Abortion and War are the Karma for Killing Animals
by Vasu Murti
In the tradition of offering a wide variety of consistent-life views, Vasu Murti offers a Hindu perspective, also using Christian and secular reasoning. This was originally written as a comment to our recent post, War Causes Abortion.
Abortion and war are the karma for killing animals. The reincarnationist strategy for ending the abortion crisis is that we cease to kill animals.
Pythagoras warned: “Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men.”
Thomas Tryon’s lengthy The Way to Health, Wealth, and Happiness was published in 1691. Tryon defended vegetarianism as a physically and spiritually superior way of life. He came to this conclusion from his interpretation of the Bible as well as his understanding of Christianity.
Tryon, a Christian mystic, wrote against “that depraved custom of eating flesh and blood.” The opening pages of his book begin with an eloquent plea for mercy towards the animals:
Refrain at all times such foods as cannot be procured without violence and oppression, for know, that all the inferior creatures when hurt do cry and fend forth their complaints to their Maker…
Be not insensible that every creature doth bear the image of the great Creator according to the nature of each, and that He is the vital power in all things. Therefore, let none take pleasure to offer violence to that life, lest he awaken the fierce wrath, and bring danger to his own soul.
But let mercy and compassion dwell plentifully in your hearts, that you may be comprehended in the friendly principle of God’s love and holy light. Be a friend to everything that’s good, and then everything will be a friend to thee, and co-operate for thy good and welfare.
In The Way, Tryon (1634-1703) also condemned “Hunting, hawking, shooting, and all violent oppressive exercises.” On a separate occasion, he warned the first Quaker settlers of Pennsylvania that their “holy experiment” in peaceful living would fail unless they extended their Christian precepts of nonviolence to the animal kingdom: “Does not bounteous Mother Earth furnish us with all sorts of food necessary for life?” he asked. “Though you will not fight with and kill those of your own species, yet I must be bold to tell you, that these lesser violences (as you call them) do proceed from the same root of wrath and bitterness as the greater do.”
George T. Angell, founder of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said, “I am sometimes asked, ‘Why do you spend time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is cruelty to men?’ I answer: ‘I am working at the roots.’”
“The vegetarian movement,” wrote Count Leo Tolstoy, “ought to fill with gladness the souls of all those who have at their heart the realization of God’s Kingdom on earth.”
English vegetarian Henry Salt said: “When we turn to the protection of animals, we sometimes hear it said that we ought to protect men first and animals afterwards… By condoning cruelty to animals, we perpetuate the very spirit which condones cruelty to men.”
“Although I may disagree with some of its underlying principles,” writes pro-life activist Karen Swallow Prior, “there is much for me, an anti-abortion activist, to respect in the animal rights movement.” She goes on to write:
Animal rights activists, like me, have risked personal safety and reputation for the sake of other living beings. Animal rights activists, like me, are viewed by many in the mainstream as fanatical wackos, ironically exhorted by irritated passerby to “Get a Life!”
Animal rights activists, like me, place a higher value on life than on personal comfort and convenience, and in balancing the sometimes competing interests of rights and responsibilities, choose to err on the side of compassion and nonviolence.
The fate of the animals and the fate of man are interconnected. (Ecclesiastes 3:19) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said in 1974:
We simply request, “Don’t kill. Don’t maintain slaughterhouses.” That is very sinful. It brings a very awkward karmic reaction upon society. Stop these slaughterhouses. We don’t say, “Stop eating meat.” You can eat meat, but don’t take it from the slaughterhouse, by killing. Simply wait (until the animal dies of natural causes) and you’ll get the carcasses.
You are killing innocent cows and other animals – nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They’ll fight among themselves – Protestants and Catholics, Russia and America, this one and that one. It is going on. Why? This is nature’s law. Tit for tat. “You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.”
They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they’ll create their own slaughterhouse. You see? Just take Belfast. The Roman Catholics are killing the Protestants, and the Protestants are killing the Catholics. This is nature’s law. It is not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You’ll make a slaughterhouse at home. You’ll kill your own child–abortion. This is nature’s law.
In a 1979 essay entitled “Abortion and the Language of Unconsciousness,” contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler) explains Srila Prabhupada’s words in terms of a secular slippery slope argument, familiar to pro-lifers:
A (spiritually) conscious person will not kill even animals (much less very young humans) for his pleasure or convenience. Certainly the unconsciousness and brutality that allows us to erect factories of death for animals lay the groundwork for our treating humans in the same way.
In the March 1982 issue of Back to Godhead, another contemporary Hindu spiritual master, Srila Hridayananda dasa Goswami (Dr. Howard Resnick), comments on this shortcoming of the anti-abortion movement:
Insisting that human life begins at conception, the anti-abortion movement seeks to shock us into the awareness that abortion means killing – killing a human being rather than an animal, a bird, an insect, or a fish.
Thus although the movement calls itself “pro-life,” it is really “pro-human-life.” Its fudging with the terms “life” and “human life” reveals a disturbing assumption: that nonhuman life is somehow not actually life at all, or, if it is, then it is somehow not as “sacred” as human life and therefore not worth protecting….
If the pro-life movement can become part of a broader struggle to recognize the sacredness of all life…then undoubtedly it will attain great success.
No lay practitioner of bhakti-yoga nor ordained (initiated) with lifelong vows can take a stand against the killing of the unborn without simultaneously taking a stand against the killing of animals for food, clothing, sport, etc.
In his 1987 booklet, The New Abolitionists: Animal Rights and Human Liberation, subtitled, “An introduction to the ascendant animal rights movement, framed in the historical context of human emancipation and explained in the terminology of progressive thought and politics,” B.R. Boyd similarly writes:
With more and more people sensing connections between the looming global violence of environmental collapse and thermonuclear war, on the one hand, and our various “localized” or specific violences of child abuse, sexual assault, class exploitation, etc., on the other, the message of the animal rights movement echoes an ancient Chinese Buddhist saying:
If you wish to know
Why there are disasters
Of armies and weapons in the world
Listen to the piteous cries
From the slaughterhouse at midnight
Whether viewed spiritually as karma or in secular, psychological terms as the natural result of our individual and collective psychic numbing to the suffering we inflict, it does seem that our violence comes back to haunt us — as we have sown, so are we reaping — and that the roots of our ecological and nuclear dilemma reach deep into our history and our psychology.
It seems increasingly clear that a thoroughgoing solution to the big problems we face will require a radical change in many of our ways of thinking and feeling and being in the world. Radical ecofeminism and some other holistic perspectives are teaching us that an integral part of that change lies in learning to balance our intellect — including clear-headed analysis, which is essential — with our emotions, integrating head and heart, and developing circular and complete relationships with the earth and her creatures, as contrasted with the separated, linear patterns and the absolute primacy of intellect over feeling and intuition that seem to typify Western patriarchal thinking.
In the April 1995 issue of Harmony: Voices for a Just Future, a consistent-life magazine, Catholic civil rights activist Bernard Broussard similarly concludes:
our definition of war is much too limited and narrow. Wars and conflicts in the human kingdom will never be abolished or diminished until, as a pure matter of logic, it includes the cessation of war between the human and animal kingdoms.
For, if we be eaters of flesh, or wearers of fur, or participants in hunting animals, or in any way use our might against weakness, we are promoting, in no matter how seemingly insignificant a fashion, the spirit of war.
The “might makes right” mentality that makes abortion possible begins with what we humans do to other animals.
Animals are like children. If you can’t see toddlers as persons, how will you ever see zygotes and embryos as persons?
Again, Pythagoras warned: “Those who kill animals for food will be more prone than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men.”
See the list of all our blog posts, put in categories.
Vasu Murti also wrote our blog post Suffering and Injustice Concern Us All
He’s the author of The Liberal Case against Abortion and
They Shall Not Hurt or Destroy: Animal Rights and Vegetarianism in the Western Religious Traditions