One big takeaway from my experience in thinking through the themes I wanted to write about in The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend is our timeless and very tangible human connection to animals. I argued in the book that we have an instinctive attraction to other creatures – it’s both cultural and biochemical, and it’s enhanced by the extraordinary attributes that animals bring to our life experience and to our planet.
One corollary of that underlying view is that animal protection is not a Western ideal, nor is it an idea reserved for one race of people and not another, for one gender or another, or for people of one class or another. It is present, to varying degrees, in people of varying circumstances and backgrounds, inhabiting all parts of the world.
Through my work at The HSUS and Humane Society International, it became evident to me that the subcontinent of India is home to some of the most animal friendly people in the world. With one in every seven people on the planet living there – in a country about one third the size of the United States — the predominant faith is Hinduism, but there are millions of Jains and Sikhs. These major Dharmic religions, so closely connected in their core tenets, all honor the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence, and that principle is so closely correlated with the working values of The HSUS.
Since we opened an office in India three years ago, our team on the ground has helped to drive forward a cascade of reforms – banning cages and crates for laying hens and breeding sows, ending shark finning, halting testing of cosmetics on animals, and much more. I’m sure our colleagues there would be the first to agree that while their work is challenging, they have had a headstart because of the spiritual, religious, and cultural inclinations of the people there.
In the United States moreover, there are three million American residents of Indian descent. To activate the Indian diaspora, we’ve formed an HSUS Dharmic Council. They are doctors, business leaders, engineers, and others who are connected to their traditions and committed to the principles of mercy toward all animals. It’s been fabulous to work with them.
As part of that work, I had the great honor of meeting one of India’s great religious leaders, J.P. Dada Vaswani, who oversees a spiritual center in the city of Pune. We hosted him here at The HSUS office a short time ago, and in today’s blog, I’m sharing an excerpt from a powerful, passionate speech he delivered to our staff about animals. Keep in mind that this extraordinary man is 97 years young.
We are proud to have hosted Dada here, and we’re excited about engaging people from the Dharmic faiths in India and here in the United States – and helping bring their talents and passion to bear to the essential task of building a more humane society and recognizing the place that animals have within it, here, there, and everywhere.