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lambleft.jpg (4091 bytes)lambrt.jpg (4118 bytes)Feelings of Aloneness
By people of compassion
- The Church is Chasing People Away -

Response by Stephen Augustine
11 May 2001

Dear Nathan and Others,

I agree with you Nathan that a world view which does not recognize and encompass non-human suffering is flawed - so much as to inflict further suffering upon ourselves. In fact it may even be the death of us in the end.  However, the health benefits of vegetarianism aside, are there any other ways to convince people of the above premise?

Respectfully, I would question whether empathy for animal suffering has to fall one step behind empathy for human suffering.  (For Vegetarian Christians out there I would query - who do you think are the least among us?)  Do we really need to prove that we care about human suffering before we can try to stop the ongoing animal holocaust?   If so, then are we not all held hostage to the dominant way of thinking?  If someone were to ask why we care about animal suffering when there are sweatshops operating in New York City, I would ask them what, if anything, they are doing about the civil war in Sudan. On one level I think that we need a strategy to guide our evolution into nonviolent beings (to become fully human), but on another level I think we absolutely need to respond to the suffering around us on a personal and day-to-day level.  I would hold that the holocaust of World War II or the Rwandan genocide of 1994 are not much different (except in scale) from what is happening right now with our use, abuse, and slaughter of billions of sentient animals.

Lastly all of this might bring us back to the question of whether animals can emote, feel pain, and exhibit other characteristics so long thought to be uniquely human.   For a number of reasons, in my mind there is no doubt that they do.  (Perhaps the very fact of being human is the limitation in comprehending animal suffering since we are so full of ourselves.)  I feel that it is in the synergy of "secular" works such as "When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals", "The Emperor's Embrace: Reflections on Fatherhood and Animal Families", "The Parrot's Lament", "Animal Angels", etc., and Christian writings such as "Animal Gospel" or "God's Covenant With Animals", etc., that we might be better equipped to share our concerns with all humans.

As for whether animals have souls or not, I like what Henry Beston had to say:

"... In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth."

In Peace,

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