Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

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Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby Luke » Sun Feb 06, 2011 11:21 pm

I was just trying to picture what would happen if a province or country all of a sudden had a great awakening of conscience and decided to stop all killing of animals and immediately shut down all its slaugherhouses. What would happen next? You would have thousands of former livestock animals to take care of. Who would take care of them? Would the government have to tax people to pay for the continuing care of these animals? And if a society had people which were ethical enough to want to save all animals, perhaps many people might just volunteer to help take care of the surviving animals. What do you do think?

Just reflecting on such a momentous day fills me with great joy. Every person has inner wisdom, and hopefully more people will "wake up" in the future and feel great compassion for all animals.

OM MANI PEME HUNG
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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby KeithBC » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:03 am

Luke wrote:I was just trying to picture what would happen if a province or country all of a sudden had a great awakening of conscience and decided to stop all killing of animals and immediately shut down all its slaugherhouses. What would happen next? You would have thousands of former livestock animals to take care of. Who would take care of them? Would the government have to tax people to pay for the continuing care of these animals?

Well, it's an implausible scenario to start with. More importantly, it is an example of what Pema Chodron called "idiot compassion" - something that sounds at first thought like it ought to be compassionate, but which ends up causing more suffering than it relieves. All those animals with no one to tend them; all those workers suddenly unemployed ... it is a nightmare scenario.

Fortunately, even in the most optimistic dreams that are still in touch with reality, this could never happen overnight. It will take many years of steadily changing market conditions for the meat industry to wind down. Livestock herds will be reduced gradually by simply not being replaced. Workers in the industry will be laid off gradually, a few at a time, and will find jobs in other sectors.

The day that the last slaughterhouse closes will be a day of great happiness. But I am not unrealistic enough to think that shutting down the industry overnight would be a good thing.

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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby plwk » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:23 am

My mom would freak out if my country did it....and a friend would be making weekly trips to China.... :jumping:
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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby Luke » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:42 pm

KeithBC wrote:Well, it's an implausible scenario to start with. More importantly, it is an example of what Pema Chodron called "idiot compassion" - something that sounds at first thought like it ought to be compassionate, but which ends up causing more suffering than it relieves.

Perhaps. But shouldn't killing animals for food (outside of an extreme survival situation) be called "idiot brutality"? Is "idiot compassion" any worse than "idiot brutality"?

KeithBC wrote:All those animals with no one to tend them; all those workers suddenly unemployed ... it is a nightmare scenario.

I guess it also shows that compassion is usually more expensive than hatred. For example, it's much cheaper to hang prisoners than to keep them in prison for many years.

I guess people with ethics need to work to make compassion more economically beneficial, since economics is generally what governments take notice of (not ethics). But a clever solution is usually possible if people think about things long enough...

--But back to your reply:
Is saving one animal's life less valuable than saving one person's job? You seem to think "yes," but I think "no" because I feel that killing is almost always the worst possible action according to Buddhist ethics.
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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby Luke » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:51 pm

I think you're decent guy, Keith, but I would like to explore this further...
KeithBC wrote:The day that the last slaughterhouse closes will be a day of great happiness. But I am not unrealistic enough to think that shutting down the industry overnight would be a good thing.

You seem to view the lives of animals as being of much less value than the life of a human. Is this really consistent with Buddhism?

I know that humans are regarded as more special than animals in Buddhism, but the effort to see all living beings as having value is also there.

If human prisoners were being executed instead of animals, would you be more concerned? If so, why?

I'm just trying to probe the depths of Buddhist ethics in order to learn more.
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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:50 pm

I agree with Keith that the only realistic possibility is a gradual reduction in meat in which case the industry would gradually shut-down, not all at once. In that scenario cattle breeding for food would be phased out.

But to satisfy some speculation, in the highly unlikely event that everyone just stopped overnight, workers could stay on to care for the remaining living livestock until they finished their natural lives. All breeding of livestock for human consumption would stop immediately. And when those animals finished their natural lives, there is no more need for concern for what to do "with all of the bulls and cows and chickens" argument that is sometimes raised by omnivores.
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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby KeithBC » Wed Feb 09, 2011 7:56 pm

Luke wrote:Perhaps. But shouldn't killing animals for food (outside of an extreme survival situation) be called "idiot brutality"? Is "idiot compassion" any worse than "idiot brutality"?

Idiot compassion is dishonest because it deludes itself into thinking that it is helping. Better? Worse? Who can say?
Is saving one animal's life less valuable than saving one person's job? You seem to think "yes," but I think "no" because I feel that killing is almost always the worst possible action according to Buddhist ethics.

Obviously, I was unclear. No I do not think an animal's life is less valuable than a person's job. I make no distinction between the life of an animal and the life of any other sentient being, including humans. And clearly a life is more important than a job.

However, I am "allergic" to all forms of political correctness (both right- and left-wing). I see the automaticness of your assumption (i.e. "almost always") as being in that category. The entire scenario is ridiculously implausible to begin with, but to judge one outcome as automatically better than another, without a careful analysis of the likely outcomes is intellectually and ethically weak, IMO. Our calling as bodhisattvas, I think, requires better of us. Instead of just jumping on one scenario as automatically right, it behooves us to think carefully what really would happen.

It is not enough to look at what suffering we are reducing. We also need to examine what suffering we are creating in the process. As un-enlightened beings, we cannot actually know those outcomes with any degree of confidence. Yet, as ethical beings, we are obligated to try. What makes Buddhist ethics different from Christian (or western in general) ethics is that there are no simple solutions in Buddhism. You can't just look up in a Book and find a commandment that makes it a no-brainer.

Luke wrote:You seem to view the lives of animals as being of much less value than the life of a human.

Absolutely not. See above.

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Re: Imagining the day slaughterhouses shut down

Postby Luke » Thu Feb 10, 2011 5:33 pm

KeithBC wrote: I see the automaticness of your assumption (i.e. "almost always") as being in that category. The entire scenario is ridiculously implausible to begin with, but to judge one outcome as automatically better than another, without a careful analysis of the likely outcomes is intellectually and ethically weak, IMO.

Perhaps I'm "intellectually and ethically weak," but deep down, I'm really just trying to show devotion to the lamas who taught me.

The main thing that the lama I took refuge with told was not to kill any sentient being. He didn't qualify that statement with any exceptions. Perhaps I have only received simplistic teachings so far, but I still think that they are teachings which generally point in the right direction. I just reflect what I've been taught, and I don't feel that anyone should be ashamed to say that non-violence is almost always the best solution. Buddhism is pretty clear about avoiding violence in most situations. I don't think I have the wrong impression about that.

Buddhists may not believe in the absolute non-violence of the Jains, but Buddhists still take all forms of non-violence very seriously.

KeithBC wrote:What makes Buddhist ethics different from Christian (or western in general) ethics is that there are no simple solutions in Buddhism. You can't just look up in a Book and find a commandment that makes it a no-brainer.

Hmm... interesting. I guess I was secretly hoping that someone would say, "Read sutra such and such and all your questions about difficult ethical choices will be answered."
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