Saturday, July 7, 2012

"Animals" and Religion

Religions have interesting differences when it comes to talking about animals. Vegetarianism, animals rights, the question whether animals have souls, origin of animals are some areas that are discuses in religious scriptures. 


For most of history Christians largely ignored animal suffering.
Christian thinkers believed that human beings were greatly superior to animals. They taught that human beings could treat animals as badly as they wanted to because people had few (if any) moral obligations towards animals.
Modern Christians generally take a much more pro-animal line. They think that any unnecessary mistreatment of animals is both sinful and morally wrong.
  • Animals were distinctively inferior to human beings and were worth little if any moral consideration, because:
    • humans have souls and animals don't
    • humans have reason and animals don't
 I have been reading the Genesis of Bible and found lots of phrases regarding animals. It is clear that Christianity has given authority and superiority to humans over animals. 

v2 God said ‘Take 7 of every different clean animal. Take a male and a female together. Take 2 of every different *unclean animal. Take a male and a female together. v3 Take 7 of every kind of bird. Take males and females. Do this so that they will have young ones again. Then the different animals and birds will not die.[Clean animals are animals that God accepts as a *sacrifice. *Unclean animals are those that God does not accept as a *sacrifice. God told Noah to take more clean animals so that Noah could make *sacrifices to God.]
v3 Some time passed. Then one day Cain brought to God some of the fruit that he had grown. The fruits were an *offering to the *Lord God. v4 But Abel brought fat pieces from some of the first young ones of the animals that he kept. The *Lord God was happy with Abel and his offering. v5 But the *Lord God was not happy with Cain and his offering


Muslims believe that:
It is God who provided for you all manner of livestock, that you may ride on some of them and from some you may derive your food. And other uses in them for you to satisfy your heart's desires. It is on them, as on ships, that you make your journeys.
Qur'an 40:79-80

Islamic slaughter rules

These are the rules for Islamic slaughter:
  • the slaughterer must be a sane adult Muslim
  • the slaughterer must say the name of God before making the cut
    • The name of God is said in order to emphasise the sanctity of life and that the animal is being killed for food with God's consent
  • the animal must be killed by cutting the throat with the single continuous back and forth motion of a sharp knife
    • the cut must sever at least three of the trachea, oesophagus, and the two blood vessels on either side of the throat
    • the spinal cord must not be cut
  • animals must be well treated before being killed
  • animals must not see other animals being killed
  • the knife must not be sharpened in the animal's presence
  • the knife blade must be free of blemishes that might tear the wound
  • the animal must not be in an uncomfortable position
  • the animal must be allowed to bleed out
  • Actions shall be judged according to intention. Any kind of medical treatment of animals and experiments on them becomes ethical and legal or unethical and illegal according to the intention of the person who does it.


If an act causes suffering for animal beings, it is advised to refrain from doing it. 

  • Buddhists try to do no harm (or as little harm as possible) to animals
  • Buddhists try to show loving-kindness to all beings, including animals
  • The doctrine of right livelihood teaches Buddhists to avoid any work connected with the killing of animals
  • The doctrine of karma teaches that any wrong behavior will have to be paid for in a future life - so cruel acts to animals should be avoided
  • Buddhists treat the lives of human and non-human animals with equal respect
Buddhists see human and non-human animals as closely related:
  • both have Buddha-nature
  • both have the possibility of becoming perfectly enlightened
  • a soul may be reborn either in a human body or in the body of a non-human animal
Buddhists believe that is wrong to hurt or kill animals, because all beings are afraid of injury and death:
All living things fear being beaten with clubs.
All living things fear being put to death.
Putting oneself in the place of the other,
Let no one kill nor cause another to kill.
Dhammapada 129

My Conclusion

What ever your religious scripture say, animals should be treated with compassion, love and dignity. Animals should not be killed. Animals have physical and psychological feelings as humans do. In other words animals cry. I'm not kidding. There are cows that cry before being killed. (see the above video) Animals have emotions. And they are voiceless, they don't have a say against cruelty and injustice. So it is up to humans to protect the animals.

Hindus killing animals as sacrifices is wrong. Gods cannot be pleased by animal sacrifice. Animal cruelty/bloodshed will upset sentient beings. Jainaism's strict principles on animal compassion should be highly respected. 

However it is not realistic to live without indirectly harming animals. The soap we use is made of animal fat. Farmers use pesticides/weedkillers in cultivating vegetables and other grains. 
It is the case with using leather products (which I think is not necessary)

There is nothing wrong in purchasing meat from the boutique. It doesn't involve killing animals for themselves. Purchasing meat is in a way is like buying other groceries. However if one feels that he/she cannot eat without meat, it could be a problem. Not only it causes health issues but suffering for the eater as well since it is sometimes not possible to have meat at all times. Too much craving for meat like any other craving is bad. To say that "I need meat" is in a way passive and wimpy. Craving are attachments that causes suffering (Buddhism)

If a person decides to be vegetarian, that should be highly respected.

However if a a vegetarian is being evil and nasty in other aspects that ridiculous and hypocritical. There are people like that. 

If a religious book or teaching indirectly or directly solicit animal cruelty or in equality that's wrong. It is good to leave such religious beliefs. It is highly likely that humans themselves have altered scriptures for their own selfish greed. Humans have a sound cognitive faculty to think for themselves. 

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