A Call to Awakening

Published on: April 5, 2017

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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.

 

Secondary Effects

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?

 

Note: If you are interested in looking into a plant-based diet or want to make some changes in that direction, here are some resources to get you started:

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
NutritionMD: “Make Over Your Diet”
Reducetarian

Carol Saunders

Rev (Interfaith) Carol Saunders LUT is founder/spiritual leader of Abundant Life Spiritual Center, Deerfield, IL. She has been vegetarian for 43 years and vegan for five. Carol compiled “The Forgotten Teachings of Charles Fillmore–How Our Relationship with Animals Connects to Universal Love, Spiritual Development and World Peace.”


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  • Rev. Karen Tudor

    Great, incisive and thought-provoking article that opens both mind and heart. I have danced around this issue at different times in my life and it is coming around again, thanks to this compelling article. Thank you, Carol.

    • Carol Saunders

      Thank you for reading with an open heart and mind Karen. :)

  • michael sheets

    I believe that you have a right to your beliefs and choices regarding your dietary decisions. Likewise, I have the same right, along with others who choose to include meat in their diet. I was involved in agricultural pursuits for many years, and have many friends who are livestock producers. They do not mistreat their animals. What would happen to all these people and their livelihoods if there was no longer a demand for their products? Are you going to invite them over to your house to eat soy burgers?

    • Carol Saunders

      Hi Michael. Thank you for reading. Since you were involved in agricultural pursuits, you may be hearing me as making you wrong. It is certainly not my intention. We have all be raised in a culture where using animals has been normalized. None of us as children had any say in this. We just ate what was on our plate and we have simply done what was done before us without much room for question. But as a species, we always evolving! And as we evolve, we can change our behaviors, customs and culture. Cultural change is slow though, and starts with individuals who have ears to hear a new song.

      I know that our culture sees this as a personal dietary choice or personal right. I think it is more than that. As I see it, the choice isn’t personal because it involves the life/body of another sentient being who has no say. Yes, there are some farmed animals who are not mistreated – about 0.1% of chickens, 1% of turkeys, 5% of pigs and 22% of cattle are not subjected to the harsh conditions of the factory farm. As a rural Wisconsinite, I live by many of these small family farms where well-intended farmers tend to their animals. But the sad reality is they are all subjected to a violent death at a young age, and they all fight for their lives because like you and I, they want to live. Where does all the energy of that violence go? Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore wrote, ”The invisible psychic agony of millions of cruelly slaughtered animals saturates our earth’s atmosphere and the whole race suffers in sympathy. We make intimate mental contact with these psychic terrors of our little sisters and brothers of the animal world when we devour their fear-shattered bodies.” (Eating and Drinking, 1931)

      I hear your concern for people involved in the farm business when you ask, “What would happen to all these people and their livelihoods if there was no longer a demand for their products?” Since some of these people are my neighbors, I too have concern. But I also know Truth. We are creative beings! We live in a matrix of Infinite possibility which we call God. As we center ourselves on Spirit and set our intention, new ideas pour into us. We are unlimited! There are always new, more expansive, life-enriching ways to live. In fact, many farmers and former agricultural business people have already left the animal using business behind to become vegan advocates and quite successful business people. John Robbins, the presumed heir to Baskin Robbins, is the most well known. I will provide a link about many others who have made this move on another comment thread so anyone can read about them (I am not sure that I can provide a link without editorial review since I have had difficulty getting this comment posted).

      You may not be aware of all the wonderful options for plant-based eating. It has changed dramatically in recent years. Certainly a diet of soy burgers would be boring! I am happy to provide more resources for that (in addition to the links shown above) if you are interested. A great start is the Beyond Meat burger sold at Whole Foods. They are regular fare at my home because my omnivore husband loves them. They are 280 calories, have 20 grams of non-soy protein and are juicy and delicious! And when we eat plant-based, we also leave a lighter footprint on our planet.

      Thank you again for reading. Have a great day.

    • Carol Saunders

      Hi Michael. I have replied to your post three times now, but it doesn’t seem to stay posted. I hope to get this resolved on Monday when UWM is back at work.

      • Kristen Preud’homme

        We’re working on finding out what is the glitch and will get it straightened out as soon as we know what’s happening.

  • Shelley Ferro

    Thank you for this call to awareness. There is so little legislative protection for farm animals. A revisit of the Fillmore’s view and some of the great thinkers show their understanding of the bond. Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States wrote a book titled ,”The Bond,” which was another good resource for this topic. I’ve been working on a presentation titled “Animals and Spirituality,” for a local humane society and your article ties in similar themes. Awareness is key. There can never be enough compassion in this world. Thank you Rev. Carol.

    • Carol Saunders

      Hi Shelley. Thank you for reading. Your presentation for your local humane society sounds awesome! I am sure you will do great. I agree, there can never be enough compassion in this world and removing animals from our plates is one of the things that each of us can actually do each day to bring more Kindness and Compassion to our world. I write about that quite a lot on my Wolf and the Lamb blog page (the link to that pate is under my name above). The Fillmores definitely modeled this and taught it to their followers. Charles Fillmore was quite clear and even blunt at times! He delivered at least 135 talks on the subject (that is how many I was able to see/count in the Unity archives). I have Wayne Pacelle’s book as well as many others including Gene Baur’s “Living the Sanctuary Life.” All good! Keep up the good work!

  • Beverly Stevens

    Thank you for shining the light on this topic. I find it very disappointing that the Unity movement has moved away from The Fillmore’s beliefs about the use of animals.
    How can one obtain the compilation mentioned about the forgotten teaching of Charles Fillmore?
    Blessings!

    • Carol Saunders

      It is interesting that we have forgotten these important teachings isn’t it? I am always a little surprised when I experience push back from Unity people, but it can be a difficult and very confronting topic. As soon as I learn how to publish on Amazon’s CreateSpace, my “Forgotten Teachings of Charles Fillmore” booklet will be out there! I would be happy to let you know when that happens. Right now, I have it in a paper form and could send you a copy if you want to email me your address.

      • Beverly Stevens

        I’d love to know when you have your booklet available online. Thank you!

  • Ellen_Debenport

    What a thorough and concise explanation of what it means to use animals for food! Where would I find your Forgotten Teachings of Charles Fillmore?

    • Ellen_Debenport

      Carol — I kept reading and saw where you explained about the booklet. You could just attach and email a PDF for now. You could also put a PDF in a sharing cloud, like Dropbox, and create a link for people to find it. If it’s in a form you could email, I’m [email protected]. Thank you for all your work on this topic.

      • Carol Saunders

        Hi Ellen. I emailed you a pdf this morning. Let me know what you think!

  • Gary Eisenberg

    Yes, we do have a choice in what we eat. What many of us in Unity are starting to wonder is how we can live in integrity with our Unity beliefs (eg. Goodwill toward all, Peace, Love) when we condone the slaughter of innocent animals. How can I sing the Peace song every Sunday at Unity when I know wanton violence is happening every day to animals on this planet? Ethical issues aside, if you read “The Starch Solution” by Dr. John McDougall, you will see that you will live a longer, more healthy life if you eat plant based. Watch “Forks Over Knives” on Netflix and see how people have transformed their lives by going plant based. Once you see the scientific evidence and research, you will wonder why you ever ate meat in the first place.