Easter: Pity the Poor Lamb
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org


Ruth Eisenbud
April 2011

[Ed. Note: Also read Let's Have a Humane and Compassionate Easter. Celebrate Easter, celebrate spring by being vegan...honoring and reveling in LIFE!]

Until we stop the pretense that there is compassion inherent in dominion, the Easter lamb will continue to be sacrificed for human pleasure and celebration, despite the existence of compassionate words, which do not challenge sanctified harm and slaughter.

The following poignant comment is from an animal activist: "We are truely so arrogant as to celebrate the birth of a holy man and his death by eating the stolen dead flesh of the innocent." Joann

Why such a contradiction is possible was earnestly explained to me by Gheorghe Constantin Nistorioiu, a cleric of the Eastern Orthodox Chruch:

All the creatures have their life in the command of God, while man has it in the work (genesis) of God according His Holy model. So, the man having the royal seal is made to lead over creation. The whole creation is submitted to the man.
- Gheorghe Constantin Nistorioiu

He goes on to state:

The fact that during the Holidays (meaning Christian holidays) we eat meat, dairy, fish, not only is not something non-Christian, or unnatural, but it is next to godlines.... A holiday devoted to/sacred to God, to the Virgin Mary or to the Angels, the Saints, to the Heroes, to the Martyrs, or to the man (birthday, day name, christening, marriage, wedding, funerals), are unthinkable with a party that does not consist in the consuming of meals made by meat, fish, milk, wine or other drinking (brandy, palinka etc.)...
- Gheorghe Constantin Nistorioiu

For those who understand that all lives are precious, including that of an infant sheep, such reasoning defies logic and compassion. For those who understand that a baby sheep should be allowed to learn to graze, kick up his/her hoofs, enjoy the sunshine and run through the grass, to live out his/her life as nature intended, the doctrine of dominion, as cited by Gheorghe Constantin Nistorioiu is nothing more than an excuse for man to indulge in greed and gluttony at the expense of a fragile and gentle creature, who has harmed no one and seeks to live, just as we do.

The lamb in this picture, taken from a website that specializes in Easter lamb, has in all likelihood already been slaughtered for a sumptuous feast of roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic or some other herbs and spices.


What was once a weak, defenseless baby sheep has already suffered a violent and cruel death and has been reduced to a hunk of well-seasoned flesh, all for the joy and pleasure of those who believe that man has the god-given right to harm and slaughter animals.


The nature of sin

The following message was received from a compassionate and thoughtful Christian activist:

As as a Christian, I think of God, who sacrificed His very son...I believe his blood was shed for us..He was the sacrificial lamb who redeemed us from sin. I believe it by faith...but sometimes I really don't understand God. How do you harm any living thing and it be not sin??

Though there are so many lovely biblical words regarding sheep and shepherds such as: 'the lord is my shepherd', 'behold the lamb of god', it is noteworthy that though the shepherd protects the sheep from some predators, ultimately he delivers them to their owner to be slaughtered for their flesh and skins. The sheep are not companion animals, they are a commodity. Though animal sacrifice appears to be no longer necessary, dominion, which allows for animal slaughter and exploitation is still firmly in place. It is often cited by religious leaders, such as priests who hunt, to justify their cruelty. Church barbecues in essence are a form of sacrifice, where animals are killed and offered to followers so that they can support the glory of god.

The explanation for why it is not a sin to kill a living being, also lies in the dominion model. If, as dominion states, god has granted man the right to harm and slaughter animals for human benefit, then such violence is a sacred right and therefore, not a sin. The necessity clause of dominion is particularly deceptive, as it creates the illusion of compassion, as it goes so far as to state that it is righteous to be cruel:

"Proverbs 12:10 states, 'The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal.' In Judaism, one who is unnecessarily cruel to animals cannot be regarded as a righteous individual," writes Prof Richard Schwartz. "Therefore: He who is of necessity cruel to animals can be regarded as a righteous individual."

When cruelty is considered righteous, ab(use) and slaughter are tolerated, accepted and justified.

The strength and beauty of Jainism, is that it has taken god out of the equation. It has been effective in perpetuating a compassionate lifestyle based on the words of human sages who have achieved liberation of their souls because of their wisdom and non-violence. These wise human individuals observed that animals suffer, as do humans, when subjected to violence, so they deduced that to cause no harm to living beings is beneficial both to the victims and those who refrain from violence. As long as dominion prevails, speculation on what god intended, or why he/she allows for such cruelty to innocent animals sets up a dynamic which does not get to the issue: all living beings are entitled to their own lives and have the right to remain free from human harm. The Jains have by passed the issue of god and speak directly to compassion. This resonates with me as a model of compassion with a sound foundation.

In the Jain tradition it is in fact a sin, not a right, to harm or kill a living being:

All things breathing, all things existing, all living beings whatever, would not be slain or treated with violence, or insulted, or tortured or drven away. This is the pure unchanging eternal law, which the wise ones who know the world have proclaimed...
- Jain Acharanga Sutra

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;...Some kill them intentionally and some unintentionally. Some kill because they have been previously injured by them...and some because they expect to be injured. 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

With all that I have said, it is not necessary to become part of a Jain community to understand and live by ahimsa. Those who care deeply about animal compassion would do well to completely reject the notion of dominion and understand that because it puts man above the animals, it does not have the potential to deliver compassion.

Until we stop the pretense that there is compassion inherent in dominion, the Easter lamb will continue to be sacrificed for human pleasure and celebration, despite the existence of compassionate words, which do not challenge sanctified harm and slaughter.

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