A Righteous Man Regardeth the Life of His Beast
In England the cruel treatment of animals is a crime punishable by law: and there is a “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” which does good work in bringing brutes who maltreat dumb creatures to justice. The Bible says, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast”, thus making kindness and justice to domestic animals an essential part of human virtue. Those animals, such as the horse, dog, donkey and mule, which men have bred and trained for their own use, have a special claim on our mercy and justice ; the more so as they are dumb and helpless in our hands, and cannot plead their own cause. The man who starves his horse, beats his dog, or unmercifully overloads his ass, is a brute and a bully. He is also a fool; for even a selfish slave-owner knows that it is to his own advantage to have slaves well-fed and well cared for. And yet when we think of what many of these dumb creatures suffer at the hands of men, it is enough to make angels weep. As the poet Blake said :-
“A captive Redbreast in a cage
Sets all Heaven in a rage.”
A great deal of cruelty to animals is due simply to thoughtlessness and lack of imagination. People do not al-ways mean to be cruel; they just do not think. How many happy wild birds are caught and kept in small cages to please us with their songs! People think nothing of it, and imagine that if they keep the bird well-fed and its cage clean, it will be quite happy. But how can a wild thing which has been used to flying in the sky in boundless liberty, ever be happy cooped up in a narrow space ? Its songs should fill us with remorse rather than give us any pleasure. We can-not excuse our cruelty on the ground of thoughtlessness. It is our duty to think ; and no one who cannot enter into the feelings of an animal and sympathize with it in its weakness and helplessness, should be allowed to own one.
One cannot here discuss the question of killing animals for food. But if men must have meat to eat, it is their duty to see that such animals are killed painlessly. It makes one shudder to think what tortures sheep and oxen have to undergo at the hands of brutal men in unregulated slaughter-houses.