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November 11, 2009 > Ohlone Humane Society: When Elephants Weep...

Ohlone Humane Society: When Elephants Weep...

By Nancy Lyon

This time of year is filled with feelings of giving, compassion and love, and one can only hope that these best qualities of human nature will be extended to all sentient beings. Sadly, many people choose to live in ignorance and still question whether non-human animals are capable of complex emotions or even more perplexing... even that they are self-aware. Those that hold on to these archaic beliefs often use them as convenient reasoning to justify what many of us consider acts of inhumanity to our fellow earthlings.

To counter this lapse, many insightful books are available to dispel these mistaken beliefs. Here are a few reading suggestions that would make wonderful and inspiring gifts this time of the year. I've chosen a few of my well-loved favorites.

The first looks deeply in the complex emotional lives of a multitude of species - something that the author of When Elephants Weep by Jeffery M. Masson states is akin to heresy to many scientists. The forward states it far better than I could -"He writes chapters on love, joy, anger, fear, shame, compassion, and loneliness, all framed by a provocative reevaluation of how we treat animals, When Elephants Weep is the first book since Darwin's time to explore the full range of emotions throughout the animal kingdom, and it features a cast of hundreds."

There is Siri, the Indian elephant, whose impressive sketches have been praised by artists Willem and Elaine de Kooning. Koko, a bashful gorilla proficient in sign language who loves to play house with dolls-but only when no one is looking - and Michael, another signing gorilla, who could not be disturbed whenever Pavarotti was singing on television. Then there's Moja, the joyful mongoose who waltzes with squirrels; Toto, the steadfast chimpanzee who literally nursed his malaria-stricken human observer back to health; and Alex, an African gray parrot with an astonishing vocabulary, who, when left at the veterinarian's office, shrieked, "Come here! I love you. I'm sorry. I want to go back."

Famed anthropologist Dr.Jane Goodall states - "This is not only an important book, it is marvelous! If animals could read they would be filled with joy and gratitude to the authors - as I am. It is scholarly, vivid, and compelling. Please read it."

My second choice is a scholarly work by Dr. Andrew Lindzey titled Why Animal Suffering Matters. Dr. Lindzey is Director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics and a member of the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University in England and has been called "A warhorse of the of the animal rights movement, and one of its leading intellectuals."

The conclusion in Why Animal Suffering Matters sums up much of the book: "Concern for animal suffering, like concern for the suffering of young children, ought reasonably to arise from the following considerations: their inability to give or withhold their consent, their inability to verbalize or represent their interests, their inability to comprehend, their moral innocence or blamelessness, and, not least of all, their relative defenselessness and vulnerability. These considerations, and the sheer volume of animal suffering, are masked, minimized, or obfuscated by a range of powerful psychological and linguistic mechanisms that prevent us from directly confronting our treatment of animals as a moral issue" His most important point being that whatever differences exist between humans and animals, they are not necessarily morally different.

My final choice is wonderful and moving true story- Where the Blind Horse Sings: Love and Healing at an Animal Sanctuary by Kathy Stevens. It is a favorite of our granddaughter Jenny who has read and read it.

It is a wonderfully heartwarming book that gives you insight into the lives of the animals at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. It's written by the founder and director Kathy Stevens whose life journey lead her to a deeper and meanful life purpose. It is about faith, trust, hope, tenacity and heartfelt compassion for those sentient beings around us who so want and need our care. It is a place of refuge where animals are sung to and kissed goodnight.

You will meet amazing creatures who were rescued from various bad situations and have come to have wonderful lives on this farm. They blossom from frightened and traumatized animals that had little reason to trust humans into individuals with distinct and fascinating personalities.

Rambo the ram was forced to live for years in an overcrowded pen with many sheep and attacked any human foolish enough to come close. Through love and understanding, Rambo changed into the sanctuary guardian angel that warned when other animals were in trouble. And a blind horse named Buddy who had been condemned to death by his old owners but soon learned to gallop again. And then there's Paulie, the fierce rooster, forced to fight and ready to attack... but that's a story I won't spoil for you.

While we love our companion animals, we often give little thought to the lives, personalities and emotions of cows, pigs, chickens and sheep. It's especially good for people who aren't familiar with animals raised for food.

Many sanctuary inhabitants are farmed animals rescued from human cruelty and neglect. Without sounding preachy or judgmental, Kathy weaves in information about standard abusive farming practices, how many of us unknowingly support animal cruelty, and how our daily choices can change the world for the better.

Each animal's story is told with affection and often with great humor; definitely not a downer. There are a few tears but also abundant laughter and joy. It's probably one of the most uplifting books I have ever read. Most of all it's about the power of love and kindness.

Margret Meade, the renowned anthropologist stated "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Be sure to read these uplifting and moving books and share them with others.

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