A fellow Executive Council member of Hindu American Foundation, Sachi Lamb feels strongly about how animals are treated and took the lead in preparing this document for the Humane Society on Hinduism and the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Like Sachi, I too am often confused by the contradictions surrounding animals today: loving one's pet, and eating meat; being an activist for mistreated dogs and cats, yet, as she asks, "what about all the mistreated cows, pigs, and chickens that suffer in the meat industry?" States including Iowa, Minnesota, and Florida are now enacting laws to prevent the videotaping of the cruelty as occurred at E6 Cattle Company in Texas. The laws are not to prevent the cruelty itself; so I ask, like Mark Bittman of the NY Times, who protects the animals?

And the answer is found by returning to the Hindu principle of karma, where each creature has a spark of the divine and goes through cycles of birth, death, and rebirth. The atman, the divine spark or soul, is everlasting and does not die with the physical body. Instead, the atman continues its journey, carrying forward unfulfilled karmic outcomes from previous lives, and takes on new physical life forms until it attains moksha, or spiritual perfection that provides freedom from the cycle of reincarnation. All life, from the smallest plant to the largest animal, must go through this process, and these laws of karma affect the human animal, the domesticated animal, and the slaughtered one.