Children the world over are taught a version of the golden rule, roughly along the lines of, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Kids are generally told that this directive applies to everyone, from their parents and teachers to their siblings and friends—not just to members of their in-group. And a lot of parents wouldn’t hesitate to invoke the golden rule to stop a child from hurting the family pet. Yet for many people, the bias of speciesism is so entrenched that they can’t seem to recognize a wild animal as a deserving other. But biases and isms are not written in stone. If humanity keeps evolving along a compassion continuum, we will inevitably apply the same rules of consideration to all creatures who have the ability to think and feel.
Perhaps it’s time to update and clarify the golden rule to read: “Do unto other sentient beings as they would have you do unto them.”
The golden rule is an age-old edict rooted in the qualities of empathy and compassion. The former asks that we put ourselves in someone else’s “shoes” while the latter compels us to modify any actions that would harm or aggravate them. Empathy helps us to envision what an animal’s needs and wants are, and how their life in the wild is different from our own. Compassion, in turn, obliges us to respond to signals that we’re alarming or irritating them.
If we act out of empathy and compassion, our conduct should cause a minimum of intrusion into the lives of animals and the wild areas they call home. And naturally if we live by a golden rule that includes all of the animal kingdom, we will never keep anyone captive, trap, poison or snare them or use them as living targets in a bloody, imbalanced game.
This post was excerpted from the book Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport