Valuing Life

Today I happened to turn on public television to a documentary about  farming in California.

Being immersed in a micro-culture with many friends that oppose GMO, factory farming and chemical pesticides,  I was surprised to hear the host express how great is it that we have chemical fertilizers that improve productivity of crops, that we have established a way to fatten up cows fast to feed the global appetite for beef, etc. I think eventually the tone changed, but he was eating beef while discussing animal agriculture. Having travelled to India and other poor countries and knowing about the poverty even in what is called food deserts in the US, I was appalled that the show featured a town in which CA surplus tomatos were thrown around in a food fight that was framed as a cancer benefit. People paid $10 a person to throw tomatos at each other. Even if there was a cause behind it, it seemed obscene to be wasting plant life like that. And then the show cut to a slaughterhouse scene– as if it were all OK!

Next show was “Half the Sky”. There was plenty to be inspired by,but there was unspeakable violence to women depicted in Sierra Leone, India, Cambodia and Kenya, among other countries. Women raped, beaten, sold to be prostituted and killed. (There are parallels to the way that dairy cows are treated, which we could well consider in terms of karmic consequences). Economic opportunities, education and health care provide a way out, but there are tremendous violent forces that profit from women’s pain.  The message of the documentary is that things can change, if we all  contribute our energy, in some way.

As people that believe in the value of all life, (as vegans, as Jains)  do we really live our principles? Do we  treat the smallest sentient being with care? Do we consciously avoid eating products of violence of 5 sensed beings? Do we respect and encourage girls and women to their highest spiritual evolution?

Or are we stuck mindlessly reproducing cultural patterns that numb us and devalue life?  We might be vegetarian, but don’t want to think beyond that and become vegan. We might avoid killing the insects, but drive an SUV. We might want our daughter to get educated but we tell her that according to the Digambars, women cannot be liberated. Are we living and giving to the world the values that we profess?

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