We’ve lost respect for all living things

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated.”
Gandhi said that, a very wise man who lived his life as an example of non-violence and justice.
Those are words we all should live by. Justice and fairness and kindness seem so dim some days, as if we are ready to abandon our humanity at the least provocation or challenge.
I was driving through a small town the other day and on the sidewalk to my right trotted a very weak and obviously ill fox. His tail was merely a hairless spike and his eyes were barely open.
He looked like he was wincing and mostly likely his pain was the result of distemper. His situation left me feeling quite ill as I drove on by, like the many cars behind me, oblivious to his plight, indifferent to a solution.
And I again felt myself having failed, for just being another example of “what could I have done anyway?”
Later that day, I read an article in the Huffington Post announcing that science finally has acknowledged animal consciousness, declaring animals are aware, as we are, of their surroundings and their interactions with each other.
This Cambridge Declaration On Consciousness confirmed, “Virtually all animals have at least some degree of sentience–even bees.”
The Huffington Post writer was outraged that science was so far behind the rest of us in determining the fact that many of us have known instinctively and why, she demanded, is there no immediate change in our practices regarding the slaughter and care of animals.
We’ve all heard stories that seem extraordinary: of animals in inter-species friendships, of dogs that seem to express their gratefulness to the humans who have rescued them from horrific conditions, of wild animals who acknowledge us.
I suppose it seems appropriate to have science confirm what we already knew, as if that somehow legitimizes our awareness.
A couple of years ago, when I had to put my horse down, my friend of 25 years, Nassau knew exactly what was happening. He was nervous and anxious, but he trusted me, put his head against my face for comfort, let me put my arms around his ears to steady and calm him.
Though my loss and sorrow were excruciatingly painful, I felt the privilege of being with him at the end; able to honour the life we shared. He knew he was special.
And I still ride with him—gallop the hills when sleep evades me, jumping ditches and streams while the dentist drills, feel his mane in my face when I’m afraid and sad.
His friendship was without conditions, without rules and score-keeping, and it was as real as any other friendship I am fortunate to have.
When we extend our kindness and care to include animals, we are the better for it; we become better human-animals. And when we witness those who suffer, those who are fragile and unable to help themselves, it is our lucky burden to be in a position to help, to bring about the change that affords their well-being.
It should ever be the case.
A deer lives in the forest down the road from us. Well, probably many deer live in the forest down the road from us and across from us and behind us, but I am thinking of one deer in particular.
I have walked by her on several occasions when she has stopped and, with her large ears and brilliant eyes focused on me, she just stands, watching me while her comrades have bounded away, tails flashing.
I like to think she recognizes a safety in me, wanted to tell me something if I could only hear her clearly enough.
We live on this planet as though the animals, not to mention the trees and waterways, are our tools, our implements to make our lives bigger and easier and richer.
If the notion of sharing this earthly space had been our mandate from the beginning, had we been guided by the rules of respect to all living things, we would not be in the peril we are today.
wendistewart@live.ca

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