Why are Muslims so cruel to animals?

Why are Muslims so cruel to animals? What does a Muslim do when he sees a dog? He picks up a stone and throws it at the poor creature. I once owned a salt works in the coastal area of Karachi. There was plenty of wild life there in 1978, but a few years later, most of it had disappeared. I remember large lizards (more than three feet in length) and colored snakes, all which had been wiped out by humans before 1991 (when I left the salt trade).

One day I came across a worker trying to kill a chameleon. “Why do you want to kill it? What harm has he done to you?” I asked. “Why does he keep changing colors?” the man retorted. I managed to convince him not to kill the poor creature, but I know that the minute I left the place, he went ahead and killed it anyway. Back in 2003, when I went to live in Block 5 of Clifton, a couple of dogs in the street outside the apartment complex became very friendly with me. They would accompany us whenever I and my wife went for a walk. Maybe they thought I cared about animals because apparently I was the only one who hadn’t tried to hit them with stones. The watchmen at the gate would be appalled when they saw me petting the dogs (who, according to their primitive way of thinking, are unclean creatures). A few days later, the dogs disappeared. Someone had shot the dogs, said the guards. I am fairly certain it was one of them.

I know there is a Hadith about angels staying away from houses where dogs are kept, but no one knew this when I was growing up. We had a couple of dogs, as well as exotic birds and peacocks (which we kept in a large cage). And I knew many other families who also kept dogs as pets. I have also heard another Hadith about a prostitute going straight to heaven because she fed a hungry dog, but apparently this one is ignored by Muslims. In Saudi Arabia, the only dog I saw was one being taken for a walk by an American (in Jeddah). In practically all countries where Muslims live, no one cares for animals.

47 thoughts on “Why are Muslims so cruel to animals?”

  1. James, perhaps we just need more efficient human settlements. There’s no reason why we cannot build upwards, why we cannot eat without killing animals or planting huge pastures (I’m thinking along the lines of tofu here) or why we cannot isolate ourselves in our habitats and leave the world alone.

    As far as I can see, whilst humans have direct interaction with the environment, the environment will lose. We are losing species at a horrifying rate, the ecosystems are dying. It’s not an exaggeration to say that this world is dying. And it’s all due to a global attitude that because we’re the biggest and strongest of the world’s critters, the world is ours to use as we please. It’s the same attitude whether it’s large-scale pollution, nuclear tests on tropical islands or people’s cruelty to animals because they are an annoyance or they don’t look nice.

    Islam may teach kindness to animals but that counts for nothing unless it teaches that overfishing the oceans is bad, that felling the rainforests is bad, that having our pastures and our herds in competition with the wilderness is bad. Kindness to animals is worth nothing if we are destroying their (and our) habitats. What? Do you want all the worlds’ animals living in zoos?

  2. @Mohammad & Hend: I appreciate you guys’ kind and sensible attitudes toward our animal companions.

    It occurs to me that human attitudes toward animals, and other humans, may be a function of human population density. If we live in a society of two people, that other person is priceless, but if we live in a society of a gazillion, each other person is only worth one gazillionth of society (all other qualifications put aside for the moment) and we are less likely to think kindly of others.

    Mohammad, on the issue of elephants, experts say that humans and elephants cannot exist side-by-side. There are protected areas in Africa for elephants, but they have to be “cropped” or thinned in numbers from time to time, because they are pure hell on trees. Gardens and cornfields are not respected by elephants, who can’t read “KEEP OUT!” signs. The problem is human encroachment on wild habitat, like everywhere else.

    Some ambitious (young, horny, male) human eyes the game preserve thinking, “Man, look at all that beautiful, empty, virginal land! I’d sure like to get in there and build a house/hunt for meat/start a farm/build a factory/dig a mine/anything and *they never stop thinking about it and trying to figure a way into it* and sooner or later the game preserve is somehow just a bit smaller, the animals fewer.

    I think we need more space. Outer space.

  3. I have already mentioned one hadith in my previous comment. Here are some more.

    We were on a journey with the Apostle of Allah SWT, and he left us for a while. During his absence, we saw a bird with its two young and took the young ones. The mother bird was circling above us in the air, beating its wings in grief. When the Prophet came back he said: “Who has hurt the feelings of this bird by taking its young ones? Return them to her.”

    There is also a hadith where Prophet Mohammad told his companions that a woman has been sent to hell because she did not feed her cat and the cat died. (This woman was actually a religious woman). If a religious person can go to hell for abusing an animal, you can understand what would happen to the average person.

    Imprisoning birds and animals in cages is also an abominable. There are some people though, including mullahs, who say that it is ok because they are saved from predators, but that is a poor and lame excuse. You can read my post Is this love of Animals.

    There are also stories of sinners who were forgiven because of their kindness to animals.

    I can go on but I know you get the point. Islam teaches kindness to animals.

  4. I like the fact that you are honest with me as well as with yourself. Commendable indeed.

    The halal way of slaughtering ensures that all the blood has been drained out, which is a source of germs and bacteria, and can cause diseases.

    Some very cruel and painful scientific experiments are carried out on animals in the West, and they are also killed for their fur and teeth (elephants) etc, so I don’t think there is a problem with killing an animal simply to eat it. And it also shows that Westerners can also be cruel to animals.

    Prophet Mohammad said, “Whoever kills a sparrow or anything bigger than that without a just cause, Allah SWT will hold him accountable on the Day of Judgment.” The listeners asked, “O Messenger of Allah, what is a just cause? He replied, “That he will kill it to eat, not simply to chop off its head and then throw it away.”

    In Islam, let alone killing an animal for sport, even watching animal fights for amusement is not allowed.

  5. MY
    You have an excellent question and to which I have no answer to be honest. One one hand I feel that killing an animal is wrong and a religion should not have encouraged killing or sacrifice of any animal (therefore I brought Islam into the discussion) but on the other hand I was raised as a meat eater and continue to be one. This may seem hypocritical on a personal level but then I am not perfect. I prefer to limit my cruelty to consuming meat and by not killing or harrassing any other animals. I am one of the person’s who will take initiative should an animal needs help.

    I eat Halal meat because I learned that the process of Halal minimizes the pain that the animal undergoes while being killed. Please correct me if I am wrong on this.

    In general after some rethink I think the trait of being cruel to animals (outside of the religious aspect of sacrificial killing) is not peculiar to Muslims but probably peculiar to Asians. Though one would probably agree that the level of violence in Muslim societies tends to be higher than other societies. So I take back my original comments. Look at China, South east Asia, South Asia, Middle East – all over Asia, except maybe Iran, Asians tend to be more cruel to Animals than say Europeans. Not only this, we tend to be crueller to each other too. See how we treat our servants, women or even people of humbler background. See how police or officials or anyone having power treats citizens who have less power or no connections. Look at the practice of honour killings. So it appears that cruelty is more a cultural aspect than religious.

    As for your other comment, I would be more interested in gathering some leaning of Islamic banking which shuns interest changing. Can you provide it to me? If possible on a separate thread or email, whichever suits?

  6. Mr. Hend, I am actually surprised to know that you eat halal meat too. May I ask you why, if you don’t mind. Killing an animal is killing, and it is done by people of all religions, so why are you bringing Islam into the discussion. That is a little hypocritical, given the fact that when we were talking about the molestation of Muslim women, you said that molestation is molestation, and religion should not be brought into it.

    I have to go right now. But I will fulfill my promise in providing you with Ahadith where Muslims are told to be kind to animals.

  7. Momin
    I agree to your argument about it being a better method of killing than say stunning etc. By choice, I myself eat Halal meat whenever available.

    My argument is just that the religious requirement of killing an animal, by itself is not very kind.

    I don’t ‘pretend’ to be a Muslim and my intention is not to indulge in mud slinging here and my arguments are not dependant on my or your religious identity. When I say ‘we’, I mean ‘us the society’, you are free to interprete it in whichever way it suits you.

  8. @Hend: It is very well-known slaughtering animals according to the Shari’ah saves animals a lot of pain and also the poisonous blood is removed. You may look for details.

    Anyway, so you are most probably vegetarian then, eh?
    Did you know that plants also feel pain. This is not just in our minds. It has been scientifically proven. We cannot hear their cries of pain but after placing the correct devices their sound waves reached the scientists.

    Hmm…there has been no prove whatsoever about sand, mud and bricks feeling pain. So there is still something to be eaten without any qualms…

  9. I don’t have much use for snakes and lizards. I tried some alligator one time, at a “Cajun” (Louisiana French) restaurant. It tasted like fishy chicken made of rubber. The second bite wasn’t any better than the first. You can have it.

    Humans, via our bigger brains and tools, dominate the earth. We can defeat any animal that lives, one on one, with fair ease, except other humans, who are not so easy. Most of the humans we meet want something from us, whereas our animal friends merely want to be left alone, afraid we’ll eat them. Humans eat everything. I’ve often thought that the only truly “fair game” for a human hunter would be an equally well-armed human.

    There’s a mostly human phenomenon called “displaced aggression,” that means, if someone too big to fight back is bullying you, like perhaps parents with a child, or the authorities with the population, it’s easy to take out your anger on something smaller and weaker, like animals.

    I think humans stay angry because there are so many of us, and we’re all sort of angry at each other anyhow because we prey upon each other. The biggest predator is “Authority,” which seems to be lurking everywhere, taking our hard-earned money under what is ultimately threat of death at gunpoint, and getting us into fights with other countries, then drafting our young men to go get killed so the ones in power can stay safe and enjoy the good life. Therefore we humans, ever under someone’s thumb, remain in a bad mood. Hunting animals submit to no such “authority,” but herd animals do.

    It might be that the west, treasuring its “individual freedoms” so much, is biased toward carnivorous pets, while Islam, treasuring its “peace and submission” favors herd animals. I wonder, to what extent has the shape of our lands and cultures formed our thinking?

    It’s said that there were no humans in north America before about 12,000 years ago, when the sea rose and froze and a bridge appeared between Russia and Alaska. American Indians have a very pronounced Asiatic look and build. In very little time all but a few of the large species in north America vanished, wiped out by humans–the short-faced bear, the Irish elk, the dire wolf, the cave lion, the sabertoothed lion, the cave bear, american camels, the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, the giant sloth and a raft of others. Some were dangerous and some were tasty.

    Dogs and cats, rather than being edible, on the other hand, are helpers. Dogs guard the home and cats keep the rodent population down, and I believe they know they are being fed to do a job and are proud when they do it well. Has your cat ever left a mole or rat where you can find it? Has your dog ever come to your side for a congratulations when he detects an intruder? They are hunters like we are, with both eyes facing the front, like ours, and I think they know or feel, when they look us in the face, that they are looking at kindred spirits.

    Dogs and cats, being meat-eaters, don’t compete with us for all our food, and have much leisure time for contemplation, unlike plant-eaters who have to keep eating pretty much all the time. However, being furry mammals like us, they can all be quite warm and fuzzy.

    Pets don’t point out our flaws to us verbally like people do and only want to be fed and petted, and I do believe they like it when we talk to them. I’m certain some understand much of what is being said, even though their mouths are not up to forming a reply in our languages. It could be that, having listened to us humans talk to each other, they know that we talk a lot of nonsense and don’t really listen anyway, so they choose not to waste their breath talking to us.

    I had a friend who used to take his Labrador retriever dog with him duck hunting. The dog was so keen on hunting ducks that when the birds flew over, he would nudge my friend in the back with his nose to tell him when to shoot. Maybe we should all listen to our dogs.

    Some random thoughts for your cogitation pleasure…

  10. @ Hoo Shoo Yoo Shoo: not only women, but there are some men who are terrified when they see lizards (the cricketer-politician Imran Khan is one of them). Remember, when you kill an animal (even an ugly one like the lizard), you are disturbing the harmonious ecological balance of the planet. Lizards were here long before man (the killer) appeared on earth, and they will be here long after men have become extinct. And I hope you don’t have to eat lizards when there is a famine and people are dying of hunger. I have killed lizards in my house in the past, but I don’t kill them anymore, because I know they’re harmless. I sometimes catch them and take them to the nearest tree before letting them go.


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