Letter 92

DAY 92

Varun Soni

Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life
University of Southern California
April 21, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

In all of the world’s sacred texts, there are powerful narratives of natural disasters and disease— from floods to plagues—that test humanity. Each moment of struggle and tragedy that emerges from these challenges offers an opportunity for renewal, rebirth, and redemption.

Over the course of the last year, we have collectively faced apocalyptic scenarios of biblical proportions: a global pandemic, civil unrest, political instability, fires and floods, and even a massive swarm of locusts! And while everyone is eagerly anticipating a return to normalcy, we will never go back to the way things were, nor should that be our aspiration. Like previous generations, we have been given a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine our world anew.

“…we have been given a once-in-a-century opportunity to reimagine our world anew.”

Moving forward, my hope and prayer is that as human beings we will fundamentally change our relationship with animals. Over the course of my lifetime, many of the significant infectious diseases that have plagued us—HIV/AIDS, SARS, Ebola, and now COVID-19—were caused by the abuse of animals. And we also know that one of the largest contributing factors to catastrophic climate change is factory farming and the wholesale slaughtering of animals for human consumption. If we truly care about preventing the next infectious disease, and if we are really going to address the civilizational threat of catastrophic climate change, then we must act boldly and bravely, with inspired leadership and the strength of our conviction.

My Hindu faith teaches me that all sentient beings—including animals—have a soul, and that the soul is a reflection of the divine. That is why many Hindu deities are depicted in animal form, and why many Hindus do not consume meat. As Hindus, we believe that the Earth is a manifestation of the Goddess (Devi); as human beings, our duty (dharma) is to protect the natural world by living and breathing nonviolence (ahimsa).

As leaders of the most powerful nation in human history, I implore you to reconsider the policies that contribute to the abuse of animals and the destruction of our planet. Our very survival depends upon it.


Varun Soni

Varun Soni, Ph.D.
Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life
Vice Provost of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention
University of Southern California

the author

Varun Soni is the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at the University of Southern California, where he also serves as Vice Provost of campus wellness and crisis intervention, and where he teaches courses in the School of Religion and the Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. A prolific public speaker and scholar of religions, he holds degrees in religion from Tufts University, Harvard University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Cape Town, as well as a law degree from the University of California, Los Angeles.