Compassion for Animals

Liberated YakThough the 17th Karmapa may be more well-known in the west for his promotion of vegetarianism at the 2007 Kagyu Monlam, Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro has campaigned for the compassionate treatment of animals on various fronts since the early 2000s.

A renowned khenpo (cleric-scholar) at the helm of Larung Buddhist Academy in Serta, Tsultrim Lodro has called on ordinary Tibetans in nomadic areas to stop selling their livestock for slaughter, to minimize the suffering of animals when killing for their own consumption, and to reduce their own meat consumption with further encouragement for monastics to become vegetarian.

Due to his advocacy and that of the Karmapa, many Nyingma and Kagyu monasteries in eastern Tibet no longer serve meat from their monastery kitchens, though individual monks and nuns are free to follow their own dietary choices outside of communal meals. In some areas, ordinary Tibetan families observe meatless days on holiday occasions.

Tsultrim Lodro also promotes the protection of wildlife habitats and the traditional practice of “liberating lives” (tshe thar), which involves releasing fish into lakes or tying a ribbon to a yak to mark it as forever “liberated” from slaughter (as the photo above shows). Read more about Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro’s advocacy for animal welfare in my article, “The Compassionate Treatment of Animals: A Contemporary Buddhist Approach in Eastern Tibet” in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Religious Ethics. 

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