Free U.S. Shipping on orders over $20.00


New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community

Thursday, April 14, 2011
Six Reasons to Expand Your Compassion Footprint

Our relationships with nonhuman animals are complicated, frustrating, ambiguous, and paradoxical. When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them, I tell them I’m glad they don’t love me. We observe animals, gawk at them in wonder, experiment on them, eat them, wear them, write about them, draw and paint them, move them from here to there as we “redecorate nature.”

People are starting to pay attention to their carbon footprint — how their lifestyle choices tread on the earth. We need to also pay attention to our compassion footprint. In their own ways, animals are constantly asking us to treat them better or leave them alone, and they’re fully justified in making this request. If they could put the request into words, what might their manifesto look like?

1) All animals share the earth and we must coexist. “Redecorating nature” refers to the global tendency, almost a human obsession, to move into the living rooms of other animals with little or no regard for what we’re doing to them, their friends, and their families. We unrelentingly intrude because there are too many of us and because it’s so easy for us to do. We also shamelessly overconsume.

2) Animals think and feel. Like any good manifesto, this one includes a gentle call for action that mixes facts with values. We all need to raise our consciousness about the lives of our fellow animals and change the current paradigm, in which those who work on behalf of animals and the environment are seen as “radicals” or “extremists.” No one should be an apologist for passion, and no one should be ashamed, or shamed, for feeling.

3) Animals have and deserve compassion. The late theologian Thomas Berry stressed that our relationship with nature should be one of awe, not one of use. All animals, including humans, have a right to lives of dignity and respect, without forced intrusions. We need to accept all beings as, and for who, they are. All animals, all beings, deserve respectful consideration simply for the fact that they exist, and this alone mandates that we coexist with them.

4) Connection breeds caring, alienation breeds disrespect. Our alienation from animals and nature kills our hearts, and we don’t even realize how numb we’ve become until we witness the beauty of nature and the wonder of life: a squirrel performing acrobatics as she runs across a telephone wire, a bird alighting on a tree limb and singing a beautiful melody, a bee circling a flower, or a child reveling at a line of ants crossing a hiking trail. In these small moments, we feel our inherent connection to all creatures and all of nature.

5) Our world is not compassionate to animals. We must stop ignoring their gaze and closing our hearts to their pleas. We can easily do what they ask — to stop causing them unnecessary pain, suffering, loneliness, sadness, and death, even extinction. It’s a matter of making different choices — about how we conduct research, how we entertain ourselves, what we buy, where we live, who we eat, who we wear, and even family planning.

6) Acting compassionately helps all beings and our world. More and more people around the world are truly concerned about how we affect the lives of animals. More than ever we understand that coexistence with other animals is essential, that our fate is tightly bound with theirs. To a very large extent, we control the lives of other animals. We’re their lifeguards. It’s essential that we move rapidly to make kindness and compassion the basis of our interactions with animals. We shouldn’t be afraid to make changes that improve animals’ lives. Indeed, we should embrace them. Such changes will only help heal our world and ourselves.

It’s really pretty simple. This animal manifesto is a plea to regard animals as fellow sentient, emotional beings, to recognize the cruelty that too often defines our relationship with them, and to change that by acting compassionately on their behalf.

Unlike our carbon footprint, our compassion footprint is something we need to make bigger. If we try to bring forth our innate compassion with every being we meet, we will always be making progress and expanding our compassion footprint. I’m an optimist and a dreamer, and I think that the future can be a much better one for animals, nonhuman and human.

* * *

Marc Bekoff is a professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The author of many books, including The Emotional Lives of Animals, The Animal Manifesto, and The Ten Trusts (with Jane Goodall), he lives in Boulder, Colorado, and lectures throughout the world.

This article was first posted at







October 2018 (2)
September 2018 (4)
August 2018 (4)
July 2018 (4)
June 2018 (5)
May 2018 (7)
April 2018 (5)
March 2018 (5)
February 2018 (5)
January 2018 (5)
December 2017 (3)
November 2017 (6)
October 2017 (6)
September 2017 (6)
August 2017 (6)
July 2017 (5)
June 2017 (7)
May 2017 (6)
April 2017 (6)
March 2017 (8)
February 2017 (5)
January 2017 (5)
December 2016 (6)
November 2016 (8)
October 2016 (6)
September 2016 (7)
August 2016 (6)
July 2016 (6)
June 2016 (7)
May 2016 (7)
April 2016 (6)
March 2016 (7)
February 2016 (6)
January 2016 (6)
December 2015 (4)
November 2015 (7)
October 2015 (7)
September 2015 (6)
August 2015 (7)
July 2015 (9)
June 2015 (9)
May 2015 (8)
April 2015 (9)
March 2015 (9)
February 2015 (8)
January 2015 (8)
December 2014 (7)
November 2014 (7)
October 2014 (9)
September 2014 (9)
August 2014 (8)
July 2014 (10)
June 2014 (8)
May 2014 (9)
April 2014 (8)
March 2014 (9)
February 2014 (9)
January 2014 (7)
December 2013 (7)
November 2013 (4)
October 2013 (5)
September 2013 (4)
August 2013 (4)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (3)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (4)
March 2013 (3)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (2)
December 2012 (4)
November 2012 (4)
October 2012 (5)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (3)
July 2012 (2)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (2)
April 2012 (3)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (3)
January 2012 (4)
December 2011 (4)
November 2011 (3)
October 2011 (4)
September 2011 (5)
August 2011 (4)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (3)
May 2011 (3)
April 2011 (4)
March 2011 (4)
February 2011 (3)
January 2011 (1)
December 2010 (3)
November 2010 (3)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (2)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (4)
June 2010 (2)
May 2010 (4)
April 2010 (5)
March 2010 (5)
February 2010 (1)