Kindness to All Living Beings
Animal Stories from

by Susan Trout
August 2009

I just wanted to relate some of my impressions about animals, in particular, captive elephants.

A week ago I had the pleasure of visiting the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWs) in Calaveras County, California. It's a spacious, near idyllic ranch, that is home to retired circus and zoo animals and other creatures. I had the chance to see beautiful tigers lounging freely. A beautiful female Bengal tiger in particular took my breath away. She was so vivid in her coloring, so sleek and graceful and she was free to move about as she desired. Each of the big cats had a sad history but their lives have now dramatically changed for the better.

We moved on to the elephants. PAWs is home to Minnie, Rebecca, Annie, Winky and Wandy, the Asians elephants, and 71, Mara, and LuLu, the African elephants. First we greeted Winky and Wanda, two retired zoo elephants. Wanda suffers from chronic foot ailments, a common problem affecting elephants in captivity caused by having to live on concrete floors for far too many years. It was so satisfying to see these great creatures living relatively free lives but it is their past that continues to plague them. Pat Derby, a former Hollywood animal trainer, runs the PAWs facility, along with her longtime partner Ed Stewart. Both of these individuals share a deep and abiding love and respect for every creature in their care.

I stood looking up at these towering giants. We fed them all sorts of goodies--grapes, apples oranges, bananas and frosted flakes! It costs about $1,500 per week to feed and care for the elephants. I watched as Ed would cajole Wanda to soak her feet in two large black rubber tubs. He never used a bull-hook or even touched her. He simply said "Soak, Wanda, Soak," and this gentle giant lifted her huge feet and placed them gently into the warm, soothing water. Tears flowed down my checks.

I thought about what these animals endured prior to their life at PAWs. Can you even imagine being chained and not able to move for hours every day, seven days a week, month after month, year after year. I asked about the elephants' skin. On appearance it looks so tough, yet Pat said they are so sensitive they can feel a mosquito that lands on them. They have come to trust Pat and Ed but they both know they can never really trust them completely. You see, elephants are wild creatures. Man selfishly and foolishly takes them as babies from the wild, often killing the parents and other members of the elephant herd, just so we can breed them in captivity and place them in zoos and circuses around the country for people to look at and have their children giggle at their often ridiculous tricks. How dare we?

We violently destroy a strong and caring family for our own selfish wants and desires.

I came away from my visit with a new appreciation for, and love of elephants and other wild creatures. I feel so strongly that if we cannot protect them and preserve them in their native habitats, then we don't deserve them and must face their extinction. I looked into the eyes of Mara, the towering African elephant and I asked myself, how any human being could point a high powered rifle at these creatures, or any creature, in fact, and end their lives for no other reason than the thrill of the kill! Mara and 71 chose to stay right there with our group that day, enjoying our presence. I cannot describe to you the feeling. I felt so at peace and complete with these unique gifts of God. I wished the time could have lasted forever.

Mankind has lost its ability to be kind. A better re-write of the word describing humans would be Mancruel. My work involves animal advocacy and what I am exposed to on a daily basis makes me very sad and angry. Cruelty and neglect can be dealt with and those responsible punished but it is the indifference to animal suffering that makes the world such a disturbing place.

Every living being deserves our kindness, our sympathy. We are all here together on Earth struggling to live our lives. Just how difficult can it be to think about the animals and how they deserve to live their lives free from our tyrannical cruelty and exploitation.

Jesus said that "What you do to the least of these, you do to me". I wonder how Jesus feels when He sees the way we have commodified animals; turned them into living experiments; torture them for cultural and traditional reasons, hunt them and call it sportsmanship, make their lives a living hell in experiments for the so-called benefit to man's health. I believe it grieves our Lord deeply to see how we treat His creatures.

There isn't much time left. At the rate we are destroying our only home--Planet Earth--we will soon find ourselves living in a totally inhospitable environment and no matter how technologically advanced we are, no matter how powerful our armies and how wealthy our people may become, we won't be able to reverse or undo the terrible damage.

Jesus will return soon. Will we be ready for Him?

One of the way's we can prepare for His return by extending our kindness to the animals! They deserve it.

--Susan Trout ~ a voice for the voiceless ~

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