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5 years ago  ::  Aug 11, 2009 - 8:38AM #1
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663

For those of you who follow Pagan news sites or blogs, or even those who follow religious news, there has been much ado about the legality (and propriety) of the practice of using animals as sacrificial offerings. The most recent precedent set in Texas, involves a practitioner of Santeria, who sued for the right to perform the ritualistic slaughter of a goat in his home. The case has been appealed by the city. This was back on Aug 2, 2009. More recently, The lawyer, Eric Rassbach, is an attorney for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, wrote an editorial, explaining why he not only defended his client, but why he believed his clients religious activities were justifiable.

While the issue of religious freedom is at the centre of the debate over ritualistic slaughter, of those who chime in on such topics, Pagans tend to be rather vocal and at present seem to be considerably divided about the issue. On the one hand, there are accusations of barbarism, animal cruelty and sadistic pleasure on part of those "human scum" who practice animal sacrifice. There does seem to be a significant correlation between these outcries and those individuals calling out, also being Vegans or vegetarians. Claims of "this is what the opponents of Paganism are using as fodder to demonize the whole community" are also popping up on numerous Pagan blogs and forums, who write that "we've evolved past this sort of barbaric practice."

On the other side of the issue, are those who have/ do practice animal sacrifice (something which does occur among many of the Reconstructionist religions), who see the hypocrisy of those who would gladly eat a hamburger, while offering a blessing for the meat, who then turn around and demonize people who ritually slaughter their own livestock (much of the sacrificed animal is consumed as well), or for those Vegans who would on the one hand decry the oppression of their religious freedom by mainstream religions, then turn around and call for the oppression of those who practice differently from themselves. Those who do practice ritual slaughter, say they do so humanely and with reverence, calming that the treatment, conditions and killing of an animal to be sacrificed are far more humane than any factory farm. Many Pagans who have (or will never) participate in the sacrificial offering of an animal, still see no problem with those individuals who do, and see the issue as one of religious freedom.

So then what seems to be happening are several issues converging around the single topic:

1. Should animal sacrifice (or other "less savory") religious practices be protected under the banner of freedom of religion, so long as those practices are themselves legal (i.e. it is legal to slaughter your own livestock, providing it does not violate animal cruelty and sanitation laws)?

2. Is it any less/more/equally ethical to kill an animal for religious purposes, than for direct consumption?

3. Does, regardless of the theological framework/ legality, the practice of animal sacrifice present too negative a "face" of Paganism? And as such, do Pagans supporting the right of someone to do so reflect poorly on the rest of Pagandom, and gives critics ammunition which leads to discrimination/ misunderstandings?

As always, your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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5 years ago  ::  Aug 11, 2009 - 9:27PM #2
John_T_Mainer
Posts: 1,658

1. Should animal sacrifice (or other "less savory") religious practices
be protected under the banner of freedom of religion, so long as those
practices are themselves legal (i.e. it is legal to slaughter your own
livestock, providing it does not violate animal cruelty and sanitation
laws)?

*Yes. If it is legal for me to kill an animal that I hunt, or that I raise for food purposes, why should the law suddenly have the ability to restrict my freedom when I wish to dedicate this animal in blot to my gods? In no way is dedicating an animal to the gods giving the state the right to restrict an action which would otherwise be protected under the laws regarding slaughter of food or game animals and food preparation regulations.

2. Is it any less/more/equally ethical to kill an animal for religious purposes, than for direct consumption?

*Not understanding the "than for direct consumption" portion. An animal used at blot must be killed painlessly, the whole of its body, skin, and offal must be used to feed the folk and its flocks and herds, or for its direct use (furs, glue, leather, and a host of other end uses). Only the blood is used in blot, the sprinkling of that blood binds those so blessed to the offering. The respect shown in the selection, the swift painless slaying, the lack of any waste, and the respectful acknowledgment of the debts owed to the spirits of flock, forest, stream, and field for the strength they have given us IS what we offer to the gods.

3.
Does, regardless of the theological framework/ legality, the practice
of animal sacrifice present too negative a "face" of Paganism? And as
such, do Pagans supporting the right of someone to do so reflect poorly
on the rest of Pagandom, and gives critics ammunition which leads to
discrimination/ misunderstandings?

*Screw em. Nobody standing in cowboy boots chewing on a Big Mac, or eating their precious vegan food imported from over half the globe, is going to be worthy of anything less than howls of derisive laughter speaking of the morality of my sacrifice while standing in testimony of his/her dedication to conspicuous consumption and waste. I do not have time for hypocrisy. If someone brings it to court challenge, then I welcome it. Our practices compare most favorably to commercial practice.

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5 years ago  ::  Aug 12, 2009 - 7:52AM #3
CreakyHedgewitch
Posts: 1,244

 


Interesting topic. In the Pagan faith that I follow(one amongst many others), menstrual blood is considered the only 'sacrifice of blood' required. Otherwise sacrifice of animals is perceived to be unnecessary for religious purposes (as the Charge of the Goddess says: Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth.) Whether one is a vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, environmentalist etc is a matter of personal choices however. These may inform one's personal religious beliefs or choices but these don't dictate what is religious purposes for others.


I would expect Pagans to be divided because there is such diversity of what that term means. So I doubt there will ever be agreement on this any more than there will be a unified one-definition-fits-all of modern Paganism.Many modern Pagans are also urbanites who have never seen meat except at the end of the food supply chain, all wrapped up in cellophane or already cooked for consumption. If one grows up on a farm for example where animal slaughter is part of life, one perceives and has a different value placed on consuming meat. John's post is a prime example of this. I remember many years ago being told by a Witch that unless I (or anyone else) was prepared to move out into the country, live with nature, grow my own food and raise animals for slaughter etc, I would never truly be considered a Pagan or a Witch. His narrow definition shaped that claim as it did my response to him that nature didn't just stop at the boundary of a city and doesn't exclude anyone on earth. That while it was more challenging in other ways and requiring some thought, one could still be an urbanite Pagan and Witch.


So my opinions on your questions would be as follows:


Question 1. If animal sacrifice is part of the religious practices (thinking here also of kosher law for Jews as well as Pagans like John), then it might be considered part of the freedom of practising that religion. On the other hand, Paganism isn't a religion in itself and hence, whether a Pagan, not otherwise affiliated with a recognised (Pagan) religious tradition, can make the claim of his/her religious freedom being unprotected remains debatable.


Question 2. Isn't the method of killing an animal and the uses to which one puts it what determines the ethics rather than the underlying reason? And whose ethics does one invoke here?


Question 3. I'm not sure your questions can be answered here (though I like John's answer) and here is why. You have to define what Paganism and/or Pagandom means in order for it to have a singular 'face'. You have to define whom that 'face' is being judged by. You need to define which Pagans that are supporting the rights of which others to understand their perspective. One also needs to identify who these critics are and why they should be granted influence/authority/judgement as well as what is being discussed as discrimination/ misunderstandings. When I attempt to put specifics in to address all those points, these questions either become severely limited in relevance or so vague as to be meaningless.


C.H.

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
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5 years ago  ::  Aug 13, 2009 - 12:24AM #4
gorm-sionnach
Posts: 1,663


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Aug 12, 2009 -- 7:52AM, CreakyHedgewitch wrote:


 


Interesting topic. In the Pagan faith that I follow(one amongst many others), menstrual blood is considered the only 'sacrifice of blood' required. Otherwise sacrifice of animals is perceived to be unnecessary for religious purposes (as the Charge of the Goddess says: Nor do I demand sacrifice; for behold, I am the Mother of all living, and my love is poured out upon the Earth.) Whether one is a vegan, vegetarian, carnivore, environmentalist etc is a matter of personal choices however. These may informones personal religious beliefs or choices but these don't dictate what is religious purposes for others.


I would expect Pagans to be divided because there is such diversity of what that term means. So I doubt there will ever be agreement on this any more than there will be a unified one-definition-fits-all of modern Paganism.Many modern Pagans are also urbanites who have never seen meat except at the end of the food supply chain, all wrapped up in cellophane or already cooked for consumption. If one grows up on a farm for example where animal slaughter is part of life, one perceives and has a different value placed on consuming meat. John's post is a prime example of this. I remember many years ago being told by a Witch that unless I (or anyone else) was prepared to move out into the country, live with nature, grow my own food and raise animals for slaughter etc, I would never truly be considered a Pagan or a Witch. His narrow definition shaped that claim as it did my response to him that nature didn't just stop at the boundary of a city and doesn't exclude anyone on earth. That while it was more challenging in other ways and requiring some thought, one could still be an urbanite Pagan and Witch.


So my opinions on your questions would be as follows:


Question 1. If animal sacrifice is part of the religious practices (thinking here also of kosher law for Jews as well as Pagans like John), then it might be considered part of the freedom of practising that religion. On the other hand, Paganism isn't a religion in itself and hence, whether a Pagan, not otherwise affiliated with a recognised (Pagan) religious tradition, can make the claim of his/her religious freedom being unprotected remains debatable.


Question 2. Isn't the method of killing an animal and the uses to which one puts it what determines the ethics rather than the underlying reason? And whose ethics does one invoke here?


Question 3. I'm not sure your questions can be answered here (though I like John's answer) and here is why. You have to define what Paganism and/or Pagandom means in order for it to have a singular 'face'. You have to define whom that 'face' is being judged by. You need to define which Pagans that are supporting the rights of which others to understand their perspective. One also needs to identify who these critics are and why they should be granted influence/authority/judgement as well as what is being discussed as discrimination/ misunderstandings. When I attempt to put specifics in to address all those points, these questions either become severely limited in relevance or so vague as to be meaningless.


C.H.




 


An Informed answer as always C.H., there is a lot within that then which needs defining, though I doubt little old me is going to have any more luck developing a definitive definition of Paganism than anyone else, but for the purpose of this topic; when I say "face of the Pagan community", I suppose I'm referring to the public perception of Paganism, or rather those individuals who form a group which identifies itself as Paganism. The best way to put it, is those individuals know who they are, they are the ones giving interviews to local papers, attending events like PPD, participating on forums like this and others, reading and responding to the myriad Pagan blogs out there, etc. The collective of people who may belong to specific religious or spiritual paths, but for the sake of community, ease of explanation (externally it appears far more coherent than we know it to be internally) and so forth, identify themselves as being Pagan. As such, Paganism is often talked about in the media, and it is this image/ perception I am addressing when I speak of the "face".


As such the recent flap about this issue is quite visible in places like Witchvox, where people who identify as Pagan are making statements about the manner in which other people who identify as Pagan behave. To the effect that the argument is "Our opponents make accusations of Pagans participating in bloody, evil rituals involving animal sacrifice, you who do so are giving our critics ammunition to use against us". What exactly qualifies as "us" is considerably difficult to pin down, however this goes back to the kind of understanding I was referring to earlier; Pagans (despite being unable to define what constitutes being Pagan) seem to believe they belong to a community of sorts, even if the affiliation is quite loose, and therefore some make the objection (of course based on their own ethical standards) that such ritual activities demean all the Pagans who do not practice such activities and find them abhorrent.


Which is where my three questions come into play; I'm asking how individuals feel about the topic, what their basis for being pro/con is, and how they feel about criticisms, both within and without the "community".


Is that any clearer?


Gorm.

Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms, Fulfillment in our tongues.
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