Another practice let us consider that is clearly hardening in its influence—a practice that children and older students are here and there called upon to witness.
I refer to the practice commonly known as vivisection—the cutting, freezing, burning, tearing, torturing of live animals for purposes of scientific “investigation.”
After making a most careful study of this matter and its claims, getting the opinions of many of the ablest physicians and surgeons in the world, I have been forced to come to the conclusion that practically nothing of any real value has come to us through this
channel that could not and would not have come in other ways without this great torture and sacrifice of life, to say nothing of the cruel and hardening effects upon those who resort to these methods.
Personally, I should allow no child of mine to attend or remain at any school where it is carried on, and, moreover, I should raise my voice and exert my influence against it at every opportunity
. I should teach the child the great fact that we are so rapidly learning to-day—namely, that the mind is the natural protector of the body, and that there are being continually externalized in the body, effects and conditions most akin to our prevailing mental states and emotions.
I should teach him that it is unwise as well as cowardly to bring diseased conditions into the body through the poisoning, corroding effects of anger, hatred, jealousy, malice, envy, rage, fear, worry,, lust, intemperance, and then seek to find an aid to the Remedy through the torture of even a single dumb fellow-creature.
In the next place, as an object-lesson, I should point out to the child what is indicated at the sight of a dock-tailed horse. It indicates one of two things—weakness of individuality and hence slavery to custom, or that all too –
prevalent vain desire through parade to attract attention, because the owner of the animal is conscious of the fact that there is not enough in himself to attract it, and also because he is utterly devoid of those finer sensibilities of the heart through whose promptings one is restrained from all acts of cruelty and torture,
from all acts that will give pain to any living creature. I would point out to the child the torture that is inflicted upon the animal during the process of the sawing and the burning of the tail, and also that this acute pain and torture is but little compared with the after-torture that is to follow during the balance of the horse’s life.
The skin of the horse is exceedingly sensitive to the bites and the stings of the flies and other pestiferous insects that harass him during the heated term of the year,
and which without this natural weapon of defense make his life almost unendurable. I would point out to the child how cruelly the animal is maimed for life, and how foolhardily its beauty is forever destroyed.
The practice has already by statute been made a crime in a number of States, punishable by both fine and imprisonment, but still the idiotic, cruel, and deplorable practice goes on to a greater or less extent; and not until public sentiment is thoroughly aroused against it will it entirely cease.
If the one who has it done were compelled to stand for but half a day in the hot summer weather, with his back bare to the bites and the stings of the flies and sweat-bees and other insects that would drive him almost frantic, if his hands were so fastened that he could not drive them away, then he might be brought partially at least to his senses.
And when the fine sensitive horse whose tail had been sawn off in this way, so that he was one day driven almost to madness by the stings and bites he was powerless to protect himself from, especially as he was farther maddened by that fiendish device of torture,
the high check-rein, finally became unmanageable and dashed down the road a runaway, hurling his owner to death and his wife to the bed of an invalid and cripple—it may seem unkind to say it—but it certainly served them right. They reaped only what they themselves had sown, as every one must in some form or another, for such is the law of the universe.
And again, as an object-lesson, I would point out to the child the men who each year engage in cattle-starving on our Western plains; for on the various ranches thousands of head of cattle in cold winters starve and freeze to death,
because left to themselves when they can no longer find sufficient food on the ranch, this plan being adopted by many cattle-raisers because it is cheaper for them to lose a certain portion of the herd each winter than it is to furnish them suitable food and shelter.
Thousands of cattle have so perished during the past winter. I would show that such a man is a criminal and deserves restraint as such, no less than a man who would cause a part of his stock to starve to death in a stable or on a farm,
I would teach the child the same in regard to those responsible for the careless, cruel, mercenary methods of transporting cattle, sheep, and horses from the West to the East, or to England and other countries, in the cattle ships, where sometimes as many as a quarter or even a third of the animals are found dead on their arrival, and numbers of others so mangled and crippled that they have to be killed as soon as they are taken from the vessel.
Dress and Fashion
There is another excellent opportunity for humane teaching, and one that comes especially near to every woman.
It lies in the thoughtless, cruel, and inexcusable practice of wearing the skins and plumage of birds for millinery and other decorative purposes.
The enormous proportions of this traffic are simply appalling. In the course of a single day last year in London, and from a single auction store, the skins of six hundred thousand birds were sold. This number represented the sales of but one store of one city on a single day.
Millions of birds are destroyed annually to supply the demands that fashion venders, who become wealthy thereby, have created in the minds of women for this purpose. Whole species of birds have already become practically extinct by this wholesale slaughter, while others are rapidly becoming so.
For example, that beautiful bird the white heron, commonly known as the egret,—in Florida but one can now be seen here and there by the tourist where thousands could be seen but a few years ago.
This bird is killed and its plumage taken only at that season of the year when its dress becomes a little more brilliant than usual, for it is its nesting time, and Nature seems to be recognizing this, the marriage season, by preparing for it its wedding garments.
The birds at this season are apparently very innocent of harm and very tame, and are found near together taking care of their young. At times hundreds of birds are to be found near together in one roost among the tall trees of the swamp-lands, so that the bird-catcher finds it an easy task to conceal himself and pick them off as they are returning to their nests with food for their young, —sometimes to the extent of several hundred in a single day; and every bird killed at this season means the starving to death, on the average, of four or five of its young.
It behoves every woman, then, who wears even a single egret plume, to remember that she has been the cause of the sacrifice of at least four or five birds. “But,” says the gentle lady, “I had nothing to do with the killing of the birds.” True; had you to do with it personally you would not wear what you now wear. But were it not for multitudes of ladies like yourself, Bill Jones, bird-catcher, would turn his mind and energies to other avenues, for he would no longer have a demand, and hence a market, each year to supply.
I know of one bird-catcher who, with his assistants, in a single season slaughtered and took the skins of over one hundred and thirty thousand birds. Think what this means when we take into consideration the few days of the very short season devoted to this!
And what does this indicate in women? I would not be unfair, and so I will say that to me it indicates chiefly thoughtlessness and lack of imagination on her part.
If the one who now decorates herself with the plumage of her slaughtered fellow-creatures could be on the spot with Bill Jones and see the crimson life-blood that the bleeding heart is pulsing out, staining even the feathers that she herself will wear.
If she could see the agonies of the death struggle, and then see the gaping mouths of the starving young ones in the nest, waiting in vain for the return of the parent bird with food then, I am sure, she would no longer be a victim to this foolish, thoughtless, heartless habit. No;
I have too much respect for and faith in the finer sensibilities of woman to believe that she would. Once in a while, it is true, we will find a woman so wrapped up in her vain, selfish, insane desire for show that, notwithstanding the realization on her part of all we have just said, she would nevertheless demand this sacrifice to minister to her vanity.
Were I a woman I certainly should want to be among the forerunners in the movement that has already begun along this line. I would rather be a leader in setting a good fashion than a follower of a poor and positively bad one.
And you will be surprised what beautiful hats and bonnets can be devised by the woman of a little ingenuity, without the aid of birds’ plumage or feathers of any kind. And when skillful minds and hands are once turned in this direction we shall wonder that this relic-of-barbarism mode of adornment, even though it be a somewhat modified form of it, has lasted so long.
As a mother I would keep or lead my daughter out of this heartless and needless practice by first abandoning it myself. Children are so quick to see inconsistencies. Said a little fellow to his mates the other day: ” I know why teacher don’t want us to rob the birds’ nests and kill the little birds. She wants ’em to grow up so she can wear ’em on her bonnet.”
And when one sees, as I have seen, a teacher with the skins of two and the feathers of more birds on her hat, we will realize that, after all, teaching by example is better than by precept, or, putting it in another form, teaching by precept without its being reinforced by example is of but little value.
But for the people’s sakes, as well as, if not even more than for the bird’s, I would urge attention to and action along this line. The tender and humane passion in
the human heart is too precious a quality to allow it to be hardened or effaced by practices such as we so often indulge in. Even from an economic standpoint, the service that birds render us every year, so far as vegetation is concerned, is literally beyond computation.
Were they all killed off, the world would soon become practically uninhabitable for man, because vegetation each year would be so thoroughly blighted or even consumed by the hordes of insects that would infest it. It is but necessary to realize how rapidly, even during the past several years, insect life has been increasing in some quarters, so as to tax to the utmost the skill of the farmer, the gardener, and the fruit-grower.
Instead, then, of schooling the child to be the destroyer of bird life, let it be guided along the lines of being its lover and its protector. And if those who use them, women especially, could know and fully realize the cruel and at times almost unspeakable cruelty and torture that attends the procuring of their sealskin and other fur or fur-rimmed or lined garments, I am sure that many at least would begin quietly to look about for garments made of other materials;—
if they could know of the seals being clubbed to death
in their innocent tameness on their native ice rocks, of the other fur-bearing animals that are trapped, remaining for hours, or even at times for days, with leg or legs crushed between the trap’s cruel and relentless steel jaws,
before the merciful blow comes that is to end their torture, when it has not already died from its torture or from starvation, or has not gnawed its leg from the trap with its own teeth in order to escape—if they could be brought fully to realize these facts, then I am sure they would conclude that these articles are bought with a price greater than any human being can afford to pay.
Every Living Creature by Ralph W. Trine Published 1899