Let us look at the example of poultry farming. In the old days, chickens were allowed to roam freely and grow in a natural environment. They were only sent for slaughter when naturally fully grown. In other words, the production of meat was not human-controlled but based on the natural growth of the animals.
Today, driven by demand in capitalist economies, poultry is “produced” in controlled high-tech conditions. Poultry and other animals are now raised in large-scale factory farms, deprived of natural conditions which allow them to move around and seek food freely in a natural environment. They are fed solely by humans and/or machines and kept in cages or pens, just big enough for them to stand in, day and night. Driven by human greed, some poultry farmers, for example, speed up the growth of the chickens to generate more income, causing tremendous pain and suffering to the poultry. By creating longer days and shorter nights with the use of indoor lighting, the animals are misled into eating more often than normal. Under these factory farming conditions, these animals suffer greatly. Some reports say these animals attack each other, pecking out of frustration and wounding their mates, causing each other to bleed and suffer. To prevent them from attacking each other, farmers cut their beaks off, inflicting even more pain and suffering to the poor chickens.
During festive seasons, there is massive slaughter of animals to satisfy the sensual pleasures of humans. So, if we look deeply into the consumption of meat, we could be indirectly contributing to the act of killing, because the production of meat today is dependent on demand in the market. Therefore, if we can reduce our meat consumption, it will certainly reduce the demand for meat, and thereby minimising animal slaughter.
If we are truly concerned for the well-being of animals and not wanting to contribute to the cruelty of modern industrial farming, we will naturally develop a kind heart and compassion towards animals. The practice of the First Precept – to abstain from killing – is a celebration of life. We do not support any act of killing, and we can extend it further by teaching others not to. Being mindful of what we eat and what we buy, and making an effort in our diet are ways of preventing killing.
Many Buddhists find that as they develop in their spiritual path, they have a natural tendency to become vegetarian. By doing so, they live up to the Buddha’s teaching on loving kindness. This energy of loving kindness brings feelings of safety, health and joy to them and all sentient beings.