Hell on Earth

In a post a while back, I talked about the Buddhist notion of Hell, and how it’s seen as literal destination for rebirth, but also as a state of mind, or even a place we create. I recently read an article about the controversy over the Iowa pig farm, and how the workers enjoyed punishing the animals, laughed when baby pigs were smashed dead, and so on. You can see the actual video here. It was really, really graphic so I don’t want to directly embed the video, but if you really want to know what Hell on Earth is like, this has to be it.

When I saw the supervisor kicking this one pig in the ribs over and over again, while the pig just stood there hunched down, I just felt my stomach drop. While we go about our daily lives, this kind of thing goes on every day, both in the US and many places in the world. Imagine being a born as a pig and this is the only world you ever know, until your killed. In the article, the PETA undercover guy talked about the “culture of violence” and that sums it up. If these farm workers were removed from this environment and given a desk job somewhere, they might be sane, normal guys (maybe even vegetarians, who knows?), but the culture on these farms and slaughterhouse compels them to kill efficiently and treat animals, well, like meat sources. It’s a kind of mass hysteria. There are people who have to live this culture everyday, and animals who only know this life from day one.

Now I understand why Bodhisattvas vow to never touch meat, and why it’s never a part of a traditional Buddhist diet.



Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

6 thoughts on “Hell on Earth”

  1. I don’t dismiss the environment of death having a factor, but I don’t see that as an excuse. When a lion kills and eats, that is instinct and survival. There is no malice or cruelty. It is the level of the non-human animal, or as the ten-realms perspective might dub it, “animality”. The true hell lies in the fact that those men had a choice and a conscience and this is what they did with them.


  2. Good points all. I keep thinking of my ancestors back in the Ice Age who had to kill to survive. There wasn’t much sustenance then, so killing animals for fur and food allowed us to live. But that was 11,000 years ago, and people then didn’t kick animals around and do other awful things. There is an utter lack of dignity now.

    Please understand I am not trying to excuse their behavior (honest, I hate it too), but it’s easy to hate the people who do it, without looking at the factors that contribute. My point is that if we grew up in small towns where the entire industry was farming, we might get sucked into this “occupation” too. I wonder what these guys are like outside of work. Do their kids know what they do everyday?

    I feel bad for both pigs and the workers I guess is what I am trying to say.


  3. I recently took a course titled Investigating Animal Cruelty sponsored by the ASPCA. It looked into the history of a lot of criminals that got their start with animal cruelty. It’s really disturbing.This is really bothersome to me and I can personally relate. When I was a child, my friend and neighbor got a cat from my cousin. A few days later, he got a halfgrown kitten from somewhere else. He ignored the cat from my cousin and it angered me. I took the kitten and put it in a cinderblock and covered it so he couldn’t find it. When I went to check on the kitten, it had died. It still bothers me that I did this. Even though it wasn’t intentional, I had caused it’s suffering and death. The kitten was completely innocent in the matter and yet it was the one who suffered. This memory comes up now and then and reminds me. Anyway, just wanted to get that off my chest after reading this.


  4. Hi,

    Oh my goodness, Gerald, I just watched the video and wish I hadn’t. It really is horrific. Worse though is the fact that during the recording of the video the ‘farm’ (read concentration camp/torture chamber) changed ownership and management and yet ‘life’ for the pigs remained the same.

    You are right Gerald, any one of us – given the conditions – could end up doing the same thing. Castrating piglets with no painkillers and a pair of pliers is someone’s job, and he’s probably paid according to how fast he works. For many many people this is their daily life and is normal.

    Thank you so much for highlighting this Peta investigation on your blog and for making the case that as Buddhists we must be aware of the suffering our dietary choices entail and strive towards reducing that suffering.

    But do be kind to yourself too Gerald. I’m okay, I’ve been a vegatarian for years and couldn’t eat meat now at all, but for someone giving it up in adult life, it might be best to go slowly. Perhaps people who see this video could stop eating just pork and beef at first and eat chicken or fish instread for a while before then gradually seeing how they feel in terms of consuming those animals too.

    Thank you so much Gerald for this post (and for all your other great posts too!),

    Namu Amitabul,


    “The Bodhisattva, whose nature is Compassion, is not to eat any meat… For fear of causing terror to living beings…let the Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to attain Compassion, refrain from eating flesh.”

    -Lankavatara Sutra


  5. Michael: Thank you very much for sharing the story. I am sure it wasn’t easy, but I bet you’re not the only one whose done something like that and regretted it. I think that’s what makes you human, while the guy at the pig farm may feel no such regret.

    Marcus: Yeah, the images in that video are still fresh in my mind today. 😦 I think your vegetarian transition advice is right on. I had coincidentally talked with some weeks back who was vegan (which is a bit much for me), and they said that it’s usually good to start with abstaining from one meat for a while, maybe even a year, and progress. It’s hard to do otherwise.

    Jeannie: Believe me, I can’t blame you. 🙂


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