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Connect with animals
Children the world over are captivated by animals, real or imagined, from the first sight of a baby chick emerging from her shell, to the beloved animal characters portrayed in stories like Charlotte's Web. Interaction with animals, even the mere sight of them, commonly generates excitement, wonder and delight. This is especially the case for those who have not been taught that animals exist in order to serve human wants and needs, or that animals for whom humans have no use are considered "pests," to be exterminated. The Peaceable Practice of connecting with animals invites us to rediscover the part of ourselves that once could see other animals for the wondrous beings they are, the part of us that intuitively grasped how much all of us who dwell upon this earth have in common, and how intertwined our fates truly are.
Chief Seattle, the great Native American teacher, once said, "What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected."
Connecting with animals means working through the ignorance, fear, and preconceived notions that interfere with our ability to relate to, identify with and respect members of other species. It means opening the door to a connection to the natural world and our own inner selves that so many of us hunger for, but have lost.
For the most part, we deal with the pain of being separated from other animals and the natural world through a kind of compulsion to control. Rather than making an effort to re-enter the natural world in a balanced way, and to relate to other animals on their own terms, we forcibly bring animals into an artificial world we have created and proceed to control every aspect of their unnatural existence.
We capture birds, tigers, elephants and primates, taking them out of their wild homes. We put them in cages, make them perform for our amusement and profit or endure the grotesque torture of scientific experiments. We breed cats and dogs by the millions even as millions of the unwanted are gassed in animal control facilities. We round up and brutally massacre deer, coyotes and geese living in our suburbs, which were not so long ago their wild habitat. We frighten bears into climbing trees, and then shoot them down with enormously powerful weapons. We trap fox and raccoons for their furs, and pull sea mammals from the water with harpoons and hooks. We put millions of fish in little bowls and millions of lizards in little tanks. We breed into existence and take the lives of billions of animals of all sorts on farms.
In spite of it all, the pain inside us does not diminish. It only grows. "For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man," said Chief Seattle. In violating the animals' right to respectful treatment, in taking away their freedom and bending them to our wills, we are caging and mutilating our own spirits.
Connecting with animals means breaking free of the compulsion to control, and opening ourselves to a new, more humble way of relating to other animals and the natural world. It means taking the time to learn about the individual and the species. It means protecting and preserving the homes and natural habitats of those with whom we share our planet. It means taking photos from a respectful distance, not rifle shots. It means going out on the water not to lower fishing lines, but to remove trash. It means adopting animals from shelters and providing them with a safe and loving home for life. It means appreciating the animals rescued from farms and brought to a sanctuary, not eating them for dinner. It means spending time learning from other animals, listening to their unique voices, and doing our best to understand their languages.
Connecting with animals is ultimately a form of healing, one that can transform our consciousness from that of alienated dominators to that of balanced global citizens -- protectors, not exploiters, of the natural world.
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Learn to see animals as individuals
Connect with animals
Adopt a plant-based diet
Advocate for animals
Preserve, protect and restore animal habitats