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5 Simple Ways to Show Compassion to Animals and the Planet

“Compassion and happiness are not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.” ~Dalai Lama

Showing compassion is one of the best ways to make the world a better place.

It isn’t always easy to have compassion for people, if they’ve hurt you, don’t see things the way you do, or seem to cause many of their own problems. It’s also easy to forget about certain people—people who live on the street, people who don’t have the voice to speak out, and sometimes even ourselves.

I freely admit that my compassion levels plummet in some of those cases, and I end up feeling tremendous guilt when I realize what a beast I’ve been. It’s something I work at.

I think most of us could also put a little more thought into showing compassion for animals and the world around us. They are just as worthy, and the act just as important and rewarding.

Compassion is like a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Here are a few ways simple ways to work that muscle and make the world a better place:

1. Remember that everyone’s litter is our litter.

It’s so easy to walk past an empty packet of whatever discarded on the floor and pretend it’s not there, consciously or unconsciously.

Everyone must be acutely aware of our rapidly changing environment. We can see it all around us as we become increasingly urbanized. We see it, or rather don’t, as blue skies are replaced with a thick haze of pollution.

The simple act of picking up that bit of trash and depositing it in the nearest bin is an enormous act of compassion for our planet. Keeping it free from pollutants (that can harm or kill wildlife) is a small and loving step that benefits the world around you.

It’s also compassionate to others and ourselves since millions of tax dollars are spent picking up litter each year.

To learn more, visit Keep America Beautiful: Litter Prevention, Waste Reduction, Beautification

2. Help the strays.

Stray animals aren’t any less living beings just because they don’t have a home, the same way people living on the streets aren’t any less human because they too are homeless.

It’s always best to contact local animal welfare agencies if you do see a wandering stray. Odds are, someone lost their pet and is starting to worry. If it is a stray it may be scared, sick, or injured, meaning it needs your help.

Resist the urge to shoo it away and go about your day. They might be feeling lonely or are just really pleased to see you.

I’ve always felt that ignoring the random cat that wanders up to you meowing away is like ignoring a person who greets you with open arms. They don’t care if you haven’t shaved or are still in your slippers. It’s great to see you.

Just remember to approach cautiously so you don’t scare the animal or put yourself in danger.

To learn more, visit The Humane Society of the United States: What to Do If You Find a Stray Pet

3. Give the Earth a drink.

You should keep houseplants and gardens sufficiently hydrated anyway, but I understand what it’s like to look out at your thirsty garden and think “I’ll sort it out tomorrow.”  It’s funny how tomorrow ends up turning into next week.

Plants, like us, are living things that depend on water to survive. Imagine if you were feeling a bit on the dry side, wilting slightly, and you were denied a cool glass of water until a few days later. You’d probably be crawling on the ceiling by then.

Sure, plants have the benefit of rain, but not all of the time. During the summer, they need us to put aside the “I’ll do it later” thoughts and act out of the sheer understanding that they really do need a good soak.

To learn more, visit TLC, How Stuff Works: How to Water Plants/Water Conservation

4. Don’t squish the spider!

Admittedly, some spiders can be dangerous to us—if in doubt, call animal welfare and keep your distance—but most of the time we get scared simply because of how they look.

Spiders are beautiful and amazing creatures. Even if like me, you’re arachnophobic, I implore you to swallow some of that fear and learn about them.

They’re as diverse and skilled and creative as we are; they have families they provide for and they play just as an important role in our ecosystem as every other creepy-crawlers in this world. In fact, they control the insect population. (If you don’t love flies, killing spiders is highly counterproductive.)

If you come across a spider, allow this thought to run through your mind before you dispatch it: how would you feel if a giant foot/newspaper/swatter/etc. came crashing down on you?

We’re much larger than spiders are, so we don’t really have all that much to worry about. No matter how scary they look.

To learn more, visit The Xerces Society: for invertebrate conservation.

5. Drive with care.

Our world is crisscrossed with roads cutting through areas of land that were once barely populated by people. Connectivity is important, but it’s also crucial to remember that many of the highways constitute what used to be animals’ homes and territory.

Keep your eyes open for warning signs about animals crossing. These signs indicate a very real possibility. It’s vital for your safety as much as, say, a deer’s to slow down. If you hit a large animal at speed or lose control of the vehicle, neither of you will fare very well.

Even clipping an animal with the car can cause it severe damage and suffering. If you do hit an animal, try to stop in a safe place and call animal welfare, the same way that you’d call an ambulance if you hit a person.

It’s not just large mammals that are at risk either; smaller mammals like foxes, rabbits and badgers, birds and domesticated animals too, are all exposed to the possibility of being seriously injured or killed on the roads.

When you’re next stuck in a traffic jam, look out onto the gutters of the roadside and see how many dead birds and mammals you can spot. They were trying to get from A to B too, just like us. (They may even have been attracted to the road by litter, bringing us back to where we started.)

To learn more, visit Vegan Reader: 5 Tips to Prevent Road Kill

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We can easily adapt the image of the Buddhist monk sweeping his path as he goes to our own busy lives. All it requires is a bit of extra attention to our environment.

If you’re as passionate as I am about the natural world, you could support a local charity through donations and/or volunteering. You could even take the plunge and go vegetarian. (It’s not that scary, honest.)

Compassion and its benefits extend beyond consideration of human life. It’s one of our most defining qualities as human beings, and we have countless opportunities to express it to the world around us.

Photos here and here, CC 2.0.

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

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  • releaseme

    I am disappointed that refraining from eating and wearing animal products didn't make the cut considering the atrocities endured by the animals raised on factory farms.

  • Hi there,

    Thanks for your note. I actually liked that this post explored some less frequently discussed ideas. Most people are aware that eating meat and wearing fur aren't kind to animals, but you don't hear much about the number of animals killed on the road or strays.

    I agree, though, it's important to spread awareness about what goes on in factory farms. Perhaps this will be a future post!

    Lori Deschene
    Site Editor

  • I whole-heartedly agree with you on this. However, I must take into consideration that everyone is different. I've found the biggest detriment to encouraging real change and understanding of our planet and its animals has been being dogmatic about lifestyle choices.

    Not everyone wants to become vegetarian / vegan; not everyone wants to hear the unfortunate truth of how we treat animals and the planet.

    It's small steps like the ones I've shown here that will ultimately encourage people to start thinking and acting for not only the wellbeing of the earth but also for themselves. I've hinted to becoming vegetarian because it's a logical step. Not only is it compassionate toward animals and the environment, it's also compassionate toward ourselves and our health.

    The last thing I wanted to do here was make people believe that compassion on the environmental scope is unachievable because they don't want to make such a drastic change in their lives.

    Vegetarianism / veganism / ethical eating is a compassionate act, I don't doubt that in the slightest, but for the sake of everyone who reads this, I believe a ripple in a lake is far more effective and enrapturing than an almighty splash.

    Thanks for replying, and thanks for being a voice for animal rights.

  • The best way to be compassionate to animals is to stop eating and wearing them.

  • Yes, but it's not the only way…

  • Yes, it is the only way. To say don't step on spiders or run over deer with your car but then condone wearing and eating other sentient beings is an empty gesture at best.

  • There are animals on this planet that we don't eat, Judith. I don't condone wearing the wearing of furs or skin, neither do I condone the torture of farm animals. I don't condone violence against any animal.

    However, what I'm putting across here is the ability to be mindful of the entire environment.

    A spider is no less worthy than a pig, a deer no less important than a chicken.

    If you have read my post thoroughly, you'll see that I'm a strict vegetarian and have encouraged others to consider this move for themselves. If you have taken the time to see my response to a similar reply, you'll see that I'm trying to show EVERYONE how compassion extends beyond human consideration – consideration of kindess toward people and consideration of the ideas we all believe to be true.

    Compassion is universal, and by no means an empty gesture.

  • Thanks for these ideas and reminders. Animals have buddha nature too!

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  • Bazylek100

    Please note, that my photo you've used was published under CC license at flickr.com and you should link there.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27672140@N03/34653
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

  • Alvin PAtrick Gelido

    Very inspiring and eye opening..
    When I was a kid, I was also taught of things like this… that little things make big change. But as life and rude people goes on, and saw almost nobody who does this impoliteness. I, also, became like them. Sophisticating on useless and harmful things. As of now, reflection first is my the step that I will take.

  • Thanks for reading sandralee. I appreciate the point you make and agree. It's very difficult to prevent the impact we have on our environment but there are many things we can do to make that impact gentler and even reverse some of the outcomes.

    I don't think I could live soley on milk though – I don't fare well on dairy as it is so have very little of it in my diet. That's an interesting concept though. I'll have a good think about it…

    kudos!

  • Hi Alvin,

    I've always thought we lose certain abilities and capacities as we grow up but it's reassuring and certainly liberating when you find that you can open yourselves up to those things again, or even open yourself up to something you were never capable of as a kid – I've been arachnaphobic since as long as I can remember. Spiders still get the better of me but I find it cathartic to release them instead of killing them.

    Thanks for reading, I'm glad I could help you get in touch with those things again.

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  • I liked this post. I'm vegan, and no matter what impact that choice does or doesn't have on the natural world, it has certainly opened my eyes to all the ways that we interact with animals on a daily basis. I did stop squishing spiders and other bugs, and now set them free instead. Animal life pervades all aspects of our life, and being respectful of that takes constant vigilance and care. Thanks for some new ideas to ponder!

  • releaseme

    I do see your point and agree that being “vegangelical” is more likely to turn people off than to open them to a different point of view. I didn't mean to imply that a splash would have been more effective. Just perhaps a slightly larger ripple? I'm not sure that many people would make the leap from being kind to a spider in their house or braking for a squirrel darting in front of their car to investigating what happens to animals on factory farms. It's easier to separate the two in our minds. And eating meat and dairy is such an embedded part of our society that voluntarily not doing so is considered not normal.

    Of course not everyone wants to become veg*n or even know about the cruel things we do to the animals that end up on our plates and feet. It's great that you even mention considering vegetarianism, but I think it will take more than hinting at it to even pique most people's curiosity. Perhaps also hinting at why becoming vegetarian is a compassionate act without divulging all of the dirty details? We let ourselves believe that “happy cheese comes from happy cows” who live their lives grazing in grassy fields under sunny skies. I don't think any stretch of the imagination would allow us to even consider the cruel ways in which animals are treated on factory farms. Learning the awful truth can be mind-blowing and life-altering. Which is why it is easier to not even consider that being nice to a squirrel has any connection to becoming vegetarian.

    That being said, you gave great tips on how to be more compassionate to wild animals and the plant. I was just hoping for a slightly louder voice for farm animals. What you said to me in your comment about why you hinted at becoming vegetarian would have been great to include in the actual article.

  • releaseme

    My comment was not meant to imply that being vegan automatically excludes that person from all harm to any animal. But harm comes to animals on factory farms consciously and intentionally, and being vegan or vegetarian is one way to express disagreement with that reality. Though that is not meant to devalue the harm that comes to other animals in the process of growing vegetables and grains.

  • Again, I'm in complete agreement with you. I did consider adding vegetarianism to this article but decided not to after I understood that I wanted to take this in a different direction.

    People are bombarded with lifestyle choices, I didn't want that to be the case here. These are literally simple things to do to show compassion. For some people, changing their diet isn't simple. A lot of people are allergic to soya, wheat and gluten and thus, meat alternatives. Others may require a meat or fish diet to help maintain a healthy body. Some people may not have decent access to an alternative diet. It's hard for me to get silken tofu and soy cheese where I live!

    A lot can be done to stop factory farming, and much of what can be done is achievable through not supporting the trades that expliot animals for their flesh and produce. But I don't feel Tiny Buddha is the place to expound those things.

    On a plus side, all of these comments are bound to make people more aware of how they could change their lifestyle to accomodate vegetarian and vegan foods, so perhaps the point you desired to see made hasn't been entirely lost?

    Kudos

  • You're most welcome Maggie. I'm pleased I've given people extra things to think about, and also stimulated some passionate responses from readers.

    Kudos

  • releaseme

    Thanks for your explanation, Sam. I see your point and appreciate the civil discourse we've been able to have.

  • Likewise. I've enjoyed the stimulus greatly and also appreciate that there are others who not only campaign for such important movements but are also able to exchange ideas on an open and communicable level.

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  • jonna

    loved this! thank you <3

  • B.Chandramouli

    When I see animals being carried in trucks in large numbers slaughter houses, i feel totally helpless. They are not even able to stsnd on their legs fully. It is so cramped. I am from India…I want to do something to stop animal exploitation in my life time… Just because they look different does not mean we can kill them for our selffishness.

  • Ocean

    GO VEGAN should be number 1 on this list, in big bold letters. Twist this any way you want, but it is true.

  • Elizabeth Yelland

    As much as I agree with the things on this list and as much as I love spiders, I kill deadly spiders. I’d rather a brown recluse died by my foot than my son having to get ANOTHER finger amputated because of it’s bite. He won’t even play in the yard anymore because a BR might be lurking.