Our treatment of animals may in the future help shape relationships between
peoples as much as with such creatures. Religion and culture may play role in
developing new standards that define "animal welfare" and their humane
treatment, and perhaps the future of broader "animal rights," as it has up to
now frequently been employed to rationalize their exploitation, method of
killing and consumption of food. In turn, this also helps define the
relationship between cultures and tolerance and pluralism within societies.
Finding common ground may help our civilization evolve in both the way we see
animals as well as the differences and shared values between peoples. "Will
Animal Rights Become the next Human Rights" already glimpses the current and
emerging at the United Nations and other multilateral arenas.
The debate regarding kosher and/or halal killing of animals has driven a wedge
between the notions of pluralistic, tolerant societies and humane treatment of
animals, in effect human versus animal rights. However, in many ways, this
debate may also be about the polarization of views rather than the overt topic.
While Abrahamic traditions may differ slightly, the killing of any animal must
be done only for consumption (and/or protection) and should be done only in the
most humane manner. Slaughter traditionally has been considered most humane for
the animal and/or most healthy for human consumption. The prayers recited before
killing are no different than the acknowledgement by Native Americans and many
other indigenous groups that animals are not humankind's to exploit at will.
Indeed, the notion of unbounded exploitation of the earth as well as animals is
only more recent as some have in my view for profit sought to pit the interests
of man versus that of other life and indeed all of the earth. For those who
claim to be believers, I would propose that the taking of any animal life, both
in manner and as to whether or not should reflect the latest science about what
is most humane and least harmful to our shared earth. Tradition/ritual may
overtime become outmoded and our intellect via science may direct a perspective
even more in line with a Supreme's guidance. While I do not claim any authority
to guide "believers" of any religion, I would only propose that such faith may
guide us to look beyond current ritual but also to the purpose behind it.
"Hunting for Sport is a Sin"
In a search for some consistency in ritual and purpose, I consulted with an
Islamic scholar on hunting. I directly asked whether hunting for sport is
forbidden. His answer was an unequivocal "yes." Taking of any animal life unless
for food or protection is not sanctioned. Hunting has evolved along with man as
manner of feeding one's family or society. However, this is no longer part of
human necessity, regardless of whether we view hunting as a more noble activity
in the past. The more complex issue may be whether hunters who consume their
prey are sanctioned in the killing. However, I would suggest that we should not
evade the difficult question whether such hunt is motivated by the need for food
or desire for some notion of sport. Taking of any life should not be a pleasure,
and it particularly should not be taught as such to our children.
A similar view of hunting appears to have originated in Christianity, at least
A young Belgian nobleman, Hubert, in the seventh century was enjoying roebuck
hunting when the roebuck suddenly turned towards him. A light appeared from the
horns in which the centre emerged into a cross. The hunter heard the voice of
Christ speaking to him through the roebuck, 'Hubert, why are you hunting me?'
After this phenomenon, the nobleman became a bishop and gave up hunting. The
Church declared him a saint on the 3rd of November. In many parts of Europe this
day is celebrated as St. Hubert Day which opens hunting season because Hubert,
contrary to any logic, was accepted by hunters as their patron saint. The fact
is that in early Christianity the believers were forbidden from hunting and
keeping hunting dogs and falcons. Later on, these rules applied to only the
This story was relayed by an
activist from Serbia, Stevan Zivkov Andricin.
Such is not for food and the essence of it is to take a life for pleasure's
sake (that is not ours to do with as we will.) I would suggest that it also
turns something that may be sanctified under the most necessary of
circumstances, our survival, into a petty sport. Of course, other examples may
come into scrutiny, including fishing or the pleasure one might have in swatting
a pesty fly. Killing potentially blood-sucking and potentially disease-carrying
mosquitoes I would daresay probably falls into category of self protection, but
how about ridding our home of pests such as termites or mice/rats?
Do Animals Have a Soul?
Undoubtedly, I'm influenced by my personal affinity toward all animals and
affection for my pets - I see in them a spirit that goes beyond a merely
aimless, instinctive being. It is a spark that implies an essence. Debating
whether they have a soul relies upon a theological context that may differ from
Buddhism to Hinduism to Christianity. As with the various Buddhist traditions,
from Tibetan to Zen in Japan, Christianity also has its differences or
ambiguity. For example, one of the most popular Catholic Saint events is
associated with Saint Francis of Assisi and the "Blessing of the Animals" when
many believers and non-believers bring their pets to church. Nonetheless, by and
large, Abrahamic traditions do not associate a soul with animals. This has given
rise to perhaps treating animals as less than, well, human! However, our
commitment to animal welfare and/or rights should not be defined by the
existence or lack of a soul. Many of us see in animals more than mere flesh, a
spark, intelligence, even spirit that deserves our respect as individuals as
well as species. Read the
Is Vegan a Religion?
While we may idealize nature, it does not offer a clear path to address
intellectual or moral dilemma with regards to humankind's relationship with all
animal life. Some more established religions advocate a vegetarian lifestyle,
(but religious association does not necessarily translate into more respect or
even humane treatment as some Buddhist-tradition countries as Vietnam, Korea,
Japan and China have a poor recent record particularly as reflected in the sea
mammals, dog and cat meat trade and its brutality.) There is also a rise in
Vegan as a philosophy, even advocated with the passion of religious belief. Can
it thou stand as foundation for a broad discourse on the human relationship with
animals, (as much as personally I seek to incorporate a vegetarian diet)? As
with more established religions, there are some fundamental contradictions: most
notably that many animals themselves are not vegan. It is also a bit selective
to state that only humans can be cruel and kill for pleasure. While animals are
capable of evidencing great empathy within and among species, unfortunately they
can be cruel and senseless in their kill just as humans. What sets aside humans
from other potential killers is that we have the capacity to invent ever more
barbaric ways of exploiting and killing, sometimes attributing it to tradition
and on other occasion garnering some sense of superiority. What makes us
superior is our intellect that should serve an ever more sensitive spirit to all
that is part of our world. The killing of animals may be part of our history,
but our intellect facilitates an understanding and means/technology that frees
our future to new options.
Employing Intellect and Discourse to Liberate our Future?
We do not have to resolve deep theological differences to garner an ever more
respectful culture of others, man and animal. Empathy for all living beings I
have witnessed as translating into a broader respect for human rights and
tolerance. In my last
blog, I offered that the United Nations may become a forum for future
discourse on "animal rights." The UN is already becoming such forum for a broad
range of animal welfare issues from the humane treatment of farm animals to
biodiversity and "crimes against wildlife." Religion may blindly cling to
"tradition," even when in contradiction, or it can help lead into a greater
sense of the oneness of the life and the responsibility that we all have to our
earth, other persons, and living beings.
By, Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey
To the memory of our Cat "Mitzie" who overcame an ever-more consuming tumor in
her fight for life and sense of being, our companion and family till the end.
PHOTO: Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) Courtesy of Chris Mercer,
Executive Director at