Dharma World

January-June 2017, Volume 44

January-June 2017, Volume 44(PDF)

Religion and Animals

Animals contribute to human survival, as sources of food; add to human knowledge as subjects for research; and educate and entertain visitors to zoos, aquariums, and circuses. Many people enjoy the companionship of pets. Animals nurture us, giving us pleasure and purpose, and contribute to scientific progress, as in medicine. Some of us wear fur coats or leather jackets without a qualm.

People of various backgrounds, however, have recently criticized the relationship between human beings and animals, which dates back to prehistoric hunting and animal husbandry. Since the nineteenth century, concerns for animal welfare have prompted measures to prevent human beings from inflicting pain and distress on animals. The animal rights movement, which began in the 1970s, advocates that animals have the same rights as human beings to be free of suffering and exploitation.

The world’s religions have specific beliefs about the relations between human beings and animals. Judaism and Christianity believe that while humans have dominion over animals, humans are the caretakers of animals and must not exploit them. Hinduism and Buddhism teach that animals can be reborn as humans, and humans as animals, in an endless cycle of rebirth and suffering. Islam teaches respect for animals as God’s creatures, while Jainism teaches that it is wrong to harm to any living thing.

Numerous cases of abuse or suspected abuse of animals are being reported around the world. These include keeping them in small cages for industrial livestock production, animal testing of cosmetics, and in Japan, euthanizing many dogs and cats abandoned by their owners.

For religion to teach the sanctity of life, it may need to address more actively issues of the life and well-being of animals, which many people are so concerned about. How does religion see the current treatment of animals in many areas of society? Does not belief in the sanctity of life require religion to provide ethical grounds to prevent the mistreatment of animals and impart the wisdom to improve human relationships with them? With these questions in mind, we will examine how religion views animals today and how it approaches the issues of their life and well-being.

Dharma World

  1. Autumn 2020, Volume 47

    Religion’s Role in Building an Inclusive Society

  2. Spring 2020, Volume 47

    Violence in Buddhism

  3. Autumn 2019, Volume 46

    Manga, Anime, and Contemporary Religion

  4. Spring 2019, Volume 46

    Is Emptiness the Goal?

  5. July-December 2018, Volume 45

    The Buddhahood of Plants and Trees: The Environment and Buddha-Nature

  6. January-June 2018, Volume 45

    Buddhism’s One Vehicle in a World of Many Religions

  7. July-December 2017, Volume 44

    Religions Tackling Extremism

  8. January-June 2017, Volume 44

    Religion and Animals

  9. October-December 2016, Volume 43

    Features: Listening

  10. July-September 2016, Volume 43

    Contemporary Ideas about Karma

  11. April-June 2016, Volume 43

    Buddhism and Food

  12. January-March 2016, Volume 43

    Dual Religious Identity: Can One Practice Two Religions?

  13. October-December 2015, Volume 42

    The Modern Significance of Meditative Practices in Religions

  14. July-September 2015, Volume 42

    Religious Rituals and Their Meaning for Today

  15. April-June 2015, Volume 42

    Religion's Contributions to Society

  16. January-March 2015, Volume 42

    Cultivating Hearts That Welcome the Other

  17. October-December 2014, Volume 41

    Buddhism and Language

  18. July-September 2014, Volume 41

    Life After Death

  19. April-June 2014, Volume 41

    Building an East Asian Community: Roles of Religions

  20. January-March 2014, Volume 41

    Aging Societies and Religion

  21. October-December 2013, Volume 40

    Nuclear Power and Contemporary Religion

  22. July-September 2013, Volume 40

    Where Does the Buddha Live Now?

  23. April-June 2013, Volume 40

    Modern Meanings of Festivals

  24. January-March 2013, Volume 40

    Transforming Greed

  25. October-December 2012, Volume 39

    Religions Coping with Prejudice

  26. July-September 2012, Volume 39

    The Significance of Religious Communities

  27. April-June 2012, Volume 39

    Buddhist Teachings on Spiritual Liberation

  28. January-March 2012, Volume 39

    The Meaning of Modern Pilgrimage

  29. October-December 2011, Volume 38

    The Evolution of Funerals in Japan

  30. July-September 2011, Volume 38

    Buddhism in North America

  31. April-June 2011, Volume 38

    Religion and the Power of Women

  32. January-March 2011, Volume 38

    What Is True Wealth?

  33. October-December 2010, Volume 37

    Dialogue Draws Religions Closer

  34. July-September 2010, Volume 37

    Tackling the Question "What Is the Lotus Sutra?"

  35. April-June 2010, Volume 37

    Religion's Role in Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

  36. January-March 2010, Volume 37

    Help in Overcoming Alienation

  37. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Prayer

  38. July-September 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Media

  39. April-June 2009, Volume 36

    Religion and Health

  40. January-March 2009, Volume 36

    The Changing Forms of the Family and the Role of Religion

  41. October-December 2008, Volume 35

    The Meaning of Giving in the Contemporary World

  42. July-September 2008, Volume 35

    Buddhism in the Face of Environmental Crisis

  43. April-June 2008, Volume 35

    The Many Forms of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin

  44. January-March 2008, Volume 35

    Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution

  45. October-December 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Bioethics

  46. July-September 2007, Volume 34

    Respect for Ancestors

  47. April-June 2007, Volume 34

    Self-Examination and Peace Work

  48. January-March 2007, Volume 34

    Buddhism and Social Responsibility: Boddhisattva Practice Today

  49. October-December 2006, Volume 33

    Buddishm in Dialogue

  50. July-September 2006, Volume 33

    Religions Working for Peace

  51. April-June 2006, Volume 33

    Creating the World of the One Vehicle: The Centennial of the Birth of Rev. Nikkyo Niwano

  52. January-February 2006, Volume 33

    The Human Condition and Religion: A Global Future?

  53. November-December 2005, Volume 32

    Remembering Hiroshima

  54. September-October 2005, Volume 32

    Spirituality and Development

  55. July-August 2005, Volume 32

    Women in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Society

  56. May-June 2005, Volume 32

    Rissho Kosei-kai 67th

  57. March-April 2005, Volume 32

    "Thousand Buddhas," Sanbanggulsa Temple, South Korea

  58. January-February 2005, Volume 32

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  59. November-December 2004, Volume 31

    Peace Building Through Multi-Religious Cooperation

  60. September-October 2004, Volume 31

    The Increasing Importance of Dialogue and Cooperation

  61. July-August 2004, Volume 31

    Paths to Reconciliation

  62. May-June 2004, Volume 31

    Religion in Crisis

  63. March-April 2004, Volume 31

    Spiritual Friendship

  64. January-February 2004, Volume 31

    Resolving Conflict

  65. November-December 2003, Volume 30

    Dividing Good From Evil

  66. September-October 2003, Volume 30

    Common Truths: Cooperation Among Religions

  67. July-August 2003, Volume 30

    Niwano Peace Foundation

  68. May-June 2003, Volume 30

    Religionists United in Prayer for Peace

  69. March-April 2003, Volume 30

    Life is Larger Than Globalization

  70. January-February 2003, Volume 30

    Emerging Forms of Spirituality

  71. November-December 2002, Volume 29

    Roundtable Disscussion at the World Congress of the International Association for Religious Freedom

  72. September-October 2002, Volume 29

    Sixth Assembly of the Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Yogyakarta, Indonesia

  73. July-August 2002, Volume 29

    The Most Reverend Samuel Ruiz Garcia, Recipient of the 19th Niwano Peace Prize

  74. May-June 2002, Volume 29

    National Treasure Tapestry Illustrating Shakyamuni Sermon to the Faithful

  75. March-April 2002, Volume 29

    Celebration of the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Birth

  76. January-February 2002, Volume 29

    Religious Delegates Gather in New York for WCRP Symposium