Are Jains Vegan? Or Are They Vegetarians?

When I think of Jainism, I tend to think of it as the most peaceful religion in the world because it places non-violence at the very center of its beliefs, an ideology that encompasses both animal and plant kingdom. 

However, does that mean that Jains follow a vegan lifestyle where they don’t exploit animals, at all? 

In this article, we look at what Jainism is and discuss whether they’re actually vegan. 

What is Jainism? 

jainism

Jainism is one of the three most ancient religions in India, with roots that go back to at least the mid-first century B.C.E, but it’s still an integral part of Indian culture. 

It teaches the path to spiritual purity and enlightenment through disciplined nonviolence by reducing harm to living things (including plants and animals) as much as possible.

Like Hindus and Buddhists, Jains also believe in reincarnation, a cycle of birth, death, and rebirth that is determined by one’s karma. Jains believe bad karma is caused by harming living things and to avoid bad karma they must practice ahimsa, a strict code of nonviolence.

They believe plants, animals, and even non-living things (like air and water) have souls, and as such their principle of nonviolence includes all ‘living’ things. They’re strict vegetarians, in fact, so strict that they do not consume root vegetables because they believe removing the root would kill the plant.

So, Are Jains Vegan? 

No, not all Jains are vegan because some Jains consume milk and cheese. Some Jains are vegan, but it’s not required by the tenets of Jainism, particularly in regards to milk and cheese. 
 
Some Jains state that they only extract milk from cows that graze freely in nature or those who naturally reproduce without artificial insemination and rape, and they do not separate the baby from the mother but simply take the excessive milk in the breasts of the mother after the baby is done feeding.
 
In other words, some Jains paint the picture of an idyllic garden where the cow lives happily and is never forcefully penetrated to produce milk. However, some Jains are also seen purchasing milk from regular shops where standard industry practices are followed, which means it is naive to assume that every Jaine is vegan. 
 
What’s more, some Jains will occasionally wear clothes made of leather, silk, or wool because it’s more convenient. 

What Are Jains Allowed To Eat?

Jains do not consume foods that involve harming other organisms, in other words, they do not eat meat, eggs, and root vegetables (essentially because they believe killing the roots is taking life). 

However, they may have dairy products such as milk and cheese, and they can also have a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

Since Jains fundamentally oppose violence, one would expect that they would be more vocal about the harm/damage done to cows by the dairy industry, but that is not the case. 

Conclusion

Unlike vegetarianism, where the consumption of milk and eggs is allowed, veganism is a way of living that seeks to minimize animal cruelty as much as possible, which means rejecting the consumption of any animal product, as most are fundamentally derived from exploitation.

Whether you’re taking milk from a cow, or honey from bees— that is generally achieved without the consent of the other party (the animal, in this case), hence the word exploitation. Those who call themselves vegans do not consume any products derived from an animal.

Whilst Jains do not eat meat or eggs, some of them still end up consuming milk, which means that it would be unreasonable to call every Jain vegan when some of them might actually be vegetarian. 

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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