I know that amidst all of the joyous cries of, "Christ is Risen!" there will be feasting upon the bodies of animals who have suffered and died to fill our stomachs. Yes, I know that as Christians we are not compelled to abstain from the eating of the flesh of animals or of other foods that come from animals. Yet, all the same, my heart cries out for mercy and justice for the animals (the animals God entrusted in our care) in our celebration of Christ's Resurrection.
While God does allow for us to eat animals, I find it impossible to believe that He would condone the type of treatment these animals currently endure in order to make their way to our dinner tables. And it is not just the animals who suffer. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, those working in the meatpacking industry have the most dangerous jobs in the United States. Furthermore, a great number of these workers are illiterate migrant workers who are underpaid and unable to fight for better working conditions or pay due to their illiteracy. (Addressing the issue of the workers in factory farms and slaughterhouses is a huge issue in and of itself, but here's a good place to start your reading on it.)
I find it incredibly sad that people such as myself who consciously choose to abstain from the eating or wearing of animals and animal by-products are often labeled (in a derogatory way) as "radical" or "strict" vegetarians. If making an effort to choose compassion and mercy in response to suffering in this world is frowned upon as being eccentric, then that only strengthens my longing for the Kingdom, where "there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any pain; for the former things are passed away." - Revelation 21:4.
At the same time, it is not surprising that we treat God's creatures and the rest of God's creation in the way we do. We live in a fallen world... a world in which our sinful natures lead us to gluttony and mistreatment of the world. Patriarch Ignatius IV of the Antiochian Orthodox Church once said, "If nature is not transfigured, she becomes disfigured." If we truly lived a sacramental life, today's factory farms and automated slaughterhouse lines would not even exist. As I said before, it is impossible for me to believe that God would bless the way animals are treated in these systems.
On a positive note, I have noticed a trend in Orthodox Christianity in which there is an increased focus and effort to take environmental concerns, often called "creation care," into consideration. This is wonderful. However, where is the mention of animals? Are they not a part of God's creation, too?
So, for me, at Pascha my deep sense of rejoicing comes not only because of what Christ has done for people, but also for what Christ has done for His whole creation.
"The salvation of human beings which is offered by and in Christ, is for us a cosmic event. Through human beings, all creation will be saved. Christ not only saves us from ourselves, he offers the redemption of the whole of creation."
- Metropolitan John of Pergamon