The question has been answered. Just attaching scriptural references...
To be read with caution as the ancient disciplinarians attached different values to different individuals as per caste. In today's world caste differences are being removed.
This is the English translation of the Manusmriti, which is a collection of Sanskrit verses dealing with ‘Dharma’, a collective name for human purpose, their duties and the law. Various topics will be dealt with, but this volume of the series includes 12 discourses (adhyaya). The commentary on this text by Medhatithi elaborately explains various t...
Verse 11.131 [Expiation for the killing of Cats and other Animals]
parent: Section XV - Expiation for the killing of Cats and other Animals
Sanskrit text, Unicode transliteration and English translation by Ganganath Jha:
मार्जारनकुलौ हत्वा चाषं मण्डूकमेव च ।
श्वगोधौलूककाकांश्च शूद्रहत्याव्रतं चरेत् ॥ १३१ ॥
mārjāranakulau hatvā cāṣaṃ maṇḍūkameva ca |
śvagodhaulūkakākāṃśca śūdrahatyāvrataṃ caret || 131 ||
Having killed a cat, an ichneumon, a blue jay, a frog, a dog, an iguana, an owl and a crow,—he shall perform the penance of the ‘Śūdra-killer.’—(131)
Medhātithi’s commentary (manubhāṣya):
Inasmuch as the expiation prescribed is a heavy one, it should be understood as applying to a case where all these animals have been killed.
“It has been asserted in connection with offences leading to loss of caste, etc., that a combination is not meant. How too is it ever possible for all these animals to come up before any one man and be killed? If only some of these were present, the required conditions would not be there; in fact it would become a wholly different case. Hence the person meant should be one who has killed one of these animals repeatedly. But there is nothing in the text, to show that this is what is meant Nor can the expiation be taken as referring to the killing of each single animal, as there is in the case of such assertion as ‘one should drink milk, etc., etc.’” (132)
Thus then, the sentence cannot be taken either as referring to each of the animals severally, or as referring to all of them together; nor is there any third way possible.
It has been said that a combination cannot be meant. If a combination is not meant, then the only way in which the text could be taken would be to take it as referring to each individual singly; just as there is in the case of the assertion ‘he whose father or grandfather has not drunk the Soma, etc., etc.’ But in a case (like the present) where it is found that the whole sentence becomes meaningless if it is not taken as referring to a combination of all the individuals, it is only right that, with a view to avoid such a contingency, the sentence should be taken as referring to such combination; for instance, in the case of the text—‘In the case of killing a thousand animals etc.’ (140),—if a combination were not meant, the mention of the specific number ‘thousand’ would be meaningless. It is only when, if the sense adopted happens to be very much contrary to what has been laid down in other scriptural texts, that such a sense can be rejected.
“But even in a case where a certain idea is expressed directly by the words of the text, no significance is ever meant to be attached to the qualifications involved in its indirect implication; for instance, in the ease of the assertion—‘he whose both sacrificial materials become spoilt, etc.’—significance is not meant to be attached to the exact denotation of the term ‘both.’ In this sentence there are two terms ‘both’ and ‘sacrificial material’; and if significance is attached to both these terms, there results syntactical split, as we shall explain later on. When however it is doubtful whether in a given case significance attaches to the ‘material’ or the ‘both’—the two have to be taken separately, in order to avoid the syntactical split; or what is predicated in the sentence has to be taken as having no connection with one of the two terms. Now what is in closest proximity to the predicate ‘becomes spoilt’ is the term ‘material,’—as is clear from the fact that its number is more in keeping with that of this term; so that the other term becomes reiterative of the qualification of the ‘material.’ If on the other hand, no significance attaches to the term ‘material,’ then, the rest of the sentence can be taken only as declamatory. In the case in question, if a combination wore meant to be expressed, or if stress were to be laid upon the term ‘thousand’ (in 140), the whole sentence would become meaningless. So that all that the passage would mean is that—‘one should perform the penance of the Śūdra-killer......(?),’ and that ‘the act of killing these is similar to the killing of a Śūdra,’ and all that this would secure would he that; these few animals would not he killed (?)”
On the principle here enunciated, we might regard other qualifications also as not meant to be emphasised; for instance under Verse 142. And all this would lead to a deal of incongruity. Then again the passage we are dealing with is the work of a human author, and it does not belong to the Veda. In the case of a Vedic passage, whose usage would it represent? And whom could we charge with having made use of a meaningless assertion? In the case of a passage like the present one, on the other hand, which is the conscious work of a human author, if there is an incongruity in regard to even a single syllable, the writer becomes at once open to the charge of having made use of a meaningless expression.
For all these reasons the only right course is to regard combination and its qualification as both equally meant to be significant.
As regards the argument that there can be no possibility of so many animals being killed at one and the same time,—it is quite possible for those who go on hunting excursions and who follow the profession of setting fire to forests.
Lastly as regards the argument, that if even a single one of these several animals is not killed, there would be no occasion for the prescribed expiation,—this also is not right. For just as in the case of the killing of more animals than those enumerated, so also in that of killing fewer than those, a proper adjustment of the requisite expiation can always be made.—(131)
Explanatory notes by Ganganath Jha
This verse is quoted in Aparārka (p. 1130), which adds that this refers to intentional repetitions, of the act;—and in Mitākṣarā (3.270) as laying down the ‘Six-monthy Penance’ for the killing of all the animals mentioned, collectively.
Comparative notes by various authors
Gautama (22-19).—‘For injuring a frog, an ichneumon, a crow, a chameleon, a musk-rat, a mouse or a dog (the penance is the same as that for the murder of a Vaiśya).’
Baudhāyana (1.19.6).—‘For killing a flamingo, a Bhāsa bird, a peacock, a Brāhmaṇī duck, a Pracetaka, a crow, an owl, a frog, a musk-rat, a dog, a Babhru, a common ichneumon, and so forth, the offender shall pay the same fine as for the killing of a Śūdra.’
Āpastamba (1.25.13).—‘If a crow, a chameleon, a pea-cock, a Brāhmaṇī duck, a swan, the vulture called Bhāsa, a frog, an ichneumon, a musk-rat, or a dog has been killed, then the offender should perform the same penance as that for killing a Śūdra.’
Vaṣhiṣṭha (21.24).—‘Having slain a dog, a cat, an ichneumon, a snake, a frog, or a rat,—one shall perform the Kṛcchra penance of twelve days’ duration, and also give something to a Brāhmaṇa.’
Viṣṇu (50.30-32).—‘If he has intentionally killed a dog, he should fast for three days. If he has unintentionally killed a mouse, or a cat, or an ichneumon, or a frog, or a Duṇḍubha snake, or a large serpent—he must fast for one day, and on the next day give a dish of milk, sesamum and rice mixed together to a Brāhmaṇa and give him an iron hoe as his fee: If he has unintentionally killed an iguana, or an owl, or a crow, or a fish, he must fast for three days.’
Yājñavalkya (3.271).—‘For killing a cat, an alligator, an ichneumon, a frog or birds, one should drink milk for three days, or perform a quarter of the Kṛcchra penance