Hindus believe all living being have a divine soul, or Atman, within them. Hindus also believe in the concept of Ahmisa, which commands them to coexist peaceful with other beings that contain Atman. For this reason, Hindus try not to kill or harm other living beings and many are vegetarian. "He who does not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and death to living creatures, (but) desires the good of all (beings), obtains endless bliss. He who does not injure any (creature) attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on." (Manu-samhita 5.46-47).
Buddhists believe that animals are the reincarnation of people, and can also achieve ultimate enlightenment. The concept of Right livelihood, from the The Noble Eight-fold Path, also tells Buddhists not to kill animals. If they do, bad karma will punish them for bad deeds they have done. "All living things fear being beaten with clubs. All living things fear being put to death. Putting oneself in the place of the other, let no one kill nor cause another to kill." (Dhammapada 129)
Both religions seem to agree that killing animals is wrong, and their beliefs have made a large impact on Indian animals rights. A recent New York Times article described how a group of vigilante cow protectors attacked people suspected of breaking the cow protection laws. In addition, the Indian state looks to license the vigilantes. This group has assaulted many people, especially targeting Muslims and those of lower castes. But the government finds it more important to protect cows than to protect the people being attacked. Even the existence of a law against killing cows shows how important animal rights are in India. The support of the vigilantes and the cow protection laws are testaments to the legacy of Hinduism and Buddhism.