On the practice of non-harming



Reading Alfred Russell Wallace’s book The Malay Archipelago and thinking how sad it was that this learned, self-taught naturalist thought nothing of blasting Orang-utans (which means “man of the forest”) out of trees with a shotgun, wounding them over and over till they hid and made a protective nest in the canopy to lay down in agony while their life dripped from the branches like sap.  Sometimes they fell and sometimes they stayed there and Wallace had to employ “natives” to cut down the tree.  All so he could skin them and sell the pelt.  I think of how little we have learned and grown.  I suspect someday we will say that once upon a time we caged up our mighty, sentient brothers and sisters – the elephant, the dolphin and whale, simply because we could, and because we could not speak their language.  Ah, but if we could speak their language and hear their anguish, their loneliness and isolation, what then?

What do you think?  Is it ok to cage up monkeys and infect them with flesh-wasting diseases so that humans don’t have to suffer?   In the past I thought I was opposed to any animal cruelty until I thought about my children suffering from some incurable disease…. and then I thought that I might be willing to sacrifice an entire species if it meant saving MY Child and insure that she would live on this Earth and share this life with me. I don’t think someone who is not a parent can understand the lengths a person would go to to protect their children. Is it selfishness?  My selfish genes yearning to continue on and on into the next generations?  Is it the hubris of being human? Duality in disguise, for sure….Now that they’re grown, I don’t have to make that choice, but would I choose differently?  Would I run amok in the forests of Borneo and slaughter our he or she-cousins in the trees to save MY little ones?  Depends on the day….