Being able to view the world from someone else’s perspective is at the very heart of human nature. As humans, we have feelings. We care. We take care of our own children but also others – other children, other adults who are less fortunate, and certainly some animals. In fact, many scientists argue that the ability to have self-consciousness and empathy are some of the characteristics that make humans different than animals in the first place.
Yet, when you’re willing to take a closer look, you’ll find no empathy nor conscience where animals are also considered food. All you find in a culture where animals are eaten is a world focused on consumer demand, disrespect, and inherent violence. We have come so far down this path of treating animals as a commodity that we have forgotten the true nature of things. We have been taught that we need to eat animals in order to survive. Yet all the while we’re learning that quite the opposite is true! Eating animals is what’s killing us! We need to find a way to get back to the humane part of our human nature.
It seems the best way to see the world as nature intended is to listen to the voice of a child. It may be a smaller voice but it has immense wisdom. For it remains uncensored by good manners, unquieted by education, and it begs to teach you something if you’ll take the time to listen. A child’s innocence is something to be revered and protected and nurtured, not hardened away by age and hushed by explanation.
Children exude compassion. As I discussed in a previous post, the beautiful thing is that their compassion (that which I believe we’re all born with by the way) has no boundaries. My two year old daughter talks with her dolls and stuffed animals all the time. When one of them falls off the couch, she says “Uh oh! Horsey needs a kiss.” She kisses the injured stuffy and then says, “All better now.” She does the same with her plastic farm animals and even her books. The other day while we were walking in the woods, she was really having a hard time getting around in her snow pants. This forced her to slow down and notice her surroundings. As she tried with all her might to step over a giant log, our conversation went like this:
“Mommy, what’s that?” Pointing to the log.
“It’s a tree honey.”
“Tree fell over?”
“Yes, that’s right. The tree fell over.”
“Uh oh! We need to pick it up!”
Of course she felt we needed to pick it up. The tree had fallen over and it needed help. She wanted to put it back to standing up.
I read the sweetest post the other day in a wonderful vegan parenting group. With permission, I’d like to share it with you:
My daughter received some new play food for her kitchen today. Before I even had a chance to go through it, she had it open and was putting everything in her food basket. She saw the eggs and said, ‘Hey, how’d these babies get in here?’
She giggled, said, “that was silly” and took them over to her doll house where she laid them in an “egg bed” with her other people and animals.
This precious story is a reflection from a child who was taught what most children are taught. Eggs are baby birds. (And yes fish and dinosaurs too, but most children’s books focus on eggs as baby birds, so just go with it). It’s so simple – eggs are baby birds. Lambs are baby sheep. Cats and dogs are animals. Cows and piggies and horses are animals. Children’s books teach children that animals are friendly, loving, and quite a lot like us. In fact, most of the books I have for my daughter depict animals living in families communicating with each other, learning lessons from each other, and acting like… well, humans. Treating animals with kindness makes quite a lot of sense to children. It’s normal. This is my favorite (non-graphic!) video of a child talking about how she doesn’t want to eat animals any more.
One of my favorite lines from a children’s book, V is for Vegan, says “A is for animals, friends not food. We don’t eat our friends, they’d find it quite rude!” Doesn’t that just about sum it up? It’s perfectly natural to befriend animals. Our culture even supports this in many ways. Yet when it comes to eating animals, we’ve created this major cover-up and we’ve hidden it away so we don’t have to think about the unpleasant reality.
You’ve probably heard the humorous quote from Harvey Diamond, “You put a baby in a crib with an apple and a rabbit. If he plays with the apple and eats the rabbit I’ll buy you a new car.” What a simple reminder about what’s normal. When you strip away all of the advertising, all of the marketing, all of the messages you’ve received via education or the government or the internet, it’s really quite simple. Just like children, most of us wish no harm on our fellow creatures. Most of us just want to survive and thrive and we’ve been tricked into thinking we need to eat animal flesh or their secretions to do so. We are fortunate to live in a society where we have an abundance of other choices. We just have to remember them. We have to remember our roots. We have to think like children do, before our perspectives got warped.
When a child asks a simple question about the way things are in this world, think carefully before you answer. Take a moment to think about what the answer should be, and then work to make it so.