The Spiritual Imperative of Kindness to All Animals

One day I want to have a farm filled with many animals. My friends and family tend to make fun of that goal, not realizing the great significance that animals hold in my life. 

Yes, while I think that every animal is adorable, they are also so incredibly smart. The Baha’i teachings point out that animals have powers we humans often lack. In his book Some Answered Questions, Abdu’l-Baha said:

… the sight of animals is much keener than that of man, their hearing is more acute, and likewise with their powers of smell and taste. Briefly, in the powers which man and animal share in common, the animal often has the advantage.

The Baha’i teachings ask us to have respect for all animals – after all, they have so many superior qualities. But it’s not only an animal’s physical qualities that deserve our respect – they also have emotional qualities we would do well to learn.

I dream of raising my future children around animals one day, because they can teach us so many wonderful things. I grew up with two dogs that were by my side throughout almost every stage in my life. They have taught me unconditional love, forgiveness, companionship, trust, and loyalty. 

Abdu’l-Baha also recommended that everyone:

Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest.

This spiritual quality of kindness to all living things permeates the Baha’i teachings. Abdu’l-Baha pointed out that 

Man is generally sinful and the animal is innocent; unquestionably one must be more kind and merciful to the innocent. … To the blessed animals, however, the utmost kindness should be exercised: the more the better it will be.

From a Baha’i perspective, kindness to animals is a primary principle. We must exhibit mercy and kindness to animals, Abdu’l-Baha wrote, because we experience a lot of similar feelings as animals – but we can put those feelings into words, while animals are unable to:

It is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. For in all physical respects, and where the animal spirit is concerned, the self-same feelings are shared by animal and man … The feelings are one and the same, whether ye inflict pain on man or on beast. There is no difference here whatever. And indeed ye do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, he can lodge a complaint, he can cry out and moan; if injured he can have recourse to the authorities and these will protect him from his aggressor. But the hapless beast is mute, able neither to express its hurt nor take its case to the authorities … Therefore it is essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow man …

Hopefully we can all review the way we live our lives and reflect on how our lifestyles might harm even the animals we never see, and then make decisions about how to be kinder and “show forth the utmost consideration.”

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