EVERY LIVING CREATURE OR
HEART-TRAINING THROUGH THE ANIMAL WORLD
It is said that in Japan if one picks up a stone to throw at a dog, the dog will not run, as you will find he will in almost every case here, because there the dog has never had a stone thrown at him, and consequently he does not know what it means.
This spirit of gentleness, kindliness, and care for the animal world is a characteristic of the Japanese people. It in turn manifests itself in all of their relations with their fellow – men; and one of the results is that the amount of crime committed there each year in proportion to the population is but a very small fraction of that committed in the United States.
In India, where the treatment of the animal world is something to put to shame our own country, with its boasted Christian civilization and power, there, with a population of some three hundred millions, there is but one-fourth the amount of crime that there is each year in England, with a population of some twenty millions, and only a fraction of what it is in the United States, with a population of not more than one-fourth the population of India.
These are most significant facts; they are indeed facts of tremendous import, and we would do wisely to estimate them at their proper value.
We cannot begin too early in inculcating what I would term humane sentiments in the mind and heart of every individual. How early and almost unconsciously the mother, for example, gives the first lessons of thoughtlessness, carelessness, and what will eventually result in cruelty or even crime, to her child.
The child is put upon the hobby-horse, a whip is put into his little hand, and he is told : ” Now whip the old horse and make him go.” With this initial lesson, continued in various ways, we find the eager desire the child has for whipping, when he gets the whip into his hands in a wagon behind a real horse.
Or even when younger, the child stumbles over a chair, receives a knock, and bursts into crying. The mother, in some cases merely thoughtless, in others caring only for her own comfort and ease, in order to call the attention of the child away from the little hurt and greater rage and fright, says: ” Did the mean chair hurt mamma’s little boy?
Go and kick the old chair—kick it hard.” The next day when the child falls over or bumps against the dog, the dog in turn is the one to receive the kick; and still later, when anything of the kind occurs in connection with a little playmate, the playmate receives the same treatment. And, so far as his relations with his fellow-men, when he is grown to manhood, are concerned, each one can trace them for himself.
We have sketched the thoughtless or the selfish mother.
Let us look for a moment at the other type of mother, the one who is ever thoughtful, desirous of bringing the best influence to bear upon this little sensitive plate, if you will allow the expression, the mother who understands the great, almost omnipotent forming-power of early impressions.
The child stumbles over or falls against the chair. The mother, after smoothing the hurt place and kissing away the first impulse to anger and also the fright of the child, and thereby its tears, says: ” And now I wonder if mamma’s little boy has hurt the chair.
Go bring it to mamma and let her smooth away its hurt also.” This is done, and all is now as if nothing had occurred. The next day, then, when the child stumbles over or bumps against the dog, after he has had his own hurt soothed by his mother, he in turn toddles off to soothe and comfort the dog;
and again, when the child bumps against his little play-fellow, after he has been soothed and kissed and thereby comforted by his mother, he feels for and sympathizes with the other little fellow, and brings him up to receive the same treatment.
And again, each one can for himself carry the effects of this type of suggestion and training into the child’s later life and into his relations with his fellow-men. Many instances of this nature in the every-day life of the mother and child might be mentioned.
And to go back even farther—those mothers who are beginning to understand the powerful moulding influences of prenatal conditions will realize that every mental and emotional state lived in by the mother makes its influence felt in the life of the forming child,
and she will therefore be careful that during the period she is carrying the child no thoughts or emotions of anger, or hatred, or envy, or malice, no unkind thoughts of any kind be entertained by her, but, on the contrary,
thoughts of tenderness, kindness, compassion, and love; these then will influence and lead the mind of the child when born, and will in turn externalize their effects in his body, instead of allowing to be externalized the poisoning and destructive effects of their opposites.
It is an established fact that the training of the intellect alone is not sufficient. Nothing in this world can be truer than that the education of the head, without the training of the heart, simply increases one's power for evil, while the education of the heart, along with the head, increases one's power for good, and this, indeed, is the true education.
Clearly we must begin with the child. The lessons learned in childhood are the last to be forgotten. The potter moulds the clay only when it is soft; in a little while, when it begins to harden, he has no more power over it.
So it is with the child. The first principles of conduct instilled into his mind, planted within his heart, take root and grow, and as he grows from childhood to youth, and from youth to manhood, these principles become fixed.
They exert their influence. Scarcely any power in existence can change them. They cling to him through life. They decide his destiny. How important, then, that these first principles implanted within the child’s heart be lessons of gentleness, kindness, mercy, love, and humanity, and not lessons of hatred, envy, selfishness, and malice!
The former make ultimately our esteemed, law-abiding, law-loving citizens; the latter lawbreakers and criminals. Upon the training of the children of to-day depends the condition of our country a generation hence.
In crimes against the person the passions play the most important part, and this is true, also, even in many crimes against property.
How important it is, then, that the child be taught to govern its passions! How important that it be taught to be kind, gentle, loving, and humane;
and in all the range of human thought there is not a better, wiser, or more expedient way of accomplishing this end than by teaching kindness towards God’s lower creatures.
If children are thus taught they will have instilled into their hearts those principles of action which will make them kind and merciful not only to the lower animals, but also toward their fellow-men as they attain to manhood.
Let them be taught that the lower animals are God’s creatures, as they themselves are, put here by a common Heavenly Father, each for its own special purpose, and that they have the same right to life and protection.
Let them be taught that principle recognized by all noble – hearted men, that it is only a depraved, debased, and cowardly nature that will injure an inferior, defenseless creature, simply because it is in its power to do so, and that there is no better, no grander test of true bravery and nobility of character than one’s treatment of the lower animals.
It is impossible to over-estimate the benefits resulting from judicious, humane instruction. The child who has been taught nothing of mercy, nothing of humanity, who has never been brought to realize the claims that animals have upon him for protection and kindness, will grow up to be thoughtless and cruel toward them, and if he is cruel to them that same heart, untouched by kindness and mercy, will prompt him to be cruel to his family, to his fellow – men.
On the other hand, the child who has been taught to realize the claims that God’s lower creatures have upon him, whose heart has been touched by lessons of kindness and mercy, under their sweet influence will grow to be a large-hearted, tender-hearted, manly man.
Then let the children be trained, their hands, their intellects, and above all their hearts. Let them be taught to have pity for the animals that are at our mercy, that cannot protect themselves, that cannot explain their weakness, their pain, or their suffering, and soon this will bring to their recognition that higher law, the moral obligation of man as a superior being to protect and care for the weak and defenseless.
Nor will it stop here, for this in turn will lead them to that highest law — man’s duty to man.
So great do I believe are the influences of the inculcation of humane sentiments early in the life of every individual that I shall endeavour to make as concrete as possible the suggestions which are to follow; for criminal training or humane training can be and is continually given in numbers of ways.
As a parent, in the first place, I would teach the child the thoughtlessness, the selfishness, the heartlessness, the cruelty of hunting for sport. I would put into his hands no air-guns or instruments or weapons by which he could inflict torture upon or take the life of birds or other animals.
Instead of encouraging him in torturing or killing the birds, I would point out to him the great service they are continually doing for us in the destruction of various worms and insects and small rodents which, if left to themselves, would so multiply as literally to destroy practically all fruit and plant life.
I would have him remember how many lives are enriched and beautified by their song. I would point out to him their habits of industry, their marvelous powers of adaptation, their insight and perseverance. Therefore I would teach him to love, to study, to care for and feed them.
Hunting for sport indicates one of two things — a nature of such thoughtlessness as to be almost inexcusable, or a selfishness so deplorable as to be unworthy a normal, sane human being.
No truly thoughtful manly man or truly thoughtful womanly woman will engage in it.
And when we read of this or that woman, be she well known in society, or the wife of this or that well-known man, so following her selfish, savage, cruel instincts, or her desire for notoriety or newspaper comments,
as to take part in a deer-hunt, a fox-chase, or in a hunt of any type, we have an index to her real character that should be sufficient.
But a few days ago my attention was called to a minister in one of the New England cities,
who had come out in the papers with an article on hunting as a most excellent pastime and recreation for the members of his calling, and urged them to take it up, as he already had. Think of it,
what it means, — a man who has gotten no farther into the real spirit of the gentle and compassionate teachings of the Christ whom he professes to follow, to say nothing of the humane teachings of the gentle Buddha, whom this reverend gentleman would, by the way, refer to in his pulpit and his prayer-meetings as the heathen !
Shall we refrain from saying, inexcusable thoughtlessness, or brutal, deplorable selfishness ? I cannot refrain in this connection from quoting a sentence or two from Archdeacon Farrar which have recently come to my notice:
“Not once or twice only, at the seaside, have I come across a sad and disgraceful sight—a sight which haunts me still—a number of harmless sea-birds lying defaced and dead upon the sand, their white plumage red with blood, as they had been tossed there, dead or half – dead, their torture and massacre having furnished a day’s amusement to heartless and senseless men. Amusement! I say execrable amusement!
All killing for mere killing’s sake is execrable amusement. Can you imagine the stupid callousness, the utter insensibility to mercy and beauty, of the man who, seeing those bright, beautiful creatures as their white, immaculate wings flash in the sunshine over the blue waves, can go out in a boat with his boys to teach them to become brutes in character by finding amusement—I say, again, dis-humanizing amusement — by wantonly murdering these fair birds of God, or cruelly wounding them, and letting them fly away to wait and die in lonely places ? ”
And another paragraph which was sent me by a kind friend to our fellow-creatures a few days ago:
“The celebrated Russian novelist, Turgenieff, tells a most touching incident from his own life, which awakened in him sentiments that have coloured all his writings with a deep and tender feeling.
” When Turgenieff was a boy of ten his father took him out one day bird-shooting. As they tramped across the brown stubble, a golden pheasant rose with a low whirr from the ground at his feet, and, with the joy of a sportsman throbbing through his veins, he raised his gun and fired, wild with excitement when the creature fell fluttering at his side.
Life was ebbing fast, but the instinct of the mother was stronger than death itself, and with a feeble flutter of her wings the mother bird reached the nest where her young brood were huddled, unconscious of danger.
Then, with such a look of pleading and reproach that his heart stood still at the ruin he had wrought,— and never to his dying day did he forget the feeling of cruelty and guilt that came to him in that moment,—the little brown head toppled over, and only the dead body of the mother shielded her nestlings.
” ‘ Father, father,’ he cried, ‘ what have I done ?’ as he turned his horror-stricken face to his father. But not to his father’s eye had this little tragedy been enacted, and he said: ‘ Well done, my son; that was well done for your first shot. You will soon be a fine sportsman.’
” * Never, father; never again shall I destroy any living creature. If that is sport I will have none of it. Life is more beautiful to me than death, and since I cannot give life, I will not take it.'”
instead of putting into the hands of the child a gun or any other weapon that may be instrumental in crippling, torturing, or taking the life of even a single animal, I would give him the field-glass and the camera, and send him out to be a friend to the animals, to observe and study their characteristics, their habits,
to learn from them those wonderful lessons that can be learned, and thus have his whole nature expand in admiration and love and care for them, and become thereby the truly manly and princely type of man, rather than the careless, callous, brutal type.
Every Living Creature by Ralph W. Trine Published 1899