Perhaps we should all be Buddhists. It would put humankind on a proper footing in respect of its relationship with animals1.
Buddhist believe that animals are sentient beings who have feelings and emotions. They can suffer like you and I. Buddhists also believe that animals can be reincarnated as humans. For this reason, it is forbidden to kill an animal because it is like killing a human being. It could be a relative of the person doing the killing. In fact all animals are our past relatives, it is believed.
That belief is a wonderful brake on animal abuse, eating animals and hurting animals. The beliefs result (or should result) in an automatic respect for animals and in treating them as different but equal. For this reason an extension of Buddhism would be of benefit to animals on the planet.
This animal sensitive belief is being employed by the Snow Leopard Trust. As it happens, a high percentage of Tibetan Buddhists Monasteries are situated within the areas that the snow leopard considers its territory in Tibet. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in about 80% of the areas where the snow leopard is found.
As a consequence, the Snow Leopard Trust came up with the clever idea of tapping into Tibetan Buddhism to help protect the endangered snow leopard. Tibetan Buddhism considers wildlife and their habitat sacred. Apparently, monks patrol areas around monasteries protecting wildlife by delivering “edicts” to people.
The idea, now, is to try to extend their powers by convincing governments in Tibet – I presume local and national – to grant to the monks of Buddhist monasteries formal powers such as the right to deal with poachers and illegal mining. Illegal miners would be prevented from operating by the monks thereby protecting the snow leopard’s habitat. It would be a case of the monasteries becoming official snow leopard conservationists working in partnership with other agencies and charities.
I think this is a excellent way of bringing into wild cat conservation a large and influential body of people in areas other than reserves. Religion is a powerful tool to mold attitudes and adjust behavior.
The Snow Leopard Trust has an excellent track record in conservation of this rare and elusive wild cat species using thoughtful techniques. Ultimately it is down to the Tibetan people to ensure the survival of the snow leopard in Tibet. This cat is also found in neighbouring countries….
- I realise that not all Buddhists will practice their religion religiously.
- China has occupied Tibet. This is a contentious issue.