Ahimsa and Veganism - Reply To: Comment by Dr. N.L. Kachhara

Posted: 19.03.2009
Updated on: 19.06.2011

Ref: Ahimsa and Veganism - Comment by Dr. N.L. Kachhara

Dear Dr. Kachhara:

Jai Jinendra.

I appreciate your comments but I would like to make some observations.

First, you claim, as a factual matter, that dairy farms in India "are  not that bad." I have never been to India (I hope to visit soon) but  many who have are appalled at the level of Himsa that occurs on the  supposedly most "humane" farms and collectives. In fact, several leaders  of the Jain community, such as Pramoda Chitrabhanu and Pravin Shah, have  written on the topic of Indian dairy products.

Second, the injunction against inflicting Himsa on five-sensed beings  does not say that it is acceptable to impose "humane" exploitation on  those beings. If there is any suffering or death that is caused by or  incidental to dairy products, then the practice runs afoul of the  directive of Ahimsa. If "humane" exploitation were permitted, then the  same reasoning would logically apply to all animal products, including  meat. As long as the suffering or death was not "that bad," then the use  would be permitted.

Third, you claim that coarse wool from sheep in India does not involve  Himsa. I respectfully disagree. Again, I have not been to India, but I  have observed the shearing of sheep and it is terribly distressing to  the sheep, many of whom suffer injuries and pain as part of the process.  And sheep used to produce wool are eventually slaughtered. This  distress, injury, and death are a necessary part of the process and are  not limited to production in certain countries.

Fourth, I think that the ownership of domesticated animals and  particularly multi-sensed beings raises serious questions that implicate  Ahimsa and Aparigraha. For example, humans and cows are both five-sensed  organisms. If we owned a human, it would be called slavery and  condemned; why is owning a cow not a form of slavery given that the cow  is an economic commodity as far as the law is concerned?

I certainly think that we should care for those animals who we have  caused to come into existence (we care for four rescued dogs) but I  think that there are compelling reasons that we should stop bringing  more domesticated animals into existence.

In sum, I commend you highly for advocating that Jains outside India  should be strict vegetarians and not consume any dairy products. But I  respectfully disagree that we can regard dairy products that are  supposedly "humanely" produced as involving no Himsa or acceptable  levels of Himsa.

Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am glad that this issue is  being discussed in the community. I hope that I have not caused any  offense in my reply. If so, Micchami Dukkadam.

Gary L. Francione
Professor, Rutgers University
New Jersey, U.S.A.


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