Today is the start of Be Kind To Animals Week, and I thought it would be a good time to think about just what that means. According to the article in Wikipedia, “The word “animal” comes from the Latin word animalis, meaning “having breath”. In everyday colloquial usage, the word often refers to non-human members of kingdom Animalia. Sometimes, only closer relatives of humans such as mammals and other vertebrates are meant in colloquial use. The biological definition of the word refers to all members of the kingdom Animalia, encompassing creatures as diverse as sponges, jellyfish, insects and humans.”
I think we as a species would be best served if we used the biological definition for the word so that we included ourselves among all the other members of the kingdom Animalia. For too long humans in general have felt themselves to be superior to and detached from the rest of life on our wonderful planet. The result has been and continues to be catastrophic. We simply cannot continue to rape, pillage, and plunder Mother Earth.
It seems easy for most people to smile or enjoy sweet, cuddly animals, but then to ignore completely the plight of the polar bears, for example. We put blinders on when it comes to things such as where our food comes from, or how our consumption of energy is affecting life. We have reached the point where the climate changes are obvious to any who care to look, but what do we find now. According to ClimateProgress, both the New York Times and the Washington Post are cutting back on their specialized coverage of climate change. Too many people seem to think that if they just don’t look, it will all go away.
The more inclusive definition of animal would also encourage us to be kinder to each other, especially those who seem to be losing whatever small voice they had. The United States is falling far behind other nations in the area of quality of life, and our middle class is shrinking as the number of poor rises dramatically. This is caused by the selfish “me first” attitude that comes so easily to our species. Grabbing whatever you can get with no regard for the consequences, either now or in the long term, as been a prevalent policy for way too long. Education is woefully underfunded and as one of my students keeps saying, the schools get “dumbed-down” each and every year. Unfortunately, he is right, because our society does not value our young. Education is not a priority. Human services are not a priority. Both of these would require us as a nation to rethink our priorities and look at the bigger picture.
And so, at the start of Be Kind To Animals Week, I would encourage you to think about what you could do to increase the kindness factor in your daily life. Not all of us can be vegetarian, for instance, but we can all remember where our nourishment comes from and give thanks for the life that was taken so we might be fed. This was done by many cultures in the past, but we have removed ourselves from the direct source and so forget that a juicy steak was once part of a living being.
We can all be kinder to our fellow beings of all species. I think this week could be well spent if each of us would think about how we might walk more gently through this life, with respect for all. After all, in the end, that is the only way our planet and the life on it will survive, so such acts are both selfish and compassionate. We need to see that the ultimate survival of our world depends on each and everyone of us. All of life is connected. We are a part of that web of life. We are not superior or separate, and the sooner we realize that, the sooner we can get on with the job at hand, making life better for the entire planet. Happy Be Kind To Animals Week!!