Why the “Circle of Life” Fails as an Excuse for Animal Exploitation
I ran into a woman at the gym today who was visibly distraught, as she had seen a dead cat on the road on her way to work out. Tears came to her eyes, not only thinking of the poor kitty but also thinking that he/she was likely someone’s beloved pet, as she noticed the fur was pure white and clean.
I saw the kindness, the tenderness, the sensitivity in this woman’s eyes, but I also saw something so familiar: a shame, an embarrassment, a sense that somehow she was just too sensitive and would be judged for it.
I assured her I felt her pain, I knew exactly what she was going through, as so many times I agonized seeing a cat or dog killed on the road, hoping the animal didn’t suffer and also hoping the human(s) who had loved the creature never had to see the body like that.
She opened up to me, telling me that she got her sensitive nature from her father, who had grown up in a family of hunters in Vermont, and was the only boy in the family who refused to hunt.
She recounted how distressed he was at how his father and brothers loved bringing home dead creatures, mounting their heads on the walls of the house. He would shield his daughters eyes in later years so she couldn’t see the carcasses hanging up on his father’s property.
She said her friends try to get her to realize that it’s just “the circle of life” and that she shouldn’t be upset by it, implying that to be distressed at nature’s way is somehow faulty or wrong, showing a lack of maturity (when in fact it’s the very essence of the best of our mature humanity: empathy).
Humans use the circle of life as an excuse to justify just about any brutality towards other animals you can name.
Yes, nature and the circle of life is quite brutal, but mankind has always had a little voice inside him that encourages mercy and compassion.
How else can we explain the laws of man that we create and abide by to rise above the harshness of nature?
We see that animals go purely by instinct when they kill, and that can mean killing members of their own species, including infanticide.
We have laws against killing except in self-defense, and we don’t subscribe to the “Law of the Jungle” in our society (no matter how much it might sometimes seem that way).
When our old, weak and sick need care, we protect them, we don’t let them suffer and die.
Why on earth would we want to pattern our behavior after the indifferent example of nature, where might makes right?
Animal advocates are only asking that isn’t it time that mankind extend his compassion to the other sentient creatures (not just our pets) we share this world with?
We have been given the innate ability to feel mercy for other creatures, unlike the lion who is acting purely out of self-preservation and can’t be expected to feel the fear and suffering of her prey.
Man will claim he is much better than other animals and therefore nothing like them, but when it suits his desires he’ll suddenly claim he’s just doing as they do.
We can’t have it both ways.
We always brag about how we’re so much more intelligent than other animals, how we are superior in our intellectual reasoning, and that we alone follow a moral code, an innate sense of right and wrong, an ability to feel the suffering of others and avoid causing unnecessary pain and death.
My deepest wish is that we’ll soon start acting like it; and with the rise of the vegan movement, there is evidence that we are in fact finally headed in that direction.