REFLEXIONS ON ANIMALS
PERHAPS the surest test of civilization is man's attitude toward animals. Ill treatment of animals is not necessarily the sign of deliberate cruelty in the torturer; it is more often an indication of a defective imagination, an inability to understand. Francis Parkman in The Oregon Trail spoke of the cruelty to birds and other animals by the Indians, especially by the Indian children, who showed no remorse or shame after those abominable practices. Many peasants with primitive minds treat animals badly; the paradox is that we call it brutality. Also, the sense of humour in some children needs cultivating; they laugh at insanity, at the sound of a foreign language, at a dog with a can tied to his tail.
Of course, it is possible for children to become over- sentimentalized. This attitude is well indicated by the familiar anecdote of the small boy looking at the picture of Christian martyrs delivered to the lions: 'Oh, look, Mama, that dear little lion in the corner isn't getting anything!' When I was a child, I woke up one night, and wept when I thought of the warm comfort of my bed and my kitten on the hard kitchen oilcloth. In the same way, those who condemn quail, partridge, and duck-shooting are, I think, over-sentimental. The only consistent attitude would be that of the vegetarian to abstain from fish, flesh, and fowl. And even then it would require only a slight stretch of the imagination to sympathize with potatoes which possibly suffer horribly when torn up by the roots.