« ZurückWeiter »
may have been created in many minds, by the injudicious advocacy and humane excesses of some of their amiable and enthusiastic friends. We, however, are of opinion, that humanity is on the advance, and we feel persuaded that the claims of the animal creation require only to be fairly exhibited and enforced, to be generally and practically acknowledged. That they are capable of suffering, we have all the proof that can be derived from the creatures themselves, and from the analogy which we know to exist between their economy and our own. Of this Dr. Chalmers has given us a most affecting illustration.
6. The beasts of the field are not so many automata without sensation, and just so structed as to give forth all the natural signs and expressions of it. Nature hath not practised this universal deception upon our species. These poor animals just look and tremble, and give forth the very indication of suffering as we do. Theirs is the distinct cry of pain, theirs is the unequivocal physiognomy of pain. They put on the same aspect of terror on the demonstrations of a menaced blow. They exhibit the same distortions of agony after the infliction of it. The
bruise, or the burn, or the fracture, or the deep incision, or the fierce encounter with one of equal or superior strength, just affects them similarly to ourselves. Their blood circulates as ours ; they have pulsations in various parts of the body like ours; they sicken and they grow feeble with age, and finally they die just as we do. They possess the same feelings, and what exposes them to like suffering from another quarter, they possess the same instinct with our own species. The lioness robbed of her whelps, causes the wilderness to ring aloud with the proclamation of her wrongs, or the bird whose little household has been stolen, fills and saddens all the grove with melodies of the deepest pathos.
All this is palpable to the general and unlearned eye, and when the physiologist lays open the recesses of their system by means of that scalpel under whose operation they just shrink and are convulsed as any living subject of our own species, there stands forth to view the same sentient apparatus, and furnished with the same conductors for the transmission of feeling to every minutest pore upon the surface. Theirs is unmixed and unmitigated pain; the agonies of martyrdom, without the alleviation of the hopes and the sentiments whereof they are incapable. When they lay them down to die, their only fellowship is with suffering, for in the prison house of their beset and bounded faculties, there can no relief be afforded by communion with other interests or other things. The attention does not lighten their distress as it does that of man, by carrying off his spirit from that existing pungency and pressure which might else be overwhelming. There is but room in their mysterious economy for one inmate, and that is the absorbing sense of their own single and concentrated anguish. And so in that bed of torment, whereon the wounded animal lingers and expires, there is an unexplored depth, and intensity of suffering, which the poor dumb animal itself cannot tell, and against which it can offer no remonstrance; an untold, an unknown amount of wretchedness, of which no articulate voice gives utterance. But there is an eloquence in its silence, and the very shroud which disguises it, only serves to aggravate its horrors.
According to this painfully eloquent description, animals are not only capable of suffering, but often actually suffer. We observe, too, tha they suffer by the economy of nature. Since the Fall, at least, animals have been doomed to die. Not only have they been given as food for man, but they very generally prey upon each other. Every where power is contending with weakness, and life is struggling in the grasp of death. Death, premature death, seems to be the present condition of animal existence. Does, then, this ancient and universal law, which amidst a thousand revolutions has known no change, offer any objection to the benevolence of the Deity? Is one unnecessary pang inflicted by the hand of God on his unoffending creatures? In one word, has there been cruelty in imparting to them those instincts and powers which impel and qualify them to be the destroyers of each other?
It has been shown by various writers that " the destruction of animal life cannot be regarded as inconsistent with that general law of benevolence, by which the greatest amount of enjoyment is secured to the greatest number of individuals."
This may be proved by the following considerations.
First, The extinction of animal life, whatever be the manner in which it is brought to a close, does not necessarily affect the previous quantity of its felicity. It has been well observed, that life is a gift which the Creator dispenses with an equal hand. The amount of happiness which it brings seems to be in the inverse ratio of the time of its enjoyment; and the being that riots for a day in the light and heat of the sunbeam would, perhaps, not exchange its ephemeral elysium for the protracted centuries of an antediluvian existence. Why the lives of animals are not protracted to the longevity of man, may be satisfactorily explained. God, who does nothing in vain, permits man alone to complete his career of life, extending beyond the limits of a single generation, because his old age alone can be useful to his fellow-creatures. What purpose would be served among the brute creation by grandsires without reflection, continuing to interfere with the wants and enjoyments of a progeny which needs not their experience, and which they cannot benefit?
Or what assistance would decrepit parents find among children which abandon them the instant they had learnt to swim, to fly, or to