Among the array of thoughts inducing anxiety that would escalate into a panic attack save a combined effort of will and the practicalities of daily living, one of the most wrenching is the escalating loss of entire species of animals from the planet.
Even writing that, my chest clenches and my heart and throat swell, and my alarmed consciousness reels between grief and disgust and a maddening sense of powerlessness. And a great sense of shame in the knowledge that our human race has failed so miserably in the prioritization of morality. What better gauge to measure our collective ability to resist the damning allure of power over the weak, than the denigration of animal lives whose ancestry preceded us all, and established the living cycles of the entire creation?
I am saddened when I read books about animals to my children, knowing that elephants and gorillas and tigers and so many others are only existing on a knife’s edge. I am sickened by the use of CGI to cast movies with inauthentic images of our animal brethren, knowing that some day they may only be “seen” by way of the same technology that had done so much to distract us from their plight. I avoid such films.
So many of the traditional stories of the Anishinaabek revolve around the superiority and generosity of our “elder brothers,” the animal nations. This intentional humbling of the human self was certainly in recognition of our dependence on all of the earth’s living beings. Just as important, humility in the presence of animals provided a crucial preventative to our species’ darker tendencies toward abuse and greed and exploitation.
If we could manage to care about and preserve the lives of animals, and grant them the space and dignity they deserve, the effort could also mean we save ourselves, ecologically and morally. It takes focused discipline to correctly love and esteem that which is irreplaceable. Though perhaps easily ignored, we dismiss the rights of animals at our collective heart’s peril. A danger to all lives.