Sunday, August 23, 2009

Animal Sacrifice and Vegetarianism

This is in response to a discussion between a Jew, a Christian and myself

Being permitted to eat meat is not the same as being obliged to eat meat... we can be good muslims or good jews while being vegetarians at the sametime. No contradiction there in my mind. We are reminded again and again that life is sacred and a gift of God, not to be taken lightly, and therefore, slaughtering can be done for food only, but pronouncing the name of God (remembering Him and His gift of life) at the time is a must. Infact, we are also told that other than the permitted animals, in case of dire hunger and no other alternative, anything can be consumed.
But if you are a vegan, then animal sacrifice... yes that is a test of faith! For us muslims, it is only compulsory once in a lifetime, that also if one is in a financial position to afford to travel for pilgrimage (Hajj) to Makkah(KSA). Due to the huge number (millions) of muslims performing Hajj, the government there has made arrangements such that one can just buy coupons and the govt will ensure that the sacrifice is performed and the meat distributed as well. I'm guessing one who goes for pilgrimage is such as believes in the God of the Quran, and knows that God knows best.

My Jewish friend responded thus:

Thank you for your post and it has brought new thoughts to mind! On Passover, one of the ritual parts of the holiday is to prepare a Seder plate (many say the last supper was a Passover meal, Seder) The Seder plate is prepared with several symbolic foods which commemorate the freeing of the Hebrews from slavery under Pharaoh. One of the items is supposed to be a lamb shank bone. Often this is not available and a roasted chicken leg or wing may be used in its place. If one is a vegetarian a beet is often used in this spot. The symbol is one which stands for the lamb that was sacrificed to mark the doors of the Hebrews so when the angel of death passed over (thus Passover) the first born would not be smitten (this was the last of the ten plagues). It is said that the lamb was then cooked and shared among the people. Today, the item placed on the Seder plate would not be eaten, it's just a symbol.
Jews are not required to eat meat. I know very many who are vegetarian or vegan. Also, part of the whole kashrut (kosher dietary laws) require many different types of food not to be eaten - all those listed in the OT (I believe in Leviticus) for example, no pork, no shellfish, no fish without scales, no animal without split hoofs or those who don't chew their cud. Even with beef, we're not suppose to eat meat from the back portion of the cow because blood is never to be consumed and the intricacy of the veins and such in the back portion of a cow is too difficult to remove. That part of the cow is sold to other meat packing plants for general use.
As you mentioned, we must remain mindful that this is a living being and not just a something to grab and eat. The animal must always be treated as a gift and a living thing, never to be taken for granted.
I read a wonderful book about 8 months ago called "Life of Pi". It is a novel but it addresses so much of what we discuss here that I strongly recommend it to any and all of our members. In the book a young man, around 13 or so ends up alone on a lifeboat after a cargo ship sinks with his entire family, their zoo animals and all their belongings.
Pi is a gentle boy who is very spiritual, reflective and good. He is a vegetarian, he is also searching for his faith. Prior to ending up on the boat he was drawn by Hindu, Islam and Christianity simultaneously. He even frequented each house of worship secretly and spoke with each of the clergy.
Now on this boat, alone in the vast ocean with nothing but horizon surrounding him for months he has to come to terms with his God, he learns what true hunger means and that even turtle blood is a welcome and tasty treat when there is nothing else to survive on. It was compelling and forces one to consider that no matter what we call our reality and brings us balance something can occur in our lives that forces us into a whole other reality with a brand new sources of balance.

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