Buddhists should be more proactive in animal welfare work and Campaign for law reform in this area because Buddhism more than any other religion (except Jainism) recognizes the right to life of all living beings rather than only humans. In addition Buddhism extols compassion to all forms of life. ‘Kill and eat' is not a Buddhist tenet. Compassion is the cornerstone of Buddhism and is it being compassionate for a Buddhist to overlook killing, cruelty and abuse of animals that happen in their surroundings? Some talk loud for human rights as the path of purifying the tarnished image of our country. They should reflect upon the statement of Mahatma Gandhi that 'The greatness and morality of a nation must be judged by the way it treats its animals '.

Killing and cruelty towards animals happen without proper restrictions in Sri Lanka, owing to outdated laws and weak enforcement of these laws. There is also, political interference on behalf of animal killers and butchers running illegal operations. The Police are there fore prevented from performing their duty of protecting the helpless animals.


Animal welfare laws need to be enacted for the protection of animals, and heavy penalties and punishment including long sentences of imprisonment and confiscation of vehicles used in illegal transport of animals should be imposed on these killers and abusers. There are many Animal welfare Societies in the country. These societies can be registered and empowered to collaborate and liaise with Police in the enforcement of animal protection laws. These societies should link with the numerous animal welfare societies around the world, including many in India, are identify alternative ways of countering this menace.

Government should not encourage the public to engage in vocations involving the abuse and killing of animals. These vocations constitute wrong livelihoods. Owing to adverse colonial and other influences, some Buddhists may have adopted the unbuddhistic practice of consuming animal flesh, and thereby promoting the killing of animals. It is time that there people are helped to regain their Buddhist values. Helping can come in different forms, legal action to ban killing is one.


If we compare the consumption of animal/fish flesh to other vices like smoking, drug-taking etc (though, of course, flesh-eating is more reprehensible because there is harm and pain caused to living beings, while this is not so in drug-taking though there is some harm caused in passive smoking), it gives, nevertheless, some guidance on the type of action that can be taken to discourage these practices and helping people to re-gain their Buddhist values.


The method most frequently used by governments to discourage smoking is by taxation. The progressive increase of taxes on cigarettes has finally put off many people from smoking - due, simply, to the prohibitive cost. A packet of cigarettes is now very close to approximating the cost of a meal!

(11) While the killing of animals can be banned earlier, the prohibition of the killing of fish needs to be delayed more because large numbers of people are engaged in the industry - and till such time as the government puts in place alternative industries for people to move to from this despicable practice of killing other beings to eat. So, meat is probably the place to start with.

The levying of progressively heavy taxes on meat will make people soon feel that the cost is too much for this pleasure. Moreover, like in the case of smoking, the heavy taxes would give a permanent reminder - that it is a VICE, a reprehensible practice - to every person every time he/she buys meat. Perhaps, like in smoking, flesh-sellers could also be forced to wrap the product in paper carrying a prominent message on the evils of killing innocent beings.


When there are legal provisions in our country against these cruel and unwholesome acts of killing and cruelty to animals, these provisions need to be taken into account in any development planning activities, both government and private. If the actions involved or the consequences of the Development programme/project can be harmful to the lives of animals, with legal provision for the protection and welfare of animals, action has to be taken to protect animal life before the development project is approved and implemented. In the absence of such a law, at the rate the so-called development projects under globalization is taking place in our country, there will be no restrictions at all to the indiscriminate slaughter of animals for flesh or other purposes, especially by violent people who appear to be growing in numbers in our country during the past few decades. We cannot have double standards in this regard, as Buddhists, in a predominantly Buddhist country such as ours.


Some extreme human actions that relate to the violation of the Five Precepts in Buddhism are illegal in our country. Killing, Stealing, Sexual misconduct, lying and verbal abuse, use of injurious drugs to name some basic ones. Compassion towards all living beings is what Buddhism wants its adherents to observe. Killing of animals is not acceptable in a country where Buddhist principles are valued. There needs to be legal provision to save animals from being slaughtered. It is both meaningful and useful in the Buddhist context. According to Buddhist teachings on rebirth, you can be born as one of those animals in your next birth. One of those animals may be your dead mother, father or a loved one. Animals feel pain and do not wish to be harmed.

Western Christian countries through information, data and knowledge have influenced people to be vegetarians. Some Sri Lankan Buddhists are increasingly resorting to the same means to discourage the slaughter of animals and cruelty towards animals. After all, the very first precept of a Buddhist is to abstain from killing and this is what is promoted by caring Buddhists.


People need to be educated and their awareness increased on the evils and unfavorable health implications of eating animal flesh, starting with the flesh of cows, pigs, goats and chicken which are killed mercilessly to serve the carnivorous tastes of some misguided Sinhela Buddhists. Education should start from home, from temples, from schools, ‘daham paasalas’, and special Animal welfare organizations, through special websites, special public functions, special sermons by our bhikkhus, special conferences, special publications, distribution of handbills, special flag days and so on.


Reaching out to the children with the message is considered as being of fundamental importance. They should be told that it is wrong to eat the flesh of their surrogate mothers who provide them with nutrition by way of wholesome milk and dairy products that are made out of it, when their biological mothers no longer are able to feed them.


There is whole heap of laws in Sri Lanka against drug peddling, smoking in public places, manufacture of illicit liquor, drunken driving, speeding, murder, robbery, fraud, bribery etc. How far the laws have been able to prevent the offences is not the issue. If it is considered a moot point like some argue, there is no point in having those laws at all! – and for that matter in having any laws at all, since all laws will be violated by someone or other as Wimal Ediriweera correctly argues.

He continues that in every country in the world there are laws against drug peddling, smoking in public places, manufacture of illicit liquor, drunken driving, speeding, murder, robbery, fraud etc, despite the fact that in every country those laws have not been able to prevent those offences completely. The reason why many laws have become “little more than cosmetic reforms” is because many politicians and other rich and powerful individuals connected to politicians have a personal interest in breaking them.


Some shortsighted people suggest that “For laws to encompass the thinking of the majority, first we have determine what majority really thinks (are they crazy for meat or not?).”, then you also need to determine what the majority really thinks about corruption, theft, and other offences before passing such laws. What these misguided people fail to realize is that Laws which are based on common morality – which, therefore, produce common good - do not have to be approved by a majority: they are passed irrespective of whether the majority likes it or not. Otherwise, as Wimal Ediriweera says, “you are accepting the basest levels of existence, where everyone would be living like savages. The only way a community of savages can be raised above that level is by passing laws which are contrary to their current way of life, and therefore contrary to what the majority thinks. In most countries, many laws are passed simply because they are moral and ethical and are aimed at raising the majority to higher states of civilization, higher quality of life irrespective of whether the majority like them or not.


Wimal Ediriweera continues “By passing the law and establishing a better standard of life, the people would automatically get educated when they see they are much better off than before. This is why laws against smoking etc have been passed despite the fact that in most western countries the vast majority have been smokers. Till a few years ago, in any office smokers were the majority and non-smokers were exceptions. But today, because of the passage of the anti-smoking laws (in public places), in western countries like the UK, today smokers are becoming a rarity. Even in France, where smokers were the diehard majority, the passage of the anti-smoking law has resulted in a radical decline in smoking – even though at the start there were angry protests against the banning of smoking in public places”.

“In the (Christian) west itself, where vegetarianism is rapidly increasing, the eating of meat and fish have substantially declined. In a Buddhist country, such changes should be given the utmost priority. You do not have to live by butchering other living beings. If you were a bull, what would your feelings be as you were being dragged, with legs tied to the place of slaughter?”


“Just that you have to start somewhere, and it is easier to start with the thin edge of the wedge than start with the fat edge. The banning of the killing of fish is more difficult – as you have stated – because larger numbers of people are involved in it. The idea, then, is not to accept it, but to develop the economy and the industries so that those people can find employment in other industries, which will be safer than risking their lives on the sea.”

“The killing of pests and disease-causing bacteria etc is a different matter. In Buddhism, the SECOND criterion for correct action (after Rationality, which is the FIRST) is whether it conforms to the Middle Path. You must not go to one extreme or the other.” It is the “chethanawa” that would determine the nature of karmic effect.