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Montaigne thinks it some reflection upon human nature itself that few people take delight in seeing beasts caress or play together, but almost every one is pleased to see them lacerate and worry one another. I am sorry this temper is become almost a distinguishing character of our own nation, from the observation which is made by foreigners of our beloved
pastimes, bear-baiting, cock-fighting, and the like. We should find it hard to vindicate the destroying of any thing that has life, merely out of wantonness; yet in this principle our children are bred up, and one of the first pleasures we allow them is the licence of inflicting pain upon poor animals : almost as soon as we are sen. sible what life is ourselves, we make it our sport to take it from ather creatures. I cannot but believe a very good use might be made of the fancy which children have for birds and insects. Mr. Locke takes notice of a mother who permitted them to her children, but rewarded or punished them as they treated them well or ill. This was no other than entering them betimes into a daily exercise of humanity, and improving their very diversion to a virtue.
I fancy too, some advantage might be taken of the common notion, that 'tis ominous or unlucky to destroy some sorts of birds, as swallows and martins. This opinion might possibly arise from the confidence these birds seem to put in us by building under our roofs, so that it is a kind of violation of the laws of hospitality to murder them. As for robin-red-breasts in particular, 'tis not improbable they hold their security to the old ballad of The Children in the Wood. However it be, I don't know, I say, why this pre. judice, well improved and carried as far as it would go, might not be made to conduce to the preservation of
many innocent creatures, which are now exposed to all the wantonness of an ignorant barbarity.
There are other animals that have the misfortune, for no manner of reason, to be treated as common
enemies wherever found. The conceit that a cat has mine lives, has cost at least nine lives in ten of the whole race of them : scarce a boy in the streets but has in this point outdone Hercules himself, who was famous for killing a monster that had but three lives. Whether the unaccountable animosity against this useful domestic be any cause of the general persecu. tion of owls (who are a sort of feathered cats), or whether it be only an unreasonable pique the moderns have taken to a serious countenance, I shall not determine. Though I am inclined to believe the former ; since I observe the sole reason alleged for the destruction of frogs is because they are like toads. Yet amidst all the misfortunes of these unfriended creatures, 'tis some happiness that we have not yet taken a fancy to eat them : for should our countrymen refine upon the French never so little, 'tis not to be conceived to what unheard of torments owls, cats, and frogs may be yet reserved.
When we grow up to men, we have another succession of sanguinary sports; in particular, hunting. I dare not attack a diversion which has such authority and custom to support it; but must have leave to be of opinion, that the agitation of that exercise, with the example and number of the chasers, not a little contribute to resist those checks, which compassion would naturally suggest in behalf of the animal pursued. Nor shall I say with Monsieur Fleury, that this sport is a remain of the Gothic barbarity; but I must animadvert upon a certain custom yet in use with us, and barbarous enough to be derived from the Goths, or even the Scythians ; I mean that savage compliment our huntsmen pass upon ladies of quality, who are present at the death of a stag, when they put the knife in their hands to cut the throat of a helpless, trembling, and weeping creature :
But if our sports are destructive, our gluttony is more so, and in a more inhuman manner. Lobsters roasted alive, pigs whipped to death, fowls sewed up, are testimonies of our outrageous luxury. Those, who (as Seneca expresses it) divide their lives betwixt 'an anxious conscience, and a nauseated stomach, have a just reward of their gluttony in the diseases it brings with it: for human savages, like other wild beasts, find snares and poison in the provisions of life, and are allured by their appetite to their destruction. I know nothing more shocking, or horrid, than the prospect of one of their kitchens covered with blood, and filled with the cries of creatures expiring in tortures. It gives one an image of a giant's den in a romance, bestrewed with the scattered heads and mangled limbs of those who were slain by his cruelty.
The excellent Plutarch (who has more strokes of good-nature in his writings than I remember in any author) cites a saying of Cato to this effect : “ That “ 'tis no easy task to preach to the belly which has
Yet if (says he) we are ashamed to be so out of fashion as not to offend, let us at least of. 6 fend with some discretion and measure. If we kill " an animal for our provision, let us do it with the “ meltings of compassion, and without tormenting it. “ Let us consider, that 'tis in its own nature cruelty " to put a living creature to death; we at least de“stroy a soul that has sense and perception.” In the life of Cato the Censor, he takes occasion, from the severe disposition of that man, to discourse in this manner : “ It ought to be esteemed a happiness to “ mankind, that our humanity has a wider sphere to 6 exert itself in, than bare justice. It is no more “ than the obligation of our very birth to practise 66 equity to our own kind; but humanity may be ex“ tended through the whole order of creatures, even " to the meanest ; such actions of charity are the “ over-flowings of a mild good-nature on all below
It is certainly the part of a well-natured man " to take care of his horses and dogs, not only in « expectation of their labour while they are foals and “ whelps, but even when their old age has made them. « incapable of service."
History tells us of a wise and polite nation, that rejected a person of the first quality, who stood for a judiciary office, only because he had been observed in his youth to take pleasure in tearing and murdering of birds. And of another, that expelled a man out of the senate for dashing a bird against the ground which had taken shelter in his bosom. Every one knows how remarkable the Turks are for their hu. manity in this kind. I remember an Arabian author, who has written a treatise to shew, how far a man, supposed to have subsisted in a desart island, without any instruction, or so much as the sight of any
other man, may, by the pure light of nature, attain the knowledge of philosophy and virtue. One of the first things he makes him observe is, that universal benevolence of nature in the protection and preservation of its creatures. In imitation of which, the first act of virtue he thinks his self-taught philosopher would of course fall into is, to relieve and assist all the animals about him in their wants and distresses.
Ovid has some very tender and pathetic lines applicable to this occasion :
Quid meruistis, oves, placidum pecus, inque tegendos
nobis vestras velamina lanas Præbetis; vitaque magis quam morte juvatis. Quid meruere boves, animal sine fraude dolisque, Innocuum, simplex, natum tolerare labores ? Immemor est demum, nec frugum munere dignus, Qui potuit, curvi dempto modo pondere aratri, Ruricolam mactare suum Quam male consuevit, quam se parat ille cruori Impius humano, vituli qui guttúra cultro Rumpit, et immotas præbet mugitibus aures ! Aut qui vagitus similes puerilibus hædum Edentem jugulare potest!
Perhaps that voice or cry so nearly resembling the human, with which Providence has endued so many different animals, might purposely be given them to move our pity, and prevent those cruelties we are too apt to inflict on our fellow-creatures.
There is a passage in the book of Jonas, when God declares his unwillingness to destroy Nineveh, where, methinks, that compassion of the Creator, which ex. tends to the meanest rank of his creatures, is expressed with wonderful tenderness" Should I not spare “ Nineveh the great city, wherein are more than six“ score thousand persons--and also much cattle :)” And we have in Deuteronomy a precept of great good nature of this sort, with a blessing in form an. nexed to it in those words : “ If thou shalt find a “ bird's nest in the way, thou shalt not take the dam “ with the young : but thou shalt in any wise let the : “ dam go, that it may be well with thee, and that “ thou may'st prolong thy days."
To conclude, there is certainly a degree of gratitude owing to those animals that serve us; as for such as are mortal or noxious, we have a right to destroy them; and for those that are neither of advantage nor prejudice to us, the common enjoyment of life is what I cannot think we ought to deprive them of.
This whole matter with regard to each of these considerations, is set in a very agreeable light in one of the Persian fables of Pilpay, with which I shall end
A traveller passing through a thicket, and seeing a few sparks of a fire, which some passengers had kindled as they went that way before, made up to it. On a sudden the sparks caught hold of a bush, in the midst of which lay an adder, and set it in flames. The adder intreated the traveller's assistance, who tying a bag to the end of his staff reached it, and drew him out: he then bid him go where he pleased, but never more be hurtful to men, since he owed his