Today is international meatless day, but I couldn't help but feel sad for the animals as this week is also a week of bloodshed from animal sacrifice.
Animal sacrifice has a very long history in many different cultures, from the killing of animals to appease gods to the burying of animals to accompany the King after he died. Traditionally, eating meat is not seen as a form of animal sacrifice, but I personally view it in the same light as the animal still has to be "sacrificed".
In some traditional Chinese folk temples I see devotees offering chicken or meat to their deities / gods and I question the necessity of this. Won't offering a plate of fruits or vegetables serve the same purpose? How do they know that their deities / gods are not vegetarian and prefer meat? Many of us humans love the taste of meat, but a deity / god of a high level, I wonder if they really like the taste of blood and pus? Besides, how could our worldly food compare to their food?
Animal sacrifice is mentioned in some teachings, and based on it, followers of the teachings practice as such. My personal view is it is important to to understand that the teachings may be presented as an analogy to followers and that really going out to kill an animal may not be necessary. Say if the animal sacrifice is meant to teach followers in the past to let go of personal possessions and practice detachment and generosity, in our modern day era where most of us live in cities and don't raise animals, letting go of possessions can be done by giving what is precious to us instead of killing an animal who we only see on the day of the sacrifice.
On the note of the sacrifice itself, why is an animal necessary? Every animal fears for its own life like us, if we want to sacrifice something really precious, shouldn't it be coming from ourselves? A piece of our flesh perhaps? Many of us winced when we unwittingly cut ourselves with a knife, and immediately tend to our wound with 100% attention, how painful would it be for the animal to be cut and deprive of life?
It is very important to question the intention of our own hearts, whether it contains any self-benefiting thought, any personal greed? If we have such thoughts, will it be in-line with the wisdom of the Gods? Are the gods selfish and self-benefiting? Of course not. Some sacrifice animals to offer to their gods to fulfill their personal wishes or make their lives better. However, one must deeply reflect on this point: does sacrificing someone else's life and happiness brings me happiness for my own? It will be very strange if it works this way because it's like chopping down all your apple trees and expecting to eat apples in the future.
There are many alternatives to using animals for sacrifice, I feel as long as our hearts are true, even if a grain of rice is offered, it far surpasses sacrificing one million animals half-heartedly.
To many poor people, meat is a luxury. To many animals, life is a luxury.