Mahatma Gandhi, Our Moral Progress is Judged By Our Treatment of Animals
Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
Born Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, he became known as and was commonly called by the honorific Mahatma Gandhi, which means great soul. Gandhi was a lawyer, but he was best known as a philosopher and statesman, committed to peace and non-violence and leader of the Indian Nationalist movement. But he was also known for his commitment to non-human animals and was a great advocate for animals and vegetarianism. He published several articles defending vegetarianism and a vegetarian lifestyle. Gandhi was born to vegetarian parents, and though Gandhi was Hindu he was strongly influenced by Jainism, which supports having compassion for all sentient beings, vegetarianism, fasting for self-purification, and mutual tolerance between individuals.
Gandhi was also influenced by a man named Henry Salt, a devout vegetarian, who in the later 1800s advocated for the ethical treatment of animals, and wrote one of the first books on animals rights and the importance of giving animals a place in the moral system. He went on to write many books advocating for animal rights and ethical vegetarianism. Salt believed that animals should have rights just like humans, and that we should “recognize the common bond of humanity that unites all living beings in one universal brotherhood.”
Gandhi’s commitment to not eating animal meat and being a vegetarian came from his own belief that it was immoral to eat meat or animals. He was aware that eating meat brought harm and suffering to animals, which he ethically and morally opposed, and it became his mission to promote and spread this awareness and a vegetarian diet.
“Ethically they had arrived at the conclusion that man’s supremacy over lower animals meant not that the former should prey upon the latter, but that the higher should protect the lower, and that there should be mutual aid between the two as between man and man. They had also brought out the truth that man eats not for enjoyment but to live.”