Think about it. What could be a more inclusive, more complete Purpose Statement than URI’s? In addition to promoting enduring interfaith cooperation and ending religiously motivated violence, we have also committed to creating “cultures of peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and All Living Beings”.
And then, to give greater contour to that concluding purpose, the closing commitment in URI’s Preamble is: “We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”
My heart fills with gratitude this season of Thanksgiving for such an inspired and visionary calling by the world’s largest interfaith organization, our own loved United Religions Initiative.
So how might we more fully realize—“make real”—this commitment to peace, justice, and healing for the Earth and all living beings? How might we “awaken to our deepest truths and manifest love and justice among all of life in our Earth community?”
Here is a wonderful place to start!
Thanksgiving Day in the United States is this Thursday, November 22nd. Especially given that it is not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is celebrated by people of many different faiths, as well as people who do not observe a faith tradition. It is therefore very likely the most celebrated holiday in the US, as well as many other households around the world.
And because it is a cherished time for family and friends to gather, a great many households enlarge the circle around their dining table by inviting in people who for whatever reason would otherwise be alone and lonely on the holiday.
And since expressing gratitude is fundamental in most religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions (albeit manifest in many different forms), perhaps we can use the American Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to invite URI members around the world to join in taking tangible steps to express our gratitude “for all living beings”.
At the same time, on a more somber note, Thanksgiving Day could well be the single cruelest day of the entire calendar year globally in terms of numbers of animals “harvested”. I refer, of course, to the millions of turkeys whose roasted bodies can be found at the center of most Thanksgiving dining tables.
Isn’t it time for a change?
(And note that if a Thanksgiving turkey isn’t relevant to your own culture or geography, then how about the ham [pig] or lamb or beef [cow] or goat or chicken or rabbit or fish who adorns your holiday table?)
Appreciating Turkeys for Who They Are . . . which is Wonderful!
Please join me in celebrating turkeys as the intelligent, sensitive and social beings they are, full of life and love. When they are allowed to live their natural lives, roaming free, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds. They have a zest for life and enjoy their days. And they live for more than 10 years.
For a start, female turkeys are wonderful mothers, and mom is the center of the universe for her babies. If the young ones become separated, they will panic and send out a lost call. The mother bird will come running and gather them under her wing. In nature, turkeys spend up to 5 months close to their mothers.
Turkeys each have their own unique voice, and they can make more than 20 vocalizations (sounds). That’s how they recognize one another. Male turkeys gobble to attract the attention of the females, and this gobble can be heard from over a mile away.
Turkeys are masters of geography and can learn the precise details of an area more than 1000 acres in size. They’re great at finding treats, and one of their favorites is blackberries! Wild turkeys can fly up to 55 miles an hour and run 18 miles an hour.
Turkeys have been known to enjoy music and even to dance the flamenco!
Though we usually see turkeys wandering around on the ground, they will always choose to sleep up in the trees. They flutter up at dusk and fly down at dawn.
Every person reading this is doing invaluable work in keeping with some part of the URI Purpose Statement quoted at the beginning of this message. To the extent that we each embrace and work to realize other aspects of the grand, overarching URI mission, we multiply our impact many, many times more.
And so, may this coming Thanksgiving—or whatever holiday comes next for you—be the first one that you choose to celebrate with totally compassionate dining.
If, however, if you’ve already bought the food or have otherwise committed to attending a turkey-centered Thanksgiving dinner this year, then may it be the last one that you observe in this way.
In closing, I offer this fun video for guidance on how to make the transition:
“DawnWatch Guide to Holiday Turkey Preparation” by Karen Dawn,
However, in honor of World Vegan Day, let me share with you the reasons I feel so passionate about ‘it ‘ (veganism and animals) in my heart and what lead my non-profit to join United Religions Initiative years back as I was becoming an Ordained Animal Chaplain and Humane Minister.
I had been on several ‘Compassion Rides for Animals” with my non-profit (www.ahowan.org) in numerous countries to share the message that if we want peace, we must honor the animals. The message for the Rides was, “The animals can live without the human; however, the human cannot live without the animals. What we do to them we do to ourselves. So, what if saving the animals, IS saving the earth.” (There is now a group called that!)
The original definition of animal comes from the Latin word ‘anima’ which meant “any living being.” We are all animals, we are all living beings. Which means the Golden Rule applies to us all, any living being.
So, when we put the Golden Rule and animal together with those things we say we all want: peace, freedom, equality, dignity, respect… at least we say we do…we must, therefore, want all of these for everyone.
What we want is a world that works for everyone, and for the Mother Earth to continue to support the lives of our children.
So, let’s take into account all that “being Vegan” is. It is a living practice of the Golden Rule, including the ‘animal tenets’ of all the major religions and cultures. It is covered in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, part of the URI PPP’s and definitely covers ALL of life… including, but not limited to: humans, soil, water, women, men, religions, hunger, cultures, children, the environment, and Mother Earth herself, by giving the very freedom, peace, equality, dignity, and respect to ALL living beings in a way that is sustainable for Mother Earth and all of us who reside.
Let’s face it…being Vegan adheres to all of it, even in the absence of religion, culture or a national boundary. It is a global ‘thing.’ It is about opening one’s heart to the realization of “What we give or do to any animal, human or not, we get it back in return.” And today’s world is absolutely demonstrative of how many of us have not been living with “e” for empathy towards animals, (knowingly or unknowingly) which is why the United Nations itself is calling for us all to switch to a plant-based diet or in other words to be ‘Vegan‘.
So, for me this term we use, ‘Vegan,’ incorporates so much more to me than the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the products we use. For me, it is the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have done unto you” practiced with all living beings, including human Animals.
In practice, veganism has no real need for religious affinity… it is a human ‘thing, ‘ no more like a humane ‘thing.’ allowing the ‘e’ to be for empathy.
Being Vegan for me is a basic philosophy for treating all life with equality. When we teach our children that we eat these animals, and we wear these animals, but we pamper these other animals, it’s undeniable that we are teaching discrimination. Just like the undeniable connection science has proven when a child is abusive to an animal they will soon be abusive to other humans.
So, in honor of ALL these, and especially in honor of World Vegan Day, Apithan Ministries has taken a public stand with joining the “Prevent Year Zero Declaration.”
I hope something ‘vegan’ gets stirred in your heart, may you eat Vegan along with the Parliament of World Religions this November 1st and let us all unite to include ALL living beings, every day, with every meal, with every decision.
“The motivation behind vegan living is the universal spiritual principle of compassion that has been articulated both secularly and through the world’s religious traditions; the difference lies in veganism’s insistence that this compassion be actually practiced. The words of Donald Watson, who created the term “vegan” in 1944, reveal this practical orientation and it bears repeating:
“Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practical, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose; and by extension promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals, and the environment.”
As the International Day of Peace (September 21st) approaches, we are excitedly looking forward to many special events and celebrations around the world. This will reinforce our commitment to promoting world peace above all differences and contributing towards building a Culture of Peace.
The URI Purpose states: “The purpose of the United Religions Initiative is to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation, to end religiously motivated violence and to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings.”
The URI Preamble beautifully reads: “We unite to use our combined resources only for nonviolent, compassionate action, to awaken to our deepest truths, and to manifest love and justice among all life in our Earth community.”
Together, we are working hand-in-hand to promote peace in our lives, with impactful results emerging every day, as all faiths and cultures are engaged towards the common good in friendship and solidarity. Together, we are joining hands towards creating a peaceful community, creating a peaceful environment, and extending this peace to all.
That is why, for URI, every day is an International Day of Peace. Together, we celebrate September 21st in tribute to the great and lasting, impactful change that URI’s Cooperation Circles (CCs) stand for.
Peace is so much more than the absence of war. Peace is justice for all living beings.
Peace is so much more than the absence of war. Peace is justice for all living beings. As human beings, we can experience peace through our senses, in the quest for our soul to know blissful peace. We nurture our inner peace through quiet moments, meditation, prayer, the arts and listening to the still, silent voices of our hearts. We spread our peace, through our love and compassionate care to others.
When we look at the pets that we love and nurture, it is so very clear that just like people, the souls of animals embody their own unique personalities, awareness, and that beautiful spark that connotes the existence of the Divine. When we see them joyful, or when we see them suffering, we witness vast emotional lives, which often turn our hearts compassionately to their needs. Witnessing their growth through their sentience, we can easily reason that the concept of Ahimsa, or non-violence in word, thought and action, which was popularized by Mahatma Gandhi’s passive resistance movement in India, applies not only to how humans interact with each other, but also how we interact with all living beings.
Non-violence…applies not only to how humans interact with each other, but also how we interact with all living beings.
Although animals cannot speak in our human language, this does not mean that they do not have a voice. The range of animal sentience that is now being recognised is astounding – even a bull has been known to grieve at the death of his human owner; rats, who chuckle when being tickled and come back for more, have been found to be capable of altruism.
Pigeons have shown mathematical abilities on par with certain primates. As for parrots, they are a whole amazing story in itself; they have the emotional age of a toddler and the intelligence of a five-year-old. They bond so deeply with either their parrot or human companions that parting and separation cause great suffering to them, so much so that they have been known to stop eating and die as a result of this.
Therefore, let us urge our sisters and brothers that peace must extend to every creature if we are to truly celebrate our legacies in this world of ours. Let us remember that they, too deserve an environment of peace, where animals that are wild can have access to their natural habitats, places to roam and free-flowing water. For animals that are captive, let us stand together for these, the most helpless and dependent of creatures, and call for an end to their torture, and the associated unsafe practices of confinement and mistreatment.
When animals are screaming in terror and pain—in places of science or where they are “farmed,” cruelly transported, and slaughtered—we mustn’t close our eyes to their torment and grief. Instead, let us but open our hearts to appreciate these remarkable and beautiful souls who need our love and care and help, who feel physical pain, fear and sorrow at the loss of loved ones. Let us be their voice.
For how long can we be silent spectators to their suffering?
As human beings and in the spirit of stewardship, let us serve them and honour their spirit. Our eyes are the mirrors of our soul and therefore our true reflection. For how long can we be silent spectators to their suffering?
As long as our abuse and exploitation of animals continues on the grand scale that it does, can our world ever know true peace? This I very much doubt.
In the sixth century BC, Pythagoras, the mathematician and mystic philosopher stated, “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”
Selective peace for some does not comprise real peace in our interconnected world. Peace must not stop at our doorstep. If we really want to ensure peace in our world, let us not be participants of this bloodshed.
Let us not forget, their misery in this interconnected world is also our misery.
Let us raise our voice against cruelty to animals and learn how to live in harmony with all living beings. We can do this by eating vegan (free of any animal products) and buying cruelty-free clothing and cosmetics. Let us raise our voices and wield our pocketbooks against animal testing, and the cruelty of factory farms. And let us not forget, their misery in this interconnected world is also our misery.
As we mark the International Day of Peace, may we remember to honour all of our fellow beings with love. Let us make our voices and actions of peace resonate in a just environment for all living beings.
Imagine a gathering of United Religions Initiatives (URI) members of diverse religions, spiritual expressions, and indigenous traditions from across North America, working together harmoniously to create cultures of peace, justice, compassion, and dignity for all living beings. And imagine that they share a meal together that does just that!
Imagine the multiplying effect that can happen when participants at this North America Regional Assembly take the experience of a 100-percent compassionate meal back home to their local URI member groups or Cooperation Circles (CCs). Imagine the impact this might have over time for the well being of other living beings.
Such a meal and such an experience are on the cusp of happening soon. And we have done this before . . . take a look (here) at a vegan meal (i.e., free of any animal products) enjoyed at the URI Global Leadership Conference held last September in Sarajevo. However, TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE to raise the necessary funds!
As an Animal Chaplain and Humane Minister, I have noticed the disconnect many religions have from the tenets of extending Compassion for All Living Beings. As a Spiritual Leader of my own nonprofit (www.ahowan.org), I have traveled through India, Sri Lanka, the USA, South Africa, Costa Rica and Canada sharing a message to many different religions and other groups of Peace with All Animals (including humans). What I have learned is, the starting point for many of us is what we are accustomed to putting on our plates. And the ways we have conditioned ourselves to extend compassion to some animals and not to others.
Religions and cultures often justify the mistreatment of certain animals and certain groups of humans considered “the other”. If, however, we dig deep into the tenets of the major religions, we learn the message is inherently different (see “Religious Teachings,” https://compassion4alllivingbeings.org/links/). This is the message of the URI CC, Compassion For All Living Beings, which I am blessed to be a member of! We are inviting the members and leadership of URI, our parent organization, to take another look at these tenets by extending compassion, peace and dignity to all living beings — and to take note of how this begins with what we choose to put on our plates. In other words, to walk our talk.
For a long time I have been dreaming of an opportunity to share this important message with groups of people who can really take it to heart and let it ripple out in a larger way. And here it is! I need your help, however. We need your help!
The North America Regional Assembly will take place July 27-29, 2018, near Baltimore, Maryland, with some 100 CC representatives from across the region in attendance. The registration fee, meals and lodging costs of my participation, and ground transportation have all been covered. Yet to be raised are the full costs of my round-trip airfare and the printing our Compassion for all Living Beings brochure (which can be found here). We’ve set July 11th as the deadline to purchase the flight ticket.
Here is the link to make a donation of any amount: GoFundMe.
From my Heart to your Heart,
May all the Animals bless you,
Rev. Ahowan ICrow
Compassion for All Living Beings Cooperation Circle, United Religion Initiative
Let’s pause this Father’s Day and remember the Fathers of the Animal Kingdom too! For let’s face it, it takes two, a male and female, to reproduce and have babies. Whether in animal agriculture or the natural wild, Mothers cannot do it alone. So be sure to celebrate these Animal Dads!
Face it, at a minimum, even in industrial animal agriculture, the Mothers need a male sperm donor. Or, as in the case of the Seahorse, it is just the opposite!
“When it comes to turkeys, they have been bred to have such large breasts that they cannot even mount and mate on their own. A method of artificial insemination is their sole means of reproduction. Breeding toms (male turkeys) are kept in the dark for most of their lives and milked for their semen once or twice a week.”
In factory farming, there are many males who will never even have the opportunity to grow up, precisely because they are male. Those who are kept to be so-called “Fathers,” once their sperm count declines, are sent to slaughter.
“Americans alone eat the corpses of about 10 billion land animals every year—which is neither hyperbole nor sentimentality; it’s just true. Every one of those animals was made of flesh, blood, and bone—just like us. Every one had eyes, ears, nostrils, a mouth and limbs, just like we do. They have the same five physiological senses that we do. And as Dr. Temple Grandin notes, they “have the same core feelings people do”. And, of course, every one of those animals started with a mother and a father, just like we did.”
When it comes to Animal Awareness, we hear a lot about cruelty as it affect the Mothers; however, we do not hear much on the Father’s side of the story. So let us give pause and say thank you to all the Animal Fathers out there and hold them in our hearts too as we celebrate with our own Fathers.
I invite us all to celebrate Fathers Day by leaving all Animals, and their milk, cheese, and eggs too, off our plates. We can honor the Golden Rule by considering this: Would we want our own Father to be treated as agriculture treats them?
Rev Ahowan ICrow of Apithan Ministries
on behalf of Compassion For All Living Beings CC, a member of the United Religions Initiative Multi-Region
Below are few more links with more information about animal agriculture practices and how they brutalize the Animal Fathers.
In light of our shared Charter commitment to “create cultures of peace, justice and healing for the Earth and all living beings,” please allow me to share some reflections on Endangered Species Day today (May 18th).
I’ll never forget the first time I learned of the Sixth Mass Extinction of Species that is underway on our planet. It was at a conference I attended some ten years ago in San Francisco titled “Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream”. The speaker was David Ulansey.
As we learned at that time, our planet is in the midst of the sixth massive die-off of species in Earth’s history and the first one that is caused by human activity.
Later, when I had returned home, I sat at my computer and wept as I scanned Mr. Ulansey’s website, Mass Extinction Underway:
www.mysterium.com/extinction.html. I remember that moment many years ago like it was yesterday. This was the awakening that changed my life.
Up until that time, I had worked for more than 20 years in international conflict resolution, mainly peacemaking carried out by religious figures. That was how I first met URI, in its earliest days.
But in light of what I was learning, I realized that I needed to embrace the entire community of life as my constituency. I reasoned that if I only worked on peacebuilding among humans, that would serve to keep more people alive and thereby hasten the Earth’s inability to sustain human life. I realized I needed to embrace the entire community of life — all living beings — if I was to contribute to bringing peace, justice and healing to the Earth and its human peoples.
Here is a bit of text from David Ulansey’s website:
The Current Mass Extinction:
Human beings are currently causing the greatest
mass extinction of species since the extinction of
the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. If present trends
continue one half of all species of life on earth will
be extinct in less than 100 years, as a result of
habitat destruction, pollution, invasive species,
and climate change. (For details see links below.)
Scroll Down For Hundreds Of Links:
This website began on April 22, 1998 with the posting
of the article below. (The article is still here to provide
historical context.) Following the article are more than
300 links to recent authoritative reports and updates
about the current mass extinction. New articles are
added regularly. (Most recent update December 20, 2017.) >>
<<Week 2: Environment in the Twenty-first Century: A Crisis of Life
Assignment: Read the entire home page at the website The Current Mass Extinction,
including the article reprinted there, “Mass Extinction Underway, Majority of Biologists Say.”
Then, follow the instruction to “scroll slowly down this page and read just the titles of all
the links.” When you finish, go back and click on at least five links to read at least five
of the sources (scholarly studies, intergovernmental reports, press accounts, etc.)
on topics that matter the most to you–that most nearly touch what gives inspiration,
meaning, purpose, or pleasure to your life–be they specific animal or plant species
(e.g., birds, butterflies, primates, other charismatic mammals, fish, medicinal flora,
wild food or flower species, etc.) or ecosystems (e.g., the oceans, fresh water systems,
forests, rainforests, wilderness, urban habitats, etc.). Now, revisit your personal
religious-spiritual-cosmological-ethical statement written at the beginning of
this course. Does it fully accommodate the import and magnitude of what you
have just read? If not, what is lacking and how might you adjust it accordingly?
Write your reflections and/or revise your statement. >>
Two recent posts to this Contacts list give information on what we can do in our daily lives to address this crisis of life on Earth. Stefan Howard wrote about the impact of our food choices on the natural environment: “Earth Day 2018!” (from firstname.lastname@example.org, April 20, 2018). And I wrote a Mothers Day message about what great moms animals are: “Honoring All Mothers this Mothers Day” (from email@example.com, May 11, 2018). I won’t repeat the ground covered in those two messages. But I commend them to your attention in light of what we also know about the mass extinction of species threatening the diversity of life on Earth. And I’d note that the largest impact we as global and local citizens can have on addressing this is in the food choices we make every meal of every day.
Mothers Day is celebrated in countries all over the world on various days of the year. In the United States it is this Sunday, May 13th. What fun to discover that the second Sunday in May is also observed as Mothers Day by Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Japan, and Turkey.
So as people in all parts of the world anticipate Mothers Day on Sunday, I’d like to encourage all of us to honor not only our human moms, but also the world’s largest population of mothers, namely, those in the animal world. And what great mamas they are too!
Maimonides, the 12th-century Jewish philosopher, wrote that the love between a mother animal and her young is not different from that of a human mother to her child. Many other great thinkers over the ages have discerned this. Charles Darwin, for example, wrote, “There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness and misery.”
Take mother hens, for example, as we think about Mothers Day. They speak to their chicks even before they are hatched. The mother clucks softly and the chicks peep back from inside their shell, even using different toned peeps to let their mamas know if they’re cold or comfortable. An expectant chicken plucks a bald spot on her belly so she can warm the eggs and then the chicks once they’ve hatched. As their little ones grow, mothers protect them from harm under their wings at night. In fact, chickens are such devoted mamas, they often adopt orphaned chicks or babies of other species like kittens, puppies and bunnies.
Turkey hens are also devoted mothers who are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save them. Duck and goose mamas lay their eggs in elaborate feathered nests. They, too, are very protective of their hatchlings and will chase away larger waterfowl or anyone else who tries to come near them.
Pigs in the wild live in groups of two to six sows and their young. If the other mothers are also nursing, mother pigs may share caretaking and even nurse each others’ babies so that foraging sows have more time to find food. Mother pigs living in a sanctuary setting continue their maternal care even when their offspring are adults, protecting them from danger and respecting and loving their babies as they age.
Cows naturally nurse their babies for up to three years, and the strong bond between mothers and their offspring lasts a lifetime. In a sanctuary setting, mother cows are known to groom their young for hours; and as the calves become adults, they spend hours grooming each other. Cows love affection and grieve the loss of their loved ones. Both mothers and their newborn calves may cry pitifully when separated; the heart-rending cries have been known to last five days.
Sheep mothers have a language they use only with their young, a deep guttural call telling them to come back quickly or beware of intruders. A lamb can tell the voice or his or her mother. And likewise, the lamb has a distinctive call that the mother sheep responds to. Sheep are family-oriented flock animals and stay together in families for a lifetime when allowed to. Sheep mamas are also known to share nursing and caretaking with one another.
Given the freedom to do so, goat moms have a lifelong relationship with their kids. They may sleep in groups, side by side, at times wrapping their necks around their full-grown offspring. Goats recognize their family members even after having been separated for a time. Female goats are patient, highly nurturing mothers and therefore are often used to foster orphaned or rejected lambs, calves, horses and mules.
These are just a few examples of what great moms animals are. I could go on to discuss the motherhood behaviors of animals in the wild as well. But I’ll stop with farmed animals for a simple reason. It’s because each one of us has the opportunity to honor these precious creatures on Mothers Day by dining compassionately and leaving all animal products—meat, dairy and eggs—off our dinner tables. Please allow mother animals—and fathers and babies too!—to live the rich and loving lives they were born to live and which they profoundly yearn for.
Let’s celebrate Mothers Day—and every day!—by joining together “to create cultures of peace, justice and healing for … all living beings”.
This weekend, Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day, a chance to celebrate this beautiful planet we call home, a chance to gather with others who care about our Earth and find ways to be in service to her, and to take stock of our own actions to see how we can lessen our own personal impact on a world reeling from the influence of our human species.
Science tells us that the choices we all make everyday and hundreds of times a year about what to put on our plates and into our stomachs has a huge impact on the earth and is a decision that deserves our attention. As a member of Compassion for All Living Beings CC (Multiregion; https://uri.org/who-we-are/cooperation-circle/compassion-all-living-beings-cc-c4alb), I’d like to offer the invitation to consider this and make the choice to transition to a more plant-based diet. There are many resources online, and our CC would be more than happy to offer help and suggestions. (And if this is an area you are already passionate about, join us!)
***Compassion for All Living Beings (C4ALB) CC was started in 2014 by Rev Heng Sure and counts URI’s Global Council Chair Kiran Bali and Global Envoy Mussie Hailu among its early members. Newly invigorated in the last year, C4ALB is dedicated to “creating culture of peace, justice and healing for all living beings.”
“As long as men massacre animals they will kill each other. Indeed he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” – Pythagoras, 6th cent. BC
“Until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself be free.” – Dr. Albert Schweitzer
URI is a global grassroots interfaith network that cultivates peace and justice by engaging people to bridge religious and cultural differences and work together for the good of their communities and the world, and is a non-governmental organization (NGO) with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.