The simple answer is that these creatures -- and young children among human beings -- are totally helpless in the face of the crass and murderous ways of adult humans. But it runs deeper than that, as dear friend Dr. Clarrisa Pinkola Estés explains:
"Many of us find that most creatures feel like they are our relatives. Our odd billed and furry, feathered and scaled relatives. And many creatures, unlike some few humans, give us joy almost non-stop, even the big predators strike awe in us. And woodland or mountain songbirds singing their hearts out after rains make many feel, for long moments, at peace, at perfect peace. Many feel profound gratitude for that peace and go to the mountain or to the big water or to the desert to find just that. To renew their souls.
"For many more so animals and not always so much humans are the reliable securers of peace and harmony in their lives. The dependable smile of the dog when one comes home. The 100 geese in the snow all turning to listen when you talk to them. The paw of the cat, soft, on your face, wanting 'up'. The cry of the coyote far off at night. The wing-splay of the eagle with its many feathered fingers fluttering in the wind at the tips of its dark wings. The young fledgling birds all shakey legged and hopeful, poised for life or death on an eave, ready to jump for the first time. Our hearts and souls react to all of these.
"Pity us, yes, pity us if even one of our heart medicines, even one of our soul supports for living in such a cacophonous and tangled world, is taken out by illness or senselessly killed before their time. And especially, if such a life-reminding, life-giving creature is tortured, tormented before they die. We cry hardest often then, for we have reciprocal relationship with creatures. We cry sometimes for what is most known and beloved by the soul.
"While one can become hardened to it all, having sold out in trade for some excessive something or other in mundane life that anesthetizes feeling– there is this underlying instinctual, psychological and spiritual truth inborn: Whether it is creatures or other human beings . . .innocents being tortured without cause or reason is one of the deepest revulsions, one of the deepest griefs found in anyone who still calls themselves human."
To which I can only say "Amen."
Photograph by Sean Gardner/Reuters