My former step-mother-in-law, Kathy, used to say that I was filled with grandiose notions of savings animals. Have you ever been told such things? In her case, she was trying to comfort me after the Northern Red Flicker committed bird suicide by kitchen window right in front of me as I sipped my morning coffee in the company of her family. I ran outside those French glass doors of the log home we were vacationing deep in the Lodge Pole Pine forest, picked him up and cradled him in my hands, as his still-warm body grew cold and lifeless. I cried so hard and for so long, I became inconsolable. Rather than join the family for group rock climbing in Southern Colorado for the day, Kathy took me to a bagel shop in town that morning, trying to console me further into reason and reality.
She was a beautiful therapist, and I miss her greatly.
I never did accept her counsel, though, that in caring so deeply for all that happens to animals is an expression of grandiosity. But I was successful in drafting the family to accompany me to the craft store later that afternoon to buy black poster board, scissors and tape. Together at the dining room table, we cut out bird silhouettes to tape onto the squeaky-clean, smudge-free picture windows in that beautiful home. Windex may be a favorite in the homes of an idealized housewife, but such transparency is fatal to thousands of birds every year.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably of the same heart and mind as me – a devout animal lover. For me, I’ve been tuned into the wants and needs of animals the whole of my life, and Jesus and Julie (my good friend, to whom I’ve often cried about their plight) know they fall prey often to the ills and suffering of this world. They lack the one thing that might help them survive:
Having a voice would empower them, allowing them to feel heard. It would afford them equality in instances where they are being exploited, abused or disenfranchised. If animals had a voice, their lives would be different.
Why do you think there’ve been so many attempts to give voice to animals in animation? Disney has been a mainstay in our culture for such proposition: Having a voice fleshes out a disposition, character or personality more readily. It allows one to seen and felt, our needs better understood. (Didn’t we all skip a trip to Chic Filet after seeing Chicken Run?)
By the same token, cultivating consciousness and heightening awareness for the lives of animals can accomplish the same goal – seeing and caring better for them. Consciousness is rising: many are doing so all the time. More people ascribe to vegan and vegetarian diets to not only live healthier with less environmental impact (we all know vegetarianism reduces cow farts), but because they simply don’t want to support the cruelty of factory farming. More people are adopting a homeless dog rather than buying from a breeder because they recognize the nightmare end others in power have in mind for that dog by way of a small, dark gas chamber. (Some of us can hardly know the intimate details of such atrocities — it gives us literal nightmares for days.)
Still others sign up to travel to faraway places to teach villagers the value of an elephant’s life or the intrinsic beauty of a chimpanzee.
All these people – and more – have been awakened to the diverse beauty and inherent, heartwarming joy found in the wag of a rescued tail or the feel of a warm muzzle. All have seen the intrinsic value of an animal, and choose to partner with and care for them as a result. And so many more are giving voice to the animals that have stolen their hearts, for the same reason as I.
Being a voice for the well being and unfettered existence of animals is a priority of the heart for any of us so connected. For me, to turn away from their needs is akin to soul-suicide. I can no more fall silent in the urgent presence of an animal in need as a mother could from her child. When I speak up for the most vulnerable and fragile born into life, I speak up for the helpless, fragile and beautiful parts of me. On both counts, these are needs worth giving voice to.