I’m thinking a lot about the animal issue right now, and a question came to me. Are the five precepts universal? If so, are animals required to respect them? If not, what morals must animals follow? There is obviously a form of morality involved because, if I understand correctly, an animal can generate bad kamma and be reborn in an inferior realm.
Even if, according to this site, animals cannot generate good kamma?
(…) Animal behavior is also run by instinct, which means that animals cannot generate good karma, they are simply working off the bad. (…)
On Wikipedia, I read that :
(…) The Buddha expounded that sentient beings currently living in the animal realm have been our mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, children, friends in past rebirths. One could not, therefore, make a hard distinction between moral rules applicable to animals and those applicable to humans; ultimately humans and animals were part of a single family. They are all interconnected. (…)
So, how to understand the first precept? Does an animal like a lion, which kills another animal for food, generate bad kamma? I don’t think so, because his intention is not bad. Does that mean that the first precept would only concern torture? For example, a dolphin that tortures his prey before eating it would generate bad kamma? But isn’t it in the instinct of animals to do such things? A cat almost always tortures his prey before killing it.
In short, many questions, but I wondered if there were any Buddhist texts or philosophers who had spoken about the question of morality in other realms of existence, the animal realm in particular.
(…) Buddhist Jataka stories often attribute noble actions to such animals as monkeys and elephants, and there is also a reference to some animals keeping the five precepts (Vin. II.162). (…)
Would this mean that being a herbivore is a better rebirth, because it is easier to keep the precepts, where a carnivore is almost doomed to produce bad kamma and be reborn in an inferior realm?
AN1.365-367:1.1: “… the sentient beings who die as animals and are reborn as humans are few, while those who die as animals and are reborn in hell, or the animal realm, or the ghost realm are many.”
AN1.368-370:1.1: “… the sentient beings who die as animals and are reborn as gods are few, while those who die as animals and are reborn in hell, or the animal realm, or the ghost realm are many.”
Also in “An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics”:
(…) in one Jataka story, (…) the Buddha in a past life is said to have been a crane who only ate fish when he found them already dead (J. I.206–8). (…)