Whether our unkindness or cruelty to the animals below us in the scale of evolution is active or passive, we will certainly have to answer for it in this life or some other. Elbert Hubbard goes so far as to say that: "When a man forgets his dumb brothers, and is dead to their fears, sufferings and agonies, he has lost his own soul. Am I my dumb brother's keeper? Certainly, yes, and thou shalt give an account of thy stewardship!"
I cannot see how anybody can gaze into the depths of the eyes of a dog without seeing there something akin to himself, something which responds to the deep within himself. For myself I can see there that which is on its way to something higher. I can see there a spirit of devotion, a spirit of love which bespeaks the divine.
How can you, how can anyone, abuse a dog who the more you whip him the more desperately he clings to you? Perhaps you have never thought what you represent to him. Did it never occur to you that you are his God; that he knows nothing higher than you, the source of his food, of all the affection he knows, of every thing he has? So far as he is concerned you are the highest thing in the universe, and when you abuse him, his very sense of separateness from the greatest power he knows of makes him miserable. There is no happiness for him until his connection with you is re-established.
The next time you are tempted to abuse your dog, your horse, or any dumb animal, just look into his eyes and see if you can't recognize something there back of the brute, something which speaks through the animal that is not animal. These dumb animals have rights which the Creator has given them, and which man is bound to respect, even as he is bound to respect the rights of his fellow-man.
When a boy, Theodore Parker once came across a tortoise and raised a stick to kill it, when something within whispered to him not to, that it was wrong to kill an innocent creature that had done him no harm. He dropped the stick, went home and told his mother of the incident. She made it the text of a talk which he said influenced his entire life.
It is comparatively easy to create a senti ment of sympathy and love for these dumb animals in growing children, and the creation of such a sentiment in youth will have a wonderful influence upon their after-life. Teach your boy and your girl that a real man, a real woman, always champions the cause of the innocent and helpless birds and animals, that a really noble soul never injures or causes pain to creatures who have no way of appealing to him, who cannot plead their own cause, whose very helplessness should enlist his sympathy and protection. All children should be taught that the Creator has put the lower animals in our care and that He will hold us responsible for our treatment of them. I believe with Ella Wheeler Wilcox that: "If every child living to-day were made to realize this sense of responsibility, and to feel sympathy, protection and love for the helpless animals, the deformed, sick or penniless humans, more than two-thirds of the sorrow, suffering and sin on earth would vanish in one generation."
During the Spanish-American War an officer in the United States army one day noticed a corporal in a colored regiment who was carrying his own gun and that of a wounded comrade, two cartridge belts, two knapsacks, and a dog. The day was very hot, and many of the soldiers were nearly prostrated. The officer stopped the corporal and said to him, "Look here, didn't you march all last night?" "Yes, sir," said the corporal. "And didn't you fight all day?" "Sure, sir." "And haven't you been marching ever since ten o'clock tonight?" "Yes, sir." "Well, then," shouted the officer, "what in the mischief are you carrying that dog for?" "Why, boss, you see it's this way, this dog's tired!"
This young fellow was made of the right kind of stuff, and evidently had had the right kind of training in childhood. Though burdened with the equipment of two men, he thought there was reason enough to add to his burden because his dog was so tired. The true man is always as tender as he is brave.
Most boys pass through what we may call the "hunting" age, the destructive age. They want to own a gun; they want to shoot something. And as long as hunting and wantonly killing wild things is recognized as "manly sport," it is hard to make boys believe that there is really nothing manly in killing things merely for the fun of it; that it is, on the contrary, infinitely more manly to champion the cause of the hunted, to protect the birds and the animals from inhuman slaughter.
To take pleasure in killing innocent animals for sport is a relic of barbarism. How can any humane man get real fun out of the sufferings of animals, real fun from shooting the mother of bear cubs, for instance, and seeing the pathetic mourning of these baby bears as they climb upon their dead mother and try to attract her attention? How any man can find delight in breaking the wing of a mother bird when he knows that the young nestlings are waiting in the nest with wide open mouths for their mother's return is more than I can understand. Sportsmen do not seem to realize that the homes of these little creatures are just as sacred to them as the hunters' homes are to them, yet they do not hesitate to break them up by killing one or both the parents, leaving their young to suffer, perhaps die, from neglect!
What can we think of the degree of soul culture of people who will slaughter animals simply to make a holiday for themselves! I often wonder if these people ever read the beatitudes, especially that one which says, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." How can men who are not merciful to poor innocent dumb animals expect mercy themselves?
The time will come, and very soon, when the man who takes pleasure in killing anything, who goes slaughtering for mere sport, will be labelled "inhuman," and will be ostracized by all decent people. There are tens of thousands of men who ten years ago, some even five years ago, delighted in hunting, who could not be induced to go hunting to-day. Many of them have told me that they were ashamed to think they could ever have taken delight in such savage sport.
Mr. W. J. Stillman, once a "sportsman," some time ago, in "A Plea for Wild Animals" wrote: "The ghastly memories of all the game I ever in my wild life slaughtered do not give me the pleasure which I have found in teaching a wild creature to forget his inheritance of fear of mankind. Many trout have I lured from their deep hiding-places, but none with the keen satisfaction I have had in teaching a trout to rise at recognition of my approaching footfall, to submit to my caressing, as if he were a creature of the air rather than of the mud."
What shall be said of those more coldblooded men and women who, not having the excitement of the chase as an excuse, desert their domestic pets, and leave them to die of starvation, or to suffer a cruel death in the streets? Not long ago the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals one summer, in the month of July, took into their custody fifteen thousand dogs and cats, eleven hundred and seventy-five in one day. Most of these, especially the cats, had been left by their owners, who had gone out of town for the summer, without any means of care or feeding. The majority of these people were probably church members who thought they had "got religion!"
What a rebuke to such brutality is the story of the kindness of a little untaught street Arab to a sick sheep. One who witnessed the incident tells how this young tatterdemalion, one of a gang of boys on the street, went to a water trough and several times filled his old battered leaky hat with water and took it to a poor half fainting sheep in a flock which was being driven along the street. Time and again the sheep had tried in vain to push with the others to the water in the trough and had finally dropped on the pavement utterly exhausted. The water given it by the boy quickly revived the animal and enabled it to go along with the others.
One of the "gang" began to twit the boy and asked him if the sheep said "Thank you, Papa." "I didn't hear it," said he, but there was a light in the boy's face which told the bystanders that he felt the pleasure that always comes from the performance of a kind act. The untaught ragged boy made several well-dressed people who were passing along feel very cheap and very mean because they had made no effort to help the poor sheep out of its suffering.
In a plea for justice, love and mercy for all living things, a New Thought writer says: "We, then, are tongues for our brothers dumb. We voice their hurt. We demand their justice - that it be done unto them in full measure heaped up and running over. We plead their love that it have its full and recognized part in the Love Universal. Out of the symphony of this Love Universal we would exclude not one life. We would have it there, voicing at 'full-throated ease.' Until the Universe excludes it, not one life would we exclude from our love, and, until the Universe can exclude something of itself and still be a perfect Universe, safe in its Love is every life which it has hallowed into living; and as beautifully safe should it be and is it in the thinkings of New Thought."
If we expect to commune with God, to come into the consciousness of our union with Him, we must have the right mental attitude toward all of His creatures. If we are to realize our oneness with God, we must realize our oneness with His creation. We must love His creatures as He loves them. We cannot hold the God-consciousness, we cannot expect God's blessing, when we make sport of killing His dumb creatures, or when we are brutal to them in any way, any more than we can expect to get His blessing through our prayer, when at the same time we are taking advantage of our employees, cheating them, by paying them such stingy salaries that they are tempted to piece them out in illegitimate ways.
In the early history of the race might was the only recognized right. The weakest was always afraid of the strongest. There was no thought of the rights of dumb animals. But a new order came with the Sermon on the Mount. Love was born into the world and it is gradually teaching man that all life is one, and that what we call the "lower animals" are in reality our little brothers and sisters.