What does Sikhism teach about animal rights?

Many Sikhs believe that humans and the rest of the world of nature have a great deal in common. God created everything. Therefore, animals are important and valuable. Sikhs do not believe that animals should be worshipped but they should be respected as a part of God's creation.

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The world, like all creation, is a manifestation of God. Every creature in this world, every plant, every form is a manifestation of the Creator. Each is part of God and God is within each element of creation. God is the cause of all and He is the primary connection between all existence.Sikh Faith Statement 2003

Sikhs believe they live many lives on Earth, some of these in the form of animals. This belief is known as reincarnation.

There is a divine spark, a part of God, in every person's and animal's soul. Bodies are just 'clothes' for the soul. This means that a person's soul may be reincarnated many times as a human or an animal. Eventually, these souls will be released from the cycle of death and reincarnation and will join God.

Humans are guardians of the world

Human beings are considered the most intelligent form of life on the planet but they are also the ones who are damaging the planet. Many Sikhs believe that this human superiority is being misused. The environment and life in the world are being damaged because humans have dominated nature and have not acted responsibly.

For this reason, Sikhs treat animals with care, respect and compassion. It is the duty of human beings to take care of them and to avoid harming them. The Sikh Faith Statement, Assisi, 1986 states:

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Humans should conduct themselves through life with love, compassion, and justice. Becoming one and being in harmony with God implies that humans endeavour to live in harmony with all of God's creation.Sikh Faith Statement Assisi 1986

Animals are different from humans

Sikhs believe in reincarnation and that all animals have souls. Every person who is born passes through different life forms and animals are part of the cycle of life and reincarnation.

Although animal life is valuable, it is only in a human body that the soul has the chance to break free from the cycle of life, death and reincarnation and finally reach God because only humans know the difference between right and wrong. Therefore only humans can build up good or bad merit.

Humans also have a greater understanding of life than animals. As a result, only humans can become Gurmukh and practise sewa.

Sikhs believe that human life is more important than animal life because humans can reason and act intelligently to achieve justice and practise compassion.