Unity has always been a movement of awakening and raising consciousness. Many of us passionately promote peace and live on the forefront of breaking down barriers between genders, races and sexual orientations. While we know it can be difficult to move beyond entrenched social and personal patterns, we teach that it is not only possible, but also part of our evolution as spiritual beings. We are the image and likeness of God! We hold the power to change our thoughts and behaviors and move into closer alignment with our deeply-held values of peace, love and freedom. That’s our fifth principle.
We teach Oneness. We know that as One, when we hurt another we hurt ourselves. Jesus taught this when he said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31) and “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you must love one another” (John 13:34). Yet most of us are quite unaware of the violence we participate in every day, and the boundaries we draw between ourselves and the non-human animals with whom we share the planet.
I believe the time has come to raise our awareness about the human-animal bond. As a society, we have lost our way in being kind, compassionate, peaceful people who are in reverence of Life itself. Over hundreds of years, we have not just fallen from being in relationship with animals; we humans have become cruel and the cause of their needless suffering.
The non-human animals that we use for our food and clothing are sentient. They are some-ones not some-things—beings with their own interests, desires and personalities. Like us, they experience joy and suffering and have an innate desire to live. They have done nothing to harm us. Yet we continue to harm them.
You may not know this, but there are virtually no federal laws that protect farmed animals from abuse and confinement, and 95 percent of them are not protected even from inhumane slaughter. Most of us humans, by the nature of our food choices, are participating in cruelty whether we know it or not. This isn’t just my personal opinion. Ninety-nine percent of our meat comes from the factory farm and extensive and repeated undercover investigative videos captured by organizations such as Mercy for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States reveal that the farmed animals we eat live miserable lives and experience egregious cruelty at such facilities.
It’s always a challenge to see ourselves as participants in cruelty, because we know we are kind and good people, and we don’t want to look at anything that might reveal otherwise. We tend to believe that darkness doesn’t actually exist if we don’t see it, so we don’t dare look behind the closed door. We have an enormous capacity to turn a blind eye in exchange for an inner sense of serenity. But history has shown us that social change happens only when people are willing to look behind the closed door. Will you look with me?
Let me open the door just a crack and let’s take a peek inside.
Behind the Closed Door
To provide the sheer volume of animal food products that we demand as a culture (which amounts to a staggering 1,027,397 animals killed per hour in the United States), intensive factory farming methods have been adopted. With intensive farming, animals are treated as production units, not as sentient beings with instincts, feelings, desires and complex social structures.
They are bioengineered and their bodies suffer from unnatural accelerated growth. The abuses they endure on a daily basis are considered standard industry practice (a few worth mentioning are: being confined to small spaces; cutting off tails, horns, beaks or testicles with no anesthesia; grinding male chicks alive; and slamming piglets’ heads into the ground if they are ill and no longer of value). These abuses would be illegal if inflicted on our own dogs and cats.
Undercover investigations reveal that most farmed animals spend their entire lives in dark, crowded, waste-filled sheds. Many are locked in cages so small they can barely turn around. It seems unimaginable, but farmed animals are frequently dumped, dropped, dragged, punched, beaten and mutilated by desensitized workers. Some, like ducks raised for foie gras, are brutally force-fed with metal pipes. Others, like egg-laying hens and veal calves (who are taken from their mothers at birth so we can drink the milk that is designed for them) are purposefully starved.
They are all generally and understandably frightened, anxious and depressed, and their lives come to a violent end at a very young age, sometimes while still fully conscious.
Surely we have lost our way. These beings are God’s creations. Just like us, they want to experience a full life and be in relationship with family and community.
There’s an important human element to this too. Factory farm work is grueling, repetitive, exhausting, dangerous and extremely violent. Turning animals into food has an abhorrent effect on human beings. Workers must psychologically detach themselves from the large-scale death they are actively involved in. How else could they do what they do and maintain a semblance of sanity every working hour of every day?
Slaughterhouse lines run at insanely frenzied paces (250-400 cows per hour or 140 chickens per minute) and injuries are rampant—double the rate of other US industries and 30 times the national average for repetitive motion injury. Counties with slaughterhouses have four times the national average of violent arrest, with significantly higher rates of alcoholism, domestic abuse, child abuse and suicide (Huffington Post, 8/18/14). The physical and psychological toll on the human animal is monumental. We are paying other human beings to do this dirty work for us. They, and their families, are paying a very high price. Are we okay with that?
Our Unity co-founders Charles and Myrtle Fillmore were way ahead of their time on this subject. At the turn of the 20th century, the Fillmores practiced, taught, encouraged and wrote extensively on vegetarianism. Why? Because they believed that our treatment of animals was connected to our ability to develop spiritually, express Universal Love and manifest World Peace.
In The Vegetarian in May 1920, Charles Fillmore wrote, “We need never look for universal peace on this earth until men stop killing animals for food.” The Unity Statement of Faith written in 1921 included this clause: “We believe that all life is sacred and that man should not kill or be a party to the killing of animals for food; also that cruelty, war, and wanton destruction of human life will continue so long as men destroy animals.”
The Fillmores were not alone. Many great thinkers preceding and following them held similar views regarding the connection between our mistreatment of animals and the human condition, including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Leo Tolstoy and Albert Schweitzer.
For those of us who truly want to manifest peace in the world, ask yourself, “How can we manifest peace if we engage in violence toward fellow sentient beings every day of our lives? How can we have peace until we are able to be peace?”
Perhaps you think that this vision is just not possible, that humans must kill because we need meat to be healthy. According to the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (and many other diet and nutrition authorities), we have no inherent biological need for animal products. Nor do we need to eat meat because of food availability. Our world has changed dramatically from that of our ancestors and we can now find in our local supermarkets a vast array of healthy, plant-based food choices that meet all of our nutritional needs.
In As to Meat Eating, Charles Fillmore wrote, “God is calling you through the questioning of your soul, calling you to come up higher into the fullness of all Truth. God is setting you free, free from all thought of death, free from the need of killing.” We are of course each free to let Spirit lead us. So I encourage you to go within. Discern your feelings and values. Do your own research. View for yourself footage of undercover investigations of industrialized farming. Learn about animal sentience. Find out about the benefits of well-planned and balanced plant-based meals. Visit a farm sanctuary and meet the animal residents face to face. Take it all into prayer. Then listen to the voice of the small child within and let him or her lead you. (Isaiah 11:6)
We have an opportunity before us to reset our relationship with the non-human animals that God created and claimed as good, and to live as One.
Can you hear the call to awaken?