The State of Animals First By Kim Forrester, Spiritual Commentator
If you want to look at the state of humans, you should look at the state of animals first. ~ Rachael Ray
Humans can be passionate creatures. Of that, I have no doubt.
I am also certain that the topic of animals – specifically of our treatment, neglect, exploitation and constant disregard for animals – is one that is sure to stir some of the deepest passions of all.
For the last few thousand years, many humans have regarded themselves as – shall we say – the highest form of life on Earth. The Old Testament, for instance, assumes the right of humankind to rule over all the animals and implies that nature has been designed specifically for human pleasure and consumption. Many people feel that, as the overlords, humans have the responsibility to protect and safeguard our animal companions; that our role is to nurture and provide. Others have preferred the idea that nature is ours for the taking, and the animals are simply another resource in a human-centric quest for dominance.
Two diametrically opposed views. Enter passionate discussion.
Interestingly, both of the above mindsets are based on the belief that humankind sits somewhere above animals on nature’s hierarchy; that our role is to either accept responsibility for them, or to exploit them to our will. But there is another standpoint; one that may change the way we view animals – and each other – and that could unlock a vital element in the passionate discussion about the treatment of animals.
Many indigenous cultures around the world, particularly those in the Americas, have held the belief that animals are, in fact, our brothers and sisters. Interestingly, it is this worldview that best fits our most recent scientific discoveries; the understanding that everything on the Earth (and in the Universe) is deeply and inextricably interconnected. What is even more profound, however, is the well-held indigenous belief that animals are in fact our GUIDES and our TEACHERS. The concept that animals are not just as enlightened as us but that they, in fact, hold more spiritual awareness than the average human.
For anyone connected with their animal companions, this idea is completely palpable. For example, it takes one look in a dog’s eyes to see that they understand the spiritual concept of unconditional love. All creatures, from ants to wolves, are unquestionably intuitive. Our feline friends are perfect examples of self-love and self-empowerment, and every animal on Earth is completely adept at living in the moment and in complete surrender. The notion, therefore, that animals may be well beyond us in terms of enlightenment, is completely valid.
So the question begs to be answered. If animals are actually here to be our spiritual teachers, why, oh why, does the Universe/God/Source allow many of them to be treated so poorly?
Perhaps the answer lies in what they are trying to teach us.
If, as many of us would suspect, animals are spiritually enlightened then they would have a deep understanding that the physical world is just an illusion; that physical pain and suffering is only part of this reality, and that their spiritual selves are safe and well in another consciousness. Just as Buddha starved himself in the forest and Jesus sacrificed his body on the cross, it may be that the animals, as our spiritual teachers, are allowing this treatment out of an unconditional love for humanity and the desire to facilitate a Higher Good. Perhaps the animals are trying to show us something. Perhaps they are trying to help humanity the only way they can.
Perhaps the point of this senseless cruelty is not just “what are we doing to the animals?” but more importantly “what are we doing to ourselves?”
So, what are we doing to ourselves?
The plight of the battery hen has to be one of the most disturbing and heartbreaking tales of modern society. As our spiritual teachers, perhaps it is obvious what these magnificent birds are trying to teach us.
What they may show us is that we have created a society where far too many of us are locked away in synthetic cages, with our feet often divorced from the ground. Stuck in these boxes for weeks on end, many of our Souls yearn to walk on the Earth; in nature, where we belong. In addition, we live in environments that are overcrowded, unhealthy and unnatural; an overpowering confinement that causes stress and psychological problems. We work too hard, and many of us have little or no opportunity to simply be the beings we are born to be.
How about the inhabitants of the modern-day puppy farms? What are these beautiful dogs trying to tell humanity?
Perhaps they are highlighting those in society that are completely objectified; those who lack the freedom and rights that they deserve, or who simply exist to fulfil the needs of somebody else.
The inhumane slaughter of animals is another passion-infused subject but, as our spiritual guides, what are these cattle, pigs and other animals perhaps trying to teach us?
They may be fearlessly and lovingly showing us how much we taunt and wound each other on a daily basis. Although often small and seemingly insignificant, the wounds we inflict can cause immense pain and suffering, and this constant cycle of torture is slowly and painfully killing our self-esteem … and our Souls.
For many passionate animal-lovers, it is the abandoned and neglected animals that tug at the heart strings. But what are they trying to highlight to us? What part of human society are they trying to draw our attention to?
Perhaps it is the plight of our abandoned brothers and sisters in Africa; the poor and starving millions that flash across our television screens and are forgotten by the next advertisement; the innocent victims of war and famine that are so easily dismissed in our busy modern lives. And maybe it is to draw our attention to the refugees that come to our shores, homeless and insecure, only to be often shunned and marginalized by many in Western society.
Perhaps the treatment of laboratory animals, and livestock injected with growth hormones, is simply to highlight the amount of toxins and drugs we ingest into our own bodies through our food, cigarettes and medicines. How often we compromise a part of who we are in order to “gain” something we think we need.
I have no doubt that the passionate discussion about the treatment of animals will continue – and so it should. But perhaps it is time to add a new understanding to the debate, and a new dimension to the solution. As our spiritual teachers and guides, it may be that animals are stronger and more durable than we allow ourselves to believe. It may be that it is us – humanity – that is in dire need of rescue, and our desire to save the animals is in fact a deep, intuitive pull for us to save ourselves.