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.