The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Religion and the Rights of Animals!

The Rev. R.C.R. Adkins, M.A.
Rector of South Pool with Chivelstone, Devon

From the Nov/Dec 1967 edition of The British Vegetarian with Thanks to The Vegetarian Society:

"There is no beast on earth nor bird which flieth with its wings but the same is a people like unto you. . . all God's creatures are His family."

So wrote Muhammad and exemplified the truth that we are all - humans and animals - part of God's family. Therefore the suffering of any part of this family not only grieves the Heart of God but also affects the happiness of the family. We often seem to forget this but it was well known to the Ancients.

In the fifth book of the Manu, for example, we find: "He who injures harmless beings from a wish to give himself pleasure, never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. He who does not seek to cause the suffering of bonds and death to living creatures, but desireth the good of all, obtains endless bliss."

So, when in the name of Religion, we condemn the hunting of animals for pleasure we are not only trying to save our friends, the animals, from pain and agony, we are also trying to prevent men and women from so brutalising themselves as to mar their spiritual selves.

We must act, and act quickly, to see that the rights of animals to a happy life is recognised. Let us remember the words of Blake: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."

A religion, in fact, which fails to recognise these rights cannot be thought of as true religion. The Adi Granth, the Sacred Book of the Sikhs, shows this clearly: "He who towards every living thing is kind, Ah! he, indeed, shall true religion find!"

When we go back to the words of the founders of the great religions of the world we find that their teaching is in agreement on many things but perhaps on none more than our duty of kindness to the animals and on the Love of God for His animal creation.

Take the words of Jesus Christ: "Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God?"

To turn to the teachings of Hinduism as shown in the words of the Bhagavad Gita: "Wise people see the same soul (Atman) in the Brahman, in worms, and insects, in the outcasts, in the dog, and the elephant, in beasts, cows, gadflies and gnats."

Or again we read in the Jain Scriptures: "He should cease to injure living things whether they move or not, on high, below, or on earth, for this has been called Nirvana, which is peace."

Then, in Jewish Teaching we find: "To cause the slightest pain in any living animal, however low it may be in the scale of creation, is a sin which is worth many minute laws to prevent."

We open Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia and read: "The birds and beasts and creeping things - 'tis writ - had sense of Buddha's vast embracing love."

We think too of those words in the Buddhist Metta Sutta: "All things that live, whether weak or strong, high, middle or low, small or great. Seen or unseen, near or afar, born or about to be born - let all beings be happy."

One could go on and on. Space, however, forbids. The tragedy is that we are so heedless of the words of these great Teachers. We forget so easily and so we fail to remember that, as Muhammad said, "He is the most beloved of God who trieth to do the most good to God's creatures."

"The most beloved of God" - what greater blessing could there be?

The animals look to us for help - we must not, both for their sakes and for the sake of our own souls, fail them for, remember, as the words of the Isha Upanishad tell us, "He who beholds all creatures as in God and God, their common soul in all His creatures, Can never more feel hatred or contempt."

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