Animals, Vegetarianism, and Nonviolence

Authored by: Christopher Key Chapple

The Routledge Handbook of Pacifism and Nonviolence

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138194663
eBook ISBN: 9781315638751
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines nonviolence in regard to human-animal relations through the prisms of worldview, normative ethics, and personal choices. Three competing worldviews will be considered. The first regards animals as important for their use to human beings, deeming animals to be instruments to be used for human nutrition, entertainment, and comfort. This worldview deems it acceptable to kill and consume animals. The second, appealing to what might be characterized as the “logic of the humane,” suggests that animals have a rich interior life, that animals suffer, and that it does not make sense to harm animals for selfish human benefit. Both of these views consider the human and animal realms to be distinct from one another. The third worldview, found within traditions that arise in India, holds that animals and humans are part of the same continuum. Animals must be protected not only for their own sake but out of self-interest and empathy. Each animal has the potential for human birth and each human, according to the doctrine of rebirth, has lived a prior life as an animal. Whereas biblical narratives clearly proclaim human dominion over creatures, lore and archaeological remains from India that predate biblical times indicate a relationship of deep affection with animals.

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