More on ‘Buddhist heritage and chicken’

The problems raised by the ‘Free Thinker’ in his letters of 18.03.03 and 22.03.03 appearing in The Island are not problems that have come up in society in recent times. These problems had been there even in the time of the Buddha. It is said that there was a pig slaughter house by the side of the temple where the Buddha lived. The ear rending cries of pigs being slaughtered could be heard at the temple at all times of the day. Though the Buddha could have sent the butcher out of the city by a request to the king, He did not do so.

In the natural process of living, it was the practice that the vegetable kingdom was used as the food base of the animal kingdom. However, this was not uniform, the stronger and the larger animal sometimes lived on the smaller and weaker animals. By the time human beings developed to the stone age period they ate vegetables as well as animal food. By the time human beings came to the agricultural age, religions appeared in social groups and advised these groups to live orderly lives. Their food habits too were built into their living cultures.

However, when a religious leader such as the Buddha appeared, he taught that all living creatures had a right to live in this world and also they felt pain when they were subject to slaughter and as such, human beings should refrain from killing the meanest creature. The Buddhist religion and its priests are still trying to ameliorate the natural system of killing that prevailed in the world without much success.

When Jesus Christ met his would be chief disciple, Peter and his companions first, they were a forlorn lot, as their nets failed to catch a single fish after many tries of casting the nets. However, Jesus asked them to cast their nets again and behold there was a stupendous catch of fish to their delight. There was no point in Jesus telling them not to kill fish as it was their living culture.

When the Garden of Eden was still young and father Abraham and his children, Abel and Cain lived on the land, Abel killed a lamb and made a burnt offering to God on his altar, while Cain took his choisest fruit and vegetable and made an offering to God on his altar. However, on the following day, it was observed that God had taken Abel’s offering of lamb and not the vegetable offering of Cain. This so angered Cain that he took a weapon and killed Abel on the spot. This was the first murder on earth. It is seen that even God preferred lamb to fruit, and it resulted in a murder.

It was God who created all the animals, the fish, the birds, and the vegetation for man’s use and there is nothing wrong in human beings consuming these items of food. The Buddhist priests and laymen (upasakas) eat chicken, having a regret in the mind as to the Buddha’s advice and the manner of the death of these chicken. However, non-Buddhist priests and laymen eat chicken with great relish and rejoicing, as the gift of God meant precisely for their enjoyment. The latter group enjoys the flesh more, if the cruelty in the manner of killing is more as in ‘halal’ food. Now I would like to ask the ‘free thinker’ which of these two groups of chicken eaters is the more humane group in his reckoning.

However, those who are responsible for the unbridled slaughter of animals are those who believe that animals have been created to be killed and eaten by man. The creator God himself had a preference for lamb offered by Abel. Now the ‘free thinker’ should understand that Buddhist priests whether they eat chicken or not can do precious little to stop or ameliorate the orgy of slaughter sanctioned and supported by the creator and his priests.

The ‘free thinker’ would be well advised to take up the matter of killing and eating chicken with the Creator’s followers, if he wishes to ameliorate the lot of unfortunate chicken as well as animals. The ‘free thinker’ should understand that the universally prevailing practice of slaughtering for food is the non-Buddhist heritage and not the Buddhist heritage.
D. W. Edirisooriya
Mount Lavinia