Killing an incurable calf: Himsa or Ahimsa? Gandhi replies to Sanatan Hindu protests
“To kill an animal which is past all hopes of recovery is, in my opinion, religious”, Mahatma Gandhi said.
Mahatma Gandhi, writing in the Navjivan, his Gujarati weekly. says a hopelessly sick calf, belonging to the dairy attached to the Satyagraga Ashram after prolonged consultation with friends and much hesitation was put to death by means of injection. I know, says the Mahatma that current public opinion would not approve of this act and that current public opinion will see only Himsa in it, but Dharma should not think of public opinion. Others may see Adharma (irreligion) where I see Dharma, yet I have learnt by experience that I must do what I believe to be my duty.
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Criteria of Ahimsa
This incident caused great stir in Ahmedabad and is regarded as a great blow to Sanatan Hindu religion. The president of the Mahajan Sabha and some leading citizens went in deputation to Mahatma Gandhi, who replied to the following effect: “To kill an animal which is past all hopes of recovery is, in my opinion, religious”. To apply the same law to humanity under similar circumstances also, in his opinion, religious.
He emphasises that to understand Ahimsa in the particular case three objects are worth considering. 1) To believe that mere killing is Himsa is ignorance. 2) When killing is effected by speedier and less torturing means, it is Ahimsa. 3) Himsa and Ahimsa are creations of mind. A slap given to keep a man awake because of serpent bite is Ahimsa, pure and simple.