Governments Should Educate Citizens to the Hazards of Meat, Alcohol and Tobacco
Should Educate Citizens
to the Hazards
by Supreme Master Ching Hai
M: In the future, I think the governments of all countries will do something similar with food to what is being done now with cigarettes, where a warning is printed on the outside of the package saying things like “Cigarettes can kill” or “Cigarettes cause lung cancer and shorten your life." If they do that, then many people will stop eating meat and all will be vegetarian in the near future.
So I suggest that the leaders, organizations or governments should warn people or at least make it compulsory to put something like a dead cow inside the shop. Or have a film running with the whole picture of the butchering process; that would be even better, to let people know what it is that they’re getting and what they’re actually paying for. Otherwise, I feel like it’s a lie to just sell a person a piece of meat that doesn’t have a form anymore. For example, chicken is sometimes sold whole, but most of the time they just sell half of it or pieces that don’t look like anything. You don’t see the way they chop off the head of the chicken while it’s alive. You don’t see the way they hang the cow from one leg and let the blood drip one drop at a time to the floor. You don’t see the way they cut the pig’s throat while he’s still kicking and that they sometimes miss and have to cut again. People don’t see that. Remember I have a show called The Real Heroes? (DVD #760)
D: Oh yes, that was about this very subject. The British government is also currently trying to ban smoking in public places.
M: Yes. Surprisingly, Ireland did it first. Can you believe that? This is a country with a lot of pubs and people who drink, but they still had enough common sense to do that. Other countries are also moving slowly now, with many more that have already followed suit. Bravo, Ireland! Good for that country. I really feel very proud of that because smoking is no good for anyone; that’s been known for a long time. It’s OK to put warnings on the packets, but people still buy them. So banning smoking in public areas at least protects the ones who don’t smoke.
But it’s still terrible sometimes. For example, in my hotel, I stay on a non-smoking floor. But I still smell smoke in the bathroom. Why do the next-door guests sneak in and smoke? They don’t have much respect because every day it’s like that. People might think that if they go into the bathroom it’s good enough, but then the smoke still flies into my bathroom because they turn on their fan and the rooms are connected with each other. And sometimes people actually like going into a non-smoking room to smoke. They just feel rebellious or something.
So you not only have to ban it, but also impose a penalty. For example, if you smoke in the lavatory of an airplane, the penalty is $2,000. This could go for everywhere, even in hotels. If you’re caught you should pay the penalty. That’s the way it should be reinforced because just talking is not enough. People are not that disciplined or morally honest.
Also, they should put a label on alcohol like, “Alcohol can damage your brain and cause considerable illness” or at least “Alcohol kills.” It does kill! Drinking and driving kill many hundreds of thousands of people every year around the world. Everyone knows that.
Even so, being killed isn’t the worst thing. Some people would rather die than be maimed for life, which creates a burden for the family and society and causes suffering and sorrow for the individual and the people concerned. That’s even worse than death. Of course, we don’t want anyone to die like that, but wouldn’t it be worse if you had already lost your arms, legs or brain but had to lie there because you couldn’t die and couldn’t live? That’s a burden for society and the taxpayer’s money. And it causes a lot of sorrow. But if you have to nurse a person like this day in and day out, can you imagine how much psychological strain that will put on the family members? Isn’t that worse than death?
And then, for the children whose father or mother is affected, it’s just like having none, or worse than having none. They go to school and everyone asks them and they feel bad, embarrassed and sad. So there’s psychological damage to the child whose father is lying in the hospital or in the house like a vegetable. Kids don’t know how to explain and then other kids make fun of them, or make fun of the father. Can you imagine these things? So it’s not just about dying.
We don’t support death by being killed in drunken driving accidents, but in many cases it’s still better than the alternative because the effect is immense, not only for the victim; it’s also terrible for the family and friends. Even talking about it already makes us feel bad, to say nothing of the situation if we or our family members are the ones who have to suffer it.
So I think that the governments haven’t done the best they can. They can label every dangerous thing at least for the kids to read. Now they ban kids by saying, “Don’t drink alcohol,” but the child doesn’t understand why. If every bottle he picked up said, “Damages your brain,” or “Reduces your intelligence” or “Impairs your judgment in every way,” at least the kid could read it and say, “OK, that’s why.” If it’s just mentioned on television or printed in the newspaper once, he won’t read it. And they don’t run these ads every day on television for the kids to see that alcohol is bad. They just tell our kids, “Don’t drink.” And you know kids: They’re strong and rebellious. When you say no, they sneak and do it some other way, like they try to do it themselves or steal it or dare each other to do it. Or they’ll break into the pub to get it. It’s no good. Why don’t they put a label or at least a warning on it? Tell them why, just like they do for cigarettes. At least some people have come to their senses, or the kids know from the beginning that it’s really bad.
D: Master, I think the government doesn’t really try 100%; they’re worried about the economics because the cigarette tax is a big source of income.
M: But they did try; they put a warning on the cigarettes. Why don’t they do that with alcohol? Is it economics again? The government can get tax revenue in many other ways. If you stop making war and don’t produce any more weapons that cost a lot of money, you can feed the whole world free of charge.
So the government should put a warning on everything that kills, be it liquor or anything. That’s what they should do because they’re the leaders of the nation. They are obliged to protect the people instead of waiting until people are sick or dying and then get a lot of taxpayer’s money to try to cure them, which sometimes is not even possible because by then it’s too late. And even if they manage to cure the illness, the patient has already gone through a lot of suffering and the family has undergone a lot of trouble and emotional and psychological pain.
So I don’t know what all the leaders of the world are doing, what they’re busy with. They should take care of the root problem: Ban cigarettes and also impose a penalty if the people break it, just like breaking the law. If someone stabs someone else in the back, they put him in jail at least for a while. So if someone blows smoke into your nose and causes you slow cancer or sickness, they should also go to jail, or at least face a penalty so that the person stops it. It’s a different kind of killing, a different molestation with different harm. But it’s still really physical. It’s like stabbing someone but just different because it’s invisible, slow pain. Everyone knows that second-hand smoke is also very bad. It kills a lot of people, inflicts a lot of pain, makes a lot of people sick and strains the national social security system. Everyone knows that, but they don’t do anything.
What’s the use of worrying about the economic setback of warning people not to buy cigarettes or worrying that people will buy fewer cigarettes if you provide a warning, when you use the income from the cigarette tax and pay it back to the patients anyway?
D: There’s research saying it’s more expensive.
M: Yes, it’s more expensive, number one. Number two, it inflicts a lot of pain. It’s not just the money! It causes a lot of physical pain as well as emotional pain, and it damages the nation’s intelligence. There are so many brains out there that have been damaged by smoking and alcohol, when we could use that to build the nation, to build a more peaceful, more intelligent and more reasonable world.
Before, around a hundred years ago or so, alcohol was banned and was forbidden to drink. I don’t know why they let that go. Everyone knows it is poison but they still allow it to be bought openly. They say that only adults can buy alcohol, but how do you keep your children from drinking it at home when you have a bottle of whisky and you’re hanging around all day drinking. Or some day you’re sitting with your friend and it looks so cool, on the rocks or whatever, and talk happily together and drink. And that creates a very strong picture for the kids to think, “Oh, whisky makes you happy.”
Or when there’s a romantic occasion, you sit together and drink whisky or drink some kind of alcohol and the kids say, “If I want to be romantic I have to do the same as Mom and Dad.” And then you invite a girlfriend to come around and you talk her into drinking alcohol together so as to fit in with the picture of romance that you see in films or in your house.
If the society is teaching these garbages and yet expects the world to be orderly and peaceful and the children to be obedient, nice and intelligent, and to graduate and be good citizens. How can kids survive in this world to become good citizens when they see the bad examples we adults show them?
So we have to speak up. And your word does make a difference. You just have to say it. People can take it or not take it, but at least you say it. That’s the way it should be. If not on the label itself at least in the restaurant it should say, “Alcohol kills.” Why confine it to just cigarettes? Cigarettes kill even less than alcohol. Alcohol even has a more immediate effect. Someone gets drunk, he goes out and someone else just provokes him. So they fight and then they kill each other or they’re stabbed or wounded so that they damage each other’s bodies. It’s even more immediate. So why not put the warning on the alcohol bottle? I don’t understand this.
Also, it damages your brain; everyone knows that. And the brain doesn’t grow back. If you drink very little alcohol and you haven’t had any at all for a span of time, then it gives that brain-damaged area time to grow back, but it won’t grow back forever. If you keep killing it, it won’t grow again. And if you drink very strong alcohol, you become brain-damaged forever. Whatever part it goes into becomes damaged and the nerves won’t grow back. Many people know that. Nowadays, if you watch TV or read newspapers, you can’t say you don’t know. So why not put a warning label on alcohol bottles.
Then later, you also have to put it in meat shops, on everything that kills. Every piece of meat should have printed on it, “You are living on dead bodies,” or “Some being has been killed brutally for your meal today.” Then at least the person buying knows it and they have a choice. They should also put pictures of dead or brutally murdered cows all over the walls of the butcher shop. Then at least the consumers know what they’re paying for. It’s not an honest job to sell something and then blindfold the people who buy it. That’s like cheating; it isn’t honest.
D: Sometimes a piece of meat doesn’t really look like meat; they make it like ham or sausage and the children just eat the sausage but they don’t know where it comes from.
M: Yes, they don’t know. I know one person who had a nephew only four years old who didn’t like meat at all. He liked only things without meat, but the parents kept forcing him to eat it. Sometimes he even got sick so I said to that friend, “You have to convince the parents to let him make a choice.” I don’t know what has happened since then, but I tried my best.
Increasing public awareness can create a paradise on earth
So you cannot tell everyone in the world, but tell whomever you can. Do your best. If we all try together, it will bear fruit. Air it on TV, radio, in pamphlets, leaflets and everywhere: “Be a vegetarian. At least today, save one innocent life.” And print a leaflet with a cow hanging on the ceiling from one leg. Print that one; let them have a look at how they kill cows.
D: Master, the Vegetarian Society in the UK does quite a lot of work on that. They have special programs for the schools and a T-shirt with a face.
M: Yes, I know. So just print a picture with a cow hanging from the ceiling and the butcher with a knife; that will be worth more than a thousand words. That will really hit someone, I hope, and do something. If you can’t rescue them spiritually because the humans won’t listen, at least rescue some poor animals.
What else should we do to clean up the planet? Place warnings in the schools as well. Put signs everywhere that say things like “Drugs kill,” “Drugs make you less intelligent,” “Drugs make you addicted and dependent,” “Drugs deplete your money and impair your sexual function.” They do! So why don’t we just say all these things? It’s really true. Drugs make you weak and dependent and pale and bad-looking and smelly and old and sick. Why don’t they write all those things in the schools? Don’t just say, “Ban drugs.” We have to explain all this as well because not every kid can read all about it; they’re too busy learning in school. And if the teacher doesn’t say anything, or only says it once or twice, it’s not enough.
You have to put slogans and things like that everywhere: about drugs, about alcohol and about meat, saying, “A living being has been murdered for your dinner today.” Put that on a piece of beef or pork and see how many people still want to buy it. Let them think. Because to kill a person is called murder and to kill an animal is also murder. If the animal just runs around doing no harm to you and you go and kill it, that’s deliberate murder. What else could it be? So we should say, “Someone has been murdered for this piece of meat in your meal.” And then see what they think about that.
In the future, the world will get cleaner if the governments really do their job, if they have more morals and are stronger instead of just worrying about the economy. Because it’s bad calculation if you collect taxes but then have to pay for the patients. And you inflict suffering, not just the pain of getting better since many people don’t get better. Even if you give them a lot of medicine and treat them with the best equipment, they don’t recover. So instead of that, just don’t sell cigarettes or put something on the cigarettes and alcohol so that fewer people get sick. Then we won’t have to pay for their medical bills, which costs even more than the taxes we take in. It’s a loss of business, no? So any intelligent government should calculate and then they’ll know what makes even the best business sense. Besides, warning people and protecting them is really the government’s job. It’s their duty to take care of the people’s health and safety.
There are so many things that are good for you to follow: in my example, my footsteps and my teachings. And I don’t even forbid you anything. You can wear nice jewelry, which I even design for you. You can wear nice clothes when we have a party. We don’t always need that, but we can do it if we want to. If we don’t have to, we don’t need to. We’re comfortable as we are. We’re beautiful inside out. So we don’t even need to wear certain clothes to look good, but if you want to I don’t forbid you anything. I don’t make you become an ascetic, only vegetarian because of compassion. The more beautiful you are inside, the more beautiful you are outside anyway. Your taste in clothing and everything is getting better each day.
In the very old times, for example in China, the king was the spiritual Master, like King Yao and King Shun were Masters, and the kings took care of the people as if they were their own children. The people at that time didn’t even need to lock their doors and they didn’t pay taxes to the king. They didn’t need to do anything for the king at all, and that’s the way it should be.
So, the governments should give us an award: “You’re doing good. You’re helping us.” We’re even free of charge; they don’t have to pay us! Because the government has to pay the police or army to suppress the criminals and protect the people. We’re doing just that without getting paid, without clashing with the police, without harming anyone, without having any weapons to harm anyone to begin with. So how can we be bad? How can any government not recognize this? The affairs of this world are still backward but of course God doesn’t hold a grudge against anyone; Hes is still helping everyone to go up, up, up.
Otherwise, imagine if everyone did what we do. Even if they didn’t eat vegetarian, maybe just no alcohol, no drugs and no cigarettes to begin with, we’d be cleaner, healthier and save a lot of money. And everyone would be happier; they could have a good house, good car, good health and good family and this would set a good example for the children in the schools. If we take away the alcohol, meat and cigarettes, the family will already be much better and school will be a better place.
So the effect of a clean life is really big; it does affect everything, not just one person or one family; it affects the whole society. That’s why I think the world should do this. If people just follow our example, they don’t even need to study meditation with me or all become saints. I don’t need to teach them, and they don’t need to come see me. All they have to do is live a clean life. They can pray to God or pray to whomever they want, but their virtues, their good life will affect the whole world, and the whole world will become a paradise with no need of me.
Why doesn’t the world see this? Why don’t more leaders of nations reinforce this kind of clean living, this happy, peaceful Heaven for everyone? If they really want to take care of their families, then that’s the way. At least reinforce it, set an example because that’s what you have power for: You can change the world, or if you’re the leader of a nation you can at least change your nation.
Just do it step by step and it will be easy. Meanwhile, we can hope and dream about a clean society and the things that the governments of the world should do and perhaps will do. It’s already beginning.
Because I still think the root of the problem is drinking, smoking and drugs. From there, everything goes bad. Once you lose your mind, you might do anything. There’s a story from the Buddha’s time where someone said to a man, “OK, you have to keep all the Precepts: Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t tell lies. And don’t drink.” And the man said, “I can keep the first four, but the ’Don’t drink’ I can’t.” And then he drank, and he killed, and then told lies, and all kinds of things happened because he drank and got drunk. When he was drunk, if anyone got in his way he just killed them. If they tried to stop him, he would just kill because he had already lost control; he didn’t know what he was doing anymore.
So I just hope that in the future all governments will do that. First, write warnings about alcohol and post them in every alcohol shop. Next, write meat or fish warnings that say, “Some being has just been murdered for you” at least to tell them the truth, to tell people so they have a choice because the people may not know. They know that they eat meat, but they’ve been eating it every day so they don’t even think. The majority of people aren’t taught by anyone and so they only know about the advertised “good” meat and strong alcohol and so on. It’s all lies. So, if you make them understand that this is a choice they make, then they might think. You don’t have to be forceful and say, “You have to be vegetarian.” Just give people knowledge about why they should be vegetarian — “There is an alternative. You don’t have to kill to stay alive.” Then the person can choose because they know it’s a wise choice, but they have to have the knowledge to choose it.