Why Animals Matter: A Religious and Philosophical Perspective: Introduction
To add interest I have interspersed this commentary with thought provoking quotations from Religious Sacred scripture, philosophers, ethicists, and other notable thinkers both past and present.
In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with the animals. The Creator, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell man that he shows himself through the beasts and that from them and from the stars and the moon should man learn all things told of the Creator.
Eagle Chief, West Coast, late 19th Century
The highest religion is to rise to universal brotherhood; and to consider all creatures your equals.
Guru Nanak : the first of the ten Sikh Gurus.
May all beings be free from enmity;
May all beings be free from injury;
May all beings be free from suffering;
May all beings be happy.
Buddhist Prayer for Animals to be Free From Suffering.
"Animals are endued with a capability of perceiving pleasure and pain; and, from the abundant provision which we perceive in the world for the gratification of their several senses, we must conclude that the Creator wills the happiness of these his creatures, and consequently that humanity towards them is agreeable to him, and cruelty the contrary. This, I take it, is the foundation of the Rights of Animals, as far as they can be traced independently of scripture and is, even by itself, decisive on the subject, being the same sort of argument as that on which Moralists found the Rights of Mankind, as deduced from the Light of Nature."
Thomas Young, an English genius and polymath
This is an extension of the issue of the religious and philosophical ideas briefly mentioned in the article
Animal Rights And Why They Matter. In this section I would like to discuss from the perspective of world religions and philosophical ideologies why animals matter and why we need to treat them differently, more humanely. The main focus will be on farm animals and other animals who are seriously used and abused. However much of the information in this article will apply to our consideration and our treatment of all animals because in some way man has adversely interfered with the natural lives of most creatures on the entire plant.
"He created the earth for all creatures.
In it there are fruits, and date palms with their hanging fruit.
Also grains and the spices. (O humans and jinns,) which of your Lord's marvels can you deny? "
Quran 55 :10,13 Sacred scripture of Islam
While it is commendable that we save many of the species that are endangered it seems somehow incongruous that we do so whilst systemically destroying others. Altering their very natures to suit our needs. We are horrified about cruelty to a cat or dog yet few care or even consider the dreadful cruelty that is inflicted upon farm animals day after day. Millions of these sentient beings are confined in the dreadful conditions of factory farming before being cruelly slaughtered. There is no such thing as humane slaughter, the very fact of causing death to another being is inhumane, it is unethical to deny any creature the right to live for the natural duration of his or her life. To take the life of any creature is the ultimate cruelty.
"If you have men who will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men."
St. Francis of Assisi, Christian monk and mystic
There is indeed a most bizarre contradiction in our attitude to farm animals. Cute TV shows such as Shaun the Sheep depict the idyll of life on a farm far removed from the reality. (Please refer to the Factory Farming Section to find what happens in factory farms.) The cock crows in the morning and awakes Shaun and his happy flock of sheep who graze contentedly in the sunshine looked after by a kindly old farmer. This Is of course meant for children but it may surprise you that many adults retain a similar fantasy concerning the life of farm animals. Obviously most people are aware of factory farming but somehow the reality seems far removed, as though this is more of a fantasy than such depictions of farming as Shaun the Sheep.
In this section I will discuss from the perspective of religion the importance of animals, why they matter and why we need to address issues concerning animal rights. Included in this section are the teachings and beliefs regarding animals from the perspectives of the world's religious traditions and philosophical ideologies concerning our treatment of, and our relationship with the nonhuman animals with whom we share this world. Included are the beliefs of the Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and the philosophies of Gandhi, Plutarch and other philosophers and ethicists.
There is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to beasts as well as man it is all a sham.
Anna Sewell, Black Beauty.
Although it is only Jainism that has consistently advocated against harming other creatures most religions adopt some teaching concerning compassion towards animals and denounce mistreatment and cruelty. Contrary to popular belief vegetarianism plays a larger role in all religions, particularly in ancient times, and now again in the modern era vegetarianism is once again becoming an important part of religious practice. It is only in the interim that religious doctrine has appeared to be biased towards meat eating and other unethical treatments of animals often through misinterpretation of ancient scriptures upon which these religions have been founded and man's personal interpretations down through the ages to justify his greed for meat and his need for exploitation. For example in the early Christian era in monasteries for the most part the diet was vegetarian until the austerity of monastic life was replaced with a relaxation of former rules of conduct and, concerning the consumption of flesh, was altered to accommodate man's taste for meat rather than accurate interpretation of biblical teachings.
By ethical conduct toward all creatures, we enter into a spiritual relationship with the universe.
Schweitzer, Rev. Dr. Albert
Many people of a religious persuasion in particular those belonging to the Abrahamic religions namely, Judaism, Islam and Christianity when the subject of meat consumption is challenged will argue that it is the will of God. Although I rather think that reasonable people of these persuasions would not consider the modern methods of factory farming as what God intended, nevertheless they continue to believe that God meant man to eat meat and it is this belief that helps to perpetuate the meat industry and factory farming or at least helps this practice to go unchallenged. However in these religions there is no commandment to eat meat and no prohibition against adopting a vegetarian diet. There is no scriptural or other doctrinal reason why followers of the Abrahamic religions cannot be vegetarian or vegan.
Please do keep in mind that all three of these traditions believe in the same God. The Jews and Christians call him Yahweh although most Christians simply refer to Him as God whilst the Muslims call Him Allah. The reason these religions are referred to as the Abrahamic religions is because they all stemmed from the religion of Abraham. All the above religions basically adhere to the passage in Genesis where God gave man domain over his entire creation despite the fact that many, particularly Christians, now believe in the theory of evolution rather than creationism. Nonetheless despite such seemingly incongruous beliefs most Christians consider that God created nonhuman animals for us to eat. However all is not what it seems and we need to look more closely at the beliefs of each religion rather than to continue to adhere to concepts that may not be as accurate as we assume them to be. All too often we continue to believe the interpretations of others regarding religious teachings, in fact such interpretations are carried on through generations without being questioned. For example if we read Geneses carefully we can see that God intended for man to eat herbs:
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.
Genesis 1:29 Bible
An area of confusion is the word dominion. Although the beliefs concerning the account of the creation in Genesis differ in some respects in the respective beliefs of the Abrahamic religions all agree that God gave man dominion over creation.
Lets first look at the chapter in Genesis often quoted by those who wish to continue killing animals for food. After God created all the animals except man we read in chapter One verse 25: in the King James version of the Christian bible
"And God Said.' Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness: and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the foul of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing and creepeth upon the earth.
The key here is the word "dominion" consider that instead of the exploitative domination we have at present, dominion refers instead to stewardship or responsibility to manage and care for the earth and her creatures rather than meaning that we have cart blanch license to do whatsoever we wish with other animals with whom we share this earth. The word dominion is derived from the Greek rahe, which unlike the modern interpretation means in this context to have a relationship of compassion over the rest of creation rather than a heavy handed exploitative one. Certainly such a stewardship should be undertaken in accordance with God's plan for a paradise on earth rather than to satisfy our insatiable greed for meat and wealth, wealth often accrued by the shocking abuse and exploitation of other creatures. St. Francis of Assisi a popular Christian Saint, most remembered because of his compassion for all beings, including of course non human animals, saw himself as a caretaker of all God’s creations, he considered all animals were aware of God and preached to birds and other creatures. He held the belief that all of creation is united through its oneness in God.
Lets look individually at some of the world's religions and philosophical ideologies and see what each in turn actually teaches concerning our relationship with animals and how we should treat them.
With the exception of Jainism the eating of meat is not explicitly prohibited in any of the religions discussed below, even in Hinduism meat eating is not specifically renounced however most Hindus adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet and Hindu teachers and scriptures often expressly encourage a vegetarian diet. However, I believe that I can safely say that in the main no religion would condone the huge scale of animal abuse that takes place in factory farms that is perpetrated each and every day against defenceless sentient beings. Islam explicitly forbids it. Furthermore according to my understanding none of the religions I have included here reject or condemn Vegetarianism or veganism, and there are increasingly more adherents of these traditions who take up a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, and moreover you will find various faith based vegetarian websites and associations becoming increasingly more common.
Jainism is probably the most animal friendly religion, nevertheless in the past Jains consumed milk, however due to the cruelty of factory farming cows for their milk many Jains in modern times abstain from milk.
The Buddhist precept of nonharm to all beings should be enough to ensure that adherents of this faith abstain from meat:
I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living beings
Ist precept Buddhism
In every country in the world, killing human beings is condemned. The Buddhist precept of non-killing extends even further, to include all living beings.
The Venerable Thich Nhat Hahn,
Vietnamese Zen master
Concerning factory farming I cannot imagine that any religion could condone the eating of meat or the use of animal products derived in this way. Also those of any religious persuasion surely cannot condone the consumption of meat at the expensive of millions of starving people throughout the world and the damage that rearing animals for meat causes the environment.
Consider the following reasons why a devotee of any religion should for ethical reasons adopt a Vegetarian diet, for the sake of the well-being of other human beings, other animals, their own health and the environment.
All religions teach compassion towards animals and renounce cruelty.
With the introduction of the cruel methods of factory farming in the last century the consumption of meat and the use of animal products is not compatible with the humane compassionate treatment of animals taught by all religions. Therefore the best way forward for those of any religious persuasion is to adopt a vegetarian and preferably a vegan diet.
Consider also the following:
NEW DELHI, India, Nov 21 -- A simple statement from a friend when discussed our common love for animals, 'If you love animals then why do you eat them?' set me thinking on how most religions, the Abrahamic as well as the Vedic, discourage meat eating. Clearly meat eating is not banned in some of these, but it is discouraged indirectly.A very interesting common thread that runs through them all is that sacred or blessed food is almost always vegetarian such as manna, amrit or wine. According to one Hadith one must wash one's mouth after eating meat.
The Hindustani Times
In the articles below I endeavour to respectfully remind or bring to the fore the teachings of each respective tradition concerning the humane treatment of animals and adopting a vegetarian, preferably vegan diet
This is quite a significant undertaking on my part and will take many months to complete in its entirety. Therefore I will include web pages as and when they are completed rather than wait the considerable time to complete the entire section.
Therefore at the present time only two pages concerning Buddhism and Jainism are available. Also included further down are quotations pages for each of the religions listed above with links to Vegetarian associates and websites and articles of interest.
Important: I have a keen interest in religion and consider all religions as a force for good, but I am neither an adherent of any religious belief nor an expert on the subject.
Please note the articles in this section, together with the quotations pages, are included for interest only and to provide basic information concerning the humane treatment of animals from a religious and philosophical perspective, they are not suitable for serious study as precise accuracy cannot be guaranteed. Please keep in mind that information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but is of course possible. My apologies for any mistakes which I will be happy to rectify on notification
Coming next Philosophy
The rest will be added in due course.
In the meantime, or if you prefer just basic information, below are a selection of quotations from the above religions, followed by links to websites of each of the respective religions that advocate vegetarianism or veganism :
Why should man expect his prayer for mercy to be heard by What is above him when he shows no mercy to what is under him?
Links to external websites with the theme of animal rights and religion
Websites concerning individual religions and animal rights are included in the Quotations section of each respective religion.
Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians
Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians
"SERV is an interfaith effort to gain a more humane, just, peaceful, and environmentally sustainable world. We believe that applying spiritual values to scientific knowledge encourages plant-based diets, with major benefits for humans, animals, and the environment.
We wish to respectfully make religious communities aware that the realities of animal-based diets and agriculture are inconsistent with basic religious teachings, such as those to treat animals with compassion, preserve our health, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, reduce hunger, and pursue peace and nonviolence.
Religions stress that we should treat all creatures with compassion. Yet, ten billion animals are raised in abusive "factory farms" and brutally slaughtered annually in the U.S. Farmers deny animals fresh air, space to move comfortably, and fulfillment of their instinctive needs."
Please read more by clicking the link above, this a very important website for followers of all faiths who wish to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.
International Vegetarian Union (IVU): Religion and Vegetarianism
International Vegetarian Union - Religion and Vegetarianism
Access to articles concerning the perspective of most of the world's main religions regarding vegetarianism. A wealth of information
I am not an animal expert of any kind just your average person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply about the plight of many of our fellow creatures. Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore please keep in mind that the information included in this website has been researched to the best of my ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but of course possible.
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