WE have a responsibility which must not be forgotten towards the animals which we draw around us.
This may be of two kinds, or rather of two degrees. A farmer in the course of his business has to deal
with a large number of animals which may be described as semi-domesticated. His duty towards them is
clearly to feed them well and to take all possible care to keep them in perfect health. He may sometimes
attach to himself some one of these, but on the whole his relation towards them is in the mass only,
and as they are yet far from the possibility of individualisation, it is not likely that his influence
over them can go far, or be more than a general one. His relation with them is, in fact, a business
relation, though he should look after them as carefully as though they were human.
The domestic animal is in fact a kind of younger child-- with this difference, that whereas the child is already an ego and has to be helped to control his new vehicles, the animal is not yet a separate ego and has to be helped to become one. The process of the individualisation of an animal has been often described; notes upon it may be found in A Text-book of Theosophy, The Inner Life, Man Visible and Invisible and The Christian Creed. A perusal of what is there written will show at once along what line our duties to the animals lie. We must endeavour to develop their affection and their intellect, and the principal factor in both those developments is the affection which we feel for them.
I have written at considerable length, in The Inner Life , Vol. ii, upon mistakes which are frequently made by men in their relation to domestic animals. All those mistakes are due to a selfish attitude with regard to the animal, an endeavour to employ him for the gratification of our own evil passions-- as, for example, when a dog is trained to hunt, and made in that way to do vastly more harm than his forefathers ever did as wild beasts in the jungle. For the wild beast kills only for food, when impelled to do so by hunger; but the dog is trained to kill for the pleasure of killing, and is thereby degraded in the scale of evolution instead of being raised.
Between the two categories, of really domestic animals and farm animals,
we may place the horse, for it comes into more individual relation with
the rider than does the farm animal, and yet at the same time it is far
from possessing the intelligence of the dog or the cat. It also must be
treated intelligently, and above all with unvarying kindness. The rider
should remember always that the horse does not exist solely to serve him,
but has an evolution of its own which it is his duty to forward. There is
no wrong in his utilising it to help him, because the association with
him may develop its affection and intelligence; but he must treat it
always as he would treat a human servant, and never forget its interest
while he is making it serve his own.
Bananaquits 2 by Allison L. Williams Hill
A student of the hidden side of life cannot but deprecate the practice of
keeping birds in cages. Perfect liberty and the sense of great open spaces
are of the very essence of the life of a bird, and his misery at being imprisoned
is often intense and most pathetic. This is always especially marked in the case
of those birds which are natives of the country, and all such ought certainly at once to be set free.
Foreign birds, which can live happily only in other climates, come under a different category. They also spend most of the time in memories of splendid tropical scenes, and in longing for the home from which they have been taken-- to which they ought to be sent back at the earliest possible moment. The sin there lies with those who originally caught them; and those who keep them now share in it only so far as that their action makes it profitable. A student who has already thoughtlessly acquired such birds as these, can hardly do other than keep them, unless he is in a position to return them to their native country; but he should provide them with the largest cages, and let them out of them to fly about the room as often as possible, while he certainly should not encourage a nefarious traffic by buying any more of such creatures.
The only rational and useful relation that we can establish with birds is that which occasionally exists in country places-- that food is regularly put out for the birds in a certain place and they come and take it, while remaining otherwise perfectly free. If a man wants to keep a bird, he should keep it precisely as he would keep a cat-- provide it with plenty of food and an abiding place whenever it chooses to accept it, but leave it otherwise free to go where it will. The difficulty in the way is that the bird' s intelligence is so much less developed than the cat' s that it would be more difficult to get it to understand the conditions of the arrangement. By far the best plan is to have nothing to do with foreign birds, but to try to make friends of the wild birds of the neighbourhood.
Individualisation is not a possibility, as the bird is not developing along our line; when it transcends the bird evolution is passes directly into one of the higher orders of nature-spirits. Nevertheless, kindness shown to birds arouses gratitude and affection in them, and helps them forward in their evolution.
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