Do you care about animals?

Theosophists have nothing less than an outstanding record in the area of animal welfare work, starting right back with the pioneers of the theosophical movement.  How does that care translate into personal action, however?

TOS members from India, Australia, New Zealand, Britain and Argentina chose to face this question at a TOS Conference held in India.  They identified three areas for exploration.  The group’s facilitator was Dr Geetha Jaikumar, a Professor in a Women’s College in Chennai, India, who edits Wake Up India, a quarterly journal of the New Life for India Movement, published by the Theosophical Society.  Her notes may be useful to us in our own reflections.

The issue of animal welfare can be addressed from broadly three fronts:

As always, we can begin with ourselves.  This involves introspection into our individual lifestyles: our diet, our attire, our accessories (silk, fur or leather?); our cosmetics and toiletries (do they contain animal ingredients and/or have they been tested on animals?); the forms of entertainment we enjoy or look at idly in passing (cruel sports and circuses?); our livelihood (do we work in an industry engaged in animal exploitation?)…

The second front is direct service.  We can involve ourselves in animal welfare activities in our local communities.  We can help in the rescue and rehabilitation of sick animals, support animal birth control programmes, liaise with other NGOs, raise funds…

In places like the international headquarters of the Theosophicl Society in Adyar, which has one of the few remaining woodlands within the city of Chennai, there is an additional responsibility to protect the biodiversity and fauna present in the campus.  Wild creatures are increasingly pushed into a corner with the fast pace of development all around us.  In our own local areas, we could all think in terms of a small wildlife refuge to rehabilitate fledgling birds and other young animals that come into our care for a time before being released into their natural environment.

The third front for personal action is the creation of awareness about the widespread animal cruelty by sensitizing people to the terrible suffering inflicted.  As someone remarked, ‘If slaughterhouses had glass walls, few people would eat meat’.  Very often ignorance is at the root of many of our actions and when the full extent of animal suffering is realized most people would hesitate to be a party to it.

Geetha adds: ‘At Adyar we run the Chennai Centre of Beauty Without Cruelty, an international animal rights organisation that tries to spread awareness of animal exploitation and the need to adopt a compassionate lifestyle.  We could all join hands with similar groups in own our countries as there is strength in numbers and we have a greater chance of being heard.  We can join campaigns to protect the environment, to prevent animal cruelty and to find solutions in a host of related issues.’

We can also remember what Dr Besant said back in 1910 when she addressed the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.  She said that when the strong and the weak are face to face, all the rights are on the side of the weak and the duties on the side of the strong.  We have no rights over animals, only duties to protect and care for them.



top | homepage

To Home Page