Today is World Animal Day, which celebrates animals and the people who love and care for them. Started by a group of Italian ecologists in 1931 to draw attention to endangered species, the day has evolved into a worldwide celebration of all animals and their importance in our lives. (To find an event happening near you, check the World Animal Day website.)
There’s a lot we can learn from animals, says behavioral ecologist Joanna Burger. In “Creature Comfort,” she writes that by watching how animals show compassion toward one another, we can learn more about ourselves.
World Animal Day also raises the question of how animals are treated (and often mistreated.) Some Buddhist groups practice merit release — procuring animals that are about to be slaughtered and releasing them into the wild. While it seems like a good (and meritorious) idea, it’s also potentially dangerous — read this SunSpace post to learn why you might want to think twice before participating.
In The Accidental Vegetarian, Noa Jones discusses the Buddhist ethics of eating meat and how she goes back and forth on whether to be vegetarian. And for more about the treatment of animals, check out Dharma Voices for Animals, a Buddhist organization that speaks out against the mistreatment of animals. Their website has a lot of great resources on it, including tips for sanghas and individuals on how to live a cruelty-free lifestyle.