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John Michell Mysteries


Archive for Thursday 30th August 2002 - Wild children and their animal keepers

There was a time before civilisation, when people and animals live peacefully together and understood each other’s ways. That is what the old histories say, in every nation. But we moderns see things differently. We look upon ancient life as a constant struggle for survival, with man against man and every creature at war with every other. That is what Darwin called ‘survival of the fittest’.

What nasty nonsense! I say that because there is so much evidence of animals showing love and kindness to creatures of other species, including humans. The first principle in nature, said Darwin’s rival, Kropotkin, is ‘mutual aid’.

The great kindness you can show to another creature is to save and rear its offspring. There are many cases of animals doping that. Wolves, bears and leopards are supposed to be ferocious, but they have all been known to adopt children – who have been abandoned or lost in the woods. Dogs, pigs, cows, sheep, apes, ostriches and antelopes have fostered human infants. And in each case they have brought them up in their own ways, to be like themselves. This makes me think that, in bygone times, when we needed to be on good terms with the creatures around us, we sometimes exchanged children. They would become interpreters and ambassadors between us. We can hardly do that today. But there are things we can do to improve relationships. One is to let children make friends with animals – as they long to do. Another is to see that all creatures are individuals with feelings, and treat them as such.

John Michell

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