What is cruelty? We all know, of course, that it’s cruel to hit an animal, or to hurt them in any violent or physical way. This is known as ‘overt’ cruelty: it’s pretty obvious that behaviour of this type is cruel.
The other form of cruelty is ‘covert’. It’s hidden and less obvious. Sometimes we’re cruel by accident and omission. The Buddha refused to walk on grass in case he accidentally trod on insects and harmed them. We can all harm our loved-ones when we’re unconscious of their needs and feelings.
Sometimes we can be cruel to our animals when we follow others blindly. Do you remember when choke chains were all the rage, and dog trainers encouraged us to smack our dogs on their noses? We thought it was alright at the time, just because other people thought it was alright. Frankly, when we think something just because everyone else thinks it, we’re generally not thinking.
Cruelty can occur because we don’t know any better. Leaving a puppy outside in the hot summer sun all day while we go to work might not be deliberately cruel, but it could cause harm to the puppy nevertheless. Leaving a dog in the car in the heat of the sun is also cruel, even though no-one would cause suffering like this on purpose. It’s really a case of not understanding, not thinking.
Let us ask you this: if you had a child, would you think you were being loving, kind and responsible if you fed your child nothing but processed dry, so-called ‘complete and balanced’ baby food every day – and nothing else? Common sense might tell you that this wouldn’t be enough to help a baby to grow and thrive. And yet we feed this stuff to our dogs because everyone else seems to think it’s alright.
Feeding dry kibble and nothing else to our dogs is an act of cruelty. Diseases of malnutrition are the bread and butter income for most veterinary surgeons. We wouldn’t do this if we knew better.
Some people never listen to their dogs. They issue commands and believe that they need to be pack leaders, when really all they need to be is dependable, loving, and considerate friends for their dogs.
Ancient Hindu teachings say that we should treat all men as our honoured guests. We don’t see why this shouldn’t be extended to the animals. The word ‘respect’ means to pay heed to, to listen to. If we all respected our dogs, and listened to them, we would live in harmony with the animals. We’d be thinking of their needs and accepting the responsibility we have, and we’d honour the trust they place in us.
If you are lucky enough to share your home with a dog, your life will be enriched beyond measure if you understand that your dog is an individual – a person. As such, you’ll know that his needs must be considered in everything you do.
Most laws are formulated for the ‘masses', to keep order and control. But no matter how many laws we have, we cannot seem to stamp out cruelty to animals. Experimenting on animals in laboratories is lawful, for goodness sake.
When human beings put themselves above the animals, then cruelty is guaranteed. But if we considered ourselves to be different but equal, then we might automatically become less cruel, more compassionate, and more empathic. If we would just listen to the dogs, tune into their feelings and their needs, we would be better human beings, and the animals would be better off.
A to Z