Our Charity belongs to the Animal Interfaith Alliance. Despite our numerous differences in beliefs, we share a common belief that the creation, including the animal creation, should be nurtured and loved, rather than abused. For those who saw the powerful David Attenborough programme ‘Extinction’ last night, https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000mn4n/extinction-the-facts and who follow us and organisations like us, will not be surprised at its content. The short article below shows how close our respective religions are on such issues and remedies.
The Hindu and Jain Perspective
Two of the oldest religions of the world, Hinduism and Jainism have advocated a lifestyle which is in harmony with nature. The resources that nature has provided in the form of forests, rivers, oceans as well as the sun and the moon are worshipable to Hindus and Jains. The idea is not to exploit the world’s resources but to respect and revere them. It is
not unusual to see people in India offering prayers to the rivers, mountains, the sun and moon, or bowing down to an elephant. The idea that animals are sentient beings and have souls has been around for tens of thousands of years. The struggle that other cultures and faiths have with this idea is a source of mystery to faiths born in India namely Hinduism,
Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism.
Compassion towards animals is a core belief of Hindus and Jains. Indeed, there is no spiritual progress without compassion towards all living beings. It is bad karma to harm animals – even insects. It is in the nature of a mosquito to bite you but it is bad karma to harm it. You may protect yourself from being bitten by taking preventive measures but you should not harm it. Just as every action has a reaction, good and bad karma will impact an individual’s actions.
Closely linked with the law of karma is the belief in reincarnation. The holy book of the Hindus, the Bhagavad Gita states that we have all been born before and will be born again. Our next birth depends on our actions in this birth.
The Hindu Perspective
The Bhumi (Earth) Project has put together a Hindu declaration on climate change. It quotes several ancient Hindu scriptures.
Atharva Veda (12.12): “The Earth is my mother and I am her child.”
The Mahabharata (109.10): “Dharma exists for the welfare of all beings. Hence, that by which the welfare of all beings is sustained, that for sure is Dharma.”
The Srimad Bhagvatam (11/2/41): “Ether, Air, Water, Earth, Planets, all creatures, directions, trees and plants, rivers and seas, they are all organs of God’s body. Remembering this a devotee respects all species.”
The Jain Perspective
The Jain Declaration on Nature was presented to Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace on 23 October 1990.
There are 24 Tirthankars, enlightened souls, in Jainism. The 24th Tirthankar, Lord Mahaveer was present around 2,600 years ago. He preached a complete and absolute compassion to all living beings. Jains are well known for running animal sanctuaries in India. There are 5 main concepts Jains live by:
Non-violence (Ahimsa); truth (Satya); non-stealing (Asetya); chastity (Brahmacharya); and Non-possessiveness or non-materialism (Aparigraha).
Jain monks live to the letter of these principles. From being extra vigilant in not harming even an ant or an insect to living by using a minimum amount of resources. Even a drop of water should not be wasted. There is another concept Jains live by. It is called ‘Abhay Daan’. It means giving someone protection from fear of death. So not only are you required to avoid
any violence (himsa), you have to be proactive in your non-violence (ahimsa). This means you should actively campaign against all forms of exploitation, especially of animals as they cannot fight for themselves. Many Hindus and Jains stop animals being taken for illegal slaughter.
Jains also believe in the idea of ‘Parasparopagraho Jivanam’, meaning that we are interdependent on other living beings as well as all that nature provided in the form of rivers, oceans, forests and mountains.
In 1958, Chairman Mao launched a war on sparrows because they were eating too much grain. The whole country was mobilised to kill millions of them. Around 195,00 were killed in one day in Shanghai alone. Sparrows were important to the food chain. The bugs they fed on thrived, the locust population spiralled out of control, as did grasshoppers. The insects
devoured the crops and famine followed. A salient lesson to human beings that when you disturb nature it reacts with ferocity. In the West the emphasis is on taming nature and taking everything out of it. This is the reason why the world is on the brink of disaster. In our own lifetime we are seeing droughts, cyclones, hurricanes and many other disasters. Driven
by short-term profits, the human race just does not see what is staring in its face. Future generations will suffer greatly for our folly.
Plant based healthy diet.
The health benefits of a vegetarian/vegan diet are indisputable. Various forms of cancer, diabetes and heart diseases are linked with meat eating. The biggest challenge facing the medical world now is that antibiotics are not working. This is because 45% of all antibiotics are fed to animals raised for meat and they are losing their potency. Without effective antibiotics, diseases like TB and pneumonia will rise once again. Surgery, childbirth and organ transplant will all become dangerous without antibiotics.
Economic Sustainability and the Planet
Capitalism has become the world order. The fight to restrain the forces of consumerism it has galvanised is futile. In 1909 Mahatma Gandhi talked about the danger of unplanned and reckless industrialisation. However, his voice and that of others like Ralph Waldo Emerson, John Ruskin, Henry David Thoreau and Leo Tolstoy were drowned out by the march of
industrialisation. We will have to narrow down to the biggest cause of the plight of the planet and what impacts mother Earth most negatively and try to tackle it.
Meat and Fish Consumption
The one single factor that poses the greatest threat to the planet is meat and fish consumption. Over 70 billion animals are raised and killed for meat consumption every year. Our planet is simply not big enough to sustain these numbers. The destruction of rainforests for cattle ranching, the insatiable demand to produce cereals to feed the animals, the waste
of water resources, the billions of tons of animals waste choking the waterways and the methane gas released by billions of farm animals is the cause of the plight of the planet. The earthworms, pollinating bees, insects and birds are all disappearing. We might have only a few harvests left. Huge trawlers used in fishing are killing off all marine life, mangrove forests and coral reefs. The future generations face a catastrophe with an uninhabitable planet.
Mankind’s brutal treatment of animals is leaving a cloud of unmovable despondency, which is leaving human beings bereft of any joy, happiness or peace. To mend the planet European nations and the United States need to urgently abandon meat, fish and dairy. A vegan diet is the only solution to save the world. Veganism is the ideal but vegetarianism can be a very important first step for those who cannot make a direct transition from being a carnivore to a vegan. The out-dated plea by the United Nations and some animal welfare organisations to reduce meat consumption will not work anymore. Justice will also be served to the downtrodden and poor nations of South America and Africa as instead of food cereals being fed to animals raised for meat , it will become accessible to them at affordable prices.
Animals have to be accorded fundamental rights. They should not be exported to other countries, they should not be hunted, they should not be imprisoned in cages, they should not be subject to horrific experiments. All forms of animal exploitation should become illegal.
We need a new dawn whereby mankind makes peace with the animal kingdom. We will not be doing any favours to animals, we will be doing ourselves a favour. Once the killing of billions of animals stops mankind will be at peace with itself. It is now or never.
Nitin Mehta MBE firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nitinmehta.co.uk/
Founder Young Indian Vegetarians and Jain Animal Sanctuary; Member One Jain, UK. Aug 2020