It’s easy to be kind to a fluffy puppy.
I had been looking for a little Australian shepherd and Border Collie puppy for a long time. They are hard to find in Montana because everyone wants one. I needed a buddy on my long runs, a snow bunny to chase on backcountry ski days, and a companion to enrich my life in general.
Enter Susan, the cutest puppy alive.
The place she came from was a cabin-esque type of home located on the banks of the Clark Fork River. Her human parents were an old man wearing Wranglers and a cowboy hat, a loving grandma, and their grandson. Susan’s biological family consisted of a mom and ten brothers and sisters. My darling boyfriend handed the old couple a check, and Susan came home with us.
And while it is hard to be nice to Susan while she is chewing on my face and peeing on and around my clogs, training her is a meditation in patience for me.
It is difficult to be calm with the constant energy and scratching and whining all day. The shock collar is a tempting option, but in the end it isn’t challenging to treat this precious creature with compassion. But Susan is making me think.
The Buddha taught us that humans should be kind to all sentient beings—all sentient beings.
Not just cute puppies. And while hitting or neglecting domestic creatures is one problem, the way we treat our world and each other as a whole is another troubling matter.
And the Dalai Lama said that,
“[k]illing animals for sport, for pleasure, for adventure, and for hides and furs is a phenomena which is at once disgusting and distressing. There is no justification for indulging in such acts of brutality.”
And there is more cruelty happening than many of us realize.
Type any of the following into YouTube and see what happens. I did not post pictures because they are too gruesome; if you want to see pictures (I don’t know why you would), just type any of these topics into Google Images. Many of these cruel practices are unintentional, legal, or even encouraged by both governmental and non-governmental authorities.
This is what we are doing to the world’s creatures:
1. Festivals that involve animal cruelty.
One of these occurs in Spain and involves throwing a live goat off of a tower. Bullfighting is another practice that is cruel to animals. Cockfighting happens worldwide and it is an inhumane practice too.
2. Dog fighting.
This involves training dogs to fight each other, and in the process, smaller dogs are used as “baiting” animals. While this isn’t legal, it is common.
This is how most dairy and meat products in the U.S. are produced. It involves keeping animals inside (no sunlight or movement needed), feeding or injecting them with steroids to make them grow at an accelerated rate and keeping them in cages so small that they cannot move.
Perhaps the most inhumane practice involved in factory farming is the mass freezing, drowning, or grinding of baby male chicks. Since they cannot lay eggs, they are often used for packaging padding in shipment after they are killed en masse.
4. Traditional Chinese Medicine.
While I am a fan of natural remedies or more holistic forms of medicine, this practice utilizes endangered species in many of its remedies.
One of horrendous practices within this realm of cruelty involves taking a rhino’s horn and leaving it to live in pain afterward. Tigers’ bones and fur are sought after, so they are, in turn, poached at a rate that leaves them endangered.
5. The ivory trade.
I saw the results of this while I was in Thailand, and it is more prevalent in parts of Africa. It affects walrus, narwhal, and elephants. And many of the objects made from ivory are stupid and useless, so the animals die in vain.
Elephants continue to die in both Asia and Africa, though the ivory trade is banned. Many government officials are bribed or paid to ignore the activity, so it continues. You can still buy carved ivory goods at markets in Bangkok, and so the trade continues.
The elephants and other animals are bludgeoned, shot en masse at watering holes with machine guns, or tranquilized with fatal dart guns.
6. Fake Hunting.
I am not talking about the type of hunting in which an individual sits in a tree stand all morning and waits to shoot an animal with a gun or a bow. I am talking about the type of hunting in which an outfitter will use helicopters to locate herds of elk, and then rich people pay the outfitter to show them the herd and tell them where to point their guns.
I’ve seen this in Montana, and I think it is despicable, unethical, and unsportsmanlike.
7. Horse and Greyhound Racing.
I don’t think I need to explain this—these animals suffer from over-exertion so that we can see them win an event that does them no good.
8. Puppy Farms.
This is perhaps the most common—and unknown—form of cruelty in the U.S. today.
If you bought a puppy or a kitten at a pet store, it probably came from one of these inhumane places. The puppy mill operates somewhat like a whorehouse; the breeding dogs are kept there and bred over and over again until they are physically unable to reproduce anymore. They do not receive veterinary or grooming attention and they often live their whole lives covered in their own feces and urine.
The puppies are taken away from their mothers too early, and often kept in buckets until they are ready to be shipped out for sale. Many dogs die and they are simply thrown away when this happens.
Do not buy a dog from a pet store. Adopt or buy from a reputable breeder, and make sure you see where the puppy and his/her parents come from.
It all needs to stop. Now.
There are more things we do to hurt animals, but I think and I hope you get the point by now. Because people think it is okay to treat animals this way, we begin treating other humans like this as well.
This is why the Buddha taught us to be kind to animals: because compassion is inseparable and does not discriminate among species.
Be kind to other people. Be kind to your own pets. Speak out against those who are doing these things. Feel the pain of these creatures who have no voice to speak out with. Spend an extra buck to eat organic, range-fed, cruelty-free meat and dairy, or don’t eat it at all.
Be mindful of what you do, because your actions and habits affect other souls.
Most of all, be patient and love your pet, because he or she loves you and needs you more than you know.
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Ed: Catherine Monkman