This Is Not About Animal Cruelty

Image credit: Flickr.com/iambentshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/superciliousness/15026740/
Image credit: Flickr.com/iambents
http://www.flickr.com/photos/superciliousness/15026740/

Somewhere along the way I learnt to ask myself ‘what can I learn from this?’, when I see sad, or bad things.  It’s not a bad way to approach things when I think about it, and I suspect it is something that my father taught me, by example.

I’ve had a pretty tough weekend.  I can’t go into the details out of respect for people I love.  I know that’s not really the idea of a blog (in many eyes), but you’ll have to bear with me on this one.  I’d rather talk about what I’m learning than about the details.

This morning I saw a particularly nasty picture of animal abuse and cruelty, when I went through my Facebook news feed.  The issue of animal cruelty has always been important to me.  It is so wrong and I hate what is done to animals in the name of humans who think they have the right to do what they like.

I haven’t included the picture in this post, partly because it’s not my picture and getting permission to use it would be time consuming; but more so, because it is simply too disturbing.  If you feel the need to see it, you’ll find it on the Empathy 2012: wake up – change yourself – change the world Facebook page.  But it’s simply a visual image that got me thinking.

Let me try to describe the picture.  There is what looks like a carcass of a rhinosaurus.  It has been severely butchered, and it is clear to see that the tusk has been savagely removed.  No doubt that is the reason for the killing.  Next to the carcass is a live baby rhino leaning against what is said to be the remains of its mother.  The caption on the picture says:

“This calf was found crying next to its mother; traumatized, devastated; and extremely lucky to be alive.  It is horrendous what these animals goes through.  This is how it currently is.”

This picture. as I ate my breakfast, broke my heart and made me feel physically sick.  It’s not so much a ‘tug on the heart strings’ image but a terrible witness of the cruelty of man.  That said, this post is not about animal cruelty.

My first thought was “who could do this?” but then I know the answer to that.  This is a regular event as people hunt rhinos for the value of their tusks.  This is what human beings do.

Without wanting to take away from the horror of animal abuse, my mind switched to “people do this all the time to other people with words”.  Often without a thought, we cut people down with our words.  Maybe we don’t leave them dead, quite like the picture I have described, but I can’t pretend that words don’t have the ability to kill just as much as the knife these hunters used to butcher the rhino.

It is all too easy to think of only the self, and to just say what ever comes to mind.  I’m no expert on bullying but it seems to me that is what happens in the case of a bully.  But bullies aren’t just kids in the school corridors or on social media. They are also adults who should know better but just never think about anyone but themselves.

I’ve mentioned this issue before (see Disturbing) but I keep reading blog posts about teenagers who have been bullied to the extent that they have taken their own lives.  Yesterday I read of an 11 year old who recently died.  Yes, that’s right.  She was only 11.

These are the cases that make it to our screens, that the media picks up on (and has a field day!) but I think we potentially do this to other people every day, simply because we don’t think before we speak or act.  Okay, so I might be exaggerating and not every interchange like this ends in suicide.  My point though is the harm that we are all capable of doing to others when we don’t stop and think, when we don’t put ourselves in the other’s shoes, when we don’t simply treat others as we would want to be treated ourselves.

So often we can say things, and never know the consequences of what was said.  And while we are not responsible for how another person reacts to what we say, I believe that I owe everyone I come in contact with, my compassion and understanding.  I’m not going to get it right all the time, but I can try to live by the principle of putting myself in another’s shoes before I open my mouth.

I’m sure that needs to be an abiding way to live in all our interactions, with people (or animals).  I’m sure that doing so would avoid the literal, or figurative, picture I faced on my screen this morning.  It’s not just children and teenagers who can be bullies.  We do it so often ourselves as adults, without a thought.  Surely it’s time we thought first.

“I would rather be a little nobody, then to be a evil somebody.” 

―    Abraham Lincoln

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7 thoughts on “This Is Not About Animal Cruelty

  1. John Richardson

    We all the capacity for good and evil. Words can harm others but they can also give us cover to justify actions that can never be justified; and to those who want to jump on our evil bandwagon. We need to learn to walk in the light of truth and not the dark shadows it can cast.

  2. I’m with you, Cate. So often, when I see us treating each other so poorly, or – even worse, in my mind – treating animals cruelly, my response is limited to anger, sadness, and frustration over my inability to do much about it. Your “what can I learn?” is so much better a response, and I’m going to steal it from you – maybe adding to it, “what can I teach my kids?”.

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