Christmas is supposed to be a special time of kindness, compassion and gratitude. Christmas gives people the opportunity to reaffirm shared values and to strengthen social bonds. It is a time where people share feelings of excitement and are unified in the experience of participating in a ritual together. It makes people feel like they are part of a collective, whether that be with kin or chosen family. And this is, as humans are social beings, one of our fundamental human needs.
Christmas seems to also make people more perceptive towards many forms of oppression and violence happening in our societies, which are often related to or explained by culture or tradition. One would think that, when people are enjoying the Christmas spirit, kindness and compassion would be applied equally to human and non-human animals. However, this is sadly rather the exception, looking at the bigger picture. Having said all that, Christmas seems to be a good time as any to question all forms of oppression and violence. It is a good time for seeking to better understand their common roots and to choose truly peaceful alternatives.
Some people may feel offended, when comparing the suffering of animals to that of humans. However, it is offensive only to the speciesist, to a person who has embraced the false notions of what animals are like. The conviction that some of us are more important than others, whether those others are human or non-human animals, is a harmful idea, which we must resist.
Human attitudes towards animals are becoming of increasing importance in the areas of conservation and welfare. It has long been taken for granted that our attitudes are influenced by the degree of biological or behavioural similarity between a given species and ourselves. It is therefore not surprising that people have all sorts of opinions and feelings about crows and other members of the corvid family. While many people describe corvids as noisy, destructive, aggressive, ugly and dirty birds, we also come across people who are very impressed by their sagacity, beauty, cleverness and their playful problem solving antics. Either way, if you wish to extent your circle of compassion, if you want to learn more about corvid behaviour or want to extent your knowledge about corvids in general, then ‘In the Company of Crows and Ravens‘ by John Marzluff and Tony Angell is the perfect book and a great Christmas gift. Another excellent read would be ‘Gifts of the Crow‘, also written by John Marzluff and beautifully illustrated by Tony Angell.
If you would like to learn more about animal behaviour in general, about cognitive ethology (the study of animal minds), behavioural ecology and compassionate conservation as well as human-animal interactions and animal protection, then a very good place to start is the website of Marc Bekoff, who has written numerous essays and 30 books covering many aspects of these fascinating and important topics. A great book by Marc Bekoff, to start your journey with, would be ‘The Animal Manifesto: Six Reasons for Expanding Our Compassion Footprint‘. Another groundbreaking and mind-blowing book about animals as non-human persons is ‘In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier‘, by philosopher Professor Thomas I. White.
Are you intersted in exploring animal ethics or other related issues? Are you an animal advocate interested in having a strong basis upholding your arguments and outreach work? Then the Animal Ethics website is the perfect place you should explore. The field of animal ethics deals with why we should take nonhuman animals into consideration in our moral decisions, and the ways in which we should. ‘Animal Ethics was formed to provide information and to promote discussion and debate about issues in animal ethics and to provide resources for animal advocates and the general public.’1
If you would like to learn more about the foundations of human and animal rights, and the shortcomings of the widely present animal welfare approach, then Professor Gary L. Francione’s website Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach is another great resource, which delivers crystal clear no nonsense answers to many human and animal rights related issues.
To take the implementation of human and non-human animal rights to the next level, holistic nonviolence is the path of choice for a peaceful personal transformation and social evolution. Holistic nonviolence intends ‘to foster the creation of a global community of conscience organised around an ever deepening commitment to regard and treat all others, however they may differ from ourselves, with care and respect.’2 Pursuing this path ‘is not about being perfect, but about challenging ourselves to ever expand our understanding of how our actions affect others, and over time, to come closer and closer to the ideal of nonviolence toward all.’3 You can watch an introductory video and learn more about holistic nonviolence by visiting and exploring the Tribe of Heart website.
Holistic nonviolence ‘is a path based on cherishing and protecting life, and about celebrating the beauty and joy we can create together.’4 And with these thoughts in mind, I would like to wish you and all our non-human fellow earthlings a peaceful and compassionate Christmas.