Sunday, July 13, 2014

Animals Are People Too



I have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. So much of it is adversarial and acrimonious. It shows us just how divided into contentious enemy camps we have become in America. (I freely admit that I jump into those political wars with all four feet so I contribute to that problem).  People expound, what seem to me, to be fantastical conspiracy theories. I'm sometimes stunned by the cold-hearted cruelty some of my friends exhibit on Facebook. These are people I know to be kind and generous in "real life". Some play out their emotional dramas on the computer screen for all their friends to see.

On the other hand, Facebook has been the source of education and inspiration as well. I've learned about the most fabulous places in the world I never knew existed. I've discovered gorgeous flowers and birds and animals I'd never seen before. I've seen awesome talent that likely never would have been discovered without Facebook. I've  read incredible stories of heroism and hope. As I scroll down my newsfeed, my faith in human nature is first plunged to the depths and then raised to the sky from one post to the next.

If I had to select the most positive benefit of Facebook, I would say that has helped us see that animals are really often not so different than humans. For all of mankind's existence, we have held them to be far lesser creatures than ourselves and, therefore, we had no responsibility to treat them as sentient beings.

 "Oh, animals don't love the way we do."

"Animals don't hurt the way we do."

"Animal behavior is dictated by instinct and not consciousness."

We have come to see that none of that is true. Through pictures and videos, we've found that they do love and they do hurt and they do think.

Animals are loyal. Raise an orphan lion, release him to the wild, go back and find him long after and he will be overjoyed to see you. He will hug you and lick you and bring his mate to meet you.

Wild animal mothers will conquer their fear of people to come find a human to help rescue a trapped baby.

Save a whale or dolphin from the nets that have bound him and he will exhibit what certainly seems like gratitude in the ways that are possible to him. And sometimes these same animals will save you if you are in a bad situation.

Animals are capable of bonding with those we would normally consider their natural enemies as illustrated by the pictures above (and you can find many, many more). They suffer when they are separated from their friends and from their babies. Animal mommas will happily adopt infants not of their own species.

I have friends who operate an exotic bird rescue. (Shout out to Deb and Mark at Frosty and Friends!) I learned from them that the most supposedly vicious bird is usually a product of its inhumane environment. Mark and Deb have such rapport with them that they respond and soon become loving companions. Thanks to Facebook, Frosty and Friends has been able to get the word out to those interested in helping in ways they couldn't have BF (Before Facebook). So have many other animal rescue sites.

We still have a long way to go to have our consciousnesses raised regarding animals. Some will still insist, in their human arrogance, that it is all right to keep sows in tiny crates because they don't feel discomfort like we do. It's all right to eradicate wolves because they have no value to humans. It is all right to keep mares pregnant, then remove their foals, to produce our hormones. Circuses are all right and zoos are all right and marine shows are all right. Wiping out wild horse bands is all right because, after all, we need their range for our cows.

Anthropomorphism, or attributing human characteristics to animals, used to be derided as foolishness but more and more, we are finding that animals do, in fact, harbor many of the same qualities we pride in ourselves. Of course, acknowledging that truth means that our traditional definition of "stewardship" may mean something more profound.

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