The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Hi, living being — I invite you to celebrate and acknowledge something with me, and to do yourself a favor, as well. Have you ever heard of the ASPCA? Established 147 years ago on April 10, 1866, the American Society for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals works to rescue animals from abuse, pass humane laws and share resources with animal shelters nationwide. The ASPCA’s mission is where my heart lies, with the less fortunate, especially the animals.
Philosopher Alan Watts once talked about how “the animal tends to eat with his stomach, and the man with his brain.” I connect this to the all-too-over-used phrase “Ignorance is bliss.” Although most of us have an awareness ingrained deep in us that hurting animals is wrong, we continue to consume far too much meat. Not only is this unnecessary, but it begs the question, “Are we even eating meat to sustain ourselves anymore?” Initially, our race killed for survival, for sustenance, but that may no longer be necessary for much of the world’s population. As living beings, to be humane and conduct ourselves with the Earth in mind, we need to have our hearts set on the well-being of every living thing around us. The Baha’i teachings strongly encourage kindness and compassion toward animals:
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 Healing
The 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.