By Kerri Romeo
“…she succeeded in getting its body tucked away, comfortably enough, under her arm, with its legs hanging down, but generally, just as she had got its neck nicely straightened out, and was going to give the hedgehog a blow with its head, it would twist itself round and look up in her face, with such a puzzled expression…”Alice in Wonderland, Chapter VIII
Is anyone else as puzzled as the flamingo in Wonderland with how we treat animals? How easy was it to overlook the animal cruelty in this chapter of Alice in Wonderland? What about in real life? From sport and human entertainment (zoos, bull-fighting, circuses, aquariums, horse races, horse carriages, elephant rides and other tourist attractions to name a few) to medical and cosmetic experimentation, factory farming and outright animal abuse and cruelty that we prefer to avoid knowing about (if we close our eyes does it cease to exist?), animal advocacy is often brushed aside as less important, forgotten or only for angry radicals. Why do we believe being human is superior to all other living beings? Can animals be our greatest teachers?
Animal advocacy is not a modern social movement that only just began in the 1980’s with PETA. Alice in Wonderland author, Lewis Carroll, may have been influenced by a rise in interest in animal welfare in Britain with the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1824 by a small group of volunteers, which later was awarded royal status by Queen Victoria as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in 1840. While power, money and religious dogma have a way of corrupting even the most well-intentioned organizations, the message remains clear — animals deserve to be protected from pain and suffering at the hands of mankind. Not only upholding moral standing, criminals were charged and new laws were passed while the influence spread internationally.
“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.”
Martin Buber (from I and Thou, 1923)
How often have you heard someone rationalize cruelty with the belief that animals do not feel? People have not caught up to the scientific proclamation in 2012 that animals are sentient beings with awareness and emotion.
Without the human mind to justify (and distort just about any harmful actions, choices and policies), could an animal’s perception be more pure and reliable? Animals have family values. They protect and nurture their children. They understand cooperation. They communicate more effectively without needing words. They have an innate intellect. They only take from nature what is needed, nothing more. They recognize nature as their natural habitat. Their natural instinct supports the balance of the ecosystem rather than the destruction of it backed by false claims and propaganda. Could our political Wonderland use some lessons from the animal kingdom?
(Let’s start by not referring to politicians as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Wolves deserve better than such a degradation.)
Whether you agree or disagree with science or can or cannot embody Buber’s I and Thou philosophy of interrelation between all beings, what have you personally learned through your experience of animals? How do you feel about animals? (Are you the type that cries when an animal hurts in a movie?) How would the world look different if we revered animals? Would we be more kind, gentle and compassionate?
Bonus points for sharing your favorite animal video and/or a favorite pic of your animal companion(s).
Continue to explore Alice’s next puzzling experience in Magical Morality.
The Wonderland Campaign Discussion Group will be having its first official meeting this Saturday, April 10, 2021 at 3 PM Eastern Time (2 PM Central, 12 PM Pacific). Click here to learn more.
Kerri is an advocate for the introverted activist. Often at a loss for words in person, she writes to make sense of the world and connect with others. She wishes for more curiosity & kindness in the world.