Tag Archives: lambs

We crucified the Lamb of God — Why do we still slaughter sheep?

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By Dan Paden

As I read Exodus and Leviticus this Lent, the ritual sacrifices of lambs, oxen and other animals strike me. Imagining how the offerings of these slaughtered animals looked, sounded and smelled fuels powerful meditations on the death of Jesus, the “Lamb of God.” It also makes me wonder: Why do the faithful still have countless lambs and sheep — among other species — killed so violently for us?

Christ’s death, after all, made animal sacrifices obsolete. According to Saint Paul, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, no one else — including lambs and other sheep — need die for our sins. But need they die for us at all? God put animals’ fate into our hands only after He lamented our ancestors’ wickedness and flooded the Earth. This likely left Noah’s family with little to eat and wear but animals. That’s a bleak position to be in: Kill, eat and cover oneself with God’s creations — or perish.

I don’t face such desperation. Very few readers do. We don’t need to eat lamb — hundreds of healthy, happy Trappist monks and nuns across the U.S. can attest to that — or wear wool.

And yet, in a nation where more than 70 percent of the population self-identifies as Christian, around 37,000 lambs and older sheep are slaughtered every week at federally inspected plants. Nearly 190,000 lambs and sheep were killed on U.S. farms from 2014 to 2015.

In Colorado, my friend documented a shearer who twisted one such victim’s neck, breaking it, and then kicked her headfirst down a chute, where she died.

That horrible treatment cannot be considered an isolated incident. In 2014, another colleague of mine documented that workers in Argentina cut the throats of conscious lambs and started to skin some of them while they were still kicking. Months earlier, PETA had revealed that in Australia, workers beat sheep while shearing them.

All that pain and agony was inflicted on God’s creations here and elsewhere simply so that someone could buy a lamb chop or a pair of socks made of wool. The U.S. produced more than 25 million pounds of wool — and imported millions of pounds more — in 2015.

So we must ask ourselves: Are the sheep and lambs who are slaughtered today dying because of our sins?

Sin “is an offense against … right conscience … caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods” (Catechism of the Catholic Church). If we wouldn’t slit a conscious lamb’s throat or break a sheep’s neck ourselves, can our conscience rightly accept having others do so on our behalf?

Isn’t it only our stubborn attachment to mere taste preferences — whether for a particular dish or a certain sweater—that keeps us buying lambs’ flesh or wool in the face of such endemic cruelty?

I confess that I once cherished the wool sweaters that my grandparents gave me each Christmas. But when I learned of the agony woven in with that yarn and the blood washed out of it, I could no longer in good conscience wear them or any wool. To do so would be to support all the terror and suffering that exist in the interconnected wool and sheep-flesh industries.

This Lent, as we strive especially hard to turn away from sin, may we also take up Christ’s instruction to “proclaim the gospel to every creature.” We can start to bring His good news to all creation by leaving lambs and sheep off our plates and their skin and fleece off our backs.

For the faithful — and indeed, for all kind people — our choice is simple but stark: We can work toward God’s peaceable kingdom to come, in which no animal will be harmed or destroyed — or pay others to harm and stab these docile, fellow living beings on our behalf.

Which will you choose?

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Protect our history with every bite

By Jennifer Bates

Boston, Massachusetts. St. Augustine, Florida. Jamestown, Virginia. The events that took place at these sites helped write our country’s history. But now our gluttony could erase them forever.

Our seemingly unquenchable appetite for meat, dairy foods and eggs condemns billions of sentient animals annually to miserable lives in squalid pens and jam-packed cages followed by deaths that are terrifying and painful. But it is also fundamentally altering our landscape. Widespread animal agriculture is responsible for up to 51 percent of the global greenhouse-gas emissions that are heating up the planet at an alarming rate. Warmer air means that glacial ice—and giant hunks of it—could disintegrate in just a few decades. If the West Antarctic ice sheet melts, it could raise sea levels by 12 feet or more, and if that happens, the physical record of our country’s early history along the East Coast will literally wash away.

But our relentless drive for foods made from animals will decimate more than cultural landmarks. The animal-agriculture industry fouls everything that it touches as it oozes across the planet. It churns heavy metals and other poisons into our water and spews toxins such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air. It sickens and chokes human communities unfortunate enough to be in its suffocating shadow and eliminates entire species as it clear-cuts huge swaths of forest.

What will future generations think of us when they learn that they can’t explore Boston or see a glacier up close because our generation valued the pleasure of the palate over the environment and its diverse life forms? We will lose everything to our expanding waistlines—our clean water and fresh air, our healthy communities and national treasures—if we do not make a change, and soon.

Earth Day is a good time for us to make that change. Every year, more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day activities like composting or choosing to buy locally grown produce. But what if those participants—one-seventh of all humanity—also went vegan? Billions fewer animals would be raised and slaughtered for fleeting meals, and the domino effect would be astounding. The dramatic reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions would slow the rising of oceans. Water previously channeled into factory farms would instead be used for human consumption. Oceanic dead zones—areas where little life can survive, thanks to pollutants from farm runoff—could begin to rebound, as could ecosystems damaged by rampant overfishing.

Fewer animals would also mean more crops for human consumption. As things stand now, we grow enough food for every human on the planet. But much of what we grow is diverted into feed for cows, chickens and other animals so that the populations of rich countries can eat animal flesh and eggs and drink animal milk—an inefficient system that is as unjust to the world’s poor as it is cruel to animals.

So on this Earth Day, don’t settle for small actions. Make the choice that will help preserve humanity’s past, protect its present and ensure its future: Go vegan.