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Living beings exist in two forms, physical and metaphysical. The physical existence of a living being is apparent in his mind and body, while his metaphysical existence is his soul. The concept of a soul refers to a living being's incorporeal existence, that is his existence which is not of the material form. The idea that living beings have souls is a part of many spiritual and philosophical traditions. According to the theory of animism, all beings, both living and non-living have souls. The soul of an individual is his spirit, his self, that energy which leaves the body once the individual dies. The soul is that energy which pours life into beings and keeps them alive. Every living being owes its existence to this energy, the soul.

The Philosophical Perspective

According to the theory proposed by Aristotle, there are three hierarchical levels of living beings, plants, animals, and human beings. All three possess the abilities of growth and procreation, sensory abilities are possessed only by animals and humans, and the highest ability of reasoning is something only human beings are endowed with. In his opinion, the soul of a living body is its actuality. He did not consider soul as separate from the body. There were other philosophers, who, following Aristotle, proposed their own theories about the idea of a soul. Most accepted that soul is the non-concrete form of existence of every living being and that it leaves the mortal body on death of the living being. Opinions differed over whether souls carry memories and emotions and whether they are passed from one body to another. There was no conclusive finding about where a soul goes after death of an individual, although it was widely accepted that it simply ceases to exist.

Religious Views

Faiths and beliefs differ from one religion to another, but almost all religions believe in this one incorporeal aspect of existence - the soul. Buddhism believes in the existence of a soul, by which they mean it is something that continues to exist even after the death of an individual. They believe that the concept of soul is applicable to every living being in the world. In Judaism, it is stated that God, by his first breath, gives every living individual, a soul and that the soul returns to God on death. Christians believe that soul is an integral part of one's body and that it is judged by God after the living being's death.

What does the Bible say about this? There is no specific address in the Bible on whether animals have souls. However, there are several references made to animals in the Bible. Animals are considered very much a part of the living world and thus are believed to have souls. Genesis 1:21 states, "And God created the great sea animals and the creeping things all having a living soul..." Genesis 1:24 says, "And God said, Let the earth bring forth souls of life according to its kind, the cattle, the beasts of the field, and creeping things according to its kind." Genesis 1:30 states, "To every animal of the earth, and to every bird of the heavens and to every creeping thing on the earth, in which is a living soul..." From these excerpts it's clear that animals have souls. Roman Catholics define the soul as the innermost aspect of humans. From this, there seems to be no reference made to animals having or not having souls.

Hindus believe in the concept of soul and refer to it as Atman, meaning individual Self. They believe that a soul does not take birth or die, and hence has no present, past or future. Hindu religion accepts the existence of Atman or soul, in all living beings who have the desire to live, procreate, and protect their families and who fear death. From this, it is evident that the Hindu religion believes that animals do have souls. According to Islam, soul is put in an embryo, forty days after fertilization, it continues to exist throughout the life of the being and on death, is extracted to be judged by Allah. In Islam, you will find the concept of soul being referred to as Ruh. In Islam particularly the Sufi tradition holds that birds represent the journey of a soul to God. Muslims believe that every being in the universe, either living or non-living does pray to Allah in his/her own way. Everything in the cosmos is God's creation and there can be no exceptions in His creations. Conclusion, animals have souls.

Pope Benedict XVI, during his speech on animal exploitation and need to protect animal rights, had said that animals are God's creatures. Pope John Paul II had once said, "the animals possess a soul and men must love and feel solidarity with our smaller brethren." He had also said that animals are the fruit of the creative action of the Holy Spirit. According to him, the living quality that all living beings, including animals possess, is the soul.

Think.

After reading about the philosophical and religious views about animals possessing a soul, what do you think? Do animals have souls? Proclamations of thinkers or religious leaders vary only in the form in which they are worded. Most of them support the idea that animals have souls. What is a soul after all? It's the living spirit, it's that incorporeal form in which all living beings exist. Some call it spirit, some call it a soul. So, the answer to do animals have spirits is an obvious 'yes'. Now it would be silly asking do dogs have souls, do cats have souls...and so on, if you believe in the idea of animals having souls. Another question raised in relation to this is, 'do animals go to heaven?' Honestly, the answer depends on one's belief system. There are many who hold a firm belief in the existence of heaven and hell. They believe that it's one of these two, to where a living being's soul travels upon death. But there are others who don't think souls of living beings travel to anywhere specific. There can be no one correct answer to what happens to living beings after they die.

But if you closely look at both the views, you will realize that the principle underlying both is the same. One may or may not agree with the concepts of living beings having souls or going to heaven or hell. But one cannot deny the existence of something integral to every living being that gives it a sense of self. You may not have seen anything concrete escape out of a living being's body on its death. But you cannot deny the presence of that abstract something whose being or not being differentiates life from death. This abstract differentiator is the soul. So, do animals really have souls? Yes they do.