During a Satsang that I led the other night, I spoke about animal rights and veganism as they relate to the five yamas. A student shared that she had visited many small farms where the farmers loved the animals they milked. Another student asked how the animals are killed when the "time" came, to which she replied that their throats were slit.
No wonder we are afraid to be loved. No wonder we are afraid to love. No wonder we are suspicious of love.
Veganism is often associated with the actions that we take, or more accurately, the actions that we choose not to take. Others tend to see this as a restriction that disallows us to eat this and that or do this and that. But the root of veganism and any social justice movement is about how we think. Do we think of animals as things or as sentient beings?
If I view animals as things, not different from my iPhone or my favorite pair of yoga pants, then I can claim to love them and throw them away when they are no longer useful to me. But if I view animals as sentient beings who have interests of their own, then I recognize that to love them means to give them the power to make choices.
If we love, then we should love freely and without condition. Love is a gift we offer without expecting anything in return. If we truly love animals, it is because we want them to be happy, not because we want them to be happy so we feel a little less guilty when we steal their milk or eat their flesh.
How we say we love others is often dysfunctional. We cannot truly love others if all we want is to enslave them. We cannot truly love others if we cannot respect their true nature and who they are. We cannot truly love others if it is about how we feel about ourselves rather than how we make them feel about themselves.
If we want to love others, human or nonhuman, I think it means giving them their freedom. Love is not about loving enslavement and most certainly not about ethical killing. Both are oxymorons. If we care about animals at all, then we do not harm them, we do not steal their milk, we do not lie about them, we do not sexually abuse them, we do not use them for our greed.
This love that we claim to have- let's think about it and act on it and give it some justice.