eCite Digital Repository

Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics


Stewart, JJ, Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 21 pp. 623-655. ISSN 1076-9005 (2014) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2014 Journal of Buddhist Ethics

Official URL:


Boiled alive for killing an ant. Suffering endless demonic flagellation for trading as a butcher. According to some Buddhist writings, these are just a few of the punishments bestowed upon those who harm animals. Are such promises sincere or are they merely hollow threats intended to inculcate good conduct? Are there other non-prudential reasons for protecting animals? How do these views differ from preceding Indian traditions? These are some of the questions addressed in this paper. I will argue that the threat of a bad rebirth is a major factor in motivating Buddhists to abstain from animal cruelty. By comparing the Vinaya (both Mahāyāna and Theravāda) to the Sūtra literature I will argue that such claims may be exaggerations to motivate more compassionate conduct from Buddhist adherents. I also argue that Buddhist texts look unfavorably upon animal killing in a way unheard of in the Vedic religious tradition. Although there may be disagreement over what sort of harm may befall animal abusers, it is almost universally acknowledged amongst most Buddhist sects that animal killing is completely unacceptable. However, this pacifism lives in uneasy tension with the promise of extreme violence for impinging on these basic principles of nonviolence.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Buddhism, Buddhist Studies, Religious Violence, Nonviolence, Animal ethics
Research Division:Philosophy and Religious Studies
Research Group:Philosophy
Research Field:Ethical theory
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies
UTAS Author:Stewart, JJ (Dr James Stewart)
ID Code:94131
Year Published:2014
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2014-08-31
Last Modified:2017-11-09
Downloads:247 View Download Statistics

Repository Staff Only: item control page