As any Facebook follower knows, one receives daily innumerable photos of cats, dogs, infant bats, baby pygmy hippopotami, Friesian and Gypsy Vanner horses–all creatures great and small.
I’ve always been fascinated by creatures the more outré and arcane the better–in sixth grade, my nickname was “Bugs,” perhaps because of the tent caterpillars I kept in my desk–and there are indeed some amazing beings that share Earth with us. I say that, rather than, “with whom we share the Earth. For not all of these photos are cute, or heartwarming, offering a stark reminder that Man frequently assumes everything living, including some of his fellows, are his to treat as he wishes.
I’ve read posts that say, “Why show this?” “What have I learned from this awful photo?” I don’t like photos of tormented creatures either, nor do I linger over them–but I have looked–and I have learned. I’ve come to realize that untold numbers of animals are tortured routinely by humans for sport, to extract bone, horn or other essence to increase human virility, and that these atrocities are widespread, ongoing, and accepted.
And why should we care if cats and dogs are skinned and cooked alive in China in the belief that their terror and agony will impart virility to the consumer? Why care that in Spain, galgos hunting hounds are abandoned or tortured to death after the season’s end; that live bulls are set on fire and beaten in the Toro Jubilo; that in our own country dog fighting and killing bait dogs in their training is big business?
First and foremost, because animals are living, sentient creatures. That in itself should be reason enough, but another and very important reason is that the way one treats animals is an indication of how we regard our fellow human beings. Twice in the past weeks cases have been reported of teenage girls raped at parties, the perpetrators taking photos and posting them online while others stood by and watched, like spectators at a dog fight or bull ring.
Scoffers may scoff about bleeding hearts, but hearts need to bleed. In the words of Immanuel Kant, “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”