29 May, 2023


Climate Change, Animal Welfare & Buddhism

By Avanthi Jayasuriya

Avanthi Jayasuriya

Avanthi Jayasuriya

The teachings of Lord Buddha found in core Buddhist doctrine such as the Dhammapada, recognize the symbiotic connection between human activities and nature, advocating the harmonious co-existence of all sentient including eco-systems and humanity. As exemplified in the life of Lord Buddha himself, his journey as Bodhisattva until the epitome of attaining the supreme state of Nibbana under the shelter of a tree, highlights the untenable historic connection Buddhism shares with nature.

As such, Buddhist teachings are intrinsically linked to the issues of the climate crisis and animal welfare; thereby providing a uniquely Buddhist insight into the root causes of climate crisis and animal cruelty, while determining prescriptive measures to minimize its detrimental consequences.

“Mindful eating”- Buddhism and Vegetarianism

Placing the mind as superior to bodily desires, Buddhism trains one to exert control over the human compulsions rooted in greed, ill will and delusion; urging to replace them with selflessness, compassion and wisdom. We, as Buddhist, are taught to develop these values in a manner that surpasses the self, and alternatively encompassing the collective- meaning ecosystems and humanity as a whole.

In other words, transgressing the idea of self and personal suffering, Buddhism trains us to be mindful and conscious of the suffering of the others. The first of the five core Buddhist precepts clearly defines Buddhist comportment in relation to causing harm to other sentient beings. We, as Buddhists, are taught to restrain from killing in three ways- either directly killing or causing harm to someone, indirectly killing and taking pleasure in the act of seeing others being harmed or killed.

Vegetarianism or the conscious choice of maintaining a plant based diet is resonant within Buddhist doctrinal values. On one hand the slaughtering of animals for meat production is not consistent with the Buddhist teachings of compassion, loving kindness and wisdom. On the other hand vegetarianism will enable individuals to reflect on their dietary patterns, allowing them to think beyond the momentary pleasure of consuming food, and to reflect instead on the inconceivable cruelty, harm and pain experienced by animals in the process of industrial farming and animal husbandry.

Practicing Buddhist principles by opting for a meatless diet would not only help individuals to embrace a healthy lifestyle by adopting better and more nutritious eating habits; but will also lead to more eco-sensitive behavior being adopted by individuals and communities which would ultimately contribute to the general welfare of animals and to the reduction of the overall effects on climate change.

Vegetarianism and climate change

According to the United Nations, the meat production industry is one of the most significant contributors to the environmental crisis encountered at present. Going meatless also has long term implications in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the livestock sector including industrialized meat production and other animal husbandry practices contribute largely to the emission of greenhouse gases such as methane, ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. In addition, animal agriculture also results in more dire consequences as seen in the deforestation for grazing purposes, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution of water sources due to animal waste disposal.

In effect, the choice to go meatless for a day would have an impact on determining the scale of the livestock industry, thereby leading to the reduction of the carbon footprint of each individual. Going meatless would help fulfill the individual and collective responsibility in contributing to the reduction of the adverse impacts of climate change. The Meatless Monday Campaign which is practiced across the globe, and is introduced to Sri Lanka, is an initiative which invites people to forego meet consumption on Monday as an effort to address animal welfare, climate change, and other related issues.

Vegetarianism & animal welfare

Increasing consumption patterns and purchasing levels of meat and animal products has led to the growth of industries based on animal husbandry to adopt commercial systems of production. These methods include more labour intensive, industrial farming practices which subject animals to unimaginable pain, harm and cruelty. From breeding practices where animals are raised for food and injected with hormones to expedite the breeding process, to the intensive confinement endured in housing and transportation methods upto the cruelty encountered in slaughtering methods used in meat production, the welfare of animals is in a deplorable state and is often overlooked. Therefore, in practicing mindful eating, Buddhism encourages us to consciously think of what goes into our diet and in turn of the pain and suffering the animals undergo in the livestock industry.

Going meatless would effectively impact the consumption patterns and lead to the reduction in the demand for meat, which would then result in the cutting back the scale of the meat production. Reducing the scale of meat industry would be beneficial in the co-opting of more sustainable patterns of livestock production which incorporates humane farming practices that ensure the welfare of animals.

In a wider perspective, Buddhism and its teachings, and campaigns that promote vegetarianism envisions creating a better environment and a more responsible society by developing a sustainable economy with healthy patterns of consumerist demand and production of meat, and by ensuring that individuals are governed by a sense of ecological awareness of the welfare of animals and environment.

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Latest comments

  • 14

    Care about human beings in Lanka first before caring about the environment and animals. If only Sinhalese showed the same concern they have toward animals to the rights of minorities…

    • 7

      Well said!

      I would like us to craft our lifestyle around enjoying the milk and dairy products of our animal WITHOUT killing ANY animals.

      Similarly, I would like us to enjoy the fruits and produce of plants and trees again WITHOUT killing them. Plants too are living things. WE can do without the wasteful cutting down of much of the trees in our forests.

    • 2

      Absolutely !
      Minorities dont give a s..t about the rights of ANYONE., It is up to Sinhalas to give them a good example

      • 1


        Are you talking about yourself living abroad giving a good example, which country ? must be really hot climate there.

      • 1


        “It is up to Sinhalas to give them a good example”

        One little Problem. Their average IQ is 79. Too many Modayas, Fools, Mootals.

        Have you heard, Sinhalaya Modaya, Kavun Kanna Yodaya? Did Buddhism make it worse?

    • 6

      If people accepted animals as also a part of this world & cared for them, attitude towards other human beings will be naturally the same. A person who ill treats animals will easily treat human beings the same way.

      There is no need now to ‘domesticate’ wild animals & keep them in captivity. The habitat of wild animals are being encroached by humans. Farm animals & even pets in some cases are ill treated, maybe, not knowingly. If humans treated all living things with compassion, the world would be a better place.

    • 1

      If only Sinhalese showed the same concern they have toward animals to the rights of minorities…

      Why Tamils are animals too ?

    • 0

      Avanthi Jayasuriya

      RE: Climate Change, Animal Welfare & Buddhism

      Q.Is Buddhism a Philosophy (Love of Wisdom) or a Religion (After life)?

      It is both, because it talks about after-life Nibbana, Nirvna, but the philosophy is convoluted, and the followers are confused.

      Some religions, actually some religious fundamentalists do not like Philosophy. Example, Wahhabis and their clones. If people think, they are are likely to leave Wahhabism.

      With no critical thinking skills and no philosophy, the people become stupid.

      Why does our school curriculum not include philosophy? Asks Saudi Akram Khoja

      Where did you come from? Why are there many languages in the world? Why do people get sick? Children usually ask their parents these questions because they want to know more. Sara Goering, a professor of philosophy at Washington University, believes that children are natural-born philosophers and should, therefore, be taught philosophy at an early age to acquire critical thinking skills.

      I took philosophy when I was a college student and became familiar with various philosophers and their theories about life such as Aristotle. In fact, the theories have changed my life completely and made me question and analyze everything I hear.

      We live in a world full of terrorists and extremists who try hard to lure young men, especially those who do not have a strong will, to join them. A young man with an empty life can easily fall prey to extremists. To end this malicious cancer, we need to build leadership skills in our young men and women and equip them with the tools they need to analyze and criticize extremist thoughts and fight terrorists who suffer from deep-rooted psychological and mental problems and whose minds have been poisoned.

      That is why philosophy is important. We need to encourage students to think critically, ask questions about everything and form logical conclusions that should help them reach a state of balance. In 1991, a Norwegian intellectual and author named Jostein Gaarder published ‘Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy.” This book has been translated into many languages.

      The novel tells the story of Sophie and a mysterious man named Alberto. It has become an indispensable introduction to philosophy because it sums up important philosophical issues using simple language and ideas.

      Philosophical thinking has become a pressing need in this world that is replete with extremist conflicts that have brought about destruction and turned people’s lives into hell. It would help many of us analyze what is told to them and not to give in to extremist ideologies. It would build a generation of creative leaders.

      Arabs have, throughout their history, not attached any importance to philosophy and focused instead on Arabic. We have erected barriers between philosophers and us, shunned them and treated them as enemies. It is unfair that students in schools are not taught philosophy.


      Stupidest Muslim Vs Neil Tyson – How ideology can ruin intellectual power

      Published on Nov 10, 2014
      This is not a debate between some Muslim and Neil Tyson. But this video shows the thinking of some very well educated 21’st century Muslim (I don’t know he is ignorant, stupid or dishonest. But he is one for sure) and Neil Tyson speaking in a lecture about how Muslims intellectual power ruined by an ideology.


  • 4

    Sri lanka had better or the best Animal rights in the world. Since the Day, Arhant Mahinda visited Sri lanka, animals had full freedom and people did not kill animals even for pleasure or game. There were no christians, Muslims or Hindus who killed animals at that time.

    Now, christians, muslims come and promote killing food animals and they want to stop buddhists using elephants in the Peraheras saying that is animal abuse.

    This Sep 30th, South Korea will host the first buddhist Conference on Animal rights.

    • 3

      jim softy, Dimwitted Blockhead

      “Sri lanka had better or the best Animal rights in the world. Since the Day, Arhant Mahinda visited Sri lanka, animals had full freedom and people did not kill animals even for pleasure or game. There were no christians, Muslims or Hindus who killed animals at that time.”

      The Land belonged to the Native Veddah Aethho, who lived between 8.000 and 30,000 years, and they walked to claim the land. They lived with nature, and with occasional hunting, keeping with the nature, just like a leopard or a fox would hunt, a Paleolithic diet.

      The Para-Sinhala and Para-Tamils displaced the Native Veddah Aethho,m and Mahinda’s “Buddhism:” did not prevent taking over their habitat and killing others, in the name of Para-Sinhala Para-Buddhism, even to this day.

      Mitochondrial DNA history of Sri Lankan ethnic people:

      Journal of Human Genetics (2014) 59, 28–36; doi:10.1038/jhg.2013.112; published online 7 November 2013

      Through a comparison with the mtDNA HVS-1 and part of HVS-2 of Indian database, both Tamils and Sinhalese clusters were affiliated with Indian subcontinent populations than Vedda people who are believed to be the native population of the island of Sri Lanka.


      They Killed my Father, give my father back-Aluthgama,Dharga town kids crying…Since the Day, Arhant Mahinda arrived, Sinhala Buddhism has occasionally and regularly killed…


      • 2


        You are a Marakkaya. You just talk. YOu do not know the Sri lanka history.

        Idiot, You bring Nucleic acid compostions and mtDNA data to say that you are native. Donkey, understand that the difference between chimpanzies and humans are less than 1.0% and variation among human DNA is less than 0.1%.

        FYI, DNA can not explain the total variation among humans. One day, it has to use information from buddhism.

        For example, mind can affect DNA function. That is related to Wave Function.

        • 0

          jim softy, Dimwit, Blockhead

          “FYI, DNA can not explain the total variation among humans. One day, it has to use information from buddhism.”

          All your answers are there in the Theory of Evolution.

          Remember Siddhartha Gautama, Buddha, also evolved, from primates with 48 Chromosomes, even though he had 46 when he was born.

          Ken Miller on Human Evolution

          Uploaded on Feb 14, 2007
          Dr. Ken Miller talks about the relationship between Homo sapiens and the other primates. He discusses a recent finding of the Human Genome Project which identifies the exact point of fusion of two primate chromosomes that resulted in human chromosome #2.


          The science of Human evolution

          Published on Jan 11, 2015
          The documentary explains how humans evolved from early primates, our relationship with apes and most of the primates. How we got high color vision? Origin of our Complex Brain..


    • 4

      Look who is at the Beef stalls

  • 16

    Dream on Avanthi,

    Buddhism has done bugger all to Sinhalese in the last 2500 years and more. We are still the barbarians we were before the advent of Buddhism. Before you say anything just look at the facts and look at our contemporary history in particular. We kill humans with so much ease and finesse and congratulate each other having done so. We Sinhala Buddhists commit war crimes. We Sinhala Buddhists kill each other for the slightest of reasons, eg, land dispute, dogma, political leanings, religious issues, racial issues. Killing is not a big deal to us in Sri Lanka. And who is leading the killings – it is none other than the saffron robed highly respected Buddhist monks. When blood lust rules our minds pontificating on the benefits of vegetarianism, animal welfare and climate change is nothing but superfluous to the nth degree.

  • 6

    “Mindful eating”– 4TH GEM the sinhala buddhist sit on it. so they suffer.
    Japanese are slim because the do not practice Lord Buddha but believe that the greatest hapiness is in the movement of the bowels.

    The lord of the animals is a hindu Pashapunath He won’t help the 2 legged bestiality bread mahawamse.

    The 3 humbugs of Buddhism (wisdom)- Wealth, Fame, Power.- very prominent at lankawe, ahema venne naha- no problem paccha ratte..

    when anyone wants to buy a baby elephant go to thatta motte.
    when anyonre wants to by a collector item vehicle (1in 1000 in the world)go to thatta motte.

    During the Tsunami the only country that scraped the pot of all the charity in the world Lord Buddha Island of Horu.
    Thailand a unique nation that has never been conquered or ruled by any foreign power in the history of the world- refused aid , tamil nadu refused aid.
    Lanka stood out — Hingannage Thuwale.

    The earliest in this world are birds they are the rightful owners of the island not bestiality breed – Pinguttharayas.

    take parripu to go preek preek and preach like the WHO new logo- 666.

  • 7

    Timely piece highlighting the virtues of Buddhist Philosophy.
    Not only Buddhism but also Hinduism as the same philosophy when it comes to relatioship between humans & nature.
    Both have sections whose practices vary.

    Sadly among Hindu priests,among those who are born into Brahmin cast and among Buddhist clergies there are many who are non vegitarians.

    Can the author of this article or any reader enlighten me whether MaRa & brothers who now a days frequent temples and vihares are vegitarians or not ?

  • 2

    Buddhist Philosophy in terms of the Pattica Samupadaya has all the elements of sustainability
    1) Harmonius existence of humans with the biodiversity will protect the humans from vector controlled diseases such as dengue. Dengue a relatively new disease is a result of change in biodiversity by thoughtless development.
    2) Ahimsa says that you should not damage or kill sentient beings. this includes plants. In the use of plants for food buddhism goes to a great extent to show love and care for the plant.
    These rules are well inculcated in the minds of all sri lankans but unfortunately we follow the europeans in there hubris that they are in control of the environment.

    • 4

      “Buddhist Philosophy in terms of the Pattica Samupadaya has all the elements of sustainability”

      vas; that is the whole problem!

      Sinhala Buddhists know all about the Philosophy of PATICCA SAMUPPADAYA in their Heads, but the ‘Way of Life’ that it Encourages, is not followed!

      • 1

        This is the problem with christians and Tamils who uses this site to bash Buddhism. What has sinhala people not following patticca samupadaya got to do with buddhist philosophy. It is people like you who practice anti buddhist rhetoric that leads to conflict. We are just recovering from a war we do not want anti buddhist or anti hindu propaganda which is used to allow the western vultures to invade through the church to destroy the culture and the economy of the country.

        • 4

          Vas; BTW I am a Practising Buddhist and a Sinhalese who is Sad that the Buddha’s Dhamma is not followed by ‘Sinhala Buddhists’ who Waste such a lot of Money on Empty Rituals, which are only Show and do not Lead us onto the Path to Enlightenment!

  • 6

    Unfortunately, Dhamma Desana do not even mention Care of the Environment!

  • 2

    Avanthi Jayasuriya

    RE: Climate Change, Animal Welfare & Buddhism

    //”The teachings of Lord Buddha found in core Buddhist doctrine such as the Dhammapada, recognize the symbiotic connection between human activities and nature, advocating the harmonious co-existence of all sentient including eco-systems and humanity.”//

    Some corrections.

    Buddhas was or is not a Lord nor a God, but just a Philosopher.

    It was was the people who made Siddhartha Gautama into a Lord and God.

    Nature, took care of Buddha, in the natural way.

    Yes, people need to live in harmony with nature, without disturbing the ecosystems. However, greed makes it very challenging.

    //”In a wider perspective, Buddhism and its teachings, and campaigns that promote vegetarianism envisions creating a better environment and a more responsible society by developing a sustainable economy with healthy patterns of consumerist demand and production of meat, and by ensuring that individuals are governed by a sense of ecological awareness of the welfare of animals and environment.”//

    Yes. It is also healthier. Primates evolved as Vegans, and just look at the diet of the other primate Gorilla and Chimpanzee. Do the Primates achieve Nibbana? Or is it just a Myth of the Homo Sapiens?

    Documentary On Leading Causes Of Death – Delay Death With Veganism

    Published on Apr 15, 2015
    This is an amazing documentary. Dr Greger presents all the latest in health and nutrition information, and shows how a vegan diet can prevent, treat and even reverse many of the top 20 causes of Death, including Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer! The information presented is all based on thoroughly researched nutritional studies that have been featured in international medical journals.


  • 2

    Good article. However, in practical terms, one should be cognizant of the relationship between fast-growing populations and limited resources. As a population grows, so too does the strain on resources increase proportionally. Within this framework, by resorting to vegetarianism, one would be failing to take advantage of an obvious resource. On the other hand, if the population was willing to adhere to strict birth control measures, vegetarianism might work, but this is not the case. Poor people (lowest strata of society) have a tendency to breed like rabbits. There are also certain religious groups that refuse to adhere to birth control. Lastly, I would mention that thanks to modern science/technology, there are efficient, relatively painful ways to kill an animal. Brutality is there when primitive methods are utilized, such as with halal, in which the animal essentially bleeds to death. As a society, Buddhist or otherwise, we need to immediately ban unnecessary forms of animal cruelty.

    • 1

      *relatively painless ways.

  • 4

    “According to the United Nations, the meat production industry is one of the most significant contributors to the environmental crisis encountered at present”

    There is a link between global warming and meat consumption?? Who would have imagined.

    Thanks for the info. Veggie burgers from now on…

  • 3

    Avanthi Jayasuria,
    Can you enlighten me what were the views of Ven Mahanama who wrote Mahavamsa on the topics like what you have chosen.?

    Emperor Asoka and his children were vegitarians before the Kalinga war or after the Kalinga war ?

    Did Arat Mahinda stop hunting of animals after
    meeting King Tissa on Mhintale ?

  • 5

    Thanks, Avanthi Jayasuriya,

    If all writing on Buddhism, and on religious topics in general, focussed on the responsibilities of the individual who practices the religion, the world would certainly be a better place.

    It may be that not many will comment on this article, but I’m doing so because while no sweeping generalisations or solutions to all problems are put forward, what is stated is sound. Yes, today’s commercial meat production is both more cruel than what prevailed earlier, AND it is without doubt going to lead to the eradication of the human species itself from this planet sooner than would otherwise be the case. However, our modern ways of doing things allows us to escape being brought face to face with all the cruelties that are involved in the eating of meat. The Internet has its uses. I now realise that the central teaching of Islam doesn’t advocate the indiscriminate killing of animals. I didn’t realise that Muslims are forbidden to hunt for pleasure until I found all that discussed by Izeth Hussain.

    I do eat meat; but the vegetarian or the vegan is to be more admired; and going meatless on Mondays is good in many ways, but please leave it to individuals, and don’t bring in “holier than thou” legislation.

    The older generation had quietly dedicated scholars of Buddhism such as you will find here:


    I’m sure that Avanthi Jayasuriya knows all about his work, but I felt that it is good to have at least one rather sinful person acknowledging the soundness of the thinking here.

  • 5

    There are both advantages and disadvantages in vegetarianism.


    Buddhist Monks are not vegetarians.
    When invited to homes for Dhane, they request choice meat dishes for the meal.

  • 6

    It is all very well to promote vegetarianism, especially if one is a Buddhist. But in practical terms, I find it strange that this Ahimsa seems to extend only to herbivores and chickens. What about fish, then?
    Ms. Jayasuriya has not touched on the subject.
    Is it also not a fact that vegetarian nations do very badly at the Olympics, compared to the meat- eaters?
    If our ancestors were as vegetarian as claimed, why is the Mahavamsa so full of patricide, infanticide, and other killings?
    Finally, humans do have some canine teeth. Nor do we have an extended bowel like herbivores. That would indicate that we are designed (or evolved) to consume some meat at least.
    As for methane emissions from cattle, it is reported that vegetarian humans also do the same.
    I personally don’t eat Beef or pork, not because of moral scruples, but because they are too damn expensive!

    • 2

      first change from cow milk to soya- reduce the Co2. First I said yak to it being served for free at china but on return I notice most professors at UCL are taking soya 0% fat and sugars – no diabetics.

      Buddha (wisdom) Silencio!!

      Reason and altruism are incompatible.

      Buddha-nature begins where the rational level ends.

      • 0

        Reason and altruism are incompatible. That makes sense.
        Since the reason for all wars is some form of altruism. The logical conclusion is one must not identify themselves with religion, race etc.

  • 1

    well for all those are anti cattle slaughtering, poor sinhalese farmers who buy cattle, raise and sell milk, get their return of investment by selling it to muslims – since cows dont produce milk like an open water tap and the price is controlled, once the cow gets old and stops producing milk, they don’t have enough savings buy a new cow hence the only option is to sell it to butchery!! and please be aware that growing live stock is not like growing dogs and cats!! live stock is very sensitive for diseases!! you will have to spend money on medication, checkup etc !! so you cannot even grow a younger cattle along with an old one if the old is not taken care medically !!and uncontrolled growth of old calf population gives more chance for the spread of diseases that will even wipe out the younger population!! considering all above given point do you people agree for the sky rocketing raise in the price of milk so that poor farmer can take care of their old cows without selling them? or do you think that a government with a billion dollar dept should build asylums for cows with medical care ? and by the way do you people know that the leather is made of cow skin (companies like CLPL etc), therefore are you ready to destroy the leather industry of this country? and keep all racial , animal welfare etc mind set aside and please tell me ” do you agree that banning the slaughter of cattle can end up with the decline of sri lankan milk production?

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