Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

14. How do we Observe Bioethics in Biodiversity

H.S. Rose & Charan Joshi

Department of Zoology, Punjabi University, Patiala - 147 002, Punjab


Various forms of life say microorganisms, plant and animal diversity have played a significant role in the making and maintenance of different systems and sub-systems. Since the appearance of modern man on the mother earth, vast changes have occurred in the biosphere mainly during an attempt for the fulfillment of the needs of human civilization from prehistoric times to date. There is no doubt that humankind has always tried to tame Nature in many ways to conquer it for establishing his supremacy on this planet. During this process while handling the abiotic and biotic environment, humans have created unimaginative chaos perhaps due to ignorance of ethics/bioethics. The demographic pressure on all sorts of natural sources/resources continuously went on increasing since stone age to the present day so called modern age of Science and Technology. Evolutionary speaking, in spite of the fact that humans who are highly evolved, could not avoid their own population explosion through their talent, advanced expertise and knowledge. Besides, this also led to the erosion of moral, social and scientific values which comprise bioethics, essential for biofriendly development of human civilization.

Amongst other natural resources, biodiversity is perhaps hard hit where all norms and ethics have been found to be ignored and flouted by man for the attainment of his varied selfish interests. Globally, India ranks tenth in terms of species richness. Owing to this, many of its biodiverse forms, particularly unique animal diversity is being exploited for trade unethically. This immoral practice in the face of enforcement of certain National acts such as The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, The Environment (Protection) Act 1986, The Indian Forest Act 1927 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, is to be highly condemned. Even the restrictions imposed through CITIES and TRAFFIC international failed to show expected results as human greed is surpassing all limits of decency and bioethics in biodiversity. In addition to violation of bioethics, authors, however, also feel that some unwanted restrictions and trade pose a serious threat to genuine field workers.

In Zoological disciplines, the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature 1985, has Appendix `A' which underlines the need of handling animal diversity through "code of ethics". Every now and then, one finds the ethics being ignored by biosystematists, as well. Should collection of live research material (biota) other than the one for which one is funded amount to violation of bioethics? Besides information on vertebrates, the authors would like to pin point some specific examples of butterflies, where who should follow ethics for sustainable use of these insects in the conservation and understanding of biodiversity, both specifically and in general. Until and unless, a bioethical approach is not given due recognition in scientific temperament while dealing biodiversity and its environment, the future of planet earth on this account seems to be dismal.

17. Humankind and Religion

K.K. Verma & Rashmi Saxena

Professor Zoology, HIG 1/327, Housing Board Colony, Borsi, Durg - 491 001


Religion is a characteristic of humankind. Nothing comparable to it is known in any other animal species. Religion is universal; every human population and tribe practices some sort of religion. Religion has acted as a very strong cohesive as well as divisive force. Much of turmoil in human history has been due to religion. Understanding and rationalizing religion is likely to be beneficial to us.

Essentials of all established and organized religions include two components, ethical and spiritual. The ethical part consists of what may be called social laws. Such laws are necessary for a healthy and progressive society. The notions of "hell" and "heaven" and of "punishment" and "reward" are perhaps meant to ensure adherence to the laws. The ethical parts of different religions include quite similar basic principles. The spiritual part is concerned with realization and worship of a Super power. Though about form and abode of God and about rituals in worship different religions differ widely, realization of the situation, that all religions through their spiritual component tend to provide humankind with a support to fight their fears, will take us to infer that in this component too all religions are similar. Thus all organized religions have much in common.

While universal monotheism is gradually gaining acceptance with spread of education and rationality, arrival of atheism or social religion, in our opinion, is not to come in foreseeable future, as humankind, in spite of all scientific development, still has fears to live with.

Hinduism, an ancient religion, has long been evolving. It includes magical rites, polytheism as well as monotheism. An advantage of this situation: a person, with whatever natural aptitude or cultural level, finds a suitable "niche" for his solace in the broad structure of this religion.

Old religious rituals make life interesting, and they should be retained. But those rituals, which are damaging to our environment, should be given up or replaced with less damaging practices.

Often there is a bad mix-up of science and religion. It should be avoided, and it should be clearly understood that the approaches of the two are quite different.

18. Need for the development of Social and Spiritual Ethics

V.R. Selvarajan

Department of Zoology, University of Madras, Guindy Campus, Chennai 600 025


Social ethics includes such acts of prevention or minimization of cruelty to animals or other-human beings. To cite few examples:

1. Peeling off the skin of live snakes for commercial purposes

2. Beating the animals to undergo training for a circus (Russian circus indicating human dominance)

3. Eating live animals bit by bit (Japanese restaurants with Sepia)

4. Close-up shots of prey and predator (International TV Channels)

5. Wild dogs chasing bulls and eating part after part

6. Drinking blood from live bulls for developing strength (Africa)

7. Hunting animals after chase (Hunting sport) for food and pleasure

8. Horses chasing the bullocks and causing humiliation (Spain Bull fight)

9. Sathi Yagna as seen in Rajasthan of India

10. Female feticide

11. Ragging in schools and colleges to the extent of death

12. Animals used for human sexual satisfaction

13. Child labour and cruelty to children

14. Spouse relationship

15. Violence in Karate fight

16. Making money from body show

Regarding Spiritual Ethics, there are several practices, existing all over the world, that cause pain and agony. To cite a few examples:

1. Hatha Yogis sitting on needles and thorns

2. Lambika yogis elongating their tongues

3. Piercing the tongue with rods and putting nails

4. Rolling on pathways of young and married. Kneeling and walking sometimes over the staircase to appease gods

5. Sri Kali with horror face exhibiting a cut head

6. Exhibition of "taking out of intestine"

7. Exhibiting lingams with bleeding mouth

Such antisocial and cruel acts performing openly before the audience consisting of elders, youngsters, school children and babies will cause pain and disgust and as such they may be discouraged as far as possible. Ethical knowledge should promote the quality of life.

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