Keynote Address by Ruth Vanita (U Montana), “Animals Today: Torn Apart in Life and in Death”

July 12, 2022 from 09:00 to 10:30

Room Number: TRS 1-067

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In the context of the almost unimaginable scale on which humans now inflict suffering on animals, this presentation revisits debates in the Sanskrit epics on the dharma of minimizing suffering. In today’s globalized economy, huge numbers of animals are bred merely to be tortured and killed for food, clothing and experimentation.  More than 150 billion are killed for food alone each year. For these beings, life and death are an unbroken series of ruptures. While thinkers like Shelley, Thoreau and Gandhi considered violence against animals inseparable from violence against humans, many others still formulate ideas of justice purely in terms of humans, ignoring animal suffering. In the epics, many characters, male and female, rich and poor, from supposedly low and supposedly high varnas, discuss how to minimize violence, assuming that eradicating it is impossible. I suggest that the dharma of kindness to animals is the dharma most available to all, without neither justice nor peace is possible.

Chair: Anna Guttman (Lakehead U)

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