In the question, I mean lower in terms of their capacity for Pramana. (please state your criterion when answering if it is different than this). This definition thus includes all plants and animals.

For example in your answer if you deal with animal ethics then it should include the guiding principles regarding interactions with animals and the various actions possible in situations involving animals.

P.S Why I say lower and not just animals and plants, it is because there may be other beings which fall short of the capacity of pramana at the level capable by humans, a possible example is that of Vaanaras.


Hinduism tells us to respect all living beings from animals to small insects to plants. It treats them as jivas (living beings) and having souls.

मृगोष्ट्रखरमर्काखुसरीसृप्खगमाक्षिका: ।
आत्मन: पुत्रवत पश्येतैरेषामन्तरं कियत ।।9।।

mṛgoṣṭra-khara-markākhu-sarīsṛp khaga-makṣikāḥ |
ātmanaḥ putravat paśyet tair eṣām antaraṁ kiyat

One should treat animals such as deer, camels, asses, monkeys, mice, snakes, birds and flies exactly like one’s own son. How little difference there actually is between children and these innocent animals. SB 7.14.9

Here is Swami Prabhupada's commentary on above verse.

For example, in the agricultural fields there may be many mice, flies and other creatures that disturb production, and sometimes they are killed by pesticides. In this verse, however, such killing is forbidden. Every living entity should be nourished by the food given by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Human society should not consider itself the only enjoyer of all the properties of God; rather, men should understand that all the other animals also have a claim to God’s property. In this verse even the snake is mentioned, indicating that a householder should not be envious even of a snake.  

About killing of animals as game -

तीर्थेषु प्रतिदृष्टेषु राजा मेध्यान पशुन वने ।
यावदर्थमलं लूब्धो हन्यादिति नियम्यते ॥६॥

tīrtheṣu pratidṛṣṭeṣu rājā medhyān paśūn vane
  yāvad-artham alaṁ lubdho hanyād iti niyamyate

If a king is too attracted to eating flesh, he may, according to the directions of the revealed scriptures on sacrificial performances, go to the forest and kill some animals that are recommended for killing. One is not allowed to kill animals unnecessarily or without restrictions. The Vedas regulate animal-killing to stop the extravagance of foolish men influenced by the modes of passion and ignorance.

SB 4.26.6

There is a story in Shreemad Bhagavata Purana about ten sons of King "PrachinBarhi" called "Prachetas". When they emerged out of ocean, they saw whole earth covered with plants and started to burn all the trees. Then Chandra pacified them by saying this -:

मा द्रुमेभ्यो महाभागा दिनेभ्यो द्रोग्धुमर्हथ।
विवर्धयिषवो यूयं प्रजानां पतय: स्मृता ॥७॥

Mā drumebhyo mahā-bhāgā dīnebhyo drogdhum arhatha |
vivardhayiṣavo yūyaṁ prajānāṁ patayaḥ smṛtāḥ

O greatly fortunate ones, you should not kill these poor trees by burning them to ashes. Your duty is to wish the citizens [prajās] all prosperity and to act as their protectors. SB 6.4.7

It is indicated herein that the government or king has the duty of protecting not only human beings, but all other living entities including animals, trees and plants. No living entity should be killed unnecessarily.

Thus the scripture urges us to treat animals & plants fairly and not to harm them.

  • Interesting, so in SB 6.4.7, the reference of citizens applies to trees also? May 21 '17 at 13:45

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