All About Animals: Secondary Teachers: Lesson Plan 1: You Are What You Eat

Teachers’ Note: Read the following quotes with or to your pupils. Ask them to study two religions and what they say about abstaining from meat eating. Pupils are then to write an essay that answers the question below. Once their research is underway, or after the essays have been completed, you can organise a class discussion in which pupils are able to discuss the views of a number of religions on this issue.

Although there are many reasons people cite for being vegetarian, the majority of the world’s vegetarians follow the practice for religious reasons. Many religions including Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism and particularly Jainism teach that all life should be valued and not wilfully destroyed for human gratification.

Other religious leaders interpret their sacred texts to reveal similar compassionate instruction toward animals. Below are sections of text and quotes from religious leaders and writers from a variety of religions. Choose two religions and study further the subject of diet, then write an essay answering the following questions:

Q: Do people of different religions choose to interpret their sacred texts to allow them to eat meat when they could just as easily interpret them to avoid harming animals? If so, why do they do this? If not, how do they justify the anomalies in information about diet in their texts?

Christianity, John Austin Baker, Bishop of Salisbury, Speech given at the Christian Consultative Council for the Welfare of Animals Conference in Westminster on 25 January 1986
In the very first chapter of the Bible it is said that in the beginning, when things were as God meant them to be, animals were not created to be food for humans. The animals were to eat grass, foliage and cereals; human beings, fruit and nuts. Only later, when sin was rampant in the world, were animals granted to humankind for food, with the sinister words: ‘The fear of you and the dread of you shall fall upon all wild animalsand birdsand fish; they are given into your hands.’

Judaism, Richard H Schwartz Ph.D., The Jewish Vegetarian and Ecological Society
In view of Judaism’s strong teachings with regard to preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving resources, and helping the hungry, and the very negative effects that the production and consumption of meat has in each of these areas, shouldn’t committed Jews who take Jewish values seriously be vegetarians? I believe that it is best to advocate that they [Jews] are obligated to be aware of how realities related to the production and consumption of meat sharply diverge from Jewish mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve resources, share with hungry people, and seek and pursue peace, and then to make a decision with regard to their diets that they believe is consistent with that awareness.

Islam, Bhukhari
The Holy Prophet Muhammad (S) was asked by his companions if kindness to animals was rewarded in the life hereafter. He replied: Yes, there is meritous reward for kindness to every living creature.

Hinduism, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, An autobiography, the Story of My Experiments
I hold today the same opinion as I held then. To my mind the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take a life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.

Buddhism, His Holiness The XIV Dalai Lama of Tibet, The Vegetarian Way, 1967
I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat. It is only some carnivorous animals that have to subsist on flesh. Killing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventures, and for hides and furs is a phenomenon which is at once disgusting and distressing.

Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Position reached at a Peaceable Kingdom workshop of American Quakers, August 1979.
We shall respect that of God in all creations. We shall live in loving harmony with the earth. Humankind shall be a joyful gardener of the world given us by God, and shall use its fruits wisely and moderately.

ConfucianismYin-chih-wen, a Confucian-Taoist treatise.
Buy captive creatures and set them free. Hold fast to vegetarianism and abstain from taking life.
Whenever taking a step, always watch for ants and insects. Prohibit the building of fires outside (lest insects be killed) and do not set mountain woods or forests ablaze.
Help people in distress as you would help a fish in a dried-up rut. Free people from danger as you would free a sparrow from a fine net.
Benefit living creatures and human beings. Cultivate goodness and happiness.