Why Do Innocent Animals Suffer?


I had a question about why every day, so many innocent animals are being tortured/ slaughtered for various reasons (usually to appease selfish human needs). Might you be able to help with some insight into this subject? My heart goes out to all beings out there who go through this kind of suffering.

—Vidhya, India


Dear Vidhya,

Thank you for your heartfelt question. This is an issue that pulls at many people’s hearts with what seems unnecessary suffering of the animal kingdom caused by humans.

There are many stories about the back and forth of souls between human and animal forms — with as a wide range of karmic causes as there are stories. Acts of cruelty caused by selfish human motives are always brought back to balance. All incarnations are perfectly planned and directed. The reasons why suffering is part of incarnations, we just don’t know. Trust that all is perfect, and affirm love, joy, and freedom for souls of those suffering animals.

A little story that Yogananda tells in the Autobiography of a Yogi may help deepen your understanding about animals and their suffering. Yogananda was very attached to his pet deer. When the deer did die, Yogananda felt a deep loss and sadness over the circumstances. Then he realized that the deer needed to go in order to progress to a higher form. He writes the following:

All sorrow left me: I realized anew that God wants His children to love everything as a part of Him, and not to feel delusively that death ends all. The ignorant man sees only the unsurmountable wall of death, hiding seemingly forever, his cherished friends. But the man of unattachment, he who loves others as expressions of the Lord, understands that at death the dear ones have only returned for a breathing-space of joy in Him.

The evolution of plants and animals is automatic and subject to “mass karma.” In fact, because of this, they reincarnate quickly. They go to the astral realm and then return in a higher form. By praying for animals you can find comfort in having directly helped their evolutionary growth. Or if you have pets, they will also surely benefit by living in close proximity to you. This will help them in speeding their progress.

Please pray that all animals be guided toward the light and to a higher form.

Many blessings on your efforts.

Joy to you,
Nayaswami Hassi