Animal-Killing in Human Society

Drawing upon information revealed in the Vedic literature, Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that just as all human beings are embodied spirit-souls, equal in the eyes of the Lord, so too are animals. As such, he explains, the human being who kills an animal must be held morally responsible for that death under the laws of God and nature, much as one would be for the death of a human being. According to the Vedic instruction, he says, human society should protect the animal’s right to live.

Among the practical points Śrīla Prabhupāda discusses are recommendations for human diet and how human society can function successfully while avoiding (or at least restricting) the slaughter of animals. He includes information about exceptions and concessions that the Vedas allow for an animal to be killed, showing how such allowances are nonetheless also restrictions, as they are defined and limited by specific circumstances. Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that the cow, above any other animal, is especially important to human society; for this reason the Vedas expressly forbid the killing of cows. Above all, Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that the systematic mass slaughter of animals, exemplified most grossly in modern slaughterhouse operations, cannot be justified on any grounds.

Śrīla Prabhupāda reminds his audience that regardless of what is acceptable according to human opinion or man-made law, the ultimate authority in the matter of animal-killing is God Himself. Thus he stresses that those who participate in the killing of animals outside the codes of God’s natural law must sooner or later suffer the karmic consequence of their actions. Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that human civilization must be based upon correct knowledge of who we are as spirit-souls and what the aim of human life actually is; any society which allows for the unprincipled killing of animals, he argues, only serves to degrade itself and obstruct the real progress of humanity.

Śrīla Prabhupāda’s thought-provoking discussion of animal-killing introduces many fundamental teachings of the Vedas, underscoring the spiritual dimension of reality and the need to understand how life operates beyond the reach of mundane perception and limited, self-serving concepts. Practically as well as philosophically, his instruction touches upon other timely topics such as vegetarianism; sustainable and cruelty-free agriculture; war, violence and peace; human progress and degradation; and the right to life for all embodied souls.

This Vanipedia page includes two parts. The first is an introductory article offering a glimpse into what and how Śrīla Prabhupāda taught on the issue of animal-killing during the course of his preaching activity through the 1960s and '70s. The second is an extensive collection of easily accessed reference links to Śrīla Prabhupāda's books, letters, and transcribed lectures and conversations as related to this topic.

"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater (outcaste)" -- Bhagavad-gītā 5.18

Summary Article

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The act of killing is condemned by virtually every code of human ethics. Killing is allowed by law only under certain circumstances. For instance, one may kill a deadly assailant in self-defense, or one may kill an enemy soldier in battle, but one may not kill a man on the street for the purpose of taking the man's coat. There is always some restriction applied to the act of killing - at least the killing of a human being. What about the killing of animals?

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that animals as well as human beings should be afforded the right to live, and that animal-killing in human society should be restricted to a very limited set of circumstances. The unnecessary killing of animals, he declares, is a core vice of human society – one of what he refers to as the four pillars of sinful life.

It is said in the śāstra, striyaḥ sūnā pānaṁ dyūtaṁ yatrādharmaś catur-vidhāḥ: "Four kinds of sinful activities: illicit sex life, striyaḥ; sūnā, the animal slaughter; pānam, intoxication; dyūtam, gambling." These are the four pillars of sinful life.[1]

Sūnā means unnecessarily killing the animals. Just like slaughterhouse. You cannot maintain slaughterhouse in the human society and at the same time you want peace. It is not possible... this practice, unnecessarily killing animal, is one of the pillar of sinful life.[2]

He reveals the link between human suffering and animal slaughter as it is widely practiced in contemporary society.

The pillars of sinful activities, that is also mentioned in the Bhāgavata. Striya-sūnā-pāna-dyūta yatra pāpaś catur-vidhāḥ: (SB 1.17.38) "Four kinds of sinful activities: illicit sex, and intoxication, and unnecessarily killing of animals, and gambling." All the slaughterhouses of the world are being maintained unnecessarily. That is recruiting simply sins. They are eating sins, and therefore the world is in trouble. Simply committing. There is no necessity of killing animals. But here in India they are killing ten thousand cows daily, what to speak of Western countries. So people are so much addicted to sinful activities. How they can be happy? They are condemned.[3]

Śrīla Prabhupāda further explains that unrestricted animal-killing is a key factor underpinning degradation in human society. Prohibiting the whimsical and unnecessary killing of animals, he teaches, is a basic principle of civilized life. The following article, sourced from the archived record of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s books, lectures, conversations and letters, presents a summary report of Śrīla Prabhupāda’s instruction regarding animal-killing and the proper treatment of animals on the part of human beings.

The embodied soul and natural law

Śrīla Prabhupāda's views on animal-killing are informed by Vedic teachings regarding the nature of the living entity, the condition of the living entity in the material world, the laws of nature ordained by the Supreme Lord, and the resultant ethical implications. This article begins with an overview of Śrīla Prabhupāda's explanation of key philosophical points he presents in connection with the issue of animal-killing in human society.

Animals as spirit souls

Śrīla Prabhupāda's instruction rests on the fundamental teaching that animals are spirit-souls, just as human beings are – encaged in material bodies of various types, but nonetheless each a part and parcel of God. The difference between the human being and the animal, he says, lies in their relative levels of consciousness, not in the presence or absence of the soul.

What is the symptom of possessing soul? First of all try to understand. That is explained in the Bhagavad-gītā: avināśi tu tad viddhi yena sarvam idaṁ tatam: (BG 2.17) The presence of soul can be perceived when there is consciousness on the body. This is the proof. When you pinch my body, I feel pain, when I pinch your body, you feel pain, when I pinch an animal's body, he also feels pain. Even I pinch even the tree's body he feels pain.[4]

They are also living beings. Of course, in some quarter they say that the cats and dogs and lower animals, they have no soul. No. That is not the fact. Everyone has got soul, but the cats and dogs and animals, they are not advanced in consciousness. As soon as there is soul, there must be consciousness. These things are described in the Bhagavad-gītā, and you can perceive also. I am existing in this body; you are existing in your body - how it is known? By the consciousness. If I pinch your body, you feel pain. You pinch my body; I feel pain. Similarly, cats and dogs, they also feel pain or pleasure. So that is the proof of existence of the soul even in cats and dogs and human beings. The only difference is in the human form of life the consciousness is developed. [5]

Śrīla Prabhupāda further cites evidence from Bhagavad-gītā 14.4, wherein Lord Kṛṣṇa declares:

sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father."[6]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:

Sarva-yoniṣu, all different forms of life, there is soul, part and parcel of God... The animals may be less intelligent. A child may be less intelligent than the father; that does not mean there is no soul… Everyone has soul. That is real. We get it from Kṛṣṇa: sarva-yoniṣu. (BG 14.4) In different forms of life the soul is there, undoubtedly. That is real conception of soul.[7]

He additionally refers to Lord Kṛṣṇa's words in Bhagavad-gītā 5.18:

brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ
"The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brāhmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater (outcaste)."[8]

Commenting on this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that one who is truly learned (paṇḍita) understands the presence of the soul as reality and sees the soul within the body of all living beings, regardless of external appearance.

Paṇḍita means learned, and he knows that "These Americans, these Europeans, these Africans or these Indians or these cows, these dogs and the elephant, trees, the plants, the fish - they have got different dress only, but the soul is the same. The living force within the body, that is the same particle, spiritual particle, part and parcel of the supreme spirit, Kṛṣṇa."[9]

In this way, Śrīla Prabhupāda establishes that the presence of the soul in all living beings is one premise on which any discussion of animal-killing must take place.

Transmigration, evolution and ahiṁsā

In addition to showing that the soul exists in lower animals as well as humans, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains how individual souls take on varieties of bodily forms in the material world and how this relates to the Vedic ethic of nonviolence toward all living beings.

Transmigration of the soul

The soul is described in Bhagavad-gītā (2.20):

na jāyate mriyate vā kadācin
nāyaṁ bhūtvā bhavitā vā na bhūyaḥ
ajo nityaḥ śāśvato ‘yaṁ purāṇo
na hanyate hanyamāne śarīre
"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain."[10]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains how the spirit-soul appears in the material world in different life forms:

Since the living entities are never annihilated, they simply transmigrate from one life form to another. Thus there is an evolution of forms according to the degree of developed consciousness. One experiences different degrees of consciousness in different forms. A dog's consciousness is different from a man's. Even within a species we find that a father's consciousness is different from his son's and that a child's consciousness is different from a youth's. Just as we find different forms, we find different states of consciousness. When we see different states of consciousness, we may take it for granted that the bodies are different. In other words, different types of bodies depend on different states of consciousness. This is also confirmed in the Bhagavad-gītā (8.6):

yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajanty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tad bhāva-bhāvitaḥ

"One's consciousness at the time of death determines one's type of body in the next life." This is the process of transmigration of the soul.[11]

While all souls are eternal, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, in the material world they inhabit various bodies as determined by God through the agency of material nature according to the qualities of their desires, their consciousness and their actions.

According to his karma, material activities, the spiritual spark attains a certain type of body. Material activities are carried out in goodness, passion and ignorance or a combination of these. According to the mixture of the modes of material nature, the living entity is awarded a particular type of body.[12]

The living entity changes his body as soon as the higher authorities decide on his next body. As long as a living entity is conditioned within this material world, he must take material bodies one after another. His next particular body is offered by the laws of nature, according to the actions and reactions of this life.[13]

In this life the mental condition changes in different ways, and the same living entity gets another body in the next life according to his desires. The mind, intelligence and false ego are always engaged in an attempt to dominate material nature. According to that subtle astral body, one attains a gross body to enjoy the objects of one's desires. According to the activities of the present body, one prepares another subtle body. And according to the subtle body, one attains another gross body. This is the process of material existence.[14]

Process of evolution

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that there is also a process of evolution at work with the process of transmigration. In the following excerpt from his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.29, he traces the general history of the incarnate soul:

Originally the living entity is a spiritual being, but when he actually desires to enjoy this material world, he comes down. From this verse we can understand that the living entity first accepts a body that is human in form, but gradually, due to his degraded activities, he falls into lower forms of life - into the animal, plant and aquatic forms. By the gradual process of evolution, the living entity again attains the body of a human being and is given another chance to get out of the process of transmigration. If he again misses his chance in the human form to understand his position, he is again placed in the cycle of birth and death in various types of bodies.[15]

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that souls in the non-human forms of life follow an automatic path of progress up the evolutionary ladder until they reach a human incarnation, the pivotal point at which the soul is able to approach spiritual understanding and, at the highest level of realization, be liberated from the transmigration process. The advanced awareness and self-determination of the human being accounts for the superiority of the human over other forms of life.

The living entity's evolution through different types of bodies is conducted automatically by the laws of nature in bodies other than those of human beings. In other words, by the laws of nature (prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni (BG 3.27)) the living entity evolves from lower grades of life to the human form. Because of his developed consciousness, however, the human being must understand the constitutional position of the living entity and understand why he must accept a material body. This chance is given to him by nature, but if he nonetheless acts like an animal, what is the benefit of his human life? In this life one must select the goal of life and act accordingly.[16]

The individual soul is already under specific material nature, and the process is going on in lower grades of life, but in the human form of life, by advancement of education, one can become above the modes of material nature. That chance is given to him. This is stated in the Bhagavad-gita: "yanti deva vrata devan (BG 9.25)." So if he likes he can go back to Godhead, "yanti mad yajino 'pi mam," and stop this transmigration process...In the animal form there is no chance, only in the human form.[17]

The Vedic explanation of evolution differs from the currently popular theory offered by Charles Darwin. Whereas Darwin speculated on the presence and successive development of bodily forms solely in terms of gross physical factors, the Vedas reveal that it is the subtle factor of consciousness that determines bodily changes and the progress of the soul through various bodily forms. Śrīla Prabhupāda contrasts the Darwinian viewpoint to the Vedic understanding of the evolutionary process:

As stated in Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa, there is a gradual evolutionary process, but it is not the body that is evolving. All the bodily forms are already there. It is the spiritual entity, or spiritual spark within the body, that is being promoted by the laws of nature under the supervision of superior authority. We can understand from this verse (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.24.73) that from the very beginning of creation different varieties of living entities were existing. It is not that some of them have become extinct. Everything is there; it is due to our lack of knowledge that we cannot see things in their proper perspective.[18]

One has to transmigrate from lower species of life, aquatic life, to trees; from trees to insect; insect to birds; birds to beasts; and from beasts, that is evolution. That evolution is not Darwin's evolution. That evolution, it is called janmānta vāda. The soul is going from one body to another, not that the body is transforming. The Darwin's theory is that the body is transforming. No. Body cannot transform. Body can take the shape according to the desire of the soul, or according to the effects, resultant action, of one's karma. The different types of bodies are all there.[19]

As Śrīla Prabhupāda points out, the soul that is now in an animal body will eventually, after serving time in various animal forms, attain a human form of body.

In the lower species of life there is an evolutionary process, and when the term of the living entity's imprisonment or punishment in the lower species is finished, he is again offered a human form and given a chance to decide for himself which way he should plan.[20]

Transmigration and ahiṁsā

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains how transmigration of the soul and the process of evolution relate to the killing of a living being:

All living entities have to fulfill a certain duration for being encaged in a particular type of material body. They have to finish the duration allotted a particular body before being promoted or evolved to another body. Killing an animal or any other living being simply places an impediment in the way of his completing his term of imprisonment in a certain body. One should therefore not kill bodies for one's sense gratification, for this will implicate one in sinful activity.[21]

He further illustrates:

Just like you are living in an apartment according to your position, but if I forcibly I ask you, "Go out of this apartment," then I will be punishable by the law. I have no right to get you out from that apartment. Similarly, every living entity by the laws of nature, all laws of nature, is imprisoned or allowed under certain apartment, either in the body of a tree or a human being or demigod or cat or dog. These are all ordained. So you cannot get out the living entity, soul, by force from that body. Then you will be punishable.[22]

This science underlies the Vedic ethic of nonviolence, ahiṁsā. Referring to the killing of an animal, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:

Real ahiṁsā means not checking anyone's progressive life. The animals are also making progress in their evolutionary life by transmigrating from one category of animal life to another. If a particular animal is killed, then his progress is checked. If an animal is staying in a particular body for so many days or so many years and is untimely killed, then he has to come back again in that form of life to complete the remaining days in order to be promoted to another species of life. So their progress should not be checked simply to satisfy one's palate. This is called ahiṁsā.[23]

Right to live

Referring to Śrī Kṛṣṇa's statement in Bhagavad-gītā (14.4), Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that Kṛṣṇa specifically says sarva-yoniṣu: all beings born of all species of life, from the lowest microbe to the highest form of human life, Kṛṣṇa personally declares to be His own.

Kṛṣṇa says that "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities in any form." Sarva-yoniṣu.(BG 14.4) Sarva means all, 8,400,000 species and forms. So Kṛṣṇa is the father, and all living entities are part and parcel of the Lord. They have different dresses according to different karma, but actually, every living entity is part and parcel of God, sons.[24]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that as children of the Supreme Father, all living entities are equal in His eyes and brothers on the spiritual level. Given this platform of understanding, the killing of an animal should be taken no less seriously than the killing of a human being.

So as there is state laws that you shall be killed if you kill your fellow man, similarly in the God's law there are the same thing. Not only man; if you kill anyone, then you'll have to suffer, because everyone is God's creature. They are in different dress only. He's considered the supreme father. So father may have many children - one is not very intelligent, another is very intelligent. And if the intelligent son says to the father that "This, my brother, is not intelligent. Let me kill him," will the father allow? Because his one son is not very intelligent, and if the intelligent son desires to kill him to avoid the burden, will the father agree to this? No. Similarly, if God is the supreme father, how He can sanction that you live and you kill animal? The animals are also His sons.[25]

Drawing on the authority of Śrī Īśopaniṣad (Mantra 1), Śrīla Prabhupāda states that each and every living being, as a member of the universal family of God, has the right to live at the cost of the Father.

The earth or any other planet or universe is the absolute property of the Lord. The living beings are certainly His parts and parcels, or sons, and thus every one of them has a right to live at the mercy of the Lord to execute his prescribed work. No one, therefore, can encroach upon the right of another individual man or animal without being so sanctioned by the Lord.[26]

If you make this world as belonging to the human society, that is defective. It belongs to everyone. It belongs to the trees community, it belongs to the beast community. They have got right to live. Why should you cut the trees? Why should you send the bulls to the slaughterhouse? This is injustice.[27]

Śrīla Prabhupāda relates this encroachment upon the rights of others to the concept of hiṁsa (or jīva-hiṁsa). He writes: "Jīva-hiṁsana refers to the killing of animals or to envy of other living entities. The killing of poor animals is undoubtedly due to envy of those animals."[28] As he explained to one of his disciples:

Envy means the cow has got right to live. He does not allow the cow to live. That is envy. You cannot understand this? Suppose you are walking. You have got right to walk, I have got, and if I kill you, you cannot walk. That is envious. Everyone has got right to live. Just like the camel. God has given their food. They are accustomed to eat these thorny twigs. So Kṛṣṇa has given that. Let them eat and live. Why should you interfere with his living condition?[29]

The principles of spiritual life prohibit acts of hiṁsā, including, as Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses, the unnecessary killing of animals.

Any circumstances, the direct killing is not approved by any śāstra, any religion. Jīva hiṁsā. Caitanya Mahāprabhu also says, niṣiddhācāra jīva-hiṁsā. So, jiva hiṁsā, violence upon other animals, that is against Vaiṣṇava principle. You cannot be violent, you cannot kill.[30]

You have got right to live and the lamb has got right to live. Why should you encroach upon his living right? Because you are strong. That is not humanity. The animal is therefore benefit. Let him live and you take the fur. You can use it for your coat, but why should you kill it? The cow is giving milk like mother, why should you kill it? This is humanity, to kill the mother? So in this way we are encroaching the rights of others, and we are becoming subject to be punished by God.[31]

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Culture of humanity

Śrīla Prabhupāda distinguishes the human being from lower animals by virtue of the naturally greater intellectual capacity and higher level of awareness that come with the human form of life. He shows that along with this superior position comes a greater degree of moral responsibility as well as freedom of choice. Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that God and nature endow human beings with a unique chance to determine their own destiny by way of culturing knowledge and properly informed action, and that Vedic culture serves as a guide for achieving the real aim of human life - the uniquely human goals of spiritual realization and liberation from material existence. Real human culture, he says, means this culture: that which supports the progressive development of the human being in spiritual consciousness. The following section surveys Śrīla Prabhupāda's instruction regarding animal-killing as it relates to civilization and the culture of humanity.

Food for man?

Animal-killing is most frequently justified as a means to provide food for human beings. The bulk of Śrīla Prabhupāda's discussion of animal-killing centers on the slaughter of animals for food. Clearly, man is capable of slaughtering animals and consuming their flesh. But should he? Following the teachings of the Vedas, Śrīla Prabhupāda says no.

Jīvo jīvasya jīvanam

It is stated in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (SB 1.13.47):

ahastāni sahastānām
apadāni catuṣ-padām
phalgūni tatra mahatāṁ
jīvo jīvasya jīvanam
"Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another."[32]

It might appear that by virtue of this systematic law of subsistence, the killing of animals for food would be justified. However, as Śrīla Prabhupāda's comprehensive understanding of Vedic instruction shows, what God and nature intend for human beings is not automatically the same as what is set forth for other forms of life. This verse gives information about how the material world is arranged; it is not given as a positive guide for civilized human living. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

The living beings who have come to the material world against the will of the Supreme Being are under the control of a supreme power called māyā-śakti, the deputed agent of the Lord, and this daivī māyā is meant to pinch the conditioned souls by threefold miseries, one of which is explained here in this verse: the weak are the subsistence of the strong. No one is strong enough to protect himself from the onslaught of a stronger, and by the will of the Lord there are systematic categories of the weak, the stronger and the strongest. There is nothing to be lamented if a tiger eats a weaker animal, including a man, because that is the law of the Supreme Lord. But although the law states that a human being must subsist on another living being, there is the law of good sense also, for the human being is meant to obey the laws of the scriptures. This is impossible for other animals.[33]

In other words, the scriptures give laws for human living, and human beings are meant to follow those laws and not the laws of animal life. As Śrīla Prabhupāda writes in his purport to Śrī Īśopaniṣad (Mantra 1):

The standard of life for human beings cannot be applied to animals. The tiger does not eat rice and wheat or drink cow's milk, because he has been given food in the shape of animal flesh. Among the many animals and birds, some are vegetarian and others are carnivorous, but none of them transgress the laws of nature, which have been ordained by the will of the Lord. Animals, birds, reptiles and other lower life forms strictly adhere to the laws of nature; therefore there is no question of sin for them, nor are the Vedic instructions meant for them. Human life alone is a life of responsibility.[34]

Proper food for man

Although there are all kinds of eatables available in the world, not every creature eats every type of food. As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, God provides all living beings with foods suited to their various natures; God has likewise supplied humans with their particular foodstuffs according to the purpose and design of human life, and these do not include flesh.

If you inquire, "Then why you restrict, "No meat-eating'?" The answer is that actually we do not make any distinction between the meat-eaters and the vegetable eaters, because the cow or the goat or the lamb has got life, and the grass, it has also got life. But we follow the Vedic instruction. What is that? Now, īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvaṁ yat kiñcit jagatyāṁ jagat, tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā: (ISO 1) everything is the property of the Supreme Lord, and you can enjoy whatever is allotted to you. Mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam. You cannot touch others' body, others' property. You cannot touch. That is Vedic life. So in all scriptures it is stated that man should live on fruits and vegetables. Their teeth are made in that way. They can eat very easily and digest. Although jīvo jīvasya jīvanam: one has to live by eating another living entity. Jīvo jīvasya... That is nature's law. So the vegetarian also eating another living entity. And the meat-eater, they're also eating another... But there is discretion. Discretion means that these things are made for human being. Just like fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice, grains, milk—the animals do not come to claim that "I shall eat this." No. It is meant for man.[35]

Discrimination required

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that animals, whose behavior is restricted by bodily design and instinct, follow the laws of nature by default.

In the living entities lower than the human being, they follow the nature's way, their allotted food. Just like the tiger eats blood and flesh. If you offer him nice fruit, nice sweet rice, he'll not eat. Even the dog, they do not like the sweet rice or nice kachorī and sṛṅgara. You'll see. They cannot eat. If they eat, they will fall diseased.[36]

Human beings have their own allotment of foodstuff as well; however, human beings have greater capacity for choice than do animals in what they are able to take for food. As such, Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that human beings must exercise their power of discretion when it comes to eating.

You cannot eat anything which is beyond the jurisdiction of your food. For you, for a human being, the food is, I mean to say, given there, quota, that "You can eat grains. You can eat fruits. You can eat flowers, vegetables. You can eat milk." That is sattvikāhāra, foodstuff prepared from vegetables, fruits, grains, sugar, and milk products. That's all. That is sattvika. That is allotted for the human being. You cannot imitate the cats and dogs: "Because they are eating meat, I also meat... Meat also is my food." They put forward, "Everything is food." So why don't you eat stool? That is also food - for the hog. So we must have discrimination, that what sort of food we shall take. Not that like hogs, anything will be accepted. That is humanity.[37]

Śrīla Prabhupāda concedes that a certain amount of violence must take place in order for any living entity to eat. From there, however, it becomes a matter of selection.

Discrimination is the better part of valor. Whom should we kill? It is all right. Jīvo jīvasya jīvanam. But there is important. If you eat vegetables there is no crisis, you can go on. It is a fact that an animal is eating another animal. It may be vegetables or animals, but they are disturbing. Therefore it is said, "As it is allotted." You should eat such and such. Not that indiscriminately you can eat everything.[38]

Sometimes the question is put before us: "You ask us not to eat meat, but you are eating vegetables. Do you think that is not violence?" The answer is that eating vegetables is violence, and vegetarians are also committing violence against other living entities because vegetables also have life. Nondevotees are killing cows, goats and so many other animals for eating purposes, and a devotee, who is vegetarian, is also killing. But here, significantly, it is stated that every living entity has to live by killing another entity; that is the law of nature. Jīvo jīvasya jīvanam: one living entity is the life for another living entity. But for a human being, that violence should be committed only as much as necessary.[39]

He notes that some foodstuffs can be procured without killing.

First of all, vegetables are not killed. If I take a fruit from the tree, the tree is not killed. Or if I take the grains from the plant, before the grains are ripe the plant dies. So actually there is no question of killing. Although the law is, nature's law is that "One living entity is the food for another living entity." Jīvo jīvasya jīvanam. But a human being should be discriminative. If I can live by eating fruits and grains and milk, why shall I kill animal?[40]

The only animal food meant for humans, he says, is milk, which may be obtained without violence as part of God's arrangement.

One should accept only those things that are set aside by the Lord as his quota. The cow, for instance, gives milk, but she does not drink that milk: she eats grass and straw, and her milk is designated as food for human beings. Such is the arrangement of the Lord.[41]

The verdict is that under most circumstances, for the human being to kill an animal for food is an act of unnecessary violence.

By the law of the Supreme Lord, all living beings, in whatever shape they may be, are the sons of the Lord, and no one has any right to kill another animal, unless it is so ordered by the codes of natural law. The tiger can kill a lower animal for his subsistence, but a man cannot kill an animal for his subsistence. That is the law of God, who has created the law that a living being subsists by eating another living being. Thus the vegetarians are also living by eating other living beings. Therefore, the law is that one should live only by eating specific living beings, as ordained by the law of God. The Īśopaniṣad directs that one should live by the direction of the Lord and not at one's sweet will. A man can subsist on varieties of grains, fruits and milk ordained by God, and there is no need of animal food, save and except in particular cases.[42]

Beyond vegetarianism

As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, the exclusion of animal flesh from the human diet is not exactly a question of ‘vegetarian’ vs. ‘non-vegetarian.’ Beyond the consideration of material substance, he emphasizes that human beings should eat only those foods which have first been offered to the Supreme Lord (prasāda).

The human being is meant for self-realization, and for that purpose he is not to eat anything which is not first offered to the Lord. The Lord accepts from His devotee all kinds of food preparations made of vegetables, fruits, leaves and grains. Fruits, leaves and milk in different varieties can be offered to the Lord, and after the Lord accepts the foodstuff, the devotee can partake of the prasāda, by which all suffering in the struggle for existence will be gradually mitigated.[43]

Ultimately, it is for this reason that animal flesh is not recommended for human consumption: the Lord does not accept food offerings of animal flesh. Śrīla Prabhupāda gives the full purport of the Vedic instruction:

Animal killing is prohibited. Every living being, of course, has to eat something (jīvo jīvasya jīvanam). But one should be taught what kind of food one should take. Therefore the Īśopaniṣad instructs, tena tyaktena bhuñjīthāḥ: one should eat whatever is allotted for human beings (ISO 1). Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad-gītā (BG 9.26):

patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
aśnāmi prayatātmanaḥ

"If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it." A devotee, therefore, does not eat anything that would require slaughterhouses for poor animals. Rather, devotees take prasāda of Kṛṣṇa (tena tyaktena bhuñjīthāḥ). Kṛṣṇa recommends that one give Him patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyam—a leaf, a flower, fruit or water (BG 9.26). Animal food is never recommended for human beings; instead, a human being is recommended to take prasāda, remnants of food left by Kṛṣṇa. Yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ (BG 3.13). If one practices eating prasāda, even if there is some little sinful activity involved, one becomes free from the results of sinful acts.[44]

A question of yajña

Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses that the ideal human diet of prasāda is one which follows the wish of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The point is not nonviolence in itself, but rather the act of offering yajña, or sacrifice to please the Supreme Lord.

If Kṛṣṇa says that "Give Me meat," then we shall eat meat. Because we are concerned with Kṛṣṇa prasādam. We are not distinguished that "Vegetable eating is nice, meat eating is not nice." No. The nature's law is that you must eat, and that eating is something living. Vegetable is also living. But we are not concerned, vegetarian or nonvegetarian. We are concerned with Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa says, "You give Me fruits, flowers, grains." We offer that. If Kṛṣṇa says, "You give Me meat, chickens," we shall offer and we shall take.[45]

Even if we do not kill animals, simply by eating vegetables, they are also life... But our thing is that we have to offer yajña. Killing of animal does not mean that if a man kills a cow or goat for eating, he is killing, and those who are vegetarian, they are not killing. They are also killing. A vegetable has also got life. So it is not the question of killing. It is the question of offering yajña. It is the question of offering yajña.[46]

While Śrīla Prabhupāda advocates the topmost dietary recommendation, he also shows that the Vedas do not disallow flesh-eating entirely. He writes: "On the whole, meat-eating is not completely forbidden; a particular class of men is allowed to eat meat according to various circumstances and injunctions."[47] Some Vedic texts prescribe ritual sacrifices which help to mitigate the offense of killing an animal for food.

In the Vedic literature, even those who are meat-eaters, they are advised to sacrifice an animal before the deity Goddess Kālī, not purchased from the slaughterhouse. That is a kind of yajña, paśumedha-yajña. That is for low-class men. But still, because he's performing the yajña, he's less sinful.[48]

Procuring foodstuff

Regarding the law of subsistence and the culture of humanity, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains:

So this is the law of nature, that the weaker section is devoured by the stronger section... Therefore meat-eaters, so long they are like animals, they can go on with this nature's law. You are man, you are stronger; therefore weaker animal—cows and goats—you slaughter them. They are stronger bodily, but they have no intelligence. So man has got intelligence. So if you misuse your intelligence in that way, you can do that. That is nature's law. But human being means culture, advance, in spiritual consciousness. That is human.[49]

Nature's law of subsistence, he says, applies to animals and also to those humans who are unable to abide by higher instructions for human life. For human society, however, this law of subsistence should be taken as an exception rather than a rule.

One must eat something. The nature's law is that sahastānā... Sahastānām ahastāni. And catuṣ-padam. That is the arrangement by nature's way, that animals, they have no hands. So the primitive life, so they become food for the primitive natives or uncivilized man. They kill some animals and eat. And why civilized man do so? He can produce his food. God has given him land. He has intelligence.[50]

You have got sufficient grains, sufficient fruits, sufficient milk, milk products. Then if you can live on these things which are meant for human beings, why should you kill animals unnecessarily? If there is no alternative, that you cannot live... Just like in the desert, Arabian Desert, there is no food, no grain, for them animal-eating may be permissible. Because after all, we have to live. That is a different thing. But when you have got very nice foodstuff, and a very nutritious, palatable, sweet, why should you indulge in this unnecessary killing of animals? That is, will go against your purification. Therefore it is prohibited.[51]

In various ways Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that human culture means applying human intelligence and discrimination in the matter of procuring foodstuffs.

Then these animal killers, they may not be encouraged, "So then we are doing nice, because one living entity is food for another. So we are eating every, anything. Any moving animals we can eat. Bird, beast, goats, cows, horse, ass, whatever is available." Yes, you can eat. But that is the natural law for the animals and uncivilized man, not for the civilized man. Because one living entity is food for another living entity, you cannot eat your father, mother or children. Why? Because you are human being, you have got discrimination.[52]

We are eating milk, but we are not drinking the blood. Milk is nothing but blood of cow. But we know the art, how to drink the blood of cow without killing. That is civilization. That is civilization. Medically, they say the cow's blood or bull's blood is very effective, and that is accepted. But you must know the art.[53]

Śrīla Prabhupāda summarizes:

A tiger may eat meat. It is a tiger. But I am not tiger. I am human being... A tiger is made by nature's law in that way; therefore he can do that. You cannot do it. Your nature is different. You have got discrimination, you have got conscience, you are claiming civilized, human being. So you should utilize these things. That is Kṛṣṇa consciousness, perfect consciousness. So human life is meant for raising oneself to the perfection of consciousness, and that is Kṛṣṇa conscious. We cannot remain in tiger consciousness. That is not humanity.[54]

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Cow protection and human civilization

According to Vedic culture, human beings should treat all animals with mercy and compassion. Above any other species, however, the cow is considered uniquely important to humanity. Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that the cow is an animal worthy of special protection because it supplies key products to support human culture. He speaks of the general economic value of the cow as a provider of foodstuff (in the form of milk) and materials (such as hide and bone) for footwear and various tools and instruments. Above this, he advocates cow protection as a bolster of higher-level civilization under the auspices of brahminical culture. In this regard he points to the special nutritional value of milk and the specific necessity of cow products for the performance of yajñas, religious sacrifices offered for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord.

The cow and human society

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that the human being has a special, beneficial relationship with the cow and that this relationship should be supported.

That is nature's way, by God's will, that a cow gives forty pounds, fifty pounds milk daily, but it does not drink. Although it is her milk, no, it gives you, human society: "You take. But don't kill me. Let me live. I am eating only grass." Just see... Without touching your foodstuff, the cow is eating the grass which is given by God, immense grass, and they are giving you the finest foodstuff, milk.[55]

Just like fruits, flowers, vegetables, rice, grains, milk - the animals do not come to claim that "I shall eat this." No. It is meant for man. Just like milk. Milk is an animal product. It is the blood of the cow changed only. But the milk is not drunk by the cow. She is delivering the milk, but she's not taking, because it is not allotted for it. By nature's way. So you have to take. Milk is made for man, so you take the milk. Let her live and supply you milk continually. Why should you kill? Follow nature's law. Then you'll be happy. Tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā (ISO 1). Whatever is allotted to you, take.[56]

Man can produce fruits and flowers, grains, take the substance, and the rejected portion give to the animal. She gives you milk. You require milk. This is cooperation.[57]

Śrīla Prabhupāda further notes that in the Vedic view, the cow and bull are seen as mother and father of society. Their service to human society is so vital that the Vedas specifically instruct the vaiśya class - the agricultural and commercial section of society - to give protection to these animals.

Lord Kṛṣṇa, as the teacher of human society, personally showed by His acts that the mercantile community, or the vaiśyas, should herd cows and bulls and thus give protection to the valuable animals. According to smṛti regulation, the cow is the mother and the bull the father of the human being. The cow is the mother because just as one sucks the breast of one's mother, human society takes cow's milk. Similarly, the bull is the father of human society because the father earns for the children just as the bull tills the ground to produce food grains. Human society will kill its spirit of life by killing the father and the mother.[58]

Supporting brahminical culture

Śrīla Prabhupāda presents cow protection, through its relation to brahminical culture, to be a basic principle of civilized life. He argues that brahminical culture must be present to guide human civilization in its purpose, which is to promote spiritual advancement (as well as material well-being) for the social body as a whole. Referring to the teachings of the Vedas, he indicates that cow protection and brahminical culture stand together as pillars of civilized society.

Śrīla Prabhupāda gives this succinct definition of brahminical culture:

Brahminical culture means the social position in which everyone is assisted to elevate himself to the highest position of understanding the position and the constitution of the soul. That should be the aim of human society.[59]

Commenting on a prayer from the Viṣṇu Purāṇa, he writes in one of his Bhagavad-gītā purports:

There is also a prayer in the Vedic literature that states:

namo brahmaṇya-devāya
go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya ca
jagad-dhitāya kṛṣṇāya
govindāya namo namaḥ

"My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world." (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.19.65) The purport is that special mention is given in that prayer for the protection of the cows and the brāhmaṇas. Brāhmaṇas are the symbol of spiritual education, and cows are the symbol of the most valuable food; these two living creatures, the brāhmaṇas and the cows, must be given all protection—that is real advancement of civilization.[60]

He further states:

The Lord is the protector of cows and the brahminical culture. A society devoid of cow protection and brahminical culture is not under the direct protection of the Lord, just as the prisoners in the jails are not under the protection of the king but under the protection of a severe agent of the king. Without cow protection and cultivation of the brahminical qualities in human society, at least for a section of the members of society, no human civilization can prosper at any length. [61]

Progressive human civilization is based on brahminical culture, God consciousness and protection of cows. All economic development of the state by trade, commerce, agriculture and industries must be fully utilized in relation to the above principles; otherwise all so-called economic development becomes a source of degradation. Cow protection means feeding the brahminical culture, which leads towards God consciousness, and thus perfection of human civilization is achieved.[62]

How does cow protection specifically relate to brahminical culture? As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, cow protection supports brahminical culture by ensuring a good supply of milk products necessary for human nutrition and for essential religious observances.

Nutrition for humanity

Śrīla Prabhupāda wrote to one of his disciples: "Vedic civilization gives protection to all the living creatures, especially the cows, because they render such valuable service to the human society in the shape of milk, without which no one can become healthy and strong."[63] While he notes that all foods in the highest mode of nature (sattva-guna, or the quality of goodness) support health and human achievement by promoting sattvic qualities in those who consume them,[64] Śrīla Prabhupāda especially advocates milk as topmost among foodstuffs for its benefits to human life.

Human civilization means to advance the cause of brahminical culture, and to maintain it, cow protection is essential. There is a miracle in milk, for it contains all the necessary vitamins to sustain human physiological conditions for higher achievements. Brahminical culture can advance only when man is educated to develop the quality of goodness, and for this there is a prime necessity of food prepared with milk, fruits and grains.[65]

Milk, he explains, benefits individuals and society as a whole by promoting optimum development of the human brain.

If we really want to cultivate the human spirit in society we must have first-class intelligent men to guide the society, and to develop the finer tissues of our brains we must assimilate vitamin values from milk... No society can improve in transcendental knowledge without the guidance of such first-class men, and no brain can assimilate the subtle form of knowledge without fine brain tissues. For such important brain tissues we require a sufficient quantity of milk and milk preparations. Ultimately, we need to protect the cow to derive the highest benefit from this important animal. The protection of cows, therefore, is not merely a religious sentiment but a means to secure the highest benefit for human society.[66]

Śrīla Prabhupāda further states that milk is, in one way or another, an essential part of everyone's life.

So from the cows, the milk. And from the milk we can make hundreds of vitaminous foodstuff, hundreds. They're all palatable. So such a nice animal, faithful, peaceful, and beneficial. After taking milk from it, if we kill, does it look very well? Even after the death, the cows supply the skin for your shoes. It is so beneficial. You see. Even after death. While living, he gives you nice milk. You cannot reject milk from the human society. As soon as there is a child born, milk immediately required. Old man, milk is life. Diseased person, milk is life. Invalid, milk is life. So therefore Kṛṣṇa is teaching by His practical demonstration how He loves this innocent animal, cow. So human society should develop brahminical culture on the basis of protecting cows. The brāhmaṇa cannot take any other food except it is made of milk preparation. That develops the finer tissues of the brain. You can understand in subtle matters, in philosophy, in spiritual science.[67]

By protecting cows and opting for milk instead of meat, he advises, civilization can become truly progressive.

One cannot become spiritually advanced without acquiring the brahminical qualifications and giving protection to cows. Cow protection ensures sufficient food prepared with milk, which is needed for an advanced civilization. One should not pollute civilization by eating the flesh of cows. A civilization must do something progressive... Instead of killing the cow to eat flesh, civilized men must prepare various milk products that will enhance the condition of society. If one follows the brahminical culture, he will become competent in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.[68]

Ingredient for yajñas

In addition to the role of milk as foodstuff, Śrīla Prabhupāda specifies cow products as necessary ingredients for religious sacrifices performed for the satisfaction of the Lord (yajñas). He stresses that yajña is required for the material as well as the spiritual benefit of society. Cow protection, he argues, supports the production of milk and other vital substances, which in turn support the total quality of life through the performance of yajñas.

Butter, when clarified by melting, produces ghee, or clarified butter, which is inevitably necessary for performing great ritualistic sacrifices. As stated in Bhagavad-gītā (18.5), yajña-dāna-tapaḥ-karma na tyājyaṁ kāryam eva tat: sacrifice, charity and austerity are essential to keep human society perfect in peace and prosperity. Yajña, the performance of sacrifice, is essential; to perform yajña, clarified butter is absolutely necessary; and to get clarified butter, milk is necessary. Milk is produced when there are sufficient cows. Therefore in Bhagavad-gītā (18.44), cow protection is recommended (kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva jam).[69]

In human life, one should be trained to perform yajñas. As we are informed in Bhagavad-gītā (3.9), yajñārthāt karmaṇo 'nyatra loko 'yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ: if we do not perform yajña, we shall simply work very hard for sense gratification like dogs and hogs. This is not civilization. A human being should be trained to perform yajña. Yajñād bhavati parjanyaḥ (BG 3.14). If yajñas are regularly performed, there will be proper rain from the sky, and when there is regular rainfall, the land will be fertile and suitable for producing all the necessities of life. Yajña, therefore, is essential. For performing yajña, clarified butter is essential, and for clarified butter, cow protection is essential. Therefore, if we neglect the Vedic way of civilization, we shall certainly suffer.[70]

Pañca-gavya, the five products received from the cow, namely milk, yogurt, ghee, cow dung and cow urine, are required in all ritualistic ceremonies performed according to the Vedic directions. Cow urine and cow dung are uncontaminated, and since even the urine and dung of a cow are important, we can just imagine how important this animal is for human civilization. Therefore the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, directly advocates go-rakṣya, the protection of cows. Civilized men who follow the system of varṇāśrama, especially those of the vaiśya class, who engage in agriculture and trade, must give protection to the cows. Unfortunately, because people in Kali-yuga are mandāḥ, all bad, and sumanda-matayaḥ, misled by false conceptions of life, they are killing cows in the thousands. Therefore they are unfortunate in spiritual consciousness, and nature disturbs them in so many ways, especially through incurable diseases like cancer and through frequent wars and among nations. As long as human society continues to allow cows to be regularly killed in slaughterhouses, there cannot be any question of peace and prosperity.[71]

Duty of the vaiśyas (mercantile class)

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that, in the Vedic division of society, the mercantile and agricultural sector - known as the vaiśya class - bears responsibility toward the animals of the community, particularly the cows. Bhagavad-gītā (18.44) prescribes cow protection as one of the duties of the vaiśya class. Śrīla Prabhupāda comments:

Kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva-jam (BG 18.44). Vaiśya, they should engage themselves in agricultural production and giving protection to the cows, especially mentioned, go-rakṣya. Go-rakṣya, cow protection, is one of the items of state affairs.[72]

In the Bhagavad-gītā you will find that the mercantile class... Who are mercantile class? Kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva-jam (18.44). Vaiśya means the mercantile community. They are meant for giving protection to the animals, and produce grain, and distribute and make trade on them. That's all. Because formerly there was no industry—people generally depended on agricultural work—therefore the mercantile community, they used to produce food grains and distribute them, and protection of cow was their duty. As the king was entrusted to protect the life of the citizens, similarly, the vaiśya class, or the mercantile class, they were entrusted to protect the life of cow. Why particularly cow is protected? Because milk is very essential food for the human society, therefore cow protection is the duty of the human society. That is the conception of Vedic literature.[73]

There are so many facilities afforded by cow protection, but people have forgotten these arts. The importance of protecting cows is therefore stressed by Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā (kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāvajam (18.44)). Even now in the Indian villages surrounding Vṛndāvana, the villagers live happily simply by giving protection to the cow. They keep cow dung very carefully and dry it to use as fuel. They keep a sufficient stock of grains, and because of giving protection to the cows, they have sufficient milk and milk products to solve all economic problems. Simply by giving protection to the cow, the villagers live so peacefully. Even the urine and stool of cows have medicinal value.[74]

Śrīla Prabhupāda highlights cow protection as an integral part of an equitable economy which promotes the well-being of all its members. Contrasting Vedic society to modern industrial society, he condemns the mass killing of cows and other animals as a practice which leads not to a higher standard of civilization but rather to degradation and suffering.

The vaiśyas, the members of the mercantile communities, are especially advised to protect the cows. Cow protection means increasing the milk productions, namely curd and butter. Agriculture and distribution of the foodstuff are the primary duties of the mercantile community backed by education in Vedic knowledge and trained to give in charity. As the kṣatriyas were given charge of the protection of the citizens, vaiśyas were given the charge of the protection of animals. Animals are never meant to be killed. Killing of animals is a symptom of barbarian society. For a human being, agricultural produce, fruits and milk are sufficient and compatible foodstuffs. The human society should give more attention to animal protection. The productive energy of the laborer is misused when he is occupied by industrial enterprises. Industry of various types cannot produce the essential needs of man, namely rice, wheat, grains, milk, fruits and vegetables. The production of machines and machine tools increases the artificial living fashion of a class of vested interests and keeps thousands of men in starvation and unrest. This should not be the standard of civilization.[75]

Special status of the cow

Although the Vedas give some allowance for animal slaughter and meat-eating under certain conditions, it is enjoined that the cow is never to be harmed. Śrīla Prabhupāda comments that although the law of subsistence mentions four-legged animals as one class of human eatable, the cow is excluded, as evident in the statement of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.4.9. He writes in his purport:

By nature's law, or the arrangement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, one kind of living entity is eatable by other living entities. As mentioned herein, dvi-padāṁ ca catuṣ-padaḥ: the four-legged animals (catuṣ-padaḥ), as well as food grains, are eatables for human beings (dvi-padām). These four-legged animals are those such as deer and goats, not cows, which are meant to be protected. Generally the men of the higher classes of society—the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas—do not eat meat. Sometimes kṣatriyas go to the forest to kill animals like deer because they have to learn the art of killing, and sometimes they eat the animals also. Śūdras, too, eat animals such as goats. Cows, however, are never meant to be killed or eaten by human beings. In every śāstra, cow killing is vehemently condemned... Those who desire to eat meat may satisfy the demands of their tongues by eating lower animals, but they should never kill cows, who are actually accepted as the mothers of human society because they supply milk. The śāstra especially recommends, kṛṣi-go-rakṣya: the vaiśya section of humanity should arrange for the food of the entire society through agricultural activities and should give full protection to the cows, which are the most useful animals because they supply milk to human society.[76]

Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that the cow is so important to humanity that even out of morality and simple gratitude, human society should see to it that the cow not be subject to slaughter.

Why cow protection is so much advocated? Because it is very, very important. There is no such injunction that "You don't eat the flesh of the tiger." You can eat. Because those who are meat eaters, those who are meat eaters, they have been recommended to eat the flesh of goats or other lower animals—sometimes dogs also, they eat, or the hogs—you can eat. But never the flesh of cows. So, innocent animal, the most important animal, giving service even after death... While living, giving service, so important service, giving you milk, even after death she is giving service by supplying the skin, the hoof, the horn. You utilize in so many ways. But still, the present human society is so ungrateful and rascal that they are killing cows.[77]

Śrīla Prabhupāda advises that those who insist on eating meat may follow scriptural recommendations for sacrifice and consume other animals - but never the cow. As he instructs, "First of all, they should not be meat-eater. But if you are staunch meat-eaters, then you cannot touch cow."[78]

In the matter of protecting the cows, the meat-eaters will protest, but in answer to them we may say that since Kṛṣṇa gives stress to cow protection, those who are inclined to eat meat may eat the flesh of unimportant animals like hogs, dogs, goats and sheep, but they should not touch the life of the cows, for this is destructive to the spiritual advancement of human society.[79]

Best overall benefit for humanity

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes of how cow protection bolsters the morale as well as the economic condition of the human community.

The bull is the emblem of the moral principle, and the cow is the representative of the earth. When the bull and the cow are in a joyful mood, it is to be understood that the people of the world are also in a joyful mood. The reason is that the bull helps production of grains in the agricultural field, and the cow delivers milk, the miracle of aggregate food values. The human society, therefore, maintains these two important animals very carefully so that they can wander everywhere in cheerfulness.[80]

Milking the cow means drawing the principles of religion in a liquid form... Foolish people do not know how one earns happiness by making the cows and bulls happy, but it is a fact by the law of nature. Let us take it from the authority of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and adopt the principles for the total happiness of humanity.[81]

The bull and the cow can be protected for the good of all human society simply by the spreading of brahminical culture as the topmost perfection of all cultural affairs. By advancement of such culture, the morale of society is properly maintained, and so peace and prosperity are also attained without extraneous effort.[82]

In summary, Śrīla Prabhupāda calls for all societies to follow the instruction of the Vedas and establish the practice of cow protection (go-rakṣya) for the best overall benefit of the human race.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His instructions of Bhagavad-gītā, advises go-rakṣya, which means cow protection. The cow should be protected, milk should be drawn from the cows, and this milk should be prepared in various ways. One should take ample milk, and thus one can prolong one's life, develop his brain, execute devotional service, and ultimately attain the favor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.[83]

(Go to references for "Cow protection and human civilization")

Civilized community

According to Vedic culture, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, animals are considered part of the community citizenry. He teaches that truly civilized society recognizes all living beings as brothers under God and affords protection for human and non-human inhabitants alike.

Mercy toward animals

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.14.9) contains this statement defining the correct attitude of humans toward animals in the community:

sarīsṛp khaga-makṣikāḥ
ātmanaḥ putravat paśyet
tair eṣām antaraṁ kiyat
"One should treat animals such as deer, camels, asses, monkeys, mice, snakes, birds and flies exactly like one's own son. How little difference there actually is between children and these innocent animals."[84]

In his purport to this verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda comments on the Bhāgavatam's recommendation and the spiritual truths underlying it.

One who is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness understands that there is no difference between the animals and the innocent children in one's home. Even in ordinary life, it is our practical experience that a household dog or cat is regarded on the same level as one's children, without any envy. Like children, the unintelligent animals are also sons of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore a Kṛṣṇa conscious person, even though a householder, should not discriminate between children and poor animals. Unfortunately, modern society has devised many means for killing animals in different forms of life. For example, in the agricultural fields there may be many mice, flies and other creatures that disturb production, and sometimes they are killed by pesticides. In this verse, however, such killing is forbidden. Every living entity should be nourished by the food given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Human society should not consider itself the only enjoyer of all the properties of God; rather, men should understand that all the other animals also have a claim to God's property.[85]

As animals are inferior to humans in terms of awareness and intelligence, our mode of behavior toward animals should be one of mercy, or dayā. Śrīla Prabhupāda briefly defines dayā in this connection:

Dayā means mercy. What is dayā? Who is, I mean to say, less strong. Just like animals, birds, beast, you should be very merciful. Just like children: you should be very merciful to children. [86]

He summarizes the scriptural statements with these practical guidelines for householders (gṛhasthas):

A gṛhastha should be very much affectionate toward lower animals, birds and bees, treating them exactly like his own children. A gṛhastha should not indulge in killing animals or birds for sense gratification. He should provide the necessities of life even to the dogs and the lowest creatures and should not exploit others for sense gratification. Factually, according to the instructions of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, every gṛhastha is a great communist who provides the means of living for everyone. Whatever a gṛhastha may possess he should equally distribute to all living entities, without discrimination. The best process is to distribute prasāda.[87]

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that the Vedic teachings should not be taken foolishly. Ideally, one should see with equal vision - sama-darśinaḥ - recognizing the presence of the soul and God (as the Supersoul) in every living being.[88] However, one should understand how God is present and also act appropriately in terms of material condition. In the following excerpt Śrīla Prabhupāda gives his disciples a view of the difference between wisely and foolishly 'seeing God' in the animal:

When you see a cat, when you see a dog, you see Kṛṣṇa in him. Why? You know that here is cat, living being. He, by his deeds, past deed he has got this body cat, forgetfulness. So let me help this cat, give it some Kṛṣṇa prasāda so that in some day he will come to Kṛṣṇa consciousness. This is to see in him Kṛṣṇa. Not that, "Oh, here is Kṛṣṇa, let me embrace this cat." This is nonsense. Here is a tiger, "Oh, here is Kṛṣṇa, come on. Please eat me." This is rascaldom. You should take sympathy with every living being, that he is part and parcel of Kṛṣṇa.[89]

In general, Śrīla Prabhupāda instructs that animals be seen as members of the individual family and the larger community and offered appropriate protection without discrimination.

Horses, elephants. They are also within the membership. According to Vedic conception, the animals, they are also members of your family. Because they are giving service. Not that one section of the members of my family I give protection, and the other section, I take everything from them and then cut throat. This is not civilization... Either family-wise or state-wise, it does not mean that you give protection to some members and cut throat of the others. [90]

Animals as prajāḥ (citizens)

Regarding the status of animals in human society, Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes the Sanskrit term prajāḥ:

Prajā means the living being who has taken his birth in the material world. Actually the living being has no birth and no death, but because of his separation from the service of the Lord and due to his desire to lord it over material nature, he is offered a suitable body to satisfy his material desires. In doing so, one becomes conditioned by the laws of material nature, and the material body is changed in terms of his own work. The living entity thus transmigrates from one body to another in 8,400,000 species of life. But due to his being the part and parcel of the Lord, he not only is maintained with all necessaries of life by the Lord, but also is protected by the Lord and His representatives, the saintly kings. These saintly kings give protection to all the prajās, or living beings, to live and to fulfill their terms of imprisonment. Mahārāja Parīkṣit was actually an ideal saintly king because while touring his kingdom he happened to see that a poor cow was about to be killed by the personified Kali, whom he at once took to task as a murderer. This means that even the animals were given protection by the saintly administrators, not from any sentimental point of view, but because those who have taken their birth in the material world have the right to live.[91]

As Śrīla Prabhupāda indicates, the meaning of prajā carries with it implications for government and community leadership. The administrative segment of society is known in the Vedas as the kṣatriya class, and the duty of the kṣatriyas is to provide protection for citizenry.[92] Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses that the kṣatriyas are meant to give protection to all who are under their dominion: "It is the duty of the kṣatriya to protect every living entity born in the land, in his kingdom. It is not that, as it is going on now, that only the human beings should be protected and not the animals."[93] Elsewhere he comments:

Vedic civilization is very liberal. According to Vedic civilization, the king has to give protection to all the prajās. Prajā means one who has taken birth in his kingdom. Prajāyate. So the animal is also prajā of the government. The trees are also prajā of the government. So formerly nobody could slaughter an animal, nobody can cut even a tree without reason, without sanction by the Vedic injunction.[94]

A kṣatriya must be vīra, hero. Whenever there is injustice, he must immediately come forward. "Why injustice? These poor animals, they are also my subject. How you can kill them? He's also born in this land." "National" means one is born in that particular land. So they are also born in this land. Why he should be treated differently? Just like in your country, even one Indian gets his child here, the child is counted as USA-born, US citizen, eh? Immediately. So if that is the law, that anyone born in this land should be treated as national, what is this law that the cows and the bulls born in that land, they are to be slaughtered?[95]

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that in the absence of kṣatriya principles of community protection, government policy adversely affects more than just the animals of society.

Exact good government law means that anyone who kills an animal without sanction... Of course, they now give sanction, that "Yes, you can kill as many animals in the slaughterhouse as you like." Because the government is śūdra. Government is not kṣatriya. So therefore is no protection. Why animal? Even a human being, if he's being killed on the street, on the Broadway, nobody cares for him. So this is the position.[96]

Brotherhood of all

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that civilized society is one in which all living beings are recognized as children of God. Witnessing events of his own time, he saw that civilization’s ideals of humanity and brotherhood would remain flawed unless the leaders of human society came to this understanding.

The so-called nationalist or humanitarist or universalist, they are packed up within the boundary of the human being. They have no expansions toward other living entities. Their national conception, that the human body should be given protection but animal body no protection... Why? They are also nationals. But they have no such idea because all these ideas are defective. There is shortcut.[97]

In one conversation with his disciples, Śrīla Prabhupāda voiced his stand against the 'humanitarian' attitude of the day:

You are trying to unify the so-called human beings, but you are keeping the poor animals for cutting their throat. This is your humanity. Because these poor animals cannot protest, so you are strong. And this is your humanity, you cut their throat and eat. But that is not humanity. Humanity is here mentioned: God is the seed-giving father all living entities. That is the fact. That is humanity. They do not know what is meaning by humanity. Here is the explanation, humanity. That is called brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā (BG 18.54). Unless you come to that stage, there is no question of humanity. Artificially, you manufacture something and you think humanity. According to your convenience. "Let us combine together and exploit other living entities for our benefit." That is not humanity. They do not know what is humanity. Here is the explanation. How humanity can be established unless there is the understanding of the supreme father, how there is question of, how this question of brotherhood can come in?[98]

In another discussion, he commented on the knowledge gap involved in common humanitarian activities:

The same man, he is giving charity for feeding poor man or giving relief to the distressed man, but at the same time he's encouraging animal-killing. So what is the ethics? What is the ethical law in these two contradictory activities? One side... Just like our Vivekananda. He is advocating daridra-nārāyaṇa sevā, "Feed the poor," but feed the poor with mother Kālī's prasāda, where poor goats are killed. Just like, another, one side feeding the poor, another side killing the poor goat. So what is the ethic? What is the ethical law in this connection? Just like people open hospitals, and the doctor prescribes, "Give this man," what it is called, "(Hindi), ox blood, or chicken juice." So what is this ethic? And they're supporting that "Here is chicken juice." Just because animal has no soul, so they can be killed. This is another theory. So why the animal has no soul? So imperfect knowledge. So on the basis of imperfect knowledge this ethic or this humanitarian, what is the value?[99]

Śrīla Prabhupāda defines the ideal of civilized society in this description of Āryan civilization given in his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 6.16.43:

The members of human society who strictly follow the principles of bhāgavata-dharma and live according to the instructions of the Supreme Personality of Godhead are called Āryans or ārya. A civilization of Āryans who strictly follow the instructions of the Lord and never deviate from those instructions is perfect. Such civilized men do not discriminate between trees, animals, human beings and other living entities. Paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ: (BG 5.18) because they are completely educated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, they see all living beings equally. Āryans do not kill even a small plant unnecessarily, not to speak of cutting trees for sense gratification. At the present moment, throughout the world, killing is prominent. Men are killing trees, they are killing animals, and they are killing other human beings also, all for sense gratification. This is not an Āryan civilization. As stated here, sthira-cara-sattva-kadambeṣv apṛthag-dhiyaḥ. The word apṛthag-dhiyaḥ indicates that Āryans do not distinguish between lower and higher grades of life. All life should be protected. All living beings have a right to live, even the trees and plants. This is the basic principle of an Āryan civilization.[100]

(Go to references for "Civilized community")

Non-theistic perspectives

While Śrīla Prabhupāda's presentation is primarily theistic, he also advances arguments without specific reference to God to oppose the practice of animal-killing. This section highlights three angles of reasoning: natural design (human physiology and resources for food), common morality (observable without reference to God), and economics (focusing on material prosperity and utilization of material resources).

Natural design

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that flesh-eating for humans is neither necessary nor truly natural. There is no need to kill animals, he says, as one can stay healthy eating a variety of foods without resorting to bloodshed.

Milk, butter, cheese and similar products give animal fat in a form which rules out any need for the killing of innocent creatures. It is only through brute mentality that this killing goes on. The civilized method of obtaining needed fat is by milk. Slaughter is the way of subhumans. Protein is amply available through split peas, dāl, whole wheat, etc.[101]

He advocates utilizing milk instead of meat for comparable nutrition without violence.

Milk - accepting that cow flesh and blood is very nutritious, that we also admit - but a civilized man utilizes the blood and meat in a different way. The milk is nothing but blood. But it is transformed into milk. And again, from milk you make so many things. You make yogurt, you make curd, you make ghee, so many things. And combination of these milk products with grains, with fruits and vegetables, you make similar hundreds of preparation. So this is civilized life, not that directly kill one animal and eat... Why you should kill?[102]

In terms of bodily design, Śrīla Prabhupāda describes how meat-eating is not supported for the human as it is for other, characteristically carnivorous animals. In this way he argues that meat-eating is not actually natural for the human being.

In the material world, material nature displays wonderful workmanship by creating varieties of bodies for the living beings according to their propensities for sense gratification. The living entity who wants to taste stool is given a material body that is quite suitable for eating stool—that of a hog. Similarly, one who wants to eat the flesh and blood of other animals may be given a tiger's body equipped with suitable teeth and claws. But the human being is not meant for eating flesh, nor does he have any desire to taste stool, even in the most aboriginal state. Human teeth are so made that they can chew and cut fruit and vegetables, although there are two canine teeth so that primitive humans can eat flesh if they so desire.[103]

The animal eats; we simply make arrangement of eating unnaturally. That is our advancement. In the animal kingdom, every particular animal has got a particular type of food. Just like tiger. A tiger eats flesh and blood, but if you give tiger nice oranges or grapes, he'll not touch it, because that is not his food. Similarly, a hog. A hog eats stool. If you give the hog nice halavā, it will not touch. You see? So every particular animal has got a particular type of food. Similarly, we human beings, we have got our particular type of food also. What is that? Fruits, milk, grains. Just like our teeth is made - you take a fruit, you can easily cut into pieces by this tooth. But if you take a piece of flesh, it will be difficult to cut with these teeth. But a tiger has got particular type of teeth, he can immediately cut into pieces the flesh. So we are advancing in education, but we do not study even of our teeth. We simply go to the dentist. That's all. This is our advancement of civilization.[104]

Common morality

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that compassion for other living entities is a basic ethical principle which is preached both within the Vedas[105] and outside as well. In connection with animal-killing, he refers to a maxim given by Cāṇakya Paṇḍita, a royal advisor and moralist from Vedic history.

Ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu… thinking all living entities as your own self. If you feel pains and pleasure by something, you could not afflict the pains to others. If your throat is cut, if your head is cut, you feel so much pain, how you can cut the head of another animal? This is education.[106]

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that Buddhism also reflects this principle. He discusses how Lord Buddha was an incarnation of God who appeared specifically to stop the practice of unrestricted, unprincipled animal slaughter. Turning aside the Vedas and references to God or the soul, he says, Lord Buddha instead approached the issue from a psychological perspective, focusing on immediate experience in the material world, to promote nonviolence as the best religious principle (ahiṁsaḥ parama-dharmaḥ).[107] Śrīla Prabhupāda explains how the principle of compassion is expressed in Lord Buddha's teachings:

Ātmavat sarva-bhūteṣu … whether the animal has soul or not soul, we shall consider later on. But when knife is on my throat I cry, and he also cries. Why shall I say that it has no soul and let me kill it? So that means he does not know how to see other living entity like himself. Buddha philosophy is based on this, that whatever you feel pain you should not inflict to others.[108]

Śrīla Prabhupāda specifically questions the morality of killing cows.

She is eating that grass and supplying the most nutritious food - milk - and in exchange you are cutting throat. How you can be happy? Such an innocent animal. She is eating grass supplied by God, and instead of grass, if you think that "She is eating grass from the land, American land or my land. She must give me something," she's supplying milk. What reason there is? So if we human beings, if we forget even ordinary mercy, compassion and gratefulness, then what is that human life?[109]

He frequently speaks of how, according to the Vedic way of thinking, the cow and bull are mother and father of society. From that standpoint, he asks, how can one morally justify killing these animals?

From moral point of view, you are drinking the milk of cow, and after that you are sending to the slaughterhouse. Do you like to send your mother to the slaughterhouse? And the bull is giving you, producing your food. Nowadays they have invented tractor or engaging sometimes horse. But in India still, the bulls are engaged for tilling the ground, the field, and produces. So from moral sense, the bull is producing your food and the cow is giving milk to you; therefore father and mother. Just like father produces food for the children and the mother gives the milk. So if the human society has not this simple brain of understanding, then where is brain?[110]

Śrīla Prabhupāda proposes that if people cannot give up eating the flesh of the cow, then they should wait until the animal dies naturally.

Why we should maintain slaughterhouse? If we want to eat the flesh, let us wait till the death. And there will be death. There is no doubt about it. So why they should maintain slaughterhouse? And this is most cruelty. A animal which is giving milk, so important foodstuff, and that is being killed, it does not suit any moral sense of any human being. [111]


Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that even from a strictly material standpoint, there is no real profit in killing animals in the interest of economic development.

Efficient use of resources

In this mock debate with his disciples, Śrīla Prabhupāda points out the inefficiency of animal-killing for food:

Prabhupāda: You do not kill human beings, but you kill animals. Similarly you discriminate: instead of killing animals, kill vegetables. Importance. Just like this grass. There is enough supply of grass, but you cannot have enough supply of cows. Therefore discrimination is that it is better to live on grass than on animals. Now, still they are eating seventy-five percent other than animals. They are not eating only animals. Why not twenty-five percent more? In the market they are not eating animal. When the animal-eaters I see, they have got a little flesh, surrounded by salad and these peas and so many other things. Why don't you eat only meat?
Śrutakīrti: Because we require a balanced diet.
Prabhupāda: No, you cannot supply. If everyone eats meat only, then one day all animals will be finished.
Paramahaṁsa: But we want to have a balanced diet with meat, and vegetables and fruit.
Prabhupāda: That balance of diet can be done by grains and vegetables. Why should we kill animals? We know that, the balance can be done. You learn from us that balanced food can be done.[112]

He introduced a similar argument from a statistical standpoint at one lecture engagement:

Prabhupāda: In the Bhagavad-gītā it is said, annād bhavanti bhūtāni: (BG 3.14) "Simply by growing food grains, both the animals and the man, they can live very happily." And you can grow food grains very easily. I have seen in the Western countries, they are growing food grains for the animals, and the food grains are eaten by the animals, and the animal is eaten by man. They are producing food grains. What is the statistics that the animal eating food grains, the same time, the same amount food grains can be eaten by so many men?
Brahmānanda: The acreage... For a cow to eat requires so many acres for that one cow, and then that cow is slaughtered and it only feeds a few men, whereas that same acreage could feed hundreds of men by grains.
Prabhupāda: Yes.[113]

Śrīla Prabhupāda maintains that animals are an economic asset - not as meat, but as labor.

The bulls are there. They can be used for transport. Or the asses, they can be used for transport. And the camels can be used for transport. There are so many animals... Transport is required in the human society, but you can utilize so many animals for your purpose. But at the present moment, ugra-karma. The transport is there, but they have manufactured big, big buses for transport, big, big cars, and the animals, they are now killed and eat. That's all. This is civilization. This is civilization. Not to reduce the labor, but increase the labor.[114]

The bull helps plowing. That is the original system. Now they have invented tractors, what is called? Tractor?... And the bulls are being killed. Why they should be killed? Engage them in tilling the field. They will have occupation. And the man also will have occupation. There is immense land. So there will be no question of unemployment.[115]

Economics of cow protection

The Vedas specifically direct that the cow be spared from slaughter. Śrīla Prabhupāda highlights economics as a key factor behind this injunction.

Cow protection is recommended in the Vedic literature because it is giving the most valuable foodstuff, milk. Apart from other sentiments, it is supplying, and in exchange of nothing. She simply eats some grasses from the ground. That's all. You don't have to provide cows with foodstuff. The things which you refuse, you take the grain and you supply the skin. You take the fruit pulp, you supply the skin. You take the, I mean to say, from paddy. You take the rice. You supply the straw and she delivers you a very nice foodstuff. And I have discussed all these points in my Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that human economic problem can be solved simply by having some land and some cows.[116]

Actually, a human being does not require to eat meat. He has got many other substitutes. But still, if he wants to eat, let him eat the less important animals. Just like dog, hog. From the social point of view it has no utility. But why killing cows? It is delivering such a nice nutritious food, milk. Not only milk. According to Vedic system, the cow is so important, even the urine, even the stool, of cow is important.[117]

Both the bulls and the cows are important because the bull will produce food grain and the cow will give supply milk. They should be utilized properly. That is human intelligence.[118]

Beyond mere subsistence, Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that proper treatment of cows actually increases their milk yield.

They have got intelligence that "We will be killed." Therefore they are not supplying sufficient milk. They cannot, just like if your mind is full of anxiety, you cannot work fully. So because they are denied this cheerfulness, you are getting less milk. If you keep them cheerful, they will give more milk. This is nature's economic development. Artificially you cannot increase the production of milk. But according to the instruction of scripture, if you keep them cheerful without any fear, they will deliver double milk.[119]

Now, we have, in your Western country, we have introduced such ideas in West Virginia. We have started one community project where we are keeping cows also. The cows are giving more milk than in other farm. They are so jubilant. Even up to eighty pounds milk, they are giving, because they know that "These people will not kill me." [120]

Recognizing that the resources from the body of the cow are also valuable, Śrīla Prabhupāda tells how these can be easily obtained simply by letting the animal die a natural death. He describes the activities of the cobblers in the traditional economy of India:

As soon as your animal is dead you give them information. They will come. They'll take the animal. They will get the skin for nothing. So they'll tan it and make shoes for selling. So they will get the raw materials free of charges, so they can make shoes. Tanning with oil and keeping it in the sunshine, the skin becomes soft and durable, and then you can prepare shoes. A class of men, muci. So there was no problem. And the bones you gather together and keep in a place. In due course of time it will become very good fertilization. And they can eat the flesh also. Only the cobbler class, the muci class, they eat this cow's flesh after taking the dead animal. So after killing, everyone eats, so why not wait for the natural death and eat it?[121]

In this way, Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that by utilizing the wisdom of traditional agriculture with cow protection, human society benefits economically in a simple, sustainable way. Cows and bulls, he advises, should receive proper care and be allowed to live free of the slaughterhouse, even if only for the material benefit of human society. As he once put it, "If you kill the cow you get the meat only one time. But if you allow the cow to live and take milk, and from milk you can make hundreds and thousands of preparations. That is enjoyment, real enjoyment."[122]

(Go to references for "Non-theistic perspectives")

Exceptions and concessions

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that the Vedas allow for the use of violence, including the killing of an animal, under particular conditions. One allowance is that animals may be slaughtered in religious sacrifices as directed in certain Vedic literatures. Another is for persons of the kṣatriya class, the military and protective segment of society, to hunt and kill wild animals as part of their occupational training and duty. In addition, Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that in emergency situations, as when threatened by attack or starvation, an animal may be killed for the sake of human life and limb. In some cases of animal disturbance, killing might be necessary; but such instances would be infrequent. He stresses that convenience should never be construed as necessity, and disturbance should not whimsically be taken as license to kill.

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that while any kind of animal-killing must be restricted to these few conditions, the Vedas give the cow special protective status. The cow is never sacrificed as means to put food on the table. Śrīla Prabhupāda proposes that meat-eaters may continue to eat meat, provided they stay within the bounds of the Vedic regulations, either by following the procedures for legitimate sacrificial rituals or by eating only those animals which have died from natural causes and not from slaughter.

Animal sacrifice

Some Vedic texts include recommendations for ritual animal sacrifices. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes two types: one for the purpose of testing the power of Vedic mantras, and the other as a concession to persons who cannot or will not abstain from eating meat.

Testing the power of Vedic mantra

Śrīla Prabhupāda tells of how in a previous era, wealthy and pious leaders of Vedic society would hold grand events featuring the sacrifice of one or more large animals, such as horses (aśvamedha-yajña) or cows (gomedha-yajña). The purpose of these ceremonies was not to provide entertainment or food, but to prove the potency of Vedic mantras.

Renewal of life

In this type of sacrifice, a brāhmaṇa priest places an animal on the sacrificial altar, where he apparently kills the animal while reciting prescribed mantras. If the process is properly executed, the animal does not die as such, but emerges with a new body, either a youthful body of its own species or, through immediate promotion up the evolutionary ladder, a human body.[123] Śrīla Prabhupāda describes the purpose of such sacrifices:

Just like in medical science, in physiology sometimes experiment is made by plying the knife on some animal, similarly, how the yajña was being performed, that was tested by animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifice was not meant for killing one animal and eating. No. That the animal, an old animal, should be put into the yajña fire and he'll come out a young, with a young body, that was the test how Vedic mantras were being chanted powerfully. That was the... Not that animal was to be killed there. No. Superficially it appears that animal is put and he is killed, but when the animal comes out of the yajña, that is the test of yajñic brāhmaṇa chanting the Vedic hymns correctly. That was the system.[124]

For the brāhmaṇa to engage in this violent act is not sinful. First, as Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, "the brāhmaṇa is not responsible for killing an animal. So because it is duty, it is ordained by the śāstras; therefore they are not ordinary killing." [125] Second, the brāhmaṇa who properly performs the sacrifice is not actually killing the animal, but rather giving it new life.[126] As long as the priests can give new life to the animal, the Vedas allow these sacrificial performances.

The animal sacrifice is never meant for killing the animal, but for achieving the successful result of the sacrifice. The animal offered in the sacrificial fire is, so to speak, destroyed, but the next moment it is given a new life by dint of the Vedic hymns chanted by the expert priest. When such an expert priest is not available, the animal sacrifice in the fire of the sacrificial altar is forbidden.[127]

If the priest fails in his performance of the sacrifice, then he will be held accountable for the animal's death. Conveying the counsel of the great sage Nārada Muni, Śrīla Prabhupāda points out the risk involved:

Overindulgence in animal sacrifice is risky because as soon as there is a small discrepancy in the execution of such a sacrifice, the slaughtered animal may not be promoted to a human form of life. Consequently, the person performing sacrifice will be responsible for the death of the animal, just as much as a murderer is responsible for killing another man.[128]

Forbidden in this age

Śrīla Prabhupāda relates that this type of sacrificial ritual, although practiced millenia ago, is actually prohibited for our current era (Kali-yuga). He discusses how these sacrifices were opposed by Lord Buddha due to their being widely abused during the time of Buddha's advent. Unqualified brāhmaṇas, ignorant of the principles of the Vedas, were engaging in such 'sacrifices' as an excuse for meat-eating. Thus Lord Buddha, an empowered incarnation of God, turned aside Vedic authority in order to protect the authentic principles it was meant to promote.[129]

Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu, who appeared later as Lord Kṛṣṇa's direct incarnation, cited a verse from the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa to confirm that these sacrifices are actually forbidden in the present age (Kali-yuga) because there are no brāhmaṇas with sufficient expertise to execute them properly.[130] As seen in the following conversation excerpt, Śrīla Prabhupāda references this prohibition to clarify matters regarding animal sacrifice:

Indian man (6): I have one question. Though there is mention, in earlier times, we see also used to eat meat.
Prabhupāda: When?
Indian man (6): Aśvamedha-yajña, all these things, and before that...
Prabhupāda: That is now prohibited.
aśvamedhaṁ gavālambhaṁ
sannyāsaṁ pala-paitṛkam
devareṇa sutotpattiṁ
kalau pañca vivarjayet
(CC Adi 17.164)
If you refer to śāstra, the śāstra says in Kali-yuga these should be avoided. At that time, when there was aśvamedha-yajña, gomedha-yajña, that was not for eating. That was to prove the strength of Vedic mantra, how the animal was put in the fire and again gave him a new life. So where is that Vedic chanter, Vedic brāhmaṇa, yajñika brāhmaṇa ? There is no such things, powerful brāhmaṇa. Therefore it is to be avoided. And that was not for eating purpose. To put one old animal in the fire and again he comes back with new life, that was the purpose.[131]

Concession for meat-eaters

The second type of Vedic sacrifice Śrīla Prabhupāda mentions is the bali-dāna (kālī-pūjā or durgā-pūjā), in which a goat or other prescribed animal is slaughtered in a ritual performed for the demigoddess Kālī (Durgā) and its flesh consumed afterwards. This sacrifice, he says, is recommended in the tāmasika Purāṇas, Vedic literatures aimed at the gradual reformation and elevation of persons from the lowest levels of human consciousness. He describes the process and purpose of the bali-dāna sacrifice:

Just like a person is attached to eat meat. Now if all of a sudden if he is instructed that meat eating is not good. Or a person is attached to drink liquor. If he at once said that liquor is not good, he cannot accept. Therefore in the Purāṇas we'll find, "All right, if you want to eat meat, you just worship goddess Kālī and sacrifice a goat before the goddess. And you can eat meat. You cannot eat meat or flesh by purchasing from the slaughterhouse or butcher shop. You have to eat in this way." That means restriction. Because if you want to perform the sacrifice before the goddess Kālī, there is a certain date, there is a certain paraphernalia, you have to arrange for that. And that pūjā, that worship is allowed on the dark moon night. So dark moon night means once in a month. And the mantras are chanted in this way: the goat is advised that "You are sacrificing your life before the goddess Kālī. So you get immediately promotion to have a human form of life." Actually it happens. Because to come to the standard of human form of life one living entity has to pass through so many evolutionary process. But the goat who agrees or who is by force sacrificed before the goddess Kālī, he gets immediate promotion to the human form of life. And the mantra says, that "You have got the right to kill this man who is sacrificing." Māṁsa. Māṁsa means that you will also eat his flesh, next birth. "Why eat this flesh? Then I'll have to repay with my flesh. Why shall I do this job?" You see. The whole idea is to restrain him.[132]

As Śrīla Prabhupāda points out, the mantra recited in the ceremony makes it evident that though this sacrificial process is sanctioned by the Vedas, it does not excuse the person for whom it is performed from the laws of God and nature. "Even by following this method," he notes, "one is still an offender."[133] However, Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that the action of one who follows this recommendation is restricted, better informed and less offensive than it would be otherwise. Moreover, the sacrificial process protects society at large from the adverse effects of animal slaughter. He writes:

No one can create a living being despite all advancement of material science, and therefore no one has the right to kill a living being by one's independent whims. For the animal-eaters, the scriptures have sanctioned restricted animal sacrifices only, and such sanctions are there just to restrict the opening of slaughterhouses and not to encourage animal-killing. The procedure under which animal sacrifice is allowed in the scriptures is good both for the animal sacrificed and the animal-eaters. It is good for the animal in the sense that the sacrificed animal is at once promoted to the human form of life after being sacrificed at the altar, and the animal-eater is saved from grosser types of sins (eating meats supplied by organized slaughterhouses which are ghastly places for breeding all kinds of material afflictions to society, country and the people in general). The material world is itself a place always full of anxieties, and by encouraging animal slaughter the whole atmosphere becomes polluted more and more by war, pestilence, famine and many other unwanted calamities.[134]

Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that the goal of the sacrifice is to discourage animal slaughter.

So after hearing all these mantras, if one takes the risk of eating meat, let him do that. But who is that sane man who will take this risk? This is the meaning of sacrifice. Not that it is a slaughterhouse substitute.[135]

As he explained in one conversation:

Prabhupāda: There is tendency for eating meat. Therefore Vedas says that "You can eat meat, but..." Not only Vedas, in other scriptures also. The Jews also say. The Mohammedans also say that you can kill in the synagogue or in the, what is called, mosque, one animal. But not slaughterhouse. No religion prescribes that you open slaughterhouse. No.
Prajāpati: It's always done under...
Prabhupāda: That is restricted. Why it is advised to kill in the synagogue? Why not publicly? That means it is not wanted, but if you go on killing in the mosque, some day you may come to your sense, that you are a rascal; you are becoming responsible. But if you open slaughterhouse, that sense will never come.[136]

Inauspicious practice

Śrīla Prabhupāda holds that rituals such as the Kālī-pūjā are good for containing the lower propensities of humanity and encouraging the ignorant toward more elevated levels of awareness. He tells of how the Vedas and other scriptures include such recommendations for this very purpose. However, he maintains that ultimately, animal sacrifice is not auspicious and that it should not be taken to represent the ideals or the goal of religion.

As mentioned above, Śrīla Prabhupāda shows how there is great karmic risk involved with animal sacrifice; in the case of the rituals for meat-eating, the person who consumes the flesh still has to pay the price for the life that was taken, even if there is no discrepancy involved in the performance of the ritual. Moreover, he discusses how animal sacrifice does not represent or encourage a very high standard of consciousness. He notes how some of the greatest spiritual masters in history - such as Lord Buddha[137], Lord Jesus Christ[138], and the transcendental sage Nārada Muni[139] - have variously opposed the killing of animals in the name of religion. In his purport to Nārada Muni's instruction to King Prācīnabarhiṣat (SB 4.25.7), Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

Because animal sacrifice is recommended in the Vedas, there are animal sacrifices in almost all religious rituals. However, one should not be satisfied simply by killing animals according to the directions of the scriptures. One should transcend the ritualistic ceremonies and try to understand the actual truth, the purpose of life. Nārada Muni wanted to instruct the King about the real purpose of life and invoke a spirit of renunciation in his heart. Knowledge and the spirit of renunciation (jñāna-vairāgya) are the ultimate goal of life. Without knowledge, one cannot become detached from material enjoyment, and without being detached from material enjoyment, one cannot make spiritual advancement. Karmīs are generally engaged in sense gratification, and for this end they are prepared to commit so many sinful activities. Animal sacrifice is but one such sinful activity.[140]

In another purport, Śrīla Prabhupāda echoes Nārada Muni's observation that the animal sacrifice rituals carry the potential for abuse:

The flesh-eaters still continue to perform animal sacrifice before some demigod or goddess in the name of religion because in some of the Vedic literatures such regulated sacrifices are recommended. They are so recommended to discourage flesh-eating, but gradually the purpose of such religious activities is forgotten, and the slaughterhouse becomes prominent. This is because foolish materialistic men do not care to listen to others who are actually in a position to explain the Vedic rites.[141]

Along these same lines, Śrīla Prabhupāda shares this observation of how the tradition was being abused in his own time:

If one violates the Vedic instructions while performing yajña and simply makes a show of sacrifice for the purpose of killing animals, he is punishable after death. In Calcutta there are many slaughterhouses where animal flesh is sold that has supposedly been offered in sacrifice before the goddess Kālī. The śāstras enjoin that one can sacrifice a small goat before the goddess Kālī once a month. Nowhere is it said that one can maintain a slaughterhouse in the name of temple worship and daily kill animals unnecessarily.[142]

Even at best, he notes, the Kālī-pūjā does not give meat-eaters the auspiciousness they might be hoping for.

In Calcutta there are many butcher shops which keep a deity of the goddess Kālī, and animal-eaters think it proper to purchase animal flesh from such shops in hope that they are eating the remnants of food offered to goddess Kālī. They do not know that goddess Kālī never accepts nonvegetarian food because she is the chaste wife of Lord Śiva. Lord Śiva is also a great Vaiṣṇava and never eats nonvegetarian food, and the goddess Kālī accepts the remnants of food left by Lord Śiva. Therefore there is no possibility of her eating flesh or fish. Such offerings are accepted by the associates of goddess Kālī known as bhūtas, piśācas and Rākṣasas, and those who take the prasāda of goddess Kālī in the shape of flesh or fish are not actually taking the prasāda left by goddess Kālī, but the food left by the bhūtas and piśācas.[143]

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that animal sacrifice is not part of any higher practice of religion. He writes: "Neither the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu, nor His devotee ever sanctions animal-killing in the name of religion. Indeed, Kṛṣṇa incarnated Himself as Lord Buddha to put an end to animal-killing in the name of religion."[144]

Animal-killing is certainly conducted under the influence of the mode of ignorance. Even though one may be religiously inclined, animal sacrifice is recommended in the śāstras, not only in the Vedas but even in the modern scriptures of other sects. These animal sacrifices are recommended in the name of religion, but actually animal sacrifice is meant for persons in the mode of ignorance. When such people kill animals, they can at least do so in the name of religion. However, when the religious system is transcendental, like the Vaiṣṇava religion, there is no place for animal sacrifice.[145][146]

In terms of religious sacrifice, Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that the one sacrifice suitable for this day and age is saṅkīrtana-yajña, the congregational chanting of the holy name of the Lord.

Sometimes animal sacrifices are performed very gorgeously with grand arrangements for worshiping the goddess Kālī, but such festivals, although performed in the name of yajña, are not actually yajña, for yajña means to satisfy the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore it is recommended that in this age specifically, yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ: (SB 11.5.32) those who have good intelligence satisfy the yajña-puruṣa, Viṣṇu, by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra.[147]

As we have repeatedly explained, due to a lack of qualified brahminical priests in Kali-yuga, it is not possible to perform the ritualistic ceremonies recommended in the Vedas. Consequently the śāstras instruct us to perform the saṅkīrtana-yajña. By the saṅkīrtana sacrifice, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, in His form of Lord Caitanya, will be satisfied and worshiped. The entire purpose of performing sacrifices is to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu. Lord Viṣṇu, or Lord Kṛṣṇa, is present in His form of Lord Caitanya; therefore people who are intelligent should try to satisfy Him by performing saṅkīrtana-yajña. This is the easiest way to satisfy Lord Viṣṇu in this age. People should take advantage of the injunctions in different śāstras concerning sacrifices in this age and not create unnecessary disturbances during the sinful age of Kali.[148]

Śrīla Prabhupāda thus shows that there is no reason to perform large-scale animal sacrifices in this day and age. Regarding the bali-dāna ritual for meat-eaters, he concludes that this type of sacrifice has its necessity and is certainly better than allowing unrestricted slaughter, but that ultimately, it is not the best practice.

Although one is sometimes permitted to sacrifice an animal before the goddess Kālī and eat it instead of purchasing meat from a slaughterhouse, permission to eat meat after a sacrifice in the presence of the goddess Kālī is not the order of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is simply a concession for the miserable person who will not give up eating meat.[149]

(Go to references for "Animal sacrifice")

Kṣatriya class and hunting

Śrīla Prabhupāda relates that in the ancient Vedic system, men of the kṣatriya class (the administrative and military segment of society) were allowed to hunt and kill wild animals and even to eat the flesh in some cases. The purpose was neither for sport nor for food or other livelihood, but rather for honing skills in the art of warfare, for protecting citizens living in the forests, and for providing animals for Vedic sacrifices.

According to Vedic regulations, the kṣatriyas were allowed to kill prescribed animals on certain occasions, either to maintain peace in the forests or to offer the animals in the sacrificial fire. Kṣatriyas are allowed to practice this killing art because they have to kill their enemies mercilessly to maintain peace in society.[150]

Business of the kṣatriya

Śrīla Prabhupāda gives various examples of this occupational activity of the kṣatriyas. He describes how the warrior Arjuna went to the forest to kill various types of animals - certain smaller animals for the purpose of religious sacrifice and larger, menacing animals for the purpose of protecting persons residing in the forest:

After entering the forest, Arjuna killed many tigers, boars, bison, gavayas (a kind of wild animal), rhinoceroses, deer, hares, porcupines and similar other animals, which he pierced with his arrows. Some of the dead animals that were fit to be offered in sacrifices were carried by servants and sent to King Yudhiṣṭhira. The ferocious animals, such as tigers and rhinoceroses, were killed only to stop disturbances in the forest. Since there are many sages and saintly persons who are residents of the forest, it is the duty of the kṣatriya kings to keep even the forest in a peaceful condition for living.[151]

Aside from killing specific animals for sacrificial ceremonies, the kṣatriya would kill only the most formidable of animal adversaries:

Kṣatriyas are allowed to go in the forest and kill some animal. Because he has to practice. So what kind of animal? Not the cows or simple animal. He must kill one tiger, one lion, one jungle boar. Ferocious, very ferocious animals, that was the kṣatriya's business. Not that a rabbit (laughter) or an innocent bird, sports. This kind of sporting was not allowed. If you want to kill, you must kill one rhinoceros. Then one can understand that you have power of killing. [152]

If the kṣatriya hunter desired, he could also, within certain parameters, eat the flesh of the animals that were killed. Even so, meat-eating was not a common affair, even among kṣatriyas.

Those who are kṣatriyas, they can, they're allowed sometimes to eat meat. It is understood Bhīma, Bhīma also eating sometimes meat. Bhīma. Amongst the Pāṇḍavas, only Bhīma. Not others. So if the kṣatriyas, they want to eat meat, they can be allowed on particular occasions. But they must go to the forest and kill the animal. Not that for meat-eating regular slaughterhouses should be maintained.[153]

As Śrīla Prabhupāda says, "nonviolence is not the business of the kṣatriya."[154] Kṣatriyas must necessarily exercise violence to execute their duty, and it is to their glory when they do so for the right cause. Yet even though kṣatriyas are sanctioned by the Vedas to engage in animal-killing for certain purposes, Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that they have not been given carte blanche. If not acting in proper consciousness according to his prescribed duty, the kṣatriya becomes implicated in killing just as much as anyone else.

A person who indiscriminately violates the rules and regulations given by the Vedas is liable to be punished. One should therefore not enjoy his senses according to his lusty desires, but should restrict himself according to the regulative principles given in the Vedas. If a king is allowed to hunt in a forest, it is not for his sense gratification. We cannot simply experiment in the art of killing. If a king, being afraid to meet rogues and thieves, kills poor animals and eats their flesh comfortably at home, he must lose his position. Because in this age kings have such demoniac propensities, monarchy is abolished by the laws of nature in every country. [155]

Hunting not sanctioned as pastime

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that hunting should not be practiced as a pastime of the general public, whether for sport or for food. The Vedas sanction hunting only for kṣatriyas, not for persons outside of that qualification, and then only for specific purposes. As flesh-eating is unnecessary and restricted only to that which is offered in religious sacrifice, hunting for food is beside the point unless there is no other way for a society to procure sufficient eatables. Hunting for recreation is out of the question.

Hunting is allowed only to the kṣatriya kings. Because they were to rule over, and formerly the rogues and rascals by the order of king or king himself would kill him immediately. So they had to practice how to kill. And that practice was done by hunting some ferocious animal in the forest, not for eating. Nowadays hunting is going on for eating purpose. No, that is not the law.[156]

Kṣatriya kings are sometimes advised to go to the forest to hunt ferocious animals just to learn how to kill, but such forays are never meant for sense gratification. Killing animals to eat their flesh is forbidden for human beings.[157]

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that the sacrificial offerings for which kṣatriyas used to hunt are forbidden in this day and age.

It is evident that kṣatriyas killed animals in the forest because the flesh of the animals was suitable to be offered at a particular type of yajña. Offering oblations to the forefathers in the ceremony known as śrāddha is also a kind of yajña. In this yajña, flesh obtained from the forest by hunting could be offered. However, in the present age, Kali-yuga, this kind of offering is forbidden... In this age, Kali-yuga, everyone is expert in hunting animals, but most of the people are śūdras, not kṣatriyas. According to Vedic injunctions, however, only kṣatriyas are allowed to hunt, whereas śūdras are allowed to eat flesh after offering goats or other insignificant animals before the deity of goddess Kālī or similar demigods.[158]

Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that hunting by anyone is sinful if it is done for sense gratification. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.26.24) specifically mentions recreational hunting as a punishable offense. Śrīla Prabhupāda writes in his purport:

In the Western countries especially, aristocrats keep dogs and horses to hunt animals in the forest. Whether in the West or the East, aristocratic men in the Kali-yuga adopt the fashion of going to the forest and unnecessarily killing animals. Men of the higher classes (the brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas) should cultivate knowledge of Brahman, and they should also give the śūdras a chance to come to that platform. If instead they indulge in hunting, they are punished as described in this verse.[159]

He warns of the karmic reaction to hunting as well as other forms of animal-killing.

Sometimes during war, soldiers keep their enemies in concentration camps and kill them in very cruel ways. These are reactions brought about by unrestricted animal-killing in the slaughterhouse and by hunters in the forest.[160]

In this way Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that hunting is an inauspicious activity. He makes the point that hunting, like any other type of killing, simply brings suffering in this life and the next.

It is said that a hunter, murderer or killer is advised not to live and not to die. If he lives, he accumulates even more sins, which bring about more suffering in a future life. He is advised not to die because his dying means that he immediately begins to endure more suffering. Therefore he is advised not to live and not to die.[161]

(Go to references for "Kṣatriya class and hunting")

Self-protection and self-preservation

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that the killing of an animal may be justified for reasons of defense and preservation of self and society.

Defending against attack

Recalling one question that was posed in a conversation, Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the difference between unnecessary violence and necessary self-defense in the killing of an animal:

Just like yesterday in the evening, when we were talking with Dr. Shoemaker, so they were supporting that "Why should you kill any animal who is coming to... If you are determined not to kill..." We were talking of not killing, that why should you kill one animal who is coming to attack? No. You must kill. That is necessity. You should not go to the forest to find out some living entities, living beings, to kill. That is not your business. That is hiṁsa. But if a tiger comes to attack you, you must kill. That is self-defense. And that is not hiṁsa. So a devotee knows, a Kṛṣṇa conscious person knows when to kill and when not to kill. But it is not that because we accept not killing, therefore in every case, killing should be stopped. No. If there is necessity, killing should be accepted.[162]

When asked by one of his disciples about another example of attack, Śrīla Prabhupāda responded:

Tamāla Kṛṣṇa: Supposing a mosquito is biting you and sucking the blood.
Prabhupāda: Yes, when they bite, you can kill, according to laws of nature. But on the whole, you cannot kill.[163]

In another discussion, he illustrated a case of impending danger:

Suppose that a snake is here and it is dangerous; he'll bite. So killing is necessary. But if you say, "No. I shall not kill this snake. Let it bite. All right, let them all die..." These are simply mental speculations.[164]

The simple fact that an animal is ferocious or dangerous, however, is not sufficient reason for it to be killed unless it is actually posing a threat. As Śrīla Prabhupāda summarizes:

Tiger is my brother, but not that because originally he's my brother, I shall go and embrace. No. I shall be careful. But not that I shall kill. Why shall I kill? He's not coming to encroach upon my property. He's living in the jungle. Why shall I go and kill a tiger? This is all nonsense, lack of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. He has not done any harm to you. He is living in his own jurisdiction. He is uncivilized. He is ferocious. God has given him direction: "Oh, you live here. You don't go there." That's all right. And why should you go to kill a tiger? He's not coming to encroach him. This is Kṛṣṇa consciousness.[165]

Avoiding starvation

Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that animal-killing may be warranted when there is insufficient food available for humans in the form of their prescribed eatables (fruits, vegetables, grains and milk). He writes in his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.17.25:

It is here indicated that in a rare circumstance when there is no supply of grains, the government may sanction the eating of meat. However, when there is sufficient food, the government should not allow the eating of cow's flesh just to satisfy the fastidious tongue. In other words, in rare circumstances, when people are suffering for want of grains, meat-eating or flesh-eating can be allowed, but not otherwise. The maintenance of slaughterhouses for the satisfaction of the tongue and the killing of animals unnecessarily should never be sanctioned by a government. [166]

He makes a similar point about scarcity of foodstuff in connection with the traditions of desert peoples:

Just like in Arabian desert, they were animal eaters. What is growing there? So if in Jerusalem, if they have eaten flesh, so that is not their fault. Jesus Christ might have allowed: "All right." But why in other places where there are so many nice foodstuff?[167]

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that production and distribution of vegetables and grains should be society's first priority; it is not that shortage in the food supply is an excusable reason for animal slaughter when it is due to negligence or other intent. He continues in his purport to Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 4.17.25:

As described in a previous verse, cows and other animals should be given sufficient grass to eat. If despite a sufficient supply of grass a cow does not supply milk, and if there is an acute shortage of food, the dried-up cow may be utilized to feed the hungry masses of people. According to the law of necessity, first of all human society must try to produce food grains and vegetables, but if they fail in this, they can indulge in flesh-eating. Otherwise not. As human society is presently structured, there is sufficient production of grains all over the world. Therefore the opening of slaughterhouses cannot be supported. In some nations there is so much surplus grain that sometimes extra grain is thrown into the sea, and sometimes the government forbids further production of grain. The conclusion is that the earth produces sufficient grain to feed the entire population, but the distribution of this grain is restricted due to trade regulations and a desire for profit. Consequently in some places there is scarcity of grain and in others profuse production. If there were one government on the surface of the earth to handle the distribution of grain, there would be no question of scarcity, no necessity to open slaughterhouses, and no need to present false theories about over-population.[168]

In this 1975 conversation, Śrīla Prabhupāda pinpoints another cause of apparent food scarcity that likewise does not justify the slaughter of animals:

Kṛṣṇa says in the Bhagavad-gītā, annād bhavanti bhūtāni: (BG 3.14) "If there is sufficient food grains, then both man and animal, they become happy." Therefore our first religion is to produce food grain sufficiently to feed everyone. Kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaṁ vaiśya-karma svabhāva. (BG 3.14) This matter has been entrusted to the vaiśyas. They should produce sufficient food and give protection to the cows for sufficient milk. Then the whole human society, animal society, will be happy. But we are disobeying the orders or the rules given by God. Instead of producing food, we are producing motorcars. And motor tires, motor parts. And so many other things. And therefore people are starving. The manual labor is being misused. We are disobeying the orders of God.[169]

Society's lack of God consciousness, he declares, only drives it in the wrong direction.

By advancement of civilization they have learned this art, to refuse God. They want to make their economic problem solved by themselves. God is giving them sufficient grains, sufficient fruits, sufficient vegetables, sufficient milk. No, they want to make solution of their problems by killing other poor animals. But they do not believe in God. They do not believe in God that "I am killing poor animals. They are also sons of God as much I am, as we are sons of God. God is maintaining that poor animal. God is maintaining me. Why should I encroach upon others' life?" You see? They have no such sense because they don't believe in God. They have no such faith.[170]

Śrīla Prabhupāda maintains the view that human life is more valuable than animal life.[171] This, he acknowledges, may be taken into account in dire circumstances. Nonetheless, he holds that needs must be genuine to justify the slaughter of animals for food.

Revatīnandana: So wherever possible, the slaughtering business should not go on.
Schumacher: That's right. But the Eskimos, for instance...
Prabhupāda: That is another thing.
Schumacher: That's what I was saying, you see.
Prabhupāda: When there is no food, so human life is more important than animal life. So the human life should be saved at the sacrifice of animals. That is another question. But where there is complete facilities to get very nice, nutritious food, why these poor animals should be killed?[172]

Avoiding disturbance

Sometimes animals will cause disturbance for humans, as in the case of those animals or insects that bear disease or plunder resources upon which humans rely for livelihood. To uphold God's law and principles, Śrīla Prabhupāda advises that one learn to view disturbance situations from a higher standpoint and seek solutions which address the situation itself, on the whole, rather than resorting simply to killing. If an animal poses an immediate bodily threat, he says, killing in self-defense is justified. For animal nuisance, however, he maintains that killing is usually not necessary and should be avoided if at all possible. One should not be whimsical when deciding whether or not killing is warranted.

In response to one question, Śrīla Prabhupāda pointed to the basic brahminical principle of cleanliness as one method to prevent problems:

Madhudviṣa: (restating a question) Disease-bearing in animals, something that is diseased and can give you a disease, what is your, what is the Vedic attitude towards protection from these animals?
Prabhupāda: Protection? Cleanliness. Just like if you keep your apartment very cleansed, if you keep your clothes and body very cleansed, you won't find this insect disturbing you. Just like the flies, they go in a nasty place. So you should be cleansed. You should take protection in that way. You cannot kill them.[173]

Later in the same conversation, the issue was raised as to the killing of living entities in the process of cleaning.

Guest: In boiling the water do you kill any little insects that are in the water?
Prabhupāda: Yes. But that I have already explained, that we are killing every moment. Therefore we have to keep from the reaction by Kṛṣṇa consciousness. You cannot avoid killing. Whenever we are cooking, we are killing so many germs, the water. While we are burning fire, then so many germs are being killed. So the killing process cannot be stopped, but you should not do it willingly, and you should keep yourself God conscious. Then you are freed from the reaction.[174]

The answer to the question of animal disturbance is not cut-and-dried, but, as Śrīla Prabhupāda demonstrates, rather entails learning to see with spiritual vision, or at least having basic knowledge of spiritual principles and sincerely following them in any case. When asked by a disciple about the issue of killing nuisance animals, Śrīla Prabhupāda explained:

Those who are pious persons, they know that these rats, they are also hungry and they should be given some food. That is the vision of the pious person. And that is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that in your house you should see not only to the welfare of your children. Even there is a lizard, there is a rat, even there is a snake, you should see how he is also comfortably situated... In Vṛndāvana still, a snake found in the house is never killed, snake. Still a rat is never killed. If you kill a rat in Vṛndāvana, then so many people will come: "Oh, you are committing such sinful acts. You are killing a rat." That depends on the mentality of the person. You can take care of this animal, I mean to say, against the disturbance created by this animal, but you cannot kill them. That is not. But when it is unavoidable, we have to do like that. But as far as possible we should avoid.[175]

Śrīla Prabhupāda then gave the example of how his own uncle handled a potential disturbance without need of killing:

We have heard from our father that his elder brother in the village had a cloth shop, and there were rats. So at night he would keep a big bowl of rice in the middle of the shop, and the rats will eat whole night. They would not commit any harm to the cloth. They respect it. They are also hungry, they are also living entities. They have also right to live, to eat. Īśāvāsyam idaṁ sarvam (ISO 1). Everything. They are God's creatures. The food is not only meant for you, that you shall simply eat rice and not allow to the rats and cats. No. That is not Vedic injunction. You will find in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam. You can take precaution. After all, they are animals. But you cannot kill.[176]

When pressed with further questioning, Śrīla Prabhupāda concluded his lesson.

Himāvatī: But then if you think further, that is that if you are going to make a program to feed the animals in your house, then won't more and more animals come into your residence? Suppose I feed these rats and I go on feeding them. Won't more and more rats come?
Prabhupāda: Well, the rats will be fed. Either you give or not, it will steal. So that is not the problem. But if you give them food, they will... Of course, that is Western philosophy, that because the animals are increasing, they should be killed. We Indians also, we have taken that view—because we cannot give protection to the cows, they must be sent to the slaughterhouse. That is the modern view. But that is not injunction of the Vedas. The Vedas says that everyone has right to live, every living entity. Just like the Americans, they were all Europeans, and they entered this American land, killed so many Red Indians. So these kind of things are going on, but that does not mean that is the law. You killed so many Red Indians for your benefit, but you have to suffer for that. So that... This is going on in the human society, but that does not mean it is dharma. No. Dharma means you have to abide by the regulation given by the Vedas. You have to adjust things.[177]

(Go to references for "Self-protection and self-preservation")

Animal-killing: Consequences and solutions

Śrīla Prabhupāda discusses the individual and social consequences of animal-killing and proposes ways in which society can protect the interests of all living beings and promote peace, well-being and spiritual progress for humanity by ending the practice of unnecessary violence against animals.

Adverse consequences

Śrīla Prabhupāda sends a warning to the world: as long as human societies allow animals to be killed unrestrictedly, there will certainly be serious consequences.

The law punishes. If you kill someone, if you commit murder, then you will be punished. This is punishable. But because it is man-made law, therefore it is defective. A man is a living entity, and a cow is also a living entity. Why this discrimination, that if a man is murdered or killed, that murderer must be punished? But that law is not permissible in God's law. In God's law, either you kill a man or you kill an ant, you are punishable.[178]

Śrīla Prabhupāda further informs us that, according to the laws of nature, human beings shape their future conditions through their desires and actions (karma) of the present. Referencing statements and examples given in the Vedic literature, he shows how unnecessary killing or violence toward animals - whether committed directly or indirectly, as in the case of meat-eating - condemns its perpetrators to suffering.

Accountability for actions

Śrīla Prabhupāda's first lesson is that when an animal dies at the hands of a human being, that person is held accountable according to the laws of God and nature. Regarding human responsibility, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

Although a tiger is not sinful if he attacks another animal and eats its flesh, if a man with developed consciousness does so, he must be punished. In other words, a human being who does not use his developed consciousness but instead acts like an animal surely undergoes punishment in many different hells.[179]

This accountability, he says, encompasses both direct and indirect involvement in the killing. Śrīla Prabhupāda describes how the scope of natural law is reflected in Manu-saṁhitā, the Vedic law book for mankind.

According to Manu, the great author of civic codes and religious principles, even the killer of an animal is to be considered a murderer because animal food is never meant for the civilized man, whose prime duty is to prepare himself for going back to Godhead. He says that in the act of killing an animal, there is a regular conspiracy by the party of sinners, and all of them are liable to be punished as murderers exactly like a party of conspirators who kill a human being combinedly. He who gives permission, he who kills the animal, he who sells the slaughtered animal, he who cooks the animal, he who administers distribution of the foodstuff, and at last he who eats such cooked animal food are all murderers, and all of them are liable to be punished by the laws of nature. No one can create a living being despite all advancement of material science, and therefore no one has the right to kill a living being by one's independent whims. For the animal-eaters, the scriptures have sanctioned restricted animal sacrifices only, and such sanctions are there just to restrict the opening of slaughterhouses and not to encourage animal-killing.[180]

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that the Vedas prescribe regulations and processes for animal sacrifice to educate and protect the ignorant.

They are thinking that "We are not going to slaughterhouse to kill. They kill; we purchase." The Buddhist says like that. Everyone says like that. Therefore, according to Vedic scripture, those animal-eaters, they should kill them personally so that they can see how much suffering is there, so he will stop. But now the things are being done in the slaughterhouse. They do not see. They purchase very nicely packed. They do not know. And they are becoming implicated. Therefore, according to Vedic injunction, if you want to eat meat, you kill yourself in your front, in the front of goddess Kālī.[181]

The idea is that ultimately, when one understands how he is accountable, he will cease to commit offenses.

In the Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī explains that a man becomes sinful out of ignorance only. The resultant effect of sinful life is suffering. Those who are not in knowledge, who commit violations of the standard laws, are subject to be punished under criminal laws. Similarly, the laws of nature are very stringent. If a child touches fire without knowing the effect, he must be burned, even though he is only a child. If a child violates the law of nature, there is no compassion. Only through ignorance does a person violate the laws of nature, and when he comes to knowledge he does not commit any more sinful acts.[182]

Animal bodies for animal mentalities

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

Men must be intelligent to realize the importance of human life and refuse to act like ordinary animals... Animals can kill other living animals, and there is no question of sin on their part, but if a man kills an animal for the satisfaction of his uncontrolled taste, he must be responsible for breaking the laws of nature.[183]

Put simply, he says that animal-killing is for animals, not human beings. Furthermore, Śrīla Prabhupāda states that human beings who support the killing of animals are essentially animals themselves by dint of their mentality and behavior. Regarding animal-killing for food, he once said: "They are animal, those who are eating another animal; they are not human being. Although they have got the form of human being, they are not considered human being."[184] In the general sense, he gives this analogy:

If a cat and dog becomes nicely dressed, that does not mean he becomes a human being. He is cat and dog. Similarly, if we keep our mentality like cats and dog and outwardly we dress very nicely, they have been described as dvi-pada-paśuḥ, "two-legged animal."[185]

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that according to the laws of karma and transmigration of the soul, human beings shape their future lives through their mentality and actions. He reveals the implication of these laws for those who behave on the level of animals:

If my activities are lower-grade like animals, then I will have to take birth in the animal family. That is force. Karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa jantur deha upapattaye (SB 3.31.1). We develop a certain type of body according to our karma.[186]

In this way, he explains, one who eats meat can look forward to being awarded with an animal body in subsequent births.

Everything is food, but the human being has got an allotted foodstuff by the Supreme Lord. Eko yo bahūnāṁ vidadhāti kāmān. That Supreme Personality of Godhead is supplying everyone foodstuff. But not that the dogs' and hogs' foodstuff is the same for the human kind, no. Tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā (ISO 1). You should enjoy as it is allotted by the Supreme Lord. So if we transgress this law... Our constitutional position, anatomical fittings, is to eat fruit, vegetable, rice, wheat, milk or milk product. This is our constitutional position. But if we imitate the cats and dog, without any discrimination, if we eat, then my next body is ready, the hog's body or the dog's body. This is natural law. Kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo 'sya sad-asad-janma-yoniṣu (ISO 1). As you associate with different types of material modes of nature, then you get the next body accordingly.[187]

For meat-eaters, the best-case scenario Śrīla Prabhupāda gives is that of the bali-dāna sacrifice described previously in this article. Yet even when one follows this procedure, he must pay a price for the life he is taking. Śrīla Prabhupāda notes how the karmic cost of meat-eating is expressed in the very word for "meat" in Sanskrit, māṁsa.

By killing animals, not only will we be bereft of the human form but we will have to take an animal form and somehow or other be killed by the same type of animal we have killed. This is the law of nature. The Sanskrit word māṁsa means "meat." It is said, māṁ saḥ khadati iti māṁsaḥ. That is, "I am now eating the flesh of an animal who will some day in the future be eating my flesh."[188]

Thus the person who kills an animal for meat must, in a future life, accept the body of an animal to be killed for meat. In any event, Śrīla Prabhupāda assures us, God and nature can certainly provide meat-eaters with a body in their next life to better suit their gustatory desires.

Cardinal Danielou: But, why, why, why God make some animals who eat other animals? There is a fault in the creation because... It is a fault in the creation?
Prabhupāda: No. The God is very kind. If you want to eat animals, then He'll give facility, good facility. Just like tiger. You become tiger, and eat animals. Those who are animal eaters, unrestrictedly, God will give him the body of a tiger next life so that he can very freely eat. "Why you maintain slaughterhouse? I give you nails and jaws. Just eat." So they are waiting that life.[189]

Equal and opposite reaction

Śrīla Prabhupāda posed the question in one lecture:

Why these animals are being slaughtered? There is some nature's law. They were murderer or slaughterer in their past life as human being. Now they have assumed, they have accepted a body to be slaughtered by the laws of nature.[190]

The law of karma (action and reaction) has a purpose, as Śrīla Prabhupāda explains: "Unless one comes to the platform of actual experience, one cannot realize what is pain and what is happiness in this material world. The laws of nature act accordingly." [191] Along these lines, Śrīla Prabhupāda instructs through his scriptural translations, commentaries and conversational exchanges that anyone who is involved in an act of violence against any living entity is bound to suffer reaction according to the nature of the offense.

Consequences after death

The fifth canto of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam specifically cites several offenses against animals along with the hellish suffering that awaits the perpetrators. Chapter 26 (verse 24) directly condemns recreational hunting; in verse 32, the text condemns those who offer shelter to animals but then abuse them under the pretense of protection. Furthermore, verse 34 suggests the kind of activity carried on in present-day commercial agriculture along with its punishment:

"Those who in this life confine other living entities in dark wells, granaries or mountain caves are put after death into the hell known as Avaṭa-nirodhana. There they themselves are pushed into dark wells, where poisonous fumes and smoke suffocate them and they suffer very severely." [192]

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (5.26.17) declares that even the lowest of insects should not be subjected to violence. It also makes the point that the human being, having a higher level of awareness, is held accountable for violent acts in a way that lower animals are not. Śrīla Prabhupāda translates:

"By the arrangement of the Supreme Lord, low-grade living beings like bugs and mosquitoes suck the blood of human beings and other animals. Such insignificant creatures are unaware that their bites are painful to the human being. However, first-class human beings—brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas and vaiśyas—are developed in consciousness, and therefore they know how painful it is to be killed. A human being endowed with knowledge certainly commits sin if he kills or torments insignificant creatures, who have no discrimination. The Supreme Lord punishes such a man by putting him into the hell known as Andhakūpa, where he is attacked by all the birds and beasts, reptiles, mosquitoes, lice, worms, flies, and any other creatures he tormented during his life. They attack him from all sides, robbing him of the pleasure of sleep. Unable to rest, he constantly wanders about in the darkness. Thus in Andhakūpa his suffering is just like that of a creature in the lower species." [193]

More examples of punishment for abuse of animals can be found in Śrīla Prabhupāda's translations of scriptural narratives. One is the case of King Prācīnabarhiṣat, a monarch from ancient Vedic times who was engaging in large-scale animal sacrifices for the sake of material advancement. He was advised by the sage Nārada Muni to give up this path of fruitive activity and warned in particular of the reaction awaiting him for the sacrifice of so many animals. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam reads:

"The great saint Nārada said: O ruler of the citizens, my dear King, please see in the sky those animals which you have sacrificed without compassion and without mercy in the sacrificial arena. All these animals are awaiting your death so that they can avenge the injuries you have inflicted upon them. After you die, they will angrily pierce your body with iron horns."[194]

Śrīla Prabhupāda stresses that accountability for cruelty to animals is very strict, as the laws of nature excuse no one from responsibility. He illustrates this through an incident from the life of the sage Maṇḍūka Muni. Maṇḍūka, who had been known to be a saintly person, was brought at the time of his death to the court of Yamarāja, the demigod who judges and punishes sinful persons upon the termination of their lives. To Maṇḍūka’s great surprise – and pain – he found himself sentenced to a horrible punishment for an act he had committed as a child. Śrīla Prabhupāda continues:

So the muni asked Yamarāja that "Why you have put me into this tribulation, this punishment? What is my fault?" The Yamarāja explained that "In your childhood you pierced with a nail through the rectum of an ant. Therefore you must be punished like this." Just see. In childhood playing he pierced. Sometimes we have seen, the children do that. That is also counted. You cannot do any harm to any animal, any living being.[195]

Warning to killers and abusers

Another instructive narrative that Śrīla Prabhupāda references is the story of a hunter named Mṛgāri.[196] Mṛgāri pointedly practiced his trade by fatally wounding his victims and letting them suffer in a half-killed state before they died. In the following lecture excerpt, Śrīla Prabhupāda introduces the story, where the sage Nārada Muni encounters Mṛgāri in the forest:

There is a story that one hunter, he was killing in the forest all kinds of animals and he was killing them half. So they were suffering too much severe pain. So Nārada Muni was going in that way. He saw that these animals have been half killed, and they are so much suffering. Who is doing that? So he searched out the hunter. He requested, "Sir you are killing the animals, why don't you kill them all at a time? Why you are killing half? They are suffering. You'll have to suffer in that way." The hunter did not know that killing animals is sinful and he has to suffer again. So he said, "Sir, I am trained like this by my father. This is my profession. I do not know what is sin, but this is the first time I am hearing from you that killing this animal, especially in this way, is very much sinful."[197]

Nārada Muni warned Mṛgāri: "My dear hunter, your business is killing animals. That is a slight offense on your part. But when you consciously give them unnecessary pain by leaving them half-dead, you incur very great sins. All the animals that you have killed and given unnecessary pain will kill you one after the other in your next life and in life after life."[198] Mṛgāri took heed of Nārada Muni’s words. Eager to avoid punishment, Mṛgāri surrendered to the sage's instruction, thereby giving up his cruel behavior and indeed his hunting profession altogether. Mṛgāri's reformation was so great that he came to be known as a first-class saintly man.

Śrīla Prabhupāda extends Nārada’s instruction in his commentary, in which he compares the offenses of Mṛgāri to that of modern slaughterhouse operators. Here he also refers to another story from śāstra in which a hunter is advised, "Don’t live, don’t die."[199] The purport: killers and tormentors of animals are bound to suffer in this life and the next.

If one gives another living entity unnecessary pain, one will certainly be punished by the laws of nature with a similar pain. Although the hunter Mṛgāri was uncivilized, he still had to suffer the results of his sinful activities. However, if a civilized man kills animals regularly in a slaughterhouse to maintain his so-called civilization, using scientific methods and machines to kill animals, one cannot even estimate the suffering awaiting him. So-called civilized people consider themselves very advanced in education, but they do not know about the stringent laws of nature. According to nature’s law, it is a life for a life. We can hardly imagine the sufferings of one who maintains a slaughterhouse. He endures suffering not only in this life, but in his next life also. It is said that a hunter, murderer or killer is advised not to live and not to die. If he lives, he accumulates even more sins, which bring about more suffering in a future life. He is advised not to die because his dying means that he immediately begins to endure more suffering. Therefore he is advised not to live and not to die.[200]

Regarding the slaughter of cows in particular, there is a text in Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta (17.166) wherein Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu states:

go-aṅge yata loma, tata sahasra vatsara
go-vadhī raurava-madhye pace nirantara
"Cow-killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow."[201]

Śrīla Prabhupāda thus summarizes his warning to slaughterhouse society:

Those who kill animals and give them unnecessary pain - as people do in slaughterhouses - will be killed in a similar way in the next life and in many lives to come. One can never be excused from such an offense. If one kills many thousands of animals in a professional way so that other people can purchase the meat to eat, one must be ready to be killed in a similar way in his next life and in life after life.[202]

Societal issues

Śrīla Prabhupāda speaks of how the adverse consequences of animal-killing manifest on a mass scale as well as individually. He describes how the results and repercussions of unprincipled animal-killing are observable in historical events and in the daily news and affairs of our own times.


The incidence of war, particularly the large-scale warfare of modern times, is one which Śrīla Prabhupāda specifically links to unrestricted animal slaughter.

To be nonviolent to human beings and to be a killer or enemy of the poor animals is Satan's philosophy. In this age there is enmity toward poor animals, and therefore the poor creatures are always anxious. The reaction of the poor animals is being forced on human society, and therefore there is always the strain of cold or hot war between men, individually, collectively or nationally.[203]

In this age of Kali the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Consequently there is always fighting and wars between men and nations. Men do not understand that because they unrestrictedly kill so many animals, they also must be slaughtered like animals in big wars.[204]

In one of his Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam purports, Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that mass civilian deaths are further reaction to sinful activity. He contrasts modern warfare with the warfare waged in Vedic times, correlating the slaughter of innocent citizens with the mass slaughter of innocent animals:

Violence is certainly a path leading to a hellish condition of life, but it is also required for maintenance of the law and order of the state. Here Lord Manu prohibited Dhruva Mahārāja from killing the Yakṣas because only one of them was punishable for killing his brother, Uttama; not all of the Yakṣa citizens were punishable. We find in modern warfare, however, that attacks are made upon innocent citizens who are without fault. According to the law of Manu, such warfare is a most sinful activity. Furthermore, at the present moment civilized nations are unnecessarily maintaining many slaughterhouses for killing innocent animals. When a nation is attacked by its enemies, the wholesale slaughter of the citizens should be taken as a reaction to their own sinful activities. That is nature's law.[205]

Elsewhere Śrīla Prabhupāda suggests that if meat-eaters would follow bona fide sacrificial rituals instead of patronizing the slaughterhouse, it would benefit humanity on the mass level.

At the present moment, so-called civilized men do not sacrifice animals to a deity in a religious or ritualistic way. They openly kill animals daily by the thousands for no purpose other than the satisfaction of the tongue. Because of this the entire world is suffering in so many ways. Politicians are unnecessarily declaring war, and according to the stringent laws of material nature, massacres are taking place between nations.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
ahaṅkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate

"The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by nature." (BG 3.27) The laws of prakṛti (nature) are very stringent. No one should think that he has the freedom to kill animals and not suffer the consequences. One cannot be safe by doing this.[206]

Śrīla Prabhupāda especially opposes the slaughterhouse industry.

We don't stop trade. We don't stop food, producing food grains. But we want to stop these killing houses. It is very, very sinful. Therefore in Europe, so many wars. Every ten years, fifteen years, there is a big war and wholesale slaughter of the whole human kind. And these rascals, they do not see it. The reaction must be there. You are killing innocent cows and animals. Nature will take revenge. Wait for that. As soon as the time is ripe, the nature will gather all these rascals, and club, slaughter them. Finished. They will fight amongst themselves, Protestant and Catholic, Russian and France, and France and Germany. This is going on. Why? This is the nature's law. Tit for tat. You have killed. Now you become killed. Amongst yourselves. They are being sent to the slaughterhouse.[207]


Śrīla Prabhupāda draws a parallel between animal-killing and the practice of abortion. One point he makes is that the victims of abortion are suffering the reaction for their own killing activities in previous lives.

Why so many abortions are taking place nowadays? Because the child which has come into the womb of the mother, he is sinful. He has done previous life so many killings. Now he has to be killed so many times. He has to be killed so many times. As many times he has killed other poor animals. This is the law of nature. Just like in the state laws, if you kill somebody, the state law will kill him. Life for life. Similarly, God's law, how even if you kill one ant even, you will be responsible for this, and it will have to be punished. They do not know this. They do not know this.[208]

In addition, Śrīla Prabhupāda perceives that abortion, like animal slaughter, is a manifestation of mercilessness and breach of trust between protector and protected.

The productive class, they should give protection to the cows. The cows are given under their protection, not that "Because the cows are given under my protection, therefore I must open a slaughterhouse and kill them." Similarly... So children under the protection of father and mother... Just like this child is sitting on the lap of... He is comfortable. But if the father thinks, "He is under my protection; therefore I shall cut throat..." Now it is going on. The abortion means that. The child is taken shelter of the mother's womb for protection, but now she is being killed. The time is so bad. You see?[209]

Unless one is very expert in killing animals, he's not bereft from Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That means one who is very expert in killing, he cannot understand. Therefore Christ also said, "Thou shall not kill," the first business. Nobody will be able if one is a killer of animal, small or big, ultimately killer of his own children, killer of his own self. The killing process is so nice that it goes up to the point of killing one's children. That is now happening. Killing business has so expanded that they are killing their own children. Just see the influence of Kali-yuga. The children, they take shelter of the father and mother, thinking very safe. Now, in this Kali-yuga, even there is no safety under the care of father and mother. Just see how this material civilization is progressing. Very, very dangerous.[210]

Degraded lifestyles

Śrīla Prabhupāda observes a connection between animal-killing and many aspects of social degradation. One of these is the association he notes between meat-eating and alcohol consumption.

Meat-eater means other things will follow. Illicit sex will follow and drinking will follow. Because you cannot digest meat by water. You must drink. That is the fact… In India we have seen, everywhere. This wine and meat, they are together. Because you have to digest.[211]

He further comments on how meat-eating, along with drinking, provides fuel for an angry and animalistic way of life.

Modern civilization is centered around animal-killing. Karmīs are advertising that without eating meat, their vitamin value or vitality will be reduced; so to keep oneself fit to work hard, one must eat meat, and to digest meat, one must drink liquor, and to keep the balance of drinking wine and eating meat, one must have sufficient sexual intercourse to keep fit to work very hard like an ass.[212]

In the modern civilization especially, they are being trained up to work very hard and, to get strength, eat meat, and to digest meat drink wine, and then become infuriated and work very hard. This is the modern type of civilization. But Vedic civilization is different. Vedic civilization is not meant for working so hard. The human being should be very peaceful and sober and intelligent and cultivate spiritual knowledge, become brāhmaṇa, brahminical culture.[213]

Śrīla Prabhupāda sees animal-killing to be an integral part of the wretchedness of modern urban life, as he commented in this 1975 lecture:

The present situation of the human civilization is very, very dark, tamasā. They want to live in the city without working for producing their food. And there are butchers, they kill innocent animals. And in the city they eat the meat, and to digest they drink and work like hogs and dogs whole day and night. This is civilization. This is not civilization. This is darkness, darkness of life.[214]

Society will continue to suffer, he says, as long as it continues to support mass animal slaughter.

It is the duty of the vaiśyas to protect the cows, to increase agricultural activities and trade. But they are now interested in producing electronic parts. No go-rakṣya, no vāṇijyam, no food production. Cheap profit, and for eating, let there be slaughterhouse and eat meat. And to digest meat, you drink wine. This is being taught. So you create the situation and when you suffer, then why should we lament? We have created this situation, godless civilization, do not follow the direction of the śāstras.[215]

(Go to references for "Adverse consequences")

Uplifting humanity

Śrīla Prabhupāda characterizes animal slaughter as an expression of gross ignorance and pinpoints it as a key factor contributing to the ongoing degradation of the human condition. Speaking in terms of human character and its ramifications, he observes and explains how the practice of animal-killing poisons human civilization, thereby underscoring the urgency for all societies to put an end to this unnecessary violence.

Intellectual and spiritual development

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that the proper function of civilization is to utilize human intelligence with an aim toward spiritual advancement for all members of society. He argues that unprincipled animal slaughter is a prime detriment to human culture in these very areas - intellectual and spiritual development.

To begin, he says that animal-killing and meat-eating dull the human intelligence, rendering people unreceptive to spiritual culture and incapable of higher modes of thinking.

The gross materialists, they are animal-killers, gross materialists. That, these animal-killers, according to Bhāgavata also, they cannot understand finer things. Those who are animal-killers and animal-eaters, they cannot understand finer philosophical matter. Their brain is gross. Therefore they are much inclined to mechanical way of life. Machine. Machine is gross.[216]

Those who are animal killers, their brain is dull as stone. They cannot understand any thing. Therefore meat-eating should be stopped. In order to revive the finer tissues of the brain to understand subtle things, one must give up meat-eating. [217]

This subtle degradation of humanity, Śrīla Prabhupāda notes, was a key factor involved in the nonviolence movement of Lord Buddha.

What is sin, what is pious activities, these things are not understood by them because they are animal killers. It is not possible. Therefore Lord Buddha propagated ahiṁsā. Ahiṁsā. Because he saw the whole human race is going to hell by this animal killing. "Let me stop them so that they may, in future, they may become sober."[218]

Lord Buddha appeared to stop animal-killing, ahiṁsā. He did not say anything more. His only mission was, "Let these rascals first of all stop this animal-killing, they'll understand further about spiritual advancement." Those who are animal killer, they cannot understand anything about spiritual advancement. That is not possible. Therefore this thing must be stopped first.[219]

Śrīla Prabhupāda also observes that Jesus Christ taught similarly. His main reference, however, is to a verse spoken by Parīkṣit Mahārāja in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (10.1.4).

Just in the beginning Christ says, "Thou shall not kill." That is the beginning of religious life. The animal killers cannot understand what is God. It is not possible. There is a statement in the Bhāgavata, viṇa paśughnat.

nivṛtta tarṣair upagīyamānād
bhavauṣadhāc chrotra-mano-'bhirāmāt
ka uttamaśloka guṇānuvādāt
pumān virajyeta vinā paśughnāt
(SB 10.1.4)

"Who can remain aloof from the chanting of the holy name of God unless he's an animal killer?" Yes. Animal killers cannot understand what is God, what is God's name. That's not possible.[220]

Śrīla Prabhupāda argues that both animal-killing and meat-eating ruin one's prospects for spiritual advancement.

Foodstuffs should be given, nice foodstuff given, should be given to the particular person for developing nice brain. Milk is a foodstuff which can develop your finer tissues of the brain so that you can understand higher philosophy. And if you become blunt, and you eat meat by killing any animal, then how you will understand? The finer tissues given in the human form of life for understanding spiritual things... You cannot. Vinā paśughnāt. Therefore Parīkṣit Mahārāja says, vinā paśughnāt. Nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād bhavauṣadhāc chrotra-mano-'bhirāmāt uttamaśloka-guṇānuvādāt (SB 10.1.4). Uttamaśloka, Kṛṣṇa, guṇānuvādāt, glorifying His activities, who can be bereft of this opportunity, vinā paśughnāt, unless he is an animal killer? Unless he is animal killer, nobody will deny to hear about Kṛṣṇa. Because the animal killers, they have lost their brain.[221]

Vinā paśughnāt (SB 10.1.4). Vinā means without. Unless one is animal killer, he cannot give up this opportunity of hearing about Kṛṣṇa. Therefore we forbid, "No meat-eating." This is the qualification. Unless you stop meat-eating, you cannot understand. Blunt head... Our Ramakrishna Mission, they say, "What is there in food? Whatever you like, you can eat. It has nothing to do with spiritual life." Nonsense. You see?[222]

Animal-killing, Śrīla Prabhupāda says, counters the very purpose of human life, which is to develop God consciousness.

In the Ten Commandments he says, "Thou shalt not kill." When there is absolute necessity, there is no other food, that is another thing, but if there is sufficient other foodstuff, why should you kill? They are not even human being, those who are animal killers. Vinā paśughnāt (SB 10.1.4). Those who are animal killers, they are not even human being, what to speak of religious system. Nivṛtta-tarṣair upagīyamānād bhavauṣadhāc chrotra-mano-'bhirāmāt ka uttamaśloka-guṇa (SB 10.1.4). If you are animal killer, your God consciousness is finished. You'll never be able to understand what is God. Then your life is finished. This life is meant for understanding God, and if you are animal killer, then your God understanding is finished.[223]

Therefore, he concludes that ending the practice of animal-killing should be a top-priority item for human society.

Sinful life cannot help. Vinā paśughnāt. (SB 10.1.4) That is stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, that "One who is killer of animal, he cannot understand the spiritual science." Vinā paśughnāt. (SB 10.1.4) This is the statement. Paśughna means the animal killer. Therefore the first prohibition is stop this animal killing. Otherwise, this dull brain will not be able to understand. They are not fit for understanding.[224]

According to nature's law

Śrīla Prabhupāda writes:

Exploitation of the weaker living being by the stronger is the natural law of existence; there is always an attempt to devour the weak in different kingdoms of living beings. There is no possibility of checking this tendency by any artificial means under material conditions; it can be checked only by awakening the spiritual sense of the human being by practice of spiritual regulations. The spiritual regulative principles, however, do not allow a man to slaughter weaker animals on one side and teach others peaceful coexistence. If man does not allow the animals peaceful coexistence, how can he expect peaceful existence in human society?[225]

As Śrīla Prabhupāda points out, those who endorse animal slaughter actually live by the ethic of "might makes right." Recalling a conversation he had with one lawyer, Śrīla Prabhupāda noted this implication of meat-eating as well as its extended consequence:

That Goldsmith, he was against war, but when I asked him, "Whether you are meat-eaters, killing animals?", "Yes, that is our food." So if the poor animals can become your food, the big nation can say, "The small nation is my food. I can kill them. We can kill them." Everyone can say. And that is happening like, "Might is right."[226]

Śrīla Prabhupāda emphasizes that nature's law is inescapable, and, as shown throughout this article, he tells of how the Vedas give human beings the direction they need in order to live happier, more auspicious lives according to the laws that God and nature have set out for them. Those who ignore the Vedic instruction, he says, are bound to suffer from their actions.

Prabhupāda: Cows should be given protection. This is the instruction. But in the western country the cows are specially being killed. Now the reaction is war, crime, and they are now repentant. And they will have to repent more and more.
Jayatīrtha: So the wars and the crime are a direct result of the cow slaughter.
Prabhupāda: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. It is a wholesale reaction. All these crises are taking place… Nature will take action. Prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ. (BG 3.27) You are not independent. So if you work independently, then you will have to suffer. The law of nature is there. You cannot avoid it. If you infect some disease, you must suffer from the disease. You cannot avoid it. This is the law of nature. [227]

Śrīla Prabhupāda affirms that human beings have a choice in how they live and where they are going in this life and the next. With some understanding of how the laws of nature operate, he teaches, humanity can be prepared to make better choices for the benefit of all.

By practice, one should avoid eating in such a way that other living entities will be disturbed and suffer. Since I suffer when pinched or killed by others, I should not attempt to pinch or kill any other living entity. People do not know that because of killing innocent animals they themselves will have to suffer severe reactions from material nature. Any country where people indulge in unnecessary killing of animals will have to suffer from wars and pestilence imposed by material nature. Comparing one's own suffering to the suffering of others, therefore, one should be kind to all living entities.[228]

Ahiṁsā and human society

Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that for human civilization to allow the unrestricted killing of animals defies the principle of ahiṁsā (nonviolence) in multiple ways. Ahiṁsā, as he succinctly defines it, means "not checking anyone's progressive life."[229] At the most basic level, this implies that a person should avoid the act of killing. Yet further than that, Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that "progressive life" applies to more than just bodily security. He discusses the implications of ahiṁsā with respect to the human being and human society:

The human being is distinct from animal life in this way, that animal, they do not know what is the aim of life. The human life is meant for realizing, self-realization. If any civilization, that is checking people's progress in the matter of self-realization, that is the most virulent type of violence because people are being checked from the natural advancement of life. This human life is the point when one has to end all the miseries of material existence. That is the aim of human life. If people are not educated to that light, if people are misled in other ways, that is the greatest violence committed to the population.[230]

Ahiṁsā means that people should be trained in such a way that the full utilization of the human body can be achieved. The human body is meant for spiritual realization, so any movement or any commissions which do not further that end commit violence on the human body. That which furthers the future spiritual happiness of the people in general is called nonviolence.[231]

Śrīla Prabhupāda teaches that while progressive life for the animals means completing their requisite term in their animal body, [232] progressive life for the human being means advancing step by step toward the ultimate goal of spiritual realization. In short, he shows that, in the positive sense, ahiṁsā means upholding the processes of progressive life for all living beings, and for human civilization to allow the unnecessary killing of animals obstructs the path of advancement for human and animal alike. In light of Śrīla Prabhupāda's discussion of the deleterious effects that animal-killing has on human society – the degradation of character, the impossibility of spiritual advancement, and the prospect of devolving back into animal bodies after death - it becomes clear that human beings who commit violence against animals are also committing violence against themselves and against humanity as a whole. Therefore he recommends the policy and practice of ahiṁsā for the upliftment of the human race.

(Go to references for "Uplifting humanity")

Practical solutions

Śrīla Prabhupāda urges everyone to work toward ending unnecessary violence against other living beings. One may always treat animals with compassion, and one may avoid eating meat or otherwise patronizing the slaughterhouse industry. One may train others to do the same, and one may promote or uphold policies and recommendations against animal violence. Even so, there remain further complications in the way of protecting oneself and one's fellow man from the consequences of animal-killing. As Śrīla Prabhupāda explains, killing of any sort - be it the killing of humans, animals, fish, plants, insects or microbes - bears the burden of karmic reaction, whether done intentionally or not. Even the Vedic sacrifices for meat-eating, though advisable for persons who one way or other will not abstain from meat, still entail some karmic consequence. Taking a thorough and practical view of these problems, Śrīla Prabhupāda offers alternatives and solutions, following the purport of the Vedic teachings, which may be implemented even in today's societies.

Proposal for meat-eaters

Śrīla Prabhupāda recognized that there is a wide range of character in human society and that there will always be those people who are unwilling or unable to avoid eating meat. Given this understanding, he suggests an ethical and viable solution to satisfy the desire of those who seriously wish to eat meat, especially beef: wait until the animal dies naturally.

Discussing the situation in general, he explains:

The dead animal, you can eat. Those who are fond of eating fish and meat, they can eat when the animal is dead. Not killing. That is not very good thing... After all, everyone will die. The animal will die also. Even if we keep the cows, don't kill, it will die.[233]

He particularly recommends this policy for cows, the animal most valuable to human society. His proposal: that the cows be protected through their natural lifespan, and then upon their death, that all material from the carcasses, including the flesh, be recovered and utilized.

Those who are flesh-eaters, let them wait for the death of the cow. Then let them eat the flesh, not living condition. So we are making preparation that keep the cows, protect the cows, and when the cow dies, the flesh-eater may take it away. So he can take the skin, he can take the hoof, he can take the horn, he can take the flesh, everything, whatever he likes. Because when it is dead, it is no more useful for us. So the others, who are interested with the skin, in the flesh, in the hoof, they can take it. And they get it free. Without any cost. Because after death, we don't want it. So this is our program. Let the cows live. We take sufficient milk. We are getting milk, one thousand pounds. One thousand pounds daily in our, one center, New Vrindaban, Virginia. So we are making various preparations from the milk, and they are very happy, and the cows are also happy. So this is one of our programs, to stop killing this important animal. And the flesh-eaters may wait a little until the cow dies. Then he gets the opportunity. Why there should be slaughterhouse maintained?[234]

Śrīla Prabhupāda had actually seen this little economy in action. He describes the business of the muci class, the camaras (cobblers) of traditional India:

The mucis are prepared to take away the dead cow or bull. They eat the flesh, and they take out the skin and the bones for their business. Muci prepare shoes. He gets the skin for nothing, without any payment. He doesn't have to invest his capital, and he nicely cleanses it, tans, and then prepares shoes and sell in the market. So get the money. And the muci class, they eat this flesh, meat. But they are given the opportunity when the cow is dead, not by slaughterhouse. That is not in the Vedic scripture.[235]

Speaking with his disciples, Śrīla Prabhupāda floated the idea as one that they might pursue themselves in the operation of ISKCON farms:

I am proposing, think over it. Because it is a fact that in spite our vigorous propaganda, we cannot stop meat-eating. That is not possible. People will eat. So those who are eating, let us make some arrangement that "You take it free of charges." From economic point of view, they get it free. They can make good profit. And we are interested with the skin. So why not make some arrangement? It is practical.[236]

In this way, he argues, scriptural standards could be maintained in society and even the beef-eaters could be pacified. All that would be required is a little patience.

Now, this is our proposal, that why you should kill cow? Cow may be protected to take milk, and use this milk for so many nice preparations. Then, so far meat-eating is concerned, so every cow will die. It is a fact. So you wait a few days only. There will be so many dead cows. So you take all the dead cows and eat. So where is the bad proposal? If you say that "You are restraining us from meat-eating," no, we don't restrain you. We simply request you that "Don't kill. When the cow is dead, you eat it."[237]

Avoiding karmic reaction

Even though Śrīla Prabhupāda upholds the principle of ahiṁsā, he shows that actually, violence and killing cannot be entirely avoided in the material world. Aside from killing knowingly or even accidentally, he says that we are sure to commit violence and kill living beings even in the course of our daily lives.

It is fine to vociferously support nonviolence, but in actual life one is compelled to commit acts of violence. One may succeed in avoiding many kinds of sin, but it is impossible to escape committing the five great sins called pañca-sūnā. While walking on the street we may crush many ants to death against our wishes. While cleaning house, we may squash many insects to death. While grinding food grains or lighting a fire, we destroy many tiny lives. In this way, while executing our ordinary, daily chores we are forced to commit violence and take many innocent lives. Willingly or unwillingly, we commit sins.[238]

Given that we are held responsible for killing even the tiniest of creatures, how can we avoid being implicated in sinful activity? Śrīla Prabhupāda answers that we must act from a God-conscious platform in all circumstances of life, abiding by the Lord’s orders and dedicating our activities in service to please Him. In that way, we avoid committing known offenses and remain free from reaction to those we commit unknowingly. He recommends two specific practices along these lines which can protect us from reaction to unintentional violence: regular chanting of the holy name of the Lord and offering all food preparations to the Lord before eating.

Indemnity through yajña

Śrīla Prabhupāda notes that the Vedas instruct one to perform yajñas, sacrificial acts to satisfy the Supreme Lord, in order to counteract or nullify reactions to unintentional violence committed in the course of daily activities. One recommendation is the performance of rituals known as the pañca-sūnā-yajña:

In breathing, you kill so many animals. In drinking water, you kill so many animals. This is bhūta-hatyā. You are killing. This is not intentional. You do not know. Therefore in a Vedic system there is prescription, pañca-sūnā-yajña… You have to perform yajña every day to counteract the sinful reaction of your imperceptible killings of animals. That's it. This is Vedic life.[239]

The pañca-sūnā-yajña, however, is not the only method for coping with everyday, unconscious offenses. Śrīla Prabhupāda shows that the Vedas reveal a simpler, all-encompassing practice especially recommended for our present age. He advises this method, saṅkīrtana-yajña, for today's society:

The Vedic principle of pañca-yajña, five kinds of recommended sacrifice, is compulsory. In this age of Kali, however, there is a great concession given to people in general. Yajñaiḥ saṅkīrtana-prāyair yajanti hi sumedhasaḥ: (SB 11.5.32) we may worship Lord Caitanya, the hidden incarnation of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa-varṇaṁ tviṣākṛṣṇam: although He is Kṛṣṇa Himself, He always chants Hare Kṛṣṇa and preaches Kṛṣṇa consciousness. One is recommended to worship this incarnation by chanting, the saṅkīrtana-yajña. The performance of saṅkīrtana-yajña is a special concession for human society to save people from being affected by known or unknown sinful activities. We are surrounded by unlimited sins, and therefore it is compulsory that one take to Kṛṣṇa consciousness and chant the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.[240]

Spiritualized eating

In addition to saṅkīrtana-yajña, Śrīla Prabhupāda recommends that we offer all foodstuffs to Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Lord, before consuming them. He explains that when foodstuffs are prepared as an offering for Kṛṣṇa and taken as remnants of yajña, persons partaking of that food – known as prasādam, or the Lord’s mercy - will not incur reaction for violence committed unwittingly in its procurement or preparation.

Whatever we do here within this material world, there is some sort of sinful activity. We do not know, imperceptibly. Just like killing of some animal is sinful activities. But even if we do not willingly kill some animal, when we are walking on the street, we are killing so many animals. When we are drinking water, in the, below the waterpot there are so many ants and microbes, they are being killed. When we ignite fire, there are so many small microbes, they also become burned into the fire. When you rub the pestle and mortar for rubbing spices, so many small microbes are killed. So we are responsible for that. Therefore, willingly or unwillingly, we are becoming entangled in so many sinful activities. Therefore the Bhagavad-gītā says, yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ. If you take the remnants of foodstuff of yajña, after offering yajña, then you become free from all contamination. Otherwise, bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt: (BG 3.13) "One who is cooking for eating personally without offering to Kṛṣṇa, he is simply all sinful resultant action." This is our position.[241]

Automatically, this rules out any sort of meat-eating (including the remnants of the bali-dāna), as Kṛṣṇa does not accept flesh as an offering. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains that the point is that we act to satisfy Kṛṣṇa and simply take the remnants of His food; that way, any unintentional killing that would have taken place in connection with the offering becomes Kṛṣṇa’s burden, not ours.

We eat kṛṣṇa-prasāda. So Kṛṣṇa says that "You give Me these foodstuffs." Patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ yo me bhaktyā prayacchati (BG 9.26). So we are not eating on the material platform. We are eating on the spiritual platform. Because we are eating, if there is anything sinful, that is Kṛṣṇa's. We are taking His remnants of foodstuff. [242]

Acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness

In the broadest sense, Śrīla Prabhupāda advises that we always act in God consciousness, Kṛṣṇa consciousness, if we are to be fully protected from reactions to unintentional violence. This includes following the rules set forth in scripture (to avoid sinful activity on the conscious level) and adopting the practices of chanting and offering food as mentioned above. Even more, he teaches, it means dovetailing all one's assets and actions in devotional service of the Supreme Lord. Śrīla Prabhupāda explains the process beginning with the simple example of eating:

Don't think that those who are vegetarian, they are free from all these reaction. No. They are also. They are also. The law is that one has to repay which he is taking the help from other living entities. That is the law of karma. So either you eat vegetables or either you eat flesh, you have to repay that. But yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ. (BG 3.13) The Bhagavad-gītā says that if you eat the remnants after offering sacrifice to the Lord, then you, not only you are free from all reaction, but you do not eat anything sinful. That is the direction of Bhagavad-gītā.

So in every aspect of our life... This is also one of the insignificant example of our activities of our life. If we act, dovetailing our actions with the Supreme Lord, then we are free from reaction. Otherwise we are bound up by the reaction. That is the law. So in order to get myself free from all reaction of my activities... Because so long I am... Because I am living entity, I have to act. Either I act spiritually, either act materially, I have to act... If you don't act spiritually, then you have to act materially. And if you are fully engaged in spiritual activity, then there is no chance of material activity... Just like in our ordinary life, if we do something at a particular moment, we cannot do other things; similarly, we have to engage ourselves fully in the spiritual life. Then our material activities will be stopped altogether, and then there will be no reaction.[243]

Elsewhere Śrīla Prabhupāda gives the same instruction:

We are entangled in this material world because we are creating one after another entanglement… consciously, unconsciously, we are in such a position in this material world that we have to commit sinful activities even if we are very, very careful. You have seen the Jains, they are after nonviolence. You'll find they keep a cloth like this so that the small insects may not enter the mouth. But these are artificial. You cannot check. In the air there are so many living entities. In the water there are so many living entities. We drink water. You cannot check it. It is not possible. But if you keep yourself fixed up in devotional service, then you are not bound. [244]

In the final issue, he states the ultimate solution to the problem of karmic entanglement:

How it is possible to become nonviolence? It is not possible. Therefore in every step we have to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or God consciousness. Then there is indemnity from the sinful activities. That is recommended in the Bhagavad-gītā, that yajñarthāt karmaṇo 'nyatra loko 'yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ. (BG 3.9) Unless you act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or God consciousness, or as ordered by Kṛṣṇa, or God, then you become bound up by the reaction. [245]


Typically, advocates of nonviolence, animal rights and vegetarianism speak from the standpoint of human compassion. Some may speak from loftier heights than others, and a few may even speak of God, but very few will speak from the perspective of transcendental knowledge and wisdom to the extent that Śrīla Prabhupāda does. Śrīla Prabhupāda urges human beings, especially those in positions of leadership and responsibility, to try to understand life from a higher, spiritual perspective and to take a broader, God-centered view of what constitutes our "community" on earth. He sees that while few individuals at any given time will truly have the quality of equal vision - seeing all beings as spirit-souls, equal in quality within all varieties of bodily forms - if human culture itself would uphold the highest standard of knowledge as its guiding principle, the entire earthly community would benefit: peace and prosperity would be maintained; all levels of human society would be facilitated in spiritual advancement; and all beings would be allowed their natural right to live as intended by God and nature. Citing the words of Vedic scripture along with his scrutinizing observation of society, Śrīla Prabhupāda shows how ending the unnecessary killing of animals is an essential part of this program.

Yet even as he speaks the highest philosophy, Śrīla Prabhupāda's thinking is always very practical. He argues that while absolute nonviolence is not possible in the material world, an intelligent, principled practice of ahiṁsā is. In closing, Śrīla Prabhupāda's teaching on animal-killing may be summarized by this passage from his purport to Bhagavad-gītā 16.1-3:

Ahiṁsā means not arresting the progressive life of any living entity. One should not think that since the spirit spark is never killed even after the killing of the body there is no harm in killing animals for sense gratification. People are now addicted to eating animals, in spite of having an ample supply of grains, fruits and milk. There is no necessity for animal killing. This injunction is for everyone. When there is no alternative, one may kill an animal, but it should be offered in sacrifice. At any rate, when there is an ample food supply for humanity, persons who are desiring to make advancement in spiritual realization should not commit violence to animals.[246]

References and Further Reading

PDF of this article


Verses and purports

Bhagavad-gītā As It Is
  • BG 2.13 -- transmigration of the soul to different material bodies
  • BG 2.20 -- characteristics of the soul
  • BG 3.13 -- eating only that which is offered first in sacrifice
  • BG 5.18 -- equal vision as a qualification of one who is learned
  • BG 5.29 -- devotee of the Lord is friend to all living entities
  • BG 6.32 -- perfect yogī sees the true equality of all beings
  • BG 9.26 -- foods which Kṛṣṇa accepts in sacrifice
  • BG 10.4-5 -- nonviolence as a godly quality; definition of ahiṁsā (purport)
  • BG 13.8-12 -- nonviolence as part of the process of knowledge
  • BG 14.4 -- Kṛṣṇa says, "I am the seed-giving father of all living entities"
  • BG 16.1-3 -- nonviolence as a godly quality; definition of ahiṁsā (purport)
  • BG 18.44 -- cow protection as occupational duty of the vaiśya class
  • BG 18.54 -- one who is transcendentally situated is equal to all living entities
  • SB 1.5.15 -- Nārada Muni and scriptural recommendation for animal sacrifice
  • SB 1.7.37 -- animal-killing and the laws of Manu (Purport)
  • SB 1.10.4 -- cheerful cows and prosperity during the reign of Mahārāja Yudhiṣṭhira
  • SB 1.13.47 -- nature's law of subsistence (one living being is food for another)
  • SB 1.16.4 -- Mahārāja Parīkṣit arrests and punishes the master of Kali-yuga for hurting a cow and a bull
  • SB 1.16.18 -- cow protection and brahminical culture (Purport)
  • SB 1.17.3 -- religious importance of cows, cow protection
  • SB 1.17.8 -- government protects both man and animal
  • SB 3.29.23 -- on envy and inimical behavior towards other living entities
  • SB 4.13.40 -- example of King Vena hunting and killing animals mercilessly
  • SB 4.17.25 -- when government may sanction meat-eating

Nārada Muni's instruction to King Prācīnabarhiṣat / Story of King Purañjana: SB 4.25.7 through SB 4.28.28

  • SB 4.26.5 -- King Purañjana kills many animals mercilessly on his hunting expedition
  • SB 4.27.11 -- animal-killing in the name of religion
  • SB 4.28.26 -- King Purañjana suffers after death for killing many animals

Punishments in various hells for mistreatment and killing of animals:

  • SB 6.4.9 –- another reference (in addition to SB 1.13.47) to food for various living entities; cows excluded from the four-legged class
  • SB 6.10.9 – compassion as religious principle
  • SB 6.16.43 -- Āryans equal to all living entities
  • SB 7.15.7 - SB 7.15.12 -- animal sacrifice not recommended (7.15.10 purport mentions Jesus Christ opposing animal slaughter in the synagogue)
  • SB 8.8.21 -- many persons observe religious principles but are not kind to all living entities
  • SB 9.6.7 –- kṣatriyas killing animals in forest
  • SB 10.1.4 -- animal-killers (paśu-ghna) cannot appreciate topics of the Lord
  • SB 10.10.9 -- aristocratic pastime of hunting as sinful
  • SB 10.10.14 -- punishment and understanding on the platform of actual experience
  • SB 11.5.13 -- sacrificial offering, not mass slaughter
  • SB 11.10.27-29 -- mentions animal slaughter among other sinful activities
Śrī Caitanya-caritāmṛta
  • CC Adi 17.164 -- animal sacrifice forbidden in this age - - quoted from Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa (Kṛṣṇa-janma-khaṇḍa 185.180)
  • CC Madhya 19.159 -- animal-killing as one of the unwanted creepers that choke out devotional service

The story of Nārada Muni and the hunter Mṛgāri: CC Madhya 24.229 through CC Madhya 24.282, and also summarized in Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 16

  • CC Madhya 24.249 -- Nārada Muni: "If one gives another living entity unnecessary pain, one will certainly be punished by the laws of nature with a similar pain."
Other books by Śrīla Prabhupāda
Other works cited
  • Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.19.65 - brahminical culture and cow protection - see the Vaniquotes category Go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya

Lectures, Conversations and Letters

The best way to identify key lectures, conversations and letters is through the notes and the Vaniquotes page references given below. The notes generally cite Vanisource directly. Vaniquotes is also very helpful for locating source material, as each quote includes a link to its full source text in Vanisource.



Vaniquotes categories are general topic areas for research and study based on key words (or phrases) and themes.


Vaniquotes pages are compilations or selected single quotes. They are collected under the Vaniquotes categories, and their content is indicated by title. The following list is not exhaustive; additional pages may be found by browsing any of the Vaniquotes categories listed above.

The embodied soul and natural law (ref)

(back to section, "The embodied soul and natural law")

Food for man? (ref)

(back to section, "Food for man?")

Cow protection and human civilization (ref)

(back to section, "Cow protection and human civilization")

Civilized community (ref)

(back to section, "Civilized community")

Non-theistic perspectives (ref)

(back to section, "Non-theistic perspectives")

Animal sacrifice (ref)

(back to section, "Animal sacrifice")

Ksatriya class and hunting (ref)

(back to section, "Kṣatriya class and hunting")

Self-protection and self-preservation (ref)

(back to section, "Self-protection and self-preservation")

Adverse consequences (ref)

(back to section, "Adverse consequences")

Uplifting humanity (ref)

(back to section, "Uplifting humanity")

Practical solutions (ref)

(back to section, "Practical solutions")

General references


  1. Vanisource: Conversation with Bajaj and Bhusan – September 11, 1972, Arlington, Texas, At Their Home
  2. Vanisource: Pandal Lecture -- Delhi, November 20, 1971
  3. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.34-39 – Surat, December 19, 1970
  4. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 18.41 -- Stockholm, September 7, 1973
  5. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.9 – Auckland, February 21, 1973
  6. Vanisource: BG 14.4
  7. Vanisource: Philosophy Discussion on Plotinus
  8. Vanisource: BG5.18
  9. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 16.5 -- Hawaii, January 31, 1975
  10. Vanisource: BG 2.20, Translation
  11. Vanisource: CC Madhya 19.138, Purport
  12. Vanisource: CC Madhya 19.140
  13. Vanisource: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Chapter 1
  14. Vanisource: CC Madhya 8.229, Purport
  15. Vanisource: SB 4.29.4, Purport
  16. Vanisource: SB 7.7.47, Purport
  17. Vanisource: Letter to Svarupa Damodara -- Vrindaban, 31 August 1975
  18. Vanisource:SB 4.24.73, Purport
  19. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 16.5 -- Calcutta, February 23, 1972
  20. Vanisource: SB 7.13.30, Purport
  21. Vanisource: SB 5.10.2, Purport
  22. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.7 – Honolulu, June 15, 1975
  23. Vanisource: BG 16.1-3, Purport
  24. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.2-6 – Ahmedabad, December 11, 1972
  25. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.8 -- New York, July 22, 1971
  26. Vanisource: SB 1.10.25, Purport
  27. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 7.1 -- San Francisco, March 17, 1968
  28. Vanisource: CC Madhya 19.159, Purport
  29. Vanisource: Morning Walk -- April 10, 1976, Vrndavana
  30. Vanisource: Room Conversation -- December 12, 1971, Delhi
  31. Vanisource: Room Conversation – August 10, 1976, Tehran
  32. Vanisource: SB 1.13.47, Text and Translation
  33. Vanisource: SB 1.13.47, Purport
  34. Vanisource: Sri Isopanisad Mantra 1, Purport
  35. Vanisource: Lecture on Brahma-samhita, Verse 32 – New York, July 26, 1971
  36. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 13.4 -- Paris, August 12, 1973
  37. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.34-39 – Surat, December 19, 1970
  38. Vanisource: Morning Walk -- May 7, 1975, Perth
  39. Vanisource: SB 3.29.15, Purport
  40. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.17 -- Denver, June 30, 1975
  41. Vanisource: Śrī Īśopaniṣad Mantra 1, Purport
  42. Vanisource: SB 1.17.10-11, Purport
  43. Vanisource: SB 1.13.47, Purport
  44. Vanisource: SB 10.10.9, Purport
  45. Vanisource: Lecture -- Los Angeles, December 4, 1968
  46. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 3.8-13 -- New York, May 20, 1966
  47. Vanisource: SB 9.6.7, Purport
  48. Vanisource: Evening Darsana -- July 8, 1976, Washington, DC
  49. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.15.25-26 – Los Angeles, December 4, 1973
  50. Vanisource: Room Conversation – July 31, 1975, New Orleans
  51. Vanisource: Lecture Engagement and Prasada Distribution -- Boston, April 26, 1969
  52. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 13.22-24 – Melbourne, June 25, 1974
  53. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.3.19 – Los Angeles, June 14, 1972
  54. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 3.11-19 -- Los Angeles, December 27, 1968
  55. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.3.14 – Los Angeles, September 19, 1972
  56. Vanisource: Lecture on Brahma-samhita, Verse 32 – New York, July 26, 1971
  57. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Richard Webster, chairman, Societa Filosofica Italiana – May 24, 1974, Rome
  58. Vanisource: SB 3.2.29, Purport
  59. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.46-47 -- New York, March 28, 1966
  60. Vanisource: BG 14.16, Purport
  61. Vanisource: SB 1.14.34, Purport
  62. Vanisource: SB 1.19.3, Purport
  63. Vanisource: Letter to Rupanuga -- Vrindaban, 7 December 1975
  64. See Vaniquotes: Foods in goodness
  65. Vanisource: SB 1.16.4, Purport
  66. Vanisource: Light of the Bhagavata, Verse 27, Purport
  67. Vanisource: Lecture – Los Angeles, December 4, 1968
  68. Vanisource: SB 6.18.52, Purport
  69. Vanisource: SB 8.8.1, Purport
  70. Vanisource: SB 9.15.26, Purport
  71. Vanisource: SB 8.8.11, Purport
  72. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 1.12 -- London, July 13, 1973
  73. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.46-47 -- New York, March 28, 1966
  74. Vanisource: SB 10.6.9, Purport
  75. Vanisource: SB 1.9.26, Purport
  76. Vanisource: SB 6.4.9, Purport
  77. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.8.43 – Los Angeles, May 5, 1973
  78. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 1.40
  79. Vanisource: SB 9.15.25, Purport
  80. Vanisource: SB 1.16.18, Purport
  81. Vanisource: SB 1.17.3, Purport
  82. Vanisource: SB 1.16.8, Purport
  83. Vanisource: SB 8.16.12, Purport
  84. Vanisource: SB 7.14.9, Translation
  85. Vanisource: SB 7.14.9, Purport
  86. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 12.2.1 -- San Francisco, March 18, 1968
  87. Vanisource: SB 7.14, Summary
  88. Vanisource: BG 5.18, Translation and Purport
  89. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 6.25-29 – Los Angeles, February 18, 1969
  90. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 1.26-27 – London, July 21, 1973
  91. Vanisource: SB 1.12.19, Purport
  92. Vanisource: BG 2.23, Purport cites Parāśara-smṛti
  93. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.2-6 – Ahmedabad, December 11, 1972
  94. Vanisource: Pandal Lecture – Bombay, January 14, 1973
  95. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.16.4 -- Los Angeles, January 1, 1974
  96. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.16.4 – Los Angeles, January 1, 1974
  97. Vanisource: Class in Los Angeles -- Los Angeles, November 15, 1968
  98. Vanisource: Room Conversation – August 10, 1976, Tehran
  99. Vanisource: Philosophy Discussion on Soren Aabye Kierkegaard
  100. Vanisource: SB 6.16.43, Purport
  101. Vanisource: BG 17.10, Purport
  102. Vanisource: Room Conversation with writer, Sandy Nixon – July 13, 1975, Philadelphia
  103. Vanisource: Sri Isopanisad 17, Purport
  104. Vanisource: Speech – New Vrindaban, August 31, 1972
  105. As seen in Vanisource: SB 6.10.9, Translation and Purport
  106. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 1.26-27 – London, July 21, 1973
  107. Vanisource: SB 1.3.24, Purport
  108. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.22 -- Honolulu, May 22, 1976
  109. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 5.5.1-2 -- London (Tittenhurst), September 13,1969
  110. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Mr. C. Hennis of the International Labor Organization of the U.N. -- May 31, 1974
  111. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Monsieur Mesman, Chief of Law House of Paris -- June 11, 1974
  112. Vanisource: Morning Walk -- May 7, 1975, Perth
  113. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 7.5.30 -- Mauritius, October 2, 1975
  114. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 5.5.10-13 -- Vrndavana, November 1, 1976
  115. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Scientists -- July 2, 1974, Melbourne
  116. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 5.5.3 – Boston, May 4, 1968
  117. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Mr. C. Hennis of the International Labor Organization of the U.N. – May 31, 1974, Geneva
  118. Vaniquotes: Both the bulls and cows are important... - VedaBase reference is Conversations: Walk Around Farm -- August 1, 1975, New Orleans
  119. Vanisource: Room Conversations – July 26, 1975, Laguna Beach
  120. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Mr. C. Hennis of the International Labor Organization of the U.N. – May 31, 1974, Geneva
  121. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 16.7 – Hyderabad, December 15, 1976
  122. Vanisource: Garden Conversation -- June 14, 1976, Detroit
  123. See Vaniquotes: Sometimes the sacrificed animal is promoted immediately to the human form of life
  124. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.2.24-25 – Gorakhpur, February 13, 1971
  125. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.26 – Hyderabad, November 30, 1972
  126. See Vanisource: CC Adi 17.160-164 for the explanation given by Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu.
  127. Vanisource: SB 2.6.23, Purport
  128. Vanisource: SB 4.25.8, Purport
  129. Vanisource: SB 1.3.24, Purport
  130. Vanisource: CC Adi 17.164, where Lord Caitanya quotes the verse from the Brahma-vaivarta Purāṇa (Kṛṣṇa-janma-khaṇḍa 185.180).
  131. Vanisource: Evening Darsana -- July 11, 1976, New York
  132. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 6.6-12 – Los Angeles, February 15, 1969
  133. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.250, Purport
  134. Vanisource: SB 1.7.37, Purport
  135. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.9.9 -- Tokyo, April 25, 1972, Informal Class in Room , compiled in Vaniquotes: For the animal-eaters, the scriptures have sanctioned restricted animal sacrifices only, and such sanctions are there just to restrict the opening of slaughterhouses and not to encourage animal-killing
  136. Vanisource: Morning Walk -- December 6, 1973, Los Angeles
  137. Vaniquotes: Buddha and animal sacrifice
  138. Vaniquotes: It is said that Lord Jesus Christ, when twelve years old, was shocked to see the Jews sacrificing birds and animals in the synagogues...
  139. Vaniquotes: Nārada Muni and animal sacrifice
  140. Vanisource: SB 4.25.7, Purport
  141. Vanisource: SB 1.5.15, Purport
  142. Vanisource: SB 5.6.25, Purport
  143. Vanisource: SB 4.19.36, Purport and the Vaniquotes page Goddess Kali never accepts nonvegetarian food...
  144. Vanisource: SB 4.27.11, Purport
  145. Vanisource: SB 4.26.1-3, Purport
  146. Śrīla Prabhupāda noted that in Islam also, animal sacrifice is not part of the higher levels of spiritual pursuit. See Vanisource: Discourse on Lord Caitanya Play Between Śrīla Prabhupāda and Hayagrīva -- April 5-6, 1967, San Francisco
  147. Vanisource: SB 6.16.42, Purport
  148. Vanisource: SB 4.19.36, Purport
  149. Vanisource: SB 6.16.42, Purport
  150. Vanisource: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead 69
  151. Vanisource: Krsna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead 58
  152. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.8.46 – Los Angeles, May 8, 1973
  153. Vanisource: Morning Walk "Varnasrama College" – March 14, 1974
  154. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 1.28-29 -- London, July 22, 1973 See Vaniquotes:Nonviolence is not the business of the ksatriya
  155. Vanisource: SB 4.26.6, Purport
  156. Vanisource: Lecture on SB Lecture -- Melbourne, May 19, 1975
  157. Vanisource: SB 4.26.4, Purport
  158. Vanisource: SB 9.6.7, Purport
  159. Vanisource: SB 5.26.24
  160. Vanisource: SB 4.26.5, Purport
  161. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.249, Purport
  162. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.2 – London, August 3, 1973
  163. Vanisource: Conversation: Animals' Expertise -- April 28, 1977
  164. Vanisource: Philosophy Discussion on Immanuel Kant
  165. Vanisource: Lecture -- Hawaii, March 23, 1969
  166. Vanisource: SB 4.17.25, Purport
  167. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.9.11 -- Tokyo, April 27, 1972
  168. Vanisource: SB 4.17.25, Purport
  169. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Three Trappist Monks, Psychologists from the University of Georgia, and Atlanta Lawyer Michael Green -- March 1, 1975, Atlanta Many more examples of this same message may be found in the Vaniquotes compilation Tires (automobile)
  170. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 9.18-19 -- New York, December 4, 1966
  171. Vaniquotes: The human form of life is more important and valuable than animal life
  172. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Mister Popworth and E. F. Schumacher -- July 26, 1972, London
  173. Vanisource: Lecture -- Los Angeles, December 4, 1968
  174. Vanisource: Lecture -- Los Angeles, December 4, 1968
  175. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.39-40 -- Surat, December 21, 1970
  176. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.39-40 -- Surat, December 21, 1970
  177. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.39-40 -- Surat, December 21, 1970
  178. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.16.8 – Los Angeles, January 5, 1974
  179. Vanisource: SB 5.26.17, Purport
  180. Vanisource: SB 1.7.37, Purport
  181. Vanisource: Morning Walk – June 29, 1974, Melbourne
  182. Vanisource: SB 4.26.10, Purport
  183. Vanisource: Bhagavad Gita As It Is, Introduction
  184. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.15.25-26 -- Los Angeles, December 4, 1973
  185. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 7.6.5 -- Vrndavana, December 7, 1975
  186. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.8.32 -- Los Angeles, April 24, 1973
  187. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.7.6 -- Vrndavana, April 23, 1975
  188. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.252, Purport
  189. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Cardinal Danielou – August 9, 1973, Paris
  190. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.8.52 -- Los Angeles, May 14, 1973
  191. Vanisource: SB 10.10.14, Purport
  192. Vanisource: SB 5.26.34, Translation
  193. Vanisource: SB 5.26.17, Translation
  194. Vanisource: SB 4.25.7 and SB 4.25.8, Translations
  195. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 5.5.16 – Vrndavana, November 4, 1976
  196. Part of the Padma Purāṇa, as told by Lord Caitanya - CC Madhya 24.229 through CC Madhya 24.282 - also summarized in Teachings of Lord Caitanya, Chapter 16
  197. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 18.41 – Stockholm, September 7, 1973
  198. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.250 and 24.251
  199. See Vaniquotes: Since the hunter lives a very ghastly life...
  200. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.249, Purport
  201. Vanisource: CC Adi 17.166, part of the discussion between Lord Caitanya and Chand Kazi
  202. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.251, Purport
  203. Vanisource: SB 1.10.6, Purport
  204. Vanisource: SB 4.26.5, Purport
  205. Vanisource: SB 4.11.7, Purport
  206. Vanisource: CC Madhya 24.250, Purport
  207. Vanisource: Room Conversation – June 11, 1974, Paris
  208. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.1.4 – Delhi, November 7, 1973
  209. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.15.34 – Los Angeles, December 12, 1973
  210. Vanisource: Lecture on CC Adi-lila 1.13 – Mayapur, April 6, 1975
  211. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 7.6.5 -- Toronto, June 21, 1976
  212. Vanisource: SB 4.17.11, Purport
  213. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 3.26.19 – Bombay, December 28, 1974
  214. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 6.1.50 – Detroit, August 3, 1975
  215. Vanisource: Conversation at Airport – October 26, 1973, Bombay
  216. Vanisource: Lecture – Day after Sri Gaura-Purnima – Hawaii, March 5, 1969
  217. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.18 – London, August 24, 1973
  218. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.18 – London, August 24, 1973
  219. Vanisource: Lecture -- Hong Kong, January 31, 1974
  220. Vanisource: Morning Walk – June 22, 1974, Germany
  221. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.3.19 – Los Angeles, June 14, 1972
  222. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 2.3.19 – Los Angeles, June 14, 1972
  223. Vanisource: Evening Darsana – July 11, 1976, New York
  224. Vanisource: Morning Walk -- June 29, 1974, Melbourne
  225. Vanisource: SB 1.13.47, Purport
  226. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Alistair Hardy – July 21, 1973, London
  227. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Wax, Writer and Editing Manager of Playboy Magazine – July 5, 1975, Chicago
  228. Vanisource: SB 7.15.24, Purport
  229. Vanisource: BG 16.1-3, Purport
  230. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 3.21-25 -- New York, May 30, 1966
  231. Vanisource: BG 10.4-5, Purport
  232. See the preceding sections Process of evolution and Transmigration and Ahiṁsā
  233. Vanisource: Lecture on CC Adi-lila 7.1 -- Atlanta, March 1, 1975
  234. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Monsieur Mesman, Chief of Law House of Paris -- June 11, 1974
  235. Vanisource: Lecture on CC Adi-lila 7.1 – Atlanta, March 1, 1975
  236. Vanisource: Room Conversation -- June 29, 1976, New Vrindaban
  237. Vanisource: Room Conversation – June 11, 1974
  238. Vanisource: Renuciation Through Wisdom 1.6
  239. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 1.8.52 – Los Angeles, May 14, 1973
  240. Vanisource: SB 9.16.23, Purport
  241. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 7.5.30 – London, September 9, 1971
  242. Vanisource: Room Conversation with Professor Durckheim, German Spiritual Writer – June 19, 1974
  243. Vanisource: Lecture on BG 2.58-59 -- New York, April 27, 1966
  244. Vanisource: Lecture on SB 7.9.9 – Mayapur, March 1, 1977
  245. Vanisource: Lecture – Los Angeles, December 4, 1968
  246. Vanisource: BG 16.1-3, Purport

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