All of us are involved in the dance of life; the endless cycle of birth and of death. In order that life may be sustained, energy, in the form of matter—food—must be consumed, no matter what species we are. Every living being is part of the food chain, but in this country especially, humans have removed themselves from this dance as much as possible. Gone are the days where we lived close to the land and to the animals that inhabited it. Gone the times of crop failures, and scarcity of game, and the possibility of winters with little food. Also gone is our relationship with the seasons and the natural cycles, and our appreciation of the spirits of the animals and the plants we share Pachamama, this earth, with. Instead, we manage our crops, and farm specific animals in great abundance. And in so doing we have weakened ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I am not a vegetarian, and never have been, it just never felt right for me. As an animal lover I used to feel guilty about that until I learned about the Native American perspective, which is that all life is equal; if we only eat plants then we are saying that animals are better than plants. Their perspective felt right to me and for me. Each of us must make our own ethical and subjective choices, and mine was to continue to eat from all of the food groups, but with awareness. But what about the further implications of eating animals in this day and age?
In Unheard Voices I wrote about our need as humans to maintain connection with the natural world around us by bringing the outside (animals, plants, fountains, etc.) into our homes, an attempt to re-establish connection with the “Other Nations” that we share this world with. Some of those “Other Nations” live on factory farms. In order to forcefully regulate the lives of the animals we raise for food, such as veal calves and chickens, we raise them indoors, confining them to cages or stalls, thereby also removing their connection to the natural world and to the natural cycle of birth and death.
For example, egg-laying hens are crammed into very small cages, running in rows—a minimum of 60,000 birds may inhabit one building. As a result of frustration (they are not able to stand up straight, walk anywhere, block out the unending noise, touch the ground or see the sun) these hens must be de-beaked (the ends of their beaks are cut off) so that they do not attack their neighbors. The lights are routinely left on 24 hours a day to encourage increased egg production. Respiratory disease is common since crowded and unnatural conditions create immune system problems. Force molting, where feed is withdrawn for up to 14 days, is routine to encourage a new egg-laying cycle. Under these circumstances the life of a hen is very short, and considering the quality of life, mercifully so.
Such conditions cannot produce high quality food. “Garbage in, garbage out.” “You are what you eat.” Such trite sayings, but relevant. If you supply poor quality food and only minimal life-sustaining conditions—totally removing any access to the outside world and any semblance of normal life—how could you possibly expect to get high quality nutritive food? And what about the energy associated with the life that animal has led? Ever sit next to someone you did not know and KNOW that person was angry? And have you then felt that after you left some of that negative energy stayed with you? The same is true for animals that we consume. If they lead unhappy and unnatural lives, how much of that energy goes into your energy body? All living beings are more than just physical bodies, we are feeling, energetic, and spiritual beings as well. As our society removes itself more and more from the natural world our lives and our health can become more and more unbalanced. There is an increase in cancer rates in both humans and animals, and I believe that one of the reasons is the food consumed and how it is produced.
So, what can you do? Becoming a vegetarian is not a lifestyle choice that I am making at this time. Instead I am voting with my dollars for healthier food and happier animals. Look for eggs produced by uncaged or free-range hens, or buy fertile eggs since the birds must be uncaged in order to mate. I am willing to pay a little more because my life and health, and the lives and health of others, is worth it.
And from an energetic and spiritual standpoint, no matter what the type or source of food, take a moment to acknowledge the gift of the life and the energy that you are about to consume. Rejoin the dance of life with joy—your spirit, your health, and the spirits and health of the animals and plants will be richer for it.
Some of the information contained herein was derived from Food Animals Concerns Trust (FACT).
©Rose De Dan 2009. All rights reserved. Article originally printed in VerveWomen, Summer 2003.
This article, along with 44 others, is collected in Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism.
Postscript: I am overjoyed to see the changes that have taken place since this article was first written. Animal rights is becoming more prominent even in primetime television. The popular TV series “Bones” featured a recent episode which educated visitors about factory farming. The plot line involved a murder that took place on a chicken farm, and actress Emily Deschanel, who plays the character Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Fox’s hit series, was pivotal in obtaining usage of real footage of such practices as revealed in a recent interview with her.
Think Outside the Cage
Rose De Dan, Wild Reiki and Shamanic Healing LLC, is a paq’o and mesa carrier in the Peruvian Q’ero Andean Medicine Tradition. In addition she is also a Reiki Master Teacher, animal communicator, author of the acclaimed book Tails of a Healer: Animals, Reiki and Shamanism, and creator of Animal and Reiki Art. As an animal shaman, she views her role as a healer as one of building bridges between people and animals, and of empowering them to reconnect with Pachamama, Mother Earth.
To receive notice of future articles and events, sign up for our newsletter.