An Ahimsa Crisis: You Decide ► Final Thoughts, Ideas & Perspectives About Ahimsa ► Us Graduating Veterinarians Include Notion Of Ahimsa In Revised Graduation Oath

Posted: 14.09.2016

“Some serious good news for animals this holiday season (December 2010): we’ve made a little bit of progress on behalf of animals in the United States. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) last week announced the addition of the words ‘animal welfare’ in the oath taken by new veterinarian graduates.

The concept of animal welfare is not new, but recognition by an organization that represents US veterinarians is a huge step forward for animals. The revised oath is as follows with the additions in italics:

“Being admitted to the profession of veterinary medicine, I solemnly swear to use my scientific knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare, the prevention and relief of animal suffering, the conservation of animal resources, the promotion of public health, and the advancement of medical knowledge. I will practice my profession conscientiously, with dignity, and in keeping with the principles of veterinary medical ethics. I accept as a lifelong obligation the continual improvement of my professional knowledge and competence.’

Animal welfare can be defined as not just the physical but the mental well-being of non-humans. Concern for a creature’s psychological well-being implies recognition that an animal is a sentient being with feelings of pain, pleasure, joy, sadness, fear—all emotions. Before the 19th century, the idea of animals having emotions wasn’t considered very much.

The semantics may seem minor but the implication is major. AVMA Executive Board Chair, John R. Brooks issued a statement. ‘The message is we as the AVMA and veterinarians in general do recognize that protecting animal well-being is what we’re all about,’ Brooks says.

Dr. J. Bruce Nixon, chairman-elect of the AVMA’s Animal Welfare Commission said ‘From today forward, every graduate entering our profession will swear an oath not only to protect animal health but also welfare; to not only relieve animal suffering but to prevent it. That’s a powerful statement defining ourselves and our responsibilities, not a vague symbol.’

Change is an inevitable part of human existence. While it often comes at a pace slightly faster than the state of inertia, the revised oath is a beginning for animal welfare advocates.”

“Jain Practice of Ahimsa,” by Prof. Gary Francione

“For Jains, Ahimsa is the supreme principle, and yet we use dairy products such as milk, Ghee and sweet not only in our home but also in our temple rituals and religious (Swämivätslya and Pärnä) dinner.

A cow is a five-sensed (Panchendriya) animal that also possesses mind. Cruelty to five-sensed animals is considered the highest sin as compared to the cruelty to vegetables and fewer sensed insects. As per our scriptures, a person is destined to suffer in the hell who hurts five-sensed animals. In this situation a person acquires following sinful karma:

Narak Äyushya Karma (Future birth in Hell)—‘Panchendriya Vadha, Mahä-ärambha, Mahä-parigraha, and Raudra parinämathi Narak Äyushya Bandhäya chhe.’—Jain Darshan by Muni Shri Nyäya Vijayji

Adattädäna Karma (Suffering karma due to stealing) - We are responsible for stealing the cows’ milk without her permission

Antaräya karma (Suffering karma due to forceful separation) —We are responsible for forcefully separating the mother and child.”

According to the New York Times, there are now more than six million Americans (just about equal to or more than the population of all the Jains in world) who are vegan, who do not use any animal products, including dairy products such as milk, cheese, ice-cream, butter, or wear leather shoes or silk garments.

About ten to fifteen percent of Jain youth who attend the YJA and YJP conventions are also vegan. No Jain youth in America has denied the cruelty that exists in the American dairy industry, or, in fact in dairy industries all around the world. However, there is still a significant resistance among the Jain adult population in America, India and the other countries. The only argument they provide that we do not kill the cow during milking operation.

For meat production, the cows are killed immediately. For milk production, the cows are tortured for four years and during this time their male babies are killed, and then they are slaughtered after four to five years of their productive life. From a cruelty point of view, what is the difference between milk and meat production in this current situation? The dairy cow has no chance to live her natural life. Please reflect on this.

We earnestly request to the Jain community at large to study the subject from a cruelty point of view. Significant literature is available on the Internet and in bookstores worldwide; additionally, the JAINA Education Committee can provide some help to you.

I give great reverence to Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanuji and Pramodaben for their total dedication to practice a vegan lifestyle and spread the message of true Jain non-violence, not only in America but throughout the world. I hope that the other Jain scholars study this subject rationally from the cruelty of Panchendriya and animals’ point of view. Hats off to Gurudev Shri Chitrabhanuji and Pramodaben.

Hats off to several million vegan Americans.

Hats off to our vegan Jain youth”.

“The Startling Effects of Going Vegetarian for Just One Day,” by Kathy Freston, on The Huffington Post, posted April, 2009.

“Sometimes, solutions to the world’s biggest problems are right in front of us. The following statistics are eye-opening, to say the least.

I’ve written extensively on the consequences of eating meat –on our health, our sense of ‘right living,’ and on the environment. It is one of those daily practices that have such a broad and deep effect that I think it merits looking at over and over again, from all the different perspectives. Sometimes, solutions to the world’s biggest problems are right in front of us. The following statistics are eye-opening, to say the least.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
  • 70 million gallons of gas—enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the US would prevent:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
  • 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
  • 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
  • Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.

My favorite statistic is this: According to Environmental Defense, if every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetarian foods instead, the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads. See how easy it is to make an impact?”

Other points:

Globally, we feed 756 million tons of grain to farmed animals. As Princeton bioethicist Peter Singer notes in his new book, if we fed that grain to the 1.4 billion people who are living in abject poverty, each of them would be provided more than half a ton of grain, or about 3 pounds of grain/day—that’s twice the grain they would need to survive. And that doesn’t even include the 225 million tons of soy that are produced every year, almost all of which is fed to farmed animals”. He further writes “The Treatment of Cows in India”

The treatment of the majority of cows in India is the worst, for many areas of their life cycle. Only less than one percent of cows get sheltered in animal shelter places called Pänjarä- poles. Hence more animal shelters will not solve the problem.

The only rational solution to the problem is to eliminate the root cause of the problem. Eliminate the dairy products from our diets and religious rituals. Once the demand is reduced, the supply will be reduced and in turn fewer cows will be produced by dairy farmers, and hence less cruelty in the world. This will also greatly help our environment. If we consider carbon emissions, animal food contributes about 55% to the environment, while cars and other equipment contribute the remaining 45% of the problem to the environment.

Please reflect seriously on our religious practices under the current environment. Do not follow the scriptures blindly, otherwise our supreme ideal of nonviolence will not have any meaningful value attached to it. America is a land where we can practice our religion rationally. Our children will practice our religion rationally but we will miss the opportunity if we do not wake up.”

Original article (see below) by Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, a Cabinet Minsiter in India, dated April 9, 2013. This was published widely across India.

“I was born a Sikh but have always felt a Jain. It takes a million rebirths to be lucky enough to be born a Jain. That is why I feel upset when I see a Jain eating meat, running a leather, mining, bone china or gelatin industry, buying silk, drinking milk or buying Tirathankar statues on auction so that he/she can put their name in a Jain temple.

More than any other religion, Jainism believes implicitly in the law of karma. As you do, so shall you be done by. The lack of knowledge about one’s actions - a child stamping on an ant, for instance does not absolve you. Positive, beneficial actions reap their own benefits. Negative hurt and pain causing ones have their own reactions. One does not cancel out the other, each has an impact on what will happen to you. The worst karmic defilement of the soul takes place when one causes hurt to any other creature. Mahavir’s words—‘You are that which you intend to hit, injure, insult, torment, persecute, torture, enslave or kill.’

Jain Dharma sees the whole universe as a great cosmic mechanism and humans as part of that mechanism must conduct ourselves in harmony and rhythm with it. Anything said or done in this world is echoed back with the same intensity. One could even say that the global ecological crisis that is threatening the entire human race is the consequence of echoing back our own negative thoughts, words and actions.

Each being is a vital thread in another’s life tapestry and our lives are woven together for a reason—to survive and be happy. Everything works according to its nature. But humans live out of sync with the mechanism when we go against our qualities of love, kindness and friendship for all living beings. When we forget how so many invisible lives have made our single day livable and comfortable then we imperil our own lives.

If we make the right choices we will get the right consequences. Lord Mahavir says:

‘One who neglects or disregards the existence Of earth, water, fire, air, vegetation and all other lives Disregards his own existence Which is entwined with them.’

The best way to see that negative actions are kept to a minimum is to think through your actions and see if they are necessary to your existence. If you understand that each shoe, wallet, steak or diamond will cost you several more rebirths in very difficult conditions, would you do it?

Ahimsa means non-injury. Jains consider nonviolence to be the most essential duty for everyone (ahinsā paramo dharmaḥ,). It is an indispensable condition for liberation from the cycle of reincarnation, the ultimate goal of Jainism. According to Jainism every act by which a person directly or indirectly supports killing or injury is violence (himsa), which creates harmful karma. The aim of ahimsa is to prevent the accumulation of such karma. Jains share this goal with Hindus and Buddhists, but their approach is particularly comprehensive. Their scrupulous and thorough way of applying nonviolence to everyday activities and food shapes their lives and is the most significant hallmark of Jain identity.

The perfect Jain goes out of his way so as not to hurt even small insects and other tiny animals, because harm caused by carelessness is as reprehensible as harm caused by deliberate action.

Jain vegetarianism is the best way to lessen evil. It is not just a matter of not eating meat. It is eating less, eating your last meal before sunset, eating while sharing, eating that which is in season and local. This discipline and thoughtfulness about food should extend to all areas of one’s life. To me it means the training of the body and mind to appreciate everything - want nothing.

An ideal Jain would live on fruit and those vegetables that are taken from a plant without killing it - peas, tomatoes for instance or vegetables that come only for a short season. Rice and wheat are both fruit that come at the end of the plant’s cycle. In the instructions for preventing unnecessary violence against plants, are injunctions against root vegetables such as potatoes, onions, roots and tubers, because tiny life forms are injured when the plant is pulled up and because the bulb is seen as a living being, as it is able to sprout. Honey is forbidden, as its collection is violence against bees. Cooking or eating at night is discouraged because insects are attracted to the lamps or fire at night.

Jains believe that animals, plants, human beings contain living souls. Each soul is of equal value and should be treated with respect and compassion.

To injure any living being in one’s thought, speech, or action constitutes violence, or Hinsa. The monk is enjoined not to commit violence against any living being, including those with one sense (Ekendiryas) and that are immobile (Sthavar), such as plants or those organisms that have earth, water, fire, or air as bodies. Lay Jains are forbidden from Himsa against all mobile beings (Trasa), whether they have two (Dwindriya), three (Trindriya), four (Chaturindriya), or five (Panchendriya) senses (all mammals, birds, and fish). That is why Jains who drink milk are unacceptable as Jains. The production of milk demands major violence on cows. None of them ‘give’ milk to you. You put her in a stall to stand for 24 hours, impregnate her forcibly, and then take the milk away from her baby. Those Jains who buy milk from the market are even worse - because they take part in a system that involves killing of the baby for leather, injecting the cow with painful hormones and then killing her after her milk dries up. Any attempt to rationalize the drinking of milk is impossible.

The government itself says that the largest export of anything in the country is cow leather—27,000 crores worth. There is an inextricable relationship between the meat industry and dairy with as much suffering and death in a glass of milk as in a pound of steak. And the same goes for eggs. Even the person who keeps only one cow must keep that cow pregnant in order to get milk and this means a steady stream of calves. Whenever a calf is separated from its mother, there is tremendous suffering. Similarly, the shearing of sheep for their wool involves unspeakable violence. The animals are frightened and their bodies often cut and injured. Then they are slaughtered. Silk is produced by boiling silk worms alive. Some Jains argue that the use of animal products is traditional. But tradition cannot define human conduct.

Jainism’s ethical principles are a matter of rational thought and careful consideration and cannot be lulled into complacency by tradition. There are Jains who say that we cannot live a perfect life so compromises must be made. Jainism recognizes that we cannot avoid all violence, which is why laypersons are not required to eschew violence to immobile, one-sense organisms. But if inability to avoid all Himsa means that dairy or wool can be used, which involves injury and death on five- sensed beings, then it must mean that flesh can be eaten as well. Some Jains claim that it is not certain that it is wrong to consume dairy or use wool. If we accept this reasoning, then we can be used to say that there are no absolute moral truths - including the basic truth of Ahimsa and the prohibition against eating flesh. Some argue that it is inconvenient to be vegan. Then why be Jain? Considerations of convenience negate the religion itself. Both Svetambara and Digambara are clear and in agreement that suffering and death imposed on mobile beings is unacceptable. Jainism takes Ahimsa very seriously.

Abstinence from killing other animals must be observed by thought, word and deed—Mana, Vachana and Kaya. The discipline imposed is purity of thought, word and deed. It is not enough if one abstains from inflicting pain on other beings; If you approve of such conduct in others, that approval makes you responsible for the cruelty of killing practiced by others. Do not kill nor kill through an agent nor approve the evil deed. Since Jains are basically business people, look at the industry you run and evaluate the suffering it causes. Is it worth another thousand lives?”

We are all part of one family; our actions connect and influence the lives of all of our family members”.

Paul Graham of Las Vegas writes “All animals are living, breathing, conscious beings. Those raised for food are routinely enslaved, exploited, tortured, and killed. The same thing happens to animals on fur farms and in laboratories. Society has used and abused animals for centuries for all sorts of reasons, but none of which can be considered morally justifiable. There is nothing ethical about the imprisonment and murder of a sensient being. Meat and dairy not only contributes to animal abuse, but hurts humans as well”.

H.H Dalai Lama on November 22, 2014 at Hindu conference in India

Dalai Lama credited India for all the knowledge that Tibet and Buddhists have, but said, “Ancient India was our guru. Not modern India, it is too westernized... It is not enough to carry on puja and rituals. This nation produced great thinkers. Now in every corner there is a temple. But places where one can thinkor discuss are rare. India should remember and reinforce its great tradition of tolerance and religious harmony and think about why it has more temples than centers of learning. He also said India should aim to form “India Towns” across the world where they must open culture centers instead of temples and “talk about ahimsa and religious harmony”.


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Title: An Ahimsa Crisis You Decide
Author: Sulekh C. Jain
Edition: 2016, 1st edition
Publisher: Prakrit Bharati Academy, Jaipur, India