In the very basic level of Theravada Thai Buddhism are the 5 Prohibitions of the Buddha.
The very first one is “Ham khaa sat” in Thai or “don’t kill animals.”
When speaking with a revered monk friend, he acknowledged that this was a basic and primary Buddhist precept.
But later when we were discussing hope every being able to “chodt chai kam” or get the victory over karma in this life, he affirmed that we should work to keep the 5 prohibitions.
My position in speaking with my friend is first to be learner and not a critic, but once I learn I can’t help but reflect.
I asked him if Thailand was the highest Theravada Buddhist nation (having the best knowledge and wisdom) in the world and he replied affirmative. I then asked him what about the other countries that don’t have the knowledge or wisdom of Theravada Buddhism, what is their hope? He basically replied with a standard Thai saying “tham dii, die dii, tham chua die chua” or do good, receive good, do evil receive evil. If you are good (keep the 5 prohibitions), you will go to “suwaan” or a heaven when you die.
“But”, I replied, “how can this be true when most of the world kills animals for food and other reasons”? Won’t we have to, according to Buddhist teaching, go to a “narok” or hell realm to pay for our bad karma? He had already affirmed that this was the case before.
Locally, many meat vendors are Muslims in Thailand, but Thai Buddhists still slaughter animals for food and most of them eat them, for sure.
“Well, according to this teaching, I think most every person in the world is going then and we haven’t even touched the other four prohibitions!”
I was curious and did a little research on animal death in the US and the world. Here is what I found:
How many animals are killed for human use every year in the United States? The numbers are in the billions, and these are just the ones we know about. Let’s break it down.
How Many Animals are Killed for Food?
According to Farm Animal Rights Movement, approximately 10 billion land animals are killed every year for food in the United States, and 58 billion are killed worldwide.
According to Noam Mohr of animaldeathcount.blogspot.com:
In 2009, about 20 billion sea animals were killed (by the US) for human consumption . . . Note that both the land and sea animal numbers are those killed by the US, not killed for US consumption (since we import and export much of the slaughter). Animals killed worldwide for Americans’ food in 2009 amount to 8.3 billion land animals and 51 billion sea animals. (So, a total of about 59 billion animals.) You can see that those imports and exports make a huge difference.
Does not include: Wild animals killed by hunters, wildlife displaced by animal agriculture, wildlife directly killed by farmers with pesticides, traps or other methods.
How Many Animals are Killed for Experiments
Estimates range from 17 million to 70 million to 100 million. The numbers are difficult to estimate because the majority of animals used in research – rats and mice – are unreported because they are not covered by the Animal Welfare Act.
Unreported animals: rats, mice, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates.
How Many Animals are Killed for Fur?
Every year, over 40 million animals are killed for fur worldwide. Approximately 30 million animals are raised on fur farms and killed, about 10 million wild animals are trapped and killed for fur, and hundreds of thousands of seals are killed for fur.
In 2010, the quota for the Canadian seal hunt was 388,200, but the new European Union ban on seal products caused many sealers to stay home, and about 67,000 seals were killed. The ban is now the subject of a lawsuit before the European General Court and is temporarily suspended.
Does not include: Unwanted “trash” animals killed by traps; Seals who are injured, escape and die later.
How Many Animals are Killed by Hunters?
According to In Defense of Animals, over 200 million animals are reported killed by hunters in the United States every year.
This does not include: Animals killed illegally by poachers; animals who are injured, escape and die later; orphaned animals who die after their mothers are killed. This doesn’t include any of the other 195 nations in the world.
How Many Animals are Killed in Shelters?
According to The Humane Society of the US, 3-4 million cats and dogs are killed in shelters in the United States every year. Does not include: cats and dogs killed in animal cruelty cases, abandoned animals who die later. It also doesn’t include numbers for other nations where domestic animals die daily from neglect.
So, we are talking about BILLIONS of animals being slaughtered EACH YEAR.
This number doesn’t include the number of HUMAN BEINGS killed in wars and murdered each year globally. It doesn’t account for millions of CHILDREN being aborted each year. Even in Thailand, recently over 2000 feteous were found hidden a temple. They were from illegal abortions.
Folks, according to Thai Buddhism, this whole big world of “good people” is in trouble that includes all of those who have been involved in any of these things or benefited from someone else doing it. We haven’t even touched the other four prohibitions of BASIC Buddhism righteousness.
I’m sorry, but it seems that no amount of merit making ceremonies will make up for this reality. No amount of good we do will outweigh the bad. The world is not as it should be. It can be a sick place.
Should we work to take better care of animals. yes! Should we take better care of humanity, each other, and weakest among us? yes!! Maybe this was what Gautauma was really trying to get across to us, but this is NOT how it is taught today. According to teaching, any killing of animals (sentient beings) results in dire consequences as the picture above is trying to get across. Why? Because they were or are of the same essence as human beings!
Should we be able to eat animals for food? Only most fanatical vegetarian would say no (their numbers are miniscule compared to the rest of the world). Heck, even the Dalai Lama and all Tibetan Buddhists eat meat! Regular Thai people and monks do too!
But the greatest question really is, “will we make even the smallest dent in the problem with our greatest efforts to change things by simply forbidding something? No.
We were given dominion over the Earth and all things that we need for sustenance, including meat, by our Creator. We are responsible to be caretakers of animals and one another, but the question remains, “are we really doing a great job at it”?
Only the Bible clearly spells out the problem of humanity; its origin, its solution here in this life, and the final overall solution.
No other teaching or philosophy even comes close.