When most people think of nature, their minds fill with soft, clean, green images such as those of a pristine river flowing through a meadow or a lush forest full with life. Our instinctual response to hearing this term is to think of the beautiful, peaceful and vibrant side of nature; to visualize spaces that teach us to slow down, to breathe deeply and to be conscious of the impact our choices make.
What do we have to learn from the darker side of “nature” though? How do we, as a species, instinctually respond to the sight of a mountain lion lapping up the oozing blood of its prey or a young lamb running from the wolves’ sharp teeth? The queasy heartache that rises within us from even the thought of such acts teaches us a powerful lesson about our place in this strange world.
Some animals are burdened with a predatory nature and the blood lust that must accompany it, but we are not. We are born instead with a strong natural aversion to violence and blood, to the act of preying upon another animal. We possess the ability to feel our fellow animals’ pain and fear, as if it were our own, and to choose to use this empathy to guide our judgment.
The shackles and weapons we have devised may allow us to distance ourselves from the cruel reality of capturing, imprisoning and killing our fellow animals. But they cannot shield us from the truth in our hearts.
The truth is that our bodies were made to drink from clear waters, to eat from strong trees and vibrant plants. To walk gently in this world. When we see the beauty in nature, it feeds our souls. And when we see the violence, our hearts ache with the weight of another’s suffering.
Why would we then deny our instincts? Why would we force ourselves to be a part of that violence? Because of custom? Family? Friends?
When we allow ourselves to connect to our natural, instinctual reactions once again, it becomes evident that the choice to eat, wear and use our fellow animals is a crime not only against them, but also against our true selves. We use the term veganism to describe this realization now, but this truth existed long before any term could be coined.
The love we have for our companion animals affirms this, as does the discomfort we feel when confronted with the violence and cruelty inherent in enslaving another sentient being.
In our search for peace on this planet we must begin once again to listen to that part in all of us that is uplifted by beauty and repelled by violence, in all its forms. It is not the voice of an extreme revolutionary. It is the voice of our loving hearts asking us once again to remember who we really are and to act in accord with our own true nature.