Passover:
Of Lamb Shanks and Sled Dogs

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Passover:
Of Lamb Shanks and Sled Dogs

[Ed. Note: Read other articles - Jewish Vegan/Vegetarian Articles.]

By Ruth Eisenbud

To commemorate this bloodshed, during the celebration of the Passover Seder, a lamb shank is used to symbolize the lambs slain for their blood used as a signal to god....The justification for all the lamb blood spilt resides in the self-serving premise of dominion, which grants man the right to harm and slaughter animals for human benefit:

One dog in a team of sled dogs mauled a child. These dogs are pushed beyond the limit of what is healthy and natural for them in order to exalt the humans who seek glory from this exploitation. It is not inconceivable that such a stressed and abused animal, when pushed even further would show aggression....Rather then seek to understand and rectify the violence these dogs are subjected to, a relative of the human victim shot and killed the entire team.

All beings with two, three, four or five senses in fact, all creation know individually pleasure and displeasure, pain, terror and sorrow. ALL are full of fears which come from all directions. And yet there exist people who would cause greater pain to them...Some kill animals for sacrifice, some for their skin, flesh, blood, feathers, teeth or tusks...
He who harms animals has not understood or renounced deeds of sin...
He who understands the nature of sin against animals is called a Sage.
- Jain Acharanga Sutra

Passover is intended to mark an auspicious occasion: the liberation of the Jewish people from Pharaoh. It commemorates both suffering endured and the joy of freedom. Yet as it notes the pain of captivity, it ritualizes the same experience and inflicts it on other living beings. The re-telling of the exodus from Egypt is rife with violence and retribution towards animals and children who have harmed no one. In one of the plagues visited on the Egyptians, God kills the first born son of every family, as well as the first-born of their cattle. The rational for inflicting such harm on children and animals is questionable. In order to insure that God smite the families of the enemy, a lamb is killed, and its blood is marked on the door of those to be spared. It would seem that an omniscient God would not need such a marker the wisdom of the sacrifice of innocent lambs for human benefit is doubtful. To commemorate this bloodshed, during the celebration of the Passover Seder, a lamb shank is used to symbolize the lambs slain for their blood used as a signal to god.

The justification for all the lamb blood spilt resides in the self-serving premise of dominion, which grants man the right to harm and slaughter animals for human benefit:

...the moral equating of animals and humans, is an affront to the very essence of Jewish belief, which exalts the human being, alone among God's creations, as, among other things, the possessor of free will, a being capable of choosing to do good or bad. That distinction is introduced in Genesis, where the first man is commanded to "rule over" the animal world.
- Rabbi Avi Shafran

It is not clear how the slaying of a lamb, so that the children and livestock of the enemy may be marked for death, contributes to the exaltation of man, as those who commit such violence do not understand the nature of their actions towards harmless children and lambs:

He who harms animals has not understood or renounced deeds of sin...He who understands the nature of sin against animals is called a Sage.
- Jain acharanga Sutra

These biblical stories, which allow for the exploitation and violence of animals, are celebrated and retold from generation to generation, thereby insuring that those indoctrinated by dominion will continue to pass on a tradition which does not value the sanctity of ALL living beings. Is it possible to commemorate an auspicious occasion, so infused with violence, or does the violence mar the occasion and taint it with a foreboding and dark aura, where true joy evades the celebration? Historical evidence indicates that once a cycle of violence is set in motion it does not subside, but escalates, both for animals and humans. The insistence that dominion be preserved despite its inherent cruelty insures that this cycle of never ending violence will also be perpetuated. Tales that glorify extraneous violence to animals as sacred, reinforce the sanctity of dominion related violence, and serve to increase abuse and slaughter.

A current incident of revenge, slaughter and cruelty, with parallels to biblical tolerance for violence, was carried out in Saskatchewan, Canada. One dog in a team of sled dogs mauled a child. These dogs are pushed beyond the limit of what is healthy and natural for them in order to exalt the humans who seek glory from this exploitation. It is not inconceivable that such a stressed and abused animal, when pushed even further would show aggression. Rather then seek to understand and rectify the violence these dogs are subjected to, a relative of the human victim shot and killed the entire team. The killing of lambs and livestock in tales of biblical revenge, where gratuitous violence to animals is used to emphasize their mythical nature, has its parallels to the killing of the entire team as punishment and revenge for the actions of one dog, driven to violence by captivity and exploitation. The dogs in this sad tale are victimized twice: they are abused and exploited by their MASTERS for personal glory and if one dog should snap due to the abuse, an entire team must pay the consequences in the name of dominion.

That such violence was considered justifiable by law enforcement serves to highlight the inconsistent and cruel message of dominion: "...the moral equating of animals and humans, is an affront to the very essence of Jewish belief, which exalts the human being, alone among God's creations..." Rabbi Avi Shafran. Despite such exaltation by dominion, one has to wonder whether in fact man does have the capability to discern right from wrong. Furthermore, it is questionable whether the very concept of dominion is able to discern right from wrong, thereby negating the possibility of free will, as the ability to decipher right from wrong is based on a faulty premise.

Can there be joy in a celebration marked by so much gratuitous violence to innocent beings, or does it set in motion a cycle of unending violence?

One who harms the creatures
One who causes the creatures to be harmed
One who allows the creatures to be harmed
Brings the animosity of the world towards one's self."
- Jain sutra

These words grasp the insight that violence begets violence for those who indulge in harm to gentle, defenseless creatures. Celebrations which include the suffering of animals seldom lead to joy.

All beings with two, three, four or five senses in fact, all creation know individually pleasure and displeasure, pain, terror and sorrow. ALL are full of fears which come from all directions. And yet there exist people who would cause greater pain to them...Some kill animals for sacrifice, some for their skin, flesh, blood, feathers, teeth or tusks...

He who harms animals has not understood or renounced deeds of sin...

He who understands the nature of sin against animals is called a Sage.

- Jain Acharanga Sutra