While reading about the stand of various religions on meat eating, one of the constant themes that I got was about every religion’s advice that we should not be cruel to animals. There have been innumerable references in all religious texts and quotes attributed to religious leaders which convey love for animals. Many of these can be found under the Quotes pages in this website as well.
While the love for animals has been universally exhibited, it is also true that no religion bars meat eating in unambiguous terms. This has also been demonstrated quite clearly in the articles on this site under the “Religion and Vegetarianism” category and would also be discussed in future posts as well.
That brings us to the question asked in the title of this article – What do various religions of the world mean when they say we should all love animals and not be cruel to them?
My understating about advise by various religion with respect to animals is as follows:
- We are told that we should not be greedy. It is important to eat only when you are hungry. When you do eat, you should not eat in excess.
- When there is other good stuff available, we should try and not eat meat.
- Even if we have to eat meat, we should eat only that much which is necessary.
- We should not unnecessarily kill animals for sport or entertainment. Human beings are the only animals which do lot of activities only for personal enjoyment – we generally indulge in sex for entertainment and hedonistic pleasures and only rarely do we have it for procreation. Similarly we kill animals for entertainment and hoard dead animals for eating. No other animal in nature kills for pleasure. If a lion has had his meal, he and a deer can drink water from the same pond and move away as friends. Not so with man.
- In the absence of availability of vegetarian food, one can eat non vegetarian stuff. As Hindu scriptures state, “the highest dharma is preservation of human life”. So if eating meat is necessary to protect your life, then so be it. Similarly, in the absence of the availability of Halal food, a Muslim is allowed to eat anything which does not include things that are prohibited in Islam. In an extreme situation where there is no choice and it may be a question of life and death, a Muslim can eat even prohibited items only as much as to sustain life with no desire to disobey God.