What is the Hindu attitude towards animals?
If the cow is the most sacred of animals to Hindus, the other animals too are worthy of their reverence. Lord Shiv a uses the bull as his vehicle just as Durga rides a lion or tiger. Lord Vishnu's vehicle is Garuda, just as Lakshmi's vehicle is an owl. Saraswati's vehicle is the swan. Sri Ganesh rides a mouse. Yamaraj's vehicle is a buffalo. With animals so dear to the gods, Hindus hold them in equally high reverence.
The reverence to animals comes from a simple fact. When God created them, there was a purpose. To accept this purpose is to revere the animal. The animals have given mankind much for its progress, both physical and emotional. If the cow is revered for the many things it gives mankind, the male of the species has helped till the land of farmers for thousands of years. Without them good crops would not have been possible. In reverence, each year farmers celebrate Govardhan pooja the day after Deepavali, when prayers are offered to bullocks that are specially decorated for the occasion.
Many animals have provided a mode of transport to mankind. Elephants, horses, mules, camels, yak, reindeer and even the simple donkey have helped mankind in their own way. The sheep gave mankind wool. The silk worm provided silk thread. The bee gives honey. Even the pig did not refrain from providing bristles used in many ways. Living in harmony with animals is an essential part of the Hindu way of life.