speak, it can neither show its suffering nor is it able to appeal to the government. If it is harmed a thousand times by man it is not able to defend itself in words nor can it seek justice or retaliate. Therefore one must be very considerate towards animals and show greater kindness to them than to man. Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. - Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 373.Many of us possess the capacity to feel this kind of compassion, which, in my opinion, is a spiritual gift. It helps us tune in to what is going on internally, and allows us to feel a little of the pain of others. If we humans truly are as intelligent and resourceful as we make ourselves out to be, then surely our intricacies and complexities can easily help us pursue a comfortable way to incorporate our needs with the needs of animals. This will require a significant change in the consciousness of humanity, a large-scale enlightenment on a major global scale. Only faith can accomplish such an enlightenment, and encourage a very large group of people to decide they do not constantly need to eat meat. We now know, scientifically, that a diet with little or no animal protein is one of the healthiest ways we can eat. Abdu’l-Baha pointed this out more than a hundred years ago:
Coming to man, we see he hath neither hooked teeth nor sharp nails or claws, nor teeth like iron sickles. From this it becometh evident and manifest that the food of man is cereal and fruit. Some of the teeth of man are like millstones to grind the grain, and some are sharp to cut the fruit. Therefore he is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it. Even without eating meat he would live with the utmost vigour and energy. - Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Baha’i Writings on Some Aspects of Health and HealingThe Baha’i teachings don’t include any dietary restrictions – Baha’is are free to choose what they eat. But when we face the simple, basic question of what to eat every day, one thing we can all ask ourselves is, “how can we be kind and compassionate?” Eating a plant-based diet is definitely one of the best ways to find that kindness and compassion.