How Jainism kickstarted the concept of animal rights

Mahavir Jayanti, Jainism, NewsOnPets

Jainism is one the oldest of the many religions of India, also paved the way for the modern concept of animal rights. The idea that even the lowest of animal forms, as considered so back then, like insects too have to be treated with respect. The concept of ‘ahimsa’ is to ensure that animals and life forms are not harmed intentionally. And, virtuous people are those who limit the amount of unintentional harm as well.

Respecting ‘life’

Until Jainism came into the picture, Hinduism taught that human life form is the most sublime while others like animals are ‘lower life’ forms. This was with exception to holy animals like the cow. However, Buddhism and Jainism re-wrote the long-held belief by bringing another form of classification of animals.

In addition to popularizing the concept of vegetarianism, Jains also believe that life forms like certain vegetables have a single sense touch, a life duration, energy and respiration. Herbs and cereals which can sprout and display ‘life’ fall under this category.

Five senses

Humans, cows and other animals have five senses, that include touch, smell, sight, speech and mind. Higher the number of senses, their ability to suffer and feel pain is higher and deeper. Householder Jains are expected to refrain from causing suffer via speech, actions to the higher forms. Ascetics are required to care for those with single senses as well, hence restrict talking and walking to make sure life around them lives.

Till date, Jains are the only sect of people who feed animals, birds and others around them. They embrace life around and also continue to support many animal-based charities across the country.

Their vows of ‘ahimsa’ seek followers to refrain from tying up animals too tightly, beating them, chopping limbs, overloading and neglecting to feed them. All these have now become living tenets to animal lovers and it brings immense pleasure for us at NewsOnPets, to celebrate the festival of Mahavir Jayanti, a day that marks the of the last Tirthankara of Jainism.

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About the Author: Katya Naidu

Katya Naidu was a former business journalist who changed tracks to chug along her real passion, pets and parenting.

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