Our relationships with nonhuman animals (animals) are complicated, frustrating, ambiguous, paradoxical, and range all over the place. When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them, I tell them I`m glad they don`t love me. We observe animals, gawk at them in wonder, experiment on them, eat them, wear them, write about them, draw and paint them, move them from here to there as we “redecorate nature.” “Redecorating nature” refers to the global tendency, almost a human obsession, to move into the living rooms of other animals with little or no regard for what we`re doing to them, their friends, and their families. We unrelentingly intrude because there are too many of us and because it`s so easy for us to do. We also shamelessly over-consume.
Animals are constantly asking us in their own ways to treat them better or leave them alone. What might their manifesto look like? Basically, animals want to be treated better or left alone, and they`re fully justified in making this request. We must stop ignoring their gaze and closing our hearts to their pleas. We can easily do what they ask – to stop causing them unnecessary pain, suffering, loneliness, sadness, and death, even extinction. It`s a matter of making different choices: about how we conduct research, about how we entertain ourselves, about what we buy, where we live, who we eat, who we wear, and even family planning.
Like any good manifesto, there is a call for action that must be a gentle call for action that mixes facts with values. We all need to raise our consciousness about the lives of our fellow animals and change the current paradigm, in which those who work on behalf of animals and the environment are seen as “radicals” or “extremists.” No one should be an apologist for passion and no one should be ashamed or shamed for feeling.
This animal manifesto is a plea to regard animals as fellow sentient, emotional beings, to recognize the cruelty that too often defines our relationship with them, and to change that by acting compassionately on their behalf. To a very large extent we control the lives of other animals. We`re their lifeguards. It`s essential that we move rapidly to make kindness and compassion the basis of our interactions with animals. We shouldn`t be afraid to make changes that improve animals` lives. Indeed, we should embrace them. Such changes will only help heal our world and ourselves.
The late theologian Thomas Berry stressed that our relationship with Nature should be one of awe, not one of use. Individuals have inherent or intrinsic value because they exist, and this alone mandates that we coexist with them. All animals, including humans, have a right to lives of dignity and respect, without forced intrusions. We need to accept all beings as and for who they are. All animals, all beings, deserve respectful consideration simply for the fact that they exist.