Wisdom Quarterly (COMMENTARY)
Animals are not humans. Animals are spiritual. Humans, in addition to being human, are part animal and part spiritual.
The karma that brought beings to rebirth in the animal world (tirachana loka) is karma inferior to actions that brings one to rebirth in the human world (manusya loka). This happens when it finally ripens, which can be a while.
Animals, while inferior to humans and other beings for the time being, are not really animals any more than humans are stuck being human. We are not trapped in this state, in these bodies, with these potentials and limitations.
continue to cycle through the realms (samsara) chasing sensuality, motivated by greed, aversion, and delusion. So, too, animals will not always be animals. In the past, they were not animals. All beings, though limited now, have potential for much more than we are expressing.
We are all bound by karma until we are liberated by enlightenment and enjoy nirvana. Be considerate to animals. The karma (actions) toward them ripens just as does the karma toward other humans. Be kind to humans, but also be kind to animals.
Most people have no idea what animals are doing, how they are living, what becomes of them when they pass on. The Buddha knew and he often talked about it in the Jataka Tales, which are generally regarded as Aesop's Fables. But mention of animals in the sutras reinforces that the Jatakas are closer to truth than we could ever imagine.