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Posts Tagged ‘kindness to animals’

One of my favorite Christmas/holiday videos. Thanks to our friends across the pond at the RSPCA. Brilliantly and lovingly done.

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When I was a child of  10 or 11, my Dad suggested we all go fishing at Cooper’s Pond in the town nearby. He made it sound like fun, so off we went.

CoopersPond-1bCooper’s Pond was a lovely park, the same place our family went to enjoy picnics or walking. On these outings, I brought along my Brownie camera that I’d been given at 9 years old, and I loved taking photos of the ducks on the pond as well as feeding them. What wouldn’t be enjoyable about fishing?

We didn’t have real fishing poles, just long sticks to which my Dad had secured some kind of line, maybe string, with a hook on the end. On the hooks, we put a piece of bread, and then we cast our lines into the water. It didn’t take long before I got a nibble, and something tugged at my line. My father got all excited, and instructed me to pull it toward me and then lift it out of the water.

There on the end of my line was a carp, probably only about 7″ long, writhing and twisting to free itself of the hook I had managed to snag in its sensitive mouth. I was horrified that I was the cause of this poor creature to be flailing about so, and I immediately began to cry, screaming, “Daddy, take it off! Daddy, take it off!” Daddy removed the hook from the fish and gently let him go back in the water, but I was inconsolable.

Who was I to have caused this animal such pain and make him fight for his life? As a child, I had not been able to make the connection between “having fun fishing” and the reality of a fish writhing on the end of my hook until I saw the results firsthand. I was heartbroken, I who fed all the ducks in that exact same spot, I who loved all animals from the earliest age I can remember.

It wasn’t until many years later, even still, that I made the next major connection that the meat or fish I cooked and ate had once been a sentient being. This is not what we’re ever told as children. The meat or fish served at meals appeared as a finished dish, prepared in some usually delicious way. One had nothing to do with the other.

The constantly evolving realization over time that the food on my plate had indeed been a living creature … and one who most likely suffered enormously before getting to my plate … enabled me to gradually eliminate almost all meat and fish from my diet in recent years. This is a plus as I move along the path to becoming vegan, but the earliest seeds of this transformation were sown when a little girl went fishing and found a humble carp to be her teacher.

Here is a dilemma I ponder nowadays … how, in writing children’s books, can I impart to young readers, without scaring them to death, of course,  that the animals they eat for dinner are no different in their capacity for contentment or pain than the animals they love as pets? That animals from chickens to elephants, honeybees to pigs, have complex lives of their own, social structures, families, attachments to their babies, and that maybe it’s not the right thing – the kind thing – to use them for our own ends, to cause them such suffering.  Is it enough to simply engender a love and appreciation of animals?

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