“You just need to change your mentality!” | Daily News

“You just need to change your mentality!”

Bob Isaacson.  Picture by Sarath Peries
Bob Isaacson. Picture by Sarath Peries

The slaughterhouses. Worse than Nazi death camps/extermination camps/killing centers. We know that cows and lambs cry when they hear the cries of their family members being slaughtered. Tears flow down the sides of their faces. It is a place of horror and fear. Sheer terror and grief.

Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) was formed in 2011 by Bob Isaacson and Patti Breitman in California USA. Dharma Voices for Animals is a non- profit organization that has understood the horrors that animals are subjected to. The suffering and the pain that they go through. Most people try to justify their actions by saying that the animals do not ‘feel’ the pain. They feel pain the way humans feel pain. They are unable to express in words what they are going through.

DVA is an international movement engaged in advocacy for the rights of all animals to live in freedom. It is represented in over 40 countries. It has 17 Chapters altogether mostly in USA, Europe and Latin America. DVA very correctly focuses on Buddha’s teaching - that all living beings have a right to live without fear and suffering.

Bob Isaacson is an extremely experienced human rights/civil rights attorney for 25 years in Chicago and San Diego in the USA and has a legendary reputation for having taken part in several landmark cases. He was also instrumental, along with others, for the abolition of the death penalty in the State of Illinois, saving the lives of 200 men and women condemned to die.

Isaacson is now a committed Buddhist who has a powerful message to share with us all. Daily News spoke to Bob Isaacson when he was in Sri Lanka recently and will now share his message with our readers. And that message is – Do not continue to participate in the practice of killing animals and instead be a Vegan or a vegetarian.

“My first experience with the Dhamma was when I went on Buddhist retreats. I retired from the law when I was in my 40’s because I felt that I could not completely devote myself to the Dhamma while practising law. So I started going on these retreats. Since then I have been a vegetarian. I was a civil rights attorney and my specialty was defending people against the death penalty. So after retiring from the law I wanted to do something for animals. I realized there were Buddhists in communities who were not vegetarians. So I began to question, asking these monks if eating meat was acceptable to a Buddhist? Because I knew that compassion was preached by the Buddha. Obviously animals do not want to be eaten. So I decided to start an organization,” said Isaacson.

The idea behind starting DVA was to get a discourse going, so hopefully Buddhists will stop eating meat and bring attention to this problem. Already, a website has been started and DVA went on Facebook four years ago.

“We want to spread this message all around the world and get people to talk about animals. If animals could express their thoughts in human words they would be saying – ‘Why are you doing this to me? Why are you paying people to kill me’? We are the only international Buddhist Animal rights and Animal Advocacy organization in the entire world,” explained Isaacson.

In his second visit, they started in Sri Lanka, a project called ‘Dharma Voices for Animals Sri Lanka Project’. The project has different facets. The main goal is to give talks and presentations at Buddhist schools. The target audience are Buddhists. Buddhism focuses on compassion. So message they are trying to spread is – ‘please don’t eat animals and please be vegetarians’.

“We would be so happy if all Buddhists just became vegetarians. It would save trillions of animals. If half the Buddhists became vegetarians it would be fabulous. The main focus of the project is reaching out to the dhamma schools – the Buddhists Sunday schools in the country, and there are many of these schools. Recently I participated in one these presentations in a Bellanwila Sunday school, and what I said was translated into Sinhalese and the kids actually listened to what I had to say. The point I was trying to make was that all animals fear suffering. So we are trying to reach out to 8000 schools. We will need a lot of people on board with us. People think that to be strong you need to eat animals and that is a lie. We get plenty of protein from plants. You can be physically strong while being a vegetarian,” pointed out Isaacson.

Isaacson pointed out that killing animals directly contributes to global warming. Top scientists have studied the effects of Global Warming. They have found that the single greatest cause of global warming is factory farming of animals. The global warming effect of factory farming is 40 percent greater than all of the transportation in the world. Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) contribute directly to global warming by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

He also stressed that being a vegetarian can be directly linked to lower chances of getting non communicable diseases – Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease.

“The most common question I get from Sri Lankans is – how do I become a vegetarian? And it is really quite simple. You get so much protein from plant food. So you just need to change your mentality! You get plenty of calcium from fruits and vegetables. You just don’t add meat to your food. You have so many varieties when it comes to Sri Lankan foods. Coconuts, bananas, passion fruit and mangos and so many fruits are readily available in Sri Lanka. There is an incredible array of vegetables,” added Isaacson. 

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