Animals and World Religions

Advocacy, activism, and the quest for common ground

Animals and World Religions book cover

Animals and the Environment

Advocacy, activism, and the quest for common ground

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ISBN : 9780199790678
Publisher: Oxford Scholarship Online (January 2012)

Exploring sacred teachings from around the world demonstrates that nature, including anymals, is sacred, that anymals are central to our spiritual landscape, and that we owe them respect, justice, and compassion.

Animals and World Religions

What person who is firmly commitment to one of the world’s largest religious traditions can reasonably suggest that it is morally or spiritually irrelevant whether or not their purchases cause more or less suffering and premature death?

Animals and World Religions

“Dr. Lisa Kemmerer has unveiled a mystery of life, our connection to the billions of other animals on this planet. Brilliantly, every paragraph gave me insight into this amazing world and reflection with our kindred spirits.” Frank Lane on goodreads

Animals and World Religions examines anymals in scripture and myth, in the lives of religious exemplars, and through foundational philosophical and moral teachings in the religions of India (Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain), China (Daoism and Confucianism), and the Middle East (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) as well as Indigenous traditions around the world. Animals and World Religions demonstrates that the moral teachings of the world’s dominant religious traditions are not merely radically anymal-friendly, but that they support anymal liberation.

The various chapters of Animals and World Religions have dependable subheadings.

“Interpenetrability” is only relevant to some of the world’s religious traditions. Consequently, this section is included only in the first four chapters, where the term is relevant due to a cyclical vision of life and a lack of complete separation between humanity and anymals.

“This book will leave you with a new—and hopefully lifechanging—understanding of the profound message of compassion that is as unrestricted by species as it is by nationality, race, and gender, and which lies at the heart of the world’s religious traditions.” —Norm Phelps

Religious communities have the power to bring anymal industries to their knees.

Animals and World Religions

Interview: Lisa Kemmerer
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Animals Today Radio with Dr. Lori Kirshner.

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Introduction to Animals and World Religions

Animals and World Religions

The Introduction explains the intent and focus of the book, clarifying the book’s focus on anymal-friendly teachings, and noting that the book also presents ideals and not realities. The hidden horror of anymal exploitation is duly noted, as is the special nature of standing inside a particular religious tradition with regard to knowing about and working against such atrocities.

Aside from respect for life and compassion for anymals, we ought to choose a vegan diet for the sake of the environment, to alleviate world hunger, to protect laborers, and on behalf of our own health. The consequences of our dietary choices are monumental.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 1: The first chapter explores ancient mythology and the writings of contemporary indigenous peoples from South America to Africa and from the Arctic to Southeast Asia. This chapter examines autonomy and interdependence, respect and responsibility, oneness and the afterlife, kinship and community, creation and anymal powers (including taboos and rituals), interpenetrability, and the ethics of hunting.

Indigenous traditions do not think about or speak of a species boundary. Instead, they see all animals as kin, and view a species similarly to how progressive human beings view skin color—it looks different, but what lies underneath is what matters, and under our skin, we are fundamentally the same. Consequently, indigenous myths speak of animals ‘changing skins,’—moving from one species to another.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 2: The second chapter examines the Vedic, Hindu, and Jain religious traditions, including topics such as the sacred power of nature, ahimsa, reincarnation, karma, oneness, interspecies kinship, Vishnu’s incarnations, and the historic tendency toward a diet devoid of flesh and eggs. Additionally, Chapter Two probes connections between deities and anymals, such as anymals associated with gods and goddesses, Krishna’s affiliation with cows, the importance and power of serpents/snakes/nagas, the elephant-headed Ganesha, and the much-revered monkey, Hanuman. The anymal-friendly nature of Gandhi’s teachings and writings are also explored in the chapter.

Hindu compilations such as the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Pancatantra include anymals that preach and teach, have special knowledge and powers, and are indispensable to the workings of both humanity and divinities. Indeed, with such powerful anymal characters as Hanuman, and with great God’s such as Vishnu incarnate in anymal form, the powers of anymals are unlimited.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 3: Buddhist religious traditions are the focus of the next chapter, including the religio-philosophical concepts of ahimsa, karuna, metta, bodhicitta, bodhisattvas, reincarnation, karma, anatta, oneness and interdependence, codependent arising, Buddha nature, and interspecies kinship. Chapter Three also examines ethics through the life of the Buddha and the edicts of King Ashoka, as well as the ethics of the contemporary Vietnamese Zen Buddhist, Thich Nhat Hanh.

Our interactions with those who currently moo, croak, or meow are critical to our own self-realization, to our own spiritual path. How we treat a flower snake is evidence of our spiritual past, and also determines what will lie ahead for our atman. Through the process of reincarnation, in conjunction with karma, in light of our personal decisions, anymals might be said to have tremendous power and influence over the future lives of human beings.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 4: The fourth chapter turns to Chinese religious traditions, first looking to the Confucian tradition, including tian, ren, junzi, the Great Ultimate, Great Unity, and the central place of benevolence. The second portion focuses on the Daoist tradition, including an examination of Dao, ci, jian, bugan wei tianxia xian, transformation, Unity of Being, views of death, the central role of harmony, ultimate integrity and peace, wu wei, and Daoist precepts expected to guide the lives of humanity. Along with contemporary activists, the end of the chapter highlights the compassionate Guanyin.

The Dao infuses all that exists, and Daoist morality explicitly protects the natural world—including anymals—from human domination and exploitation. When asked where the Dao might be found, Zhuangzi reportedly replied that the Dao could not be found in any distinct place. the Dao permeates all that exists—all of life and all that is natural are part of the Dao, and all of nature is therefore sacred.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 5: The fifth chapter focuses on Judaism, including creation and sacred nature, mercy and compassion, tsa’ar ba’alei chayim, “dominion” in the image of God, humility, the Peaceable Kingdom, Jewish law, and dietary ethics. Other topics featured include the divine relationship with anymals, and divinely ordained relations between humans and anymals as presented in Genesis, Psalms, and the Book of Job. The chapter closes by describing anymal activism not only among contemporary Jews, but as exemplified by rabbis and the prophets.

This divinely ordained diet reminds people (yet again) that we are given a dominion of mercy and compassion. People are granted a vegan rulership, sustenance compatible with a Peaceable Kingdom, a diet that does not permit of tyranny or exploitation. A plant-based diet makes perfect sense in light of the Jewish expectation that human beings demonstrate mercy and compassion, and avoid causing harm or pain.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 6: The sixth chapter explores Christian religious traditions through teachings such as love and mercy, service and sharing, peace, humility, and the God-centered life. The chapter surveys the inclusive nature of Christian salvation and presents ideal models of compassion and anymal advocacy through the life of Jesus and the Christian saints. As the chapter closes, the teachings of eighteenth-century Dr. Humphrey Primatt, nineteenth-century Leo Tolstoy, and the works of dedicated contemporary Christian anymal liberationists emphasize scripture in action in the Christian tradition.

Jesus modeled direct action as a method of initiating change, and he modeled a life of service to the weakest and neediest of beings. Christians are called to model their lives after the life of Jesus.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 7: The seventh chapter explores anymals and Islam, including teachings such as the sacred nature of creation, love and compassion, humility and submission, unity, vice-regency, zakat, and the afterlife. The chapter presents scriptures describing Allah’s ongoing commitment to creation and the Creator’s anticipated relations between humans and other anymals. There is a segment on Islamic law, including requirements for anymal care, wartime protections, hunting, and diet, including halal food requirements. Of course the chapter looks to the life of Prophet Muhammad, the tradition’s moral exemplar, and at the end of the chapter, anymal activism is highlighted through the work of the late Al-Hafiz Basheer Ahmad Masri and two contemporary activists.

Muhammad taught his followers that all creatures matter in their own right, and that our interactions with other creatures are of moral and spiritual importance. Hadith indicate that Muhammad viewed anymals as members of their own communities, and also as individuals in their own right, due proper care and respect. The Prophet encouraged kindness and compassion, and taught his followers that how we treat anymals—how we invest our time and money—are noted by Allah and will be a matter of considerable importance on the day of judgment.

Animals and World Religions

Chapter 8: The conclusion reiterates the intent, focus, and parameters of the book, and revisits the distinction between anymal welfare and anymal liberation. Then, based on information presented throughout the book, Animals and World Religions offers two formal arguments affirming both the religious requirement for a vegan diet and for anymal liberation. Acknowledging that few people seem aware of the anymal-friendly nature of religious traditions, the conclusion outlines five compelling reasons to change our consumption habits and adopt a plant-based diet, ultimately affirming the power of religious commitment to fight for anymal liberation.

If we stand within one of the world’s great religions, and if we have integrity in our religious commitments, we can and must reject anymal exploitation in all of its insidious forms.

Animals and World Religions