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How to Extend Our Circle of Compassion

How to Extend Our Circle of Compassion

For several years I’ve wanted to give a TEDx talk about our ethical responsibilities towards nonhuman animals. My first TEDx in 2010, “The World Becomes What You Teach,” became among the top-rated and most viewed TEDx talks, so other invitations followed, but each time I was asked to speak about the themes that I touched upon in my first TEDx. This year, I was finally given the opportunity to speak about the animals. It was an honor to give voice to their suffering and attempt to inspire humane choices among viewers.

Here is a piece of what I said in the video above:

Every time we spend a dollar we are casting a vote that says, “Good job! Do it again!” When we buy the products of animal suffering and cruelty — whether in the form of food or by attending a marine park where whales or dolphins have been captured and imprisoned to perform for us or by killing or injuring an animal for sport or by purchasing a personal care item that’s been tested on animals — we unwittingly encourage more of the same. But when instead we choose foods and forms of enterainment and products that cause less harm and suffering and do more good, we are helping to bring about a more humane world.

It’s up to each of us to be willing to open our eyes and hearts and examine the effects of our choices, and to choose based on our values. It’s up to each of us to ask if our momentary pleasure is worth the price of another’s suffering or another’s life.

The next time you interact with an animal whom you know and love, whether a dog, or a cat, or a bird, look into that animal’s trusting eyes. Really look. Allow yourself to experience the mystery of that connection and love across what could otherwise seem like a chasm that separates species. Note your capacity to communicate with one another. Notice the ways in which you are alike. And then ask yourself how you would feel if anyone harmed this animal for food, or entertainment, or a fur coat, or to test a new shampoo. If you wouldn’t want these things done to an animal you love, then the next question to ponder is whether you might want to divest yourself in whatever ways you are able from cruelty towards and suffering of other animals, who feel just as much as your dog or cat, in order to live your life in such as way that your compassion and kindness extend as far as possible, which is a wonderful thing.

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Photo credit: Erica Zabowski via flickr

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109 comments

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2:29PM PDT on Jun 19, 2014

I have always wanted to talk to the animals.

5:26PM PDT on Apr 22, 2014

This article was recommended to me and I am glad I came. I'm a nurse, so I work Sundays and holidays. I work in a 20 unit, private pay, dementia care facility and this past Easter Sunday, the main course at dinner was a whole lamb and a large ham, for the residents and their visiting relatives. Needless to say, I packed my own meal of vegan delights and was, as usual, taunted and kidded about my choice of foods. I told everyone who asked, "all I can see when I look at the main dishes are a cute little lamb and a nice happy pig in their barnyard, alive and enjoying the day." No one talked to me much after that, until dinner was over and everything was cleaned up and put away.
I hope maybe I got at least one person thinking about going vegan. Don't worry Anteater, I have compassion for you, you are only doing as nature intended, not planning your menu for tomorrow by standing in the meat section of your local grocery store. :) LOL.

7:32AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

What about compassion for anteaters?

5:42PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

COMPASSION IS PUTTING YOURSELF IN ANOTHER'S SHOES AND STOP KILLING ANIMALS!!!!!

2:46PM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

Thank you.

8:12AM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

ty

5:53AM PDT on Apr 8, 2014

Nice talk and I think learning compassion needs to be encouraged. We should question why we are ok to take children to zoos but not be honest about their food of meat. This activity is what brought it home for me. Pork chops no longer looked the same after the petting zoo.

Also I notice that it is common for a non vegetarian/vegan to mention why they are an omnivore they justify it and add that veg persons need to take care where they get nutrients. I find this almost ironic since there is a huge part of the US population which is malnourished. I've not seen data that says veg are more likely nutrient deficient unless of course they also eat the "SAD". They also harp on protein, yet most Americans consume too much. That said we all need to become more educated in nutrition. After spending years doing research and consulting doctors I've still ended up vegan and compassion was a part of my motivation to do the research.

10:25PM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

It's really not that hard, if you really want to do it :)

9:36PM PDT on Apr 7, 2014

Children must be taught at a very young age to respect+appreciate all animal life. Thanks

7:41PM PDT on Apr 6, 2014

Excellent article. People often, thoughtlessly, spend money that contributes to the suffering and slaughter of millions of animals. As I've read, if slaughter houses were made of glass, very few would still eat meat.

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