NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
David Bouchier: A Few Well Chosen Words

David Bouchier: Kindness To Animals Week

Free-Photos from Pixabay

Wednesday will be the first day of our national Be Kind to Animals Week. This event was created by American Humane in 1915 when kindness was in short supply. We seem to be doing better now, but our attitudes to animals are still seriously mixed up.

Some domestic pets are having a hard time in this epidemic. Their routines have changed, dog walks have been curtailed, and cats have had to eat inferior food when their own favorite brand ran out. In the very worst cases their companionate people have fallen victim to the virus.

Many communities and organizations have mobilized to take care of these distressed pets, which makes you feel better about the human race. Kindness to animals is a measure of civilization, and in some ways it’s easy. We can be kind to animals by recognizing them as fellow creatures and talking to them. Everybody talks to their own pets, and it has a deep psychological effect. The animal “it” becomes a fellow-creature with feelings, and we feel quite differently about them.

I will talk to fellow creatures of any kind. The squirrels, chipmunks and deer who cross my path always get a polite word, and they appreciate it I’m sure. The more intelligent animals are, the better they understand human communication. Chipmunks, for example, are rather skittish, unrewarding company, cats are always argumentative, and dogs are rather too apt to agree with every word you say. But you can have a very good conversation with a pig. Winston Churchill had a special fondness for pigs. “Dogs look up to us,” he said, “cats look down on us, but pigs treat us as equals.”

I caught myself chatting to a pig once, just a couple of hours after having had bacon and eggs for breakfast, and there’s the huge contradiction. What sense does it make to be kind to animals in small ways when we treat them abominably in big ways? Talking to pigs and being nice to lost puppies and fluffy kittens is obviously not enough, and never will be enough until we all turn vegetarian or vegan, which I – along with most of the human race - have disgracefully failed to do.

Now a whole other level of animal exploitation has been forced on our attention. This nasty new virus seems to have originated in China’s notorious “wet markets” where live animals are caged and sold for use in traditional medicine – otherwise known as medieval quackery. The beautiful pangolin for example is used to treat, among other things, anxiety and deafness. You are as likely to be cured of deafness by eating the scales of the pangolin as you are to be cured of the coronavirus by swallowing disinfectant. It is magical thinking, profoundly irrational and dangerous. The animals suffer, and so do we.

We’ve come a long way since the first Be Kind to Animals week 1915. But, let’s face it, we have brought the present calamity on ourselves by cruelty and indifference, and not just in China. Kindness to animals is not a charity or a weakness, it is simple self-interest. We share the same biosphere, and many of the same bacteria and viruses, as well as the same feelings. We’re all connected. The more kind we are to them, the more kind we are to ourselves.

Copyright: David Bouchier

Related Content