Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals



Book excerpt 8

Posted in: From the book2 Comments

In conclusion…

While these factors (family life, exposure to violence in the media, religion and the society in which they live) can and probably do have a bearing on the development of a person’s compassion towards animals, the interesting thing is that a true love of animals will generally prevail despite the presence of any number of potentially negative influences. It is almost as though the animal loving flame exists regardless of the situation and cannot be extinguished by the actions or influences of others.

To summarise, I believe that animal lovers are born with a heightened sense of reverence and compassion for all forms of life. I also believe that they possess exceptional empathetic qualities, far greater than the average person. Finally these qualities of compassion and empathy are largely unconscious. By that I mean, the animal lover has no control over them.

To illustrate this point I will relate an event that took place a number of years ago.

One night while cooking dinner, I watched as a moth flew into a pot of boiling water that I had left on the stove.
The normal reaction at this point I’m sure would have been a mild annoyance that something had tainted the water. But my reaction was one of guilt and horror.
I imagined myself lying in boiling water and I imagined the pain. The fact that it was a moth and not a mammal or bird did not diminish my emotions. I saw this moth as a living, breathing creature that had thoughts and appreciated its life. It did not want to die and it did not want to be in pain.
I fished it out of the boiling water and laid it on my hand. Then I ran some cool water over it and let it gradually engulf the moth. I somehow knew that this wouldn’t do any good, an animal so small could not survive such extreme temperatures. Maybe all I did was prolong it’s agony but this was the furthest thing from my mind.

 It was while I held this lifeless creature in my hand that I realised what I had done and appreciated the significance of it.  You see, I realised that I had no control over my actions, that my reaction was an automatic response. The moment I saw the moth, my instinct took over, an instinct so strong that I could not explain it. All I knew was that I wanted to help the moth and stop its pain.

I wonder whether other people can relate to the things that I have described in this chapter?

  • Do you feel the pain, the loneliness and the misery of animals that exist in appalling conditions?
  • Do you grieve over the death of animals, even ones that you have never met?
  • Is your compassion unrestricted by the usual boundaries of species, size and intelligence?
  • Are you repulsed by violence in any form?
  • Do you feel anger when people who fight for the rights of animals are treated as fools?
  • Do you refuse to accept that animals must suffer for the good of humanity?
  • Have you ever taken an abandoned animal into your home to try to right the wrong that they have suffered?

 If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, I implore you not to feel ashamed.

You should feel proud that you possess the ability to think and feel outside your own personal space. Many people do not and I doubt whether they really experience any sense of satisfaction in their lives. I also know that this is a precious gift, not a random, meaningless trait. We are a part of something much larger, something that is maybe even beyond our comprehension at this time.

We have all been born with a purpose and it is our decision whether we wish to fulfil it. But I think change begins with understanding and until we understand who we are, we cannot even begin to imagine what we can achieve.


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  1. Rebecca said on 29/09/2011 at 3:28 am

    I feel exactly all these things. That’s why I’m vegan.

  2. Veanna said on 20/10/2011 at 9:19 am

    For the love of God, keep wrtiing these articles.

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