Animals and the Ethics of Intervention

Authored by: Joseph A. Tuminello III

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Animal Ethics

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  September  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138592728
eBook ISBN: 9780429489846
Adobe ISBN:


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In this paper, I argue for the potential for Orthodox and Diaspora Jainism to be reconciled with one another in terms of their views on karma, liberation, and practical ethics. I begin by presenting an overview on Jainism and its eventual spread beyond India, emphasizing the differences that have arisen between Orthodox and Diaspora Jain thought. Broadly speaking, Orthodox Jainism emphasizes nonintervention and noninterference so as to avoid being complicit in violent activities, as this would accrue negative karma and interfere with personal liberation. Diaspora Jains, on the other hand, are more actively involved in the relief of other living beings from suffering. For example, many younger Jains are involved with animal and/or environmental advocacy of some sort. As stated above, my goal is to examine the possibility that Orthodox and Diaspora Jainism can be reconciled. It is often the case, for instance, that self-interest and altruism are intertwined, such that one can work towards personal liberation through social engagement. Further, this may be more effective than distancing and detaching oneself from others. While there may be a number of causes which involve concern for the suffering of others as well as greater personal purity, I focus on industrial agricultural reform as a case study which exemplifies this connection. Working towards the reform of industrial agriculture has the potential to benefit the environment, animals, the public at large, and the very people who are working for these changes. While Orthodox Jainism does not traditionally support interventional actions for karmic purposes, I argue that it is at least possible that refraining from working towards agricultural reform entails being implicated in violent actions to a greater degree than working towards reform. If it is the case that personal liberation is (at least sometimes) deeply interconnected with acting for the sake of others, then this serves as a legitimate reason for Orthodox Jains to (at least sometimes) focus on action and active engagement with world problems, rather than nonintervention.

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