I have been immersed in imagery lately while going to presentations on the animals and the people of this world.
There have been beautiful photos of hope and human engagement as well as tragic visuals of war, rape, hunger, abandonment, and homelessness. I have enjoyed striking images of wild animals, endangered creatures, and lost habitat.
Both animals and people need a safe environment in which to live; where every action harmonizes or supports the other. This is hard to accomplish in such a disruptive world when we have so much coming at us. Our need to communicate and belong has in many respects taken away the spoken word.
And at times, a person can feel overwhelmed. The uncertainty of political actions in another country can affect us emotionally and economically, just as the loss of an animal species in the ecological chain can cause trauma and have long-term consequences.
Closer to home, we practise good in their own space, nurturing the creatures entrusted to our care and the people in our homes, allowing for their growth and freedom.
- More with Brenda Schoepp: There are many ways to view — and treat — soil
To guide us in animal care North American SPCAs have adopted the five freedoms for animals:
- Freedom from hunger and thirst.
- Freedom from pain, injury, and disease.
- Freedom from distress.
- Freedom from discomfort.
- Freedom to express behaviours that promote well-being.
These are common-sense animal welfare practices. Sometimes we are challenged in a globalized economy in the area of the freedom to express behaviour. Observation tells us that chickens spread their wings, turkeys can turn on each other, range cattle hang out in family and cluster groups, dairy cattle need rest, pigs love to play, and companion animals need exercise and lots of loving.
It’s pretty simple to build a system in which animals express themselves for the benefit of their well-being. Can we do this in our homes?
The connection between animal welfare and human welfare is well researched with strong evidence that how we treat our animals is a strong reflection of how we treat our families or employees. I’ve given some thought to the five freedoms for a family put forward by American author and family therapist Virginia Satir: the freedom to hear the here and now; the freedom to think freely; the freedom to feel what you feel; the freedom to choose what one wants; and the freedom to self-actualize.
As I considered the written word and the interrelationship between animals and humans, and my observations and experience, I thought of the many children I have encountered on my travels. I love children and I wanted to expand on the thought of freedom. Here are five freedoms I promote for each child.
The freedom of choice. Children are perfectly made and entirely capable to make decisions at a level that may surprise us. Given the right environment where they are empowered, they learn to trust themselves, knowing internally what is right or wrong.
A child should have the freedom to make mistakes as this is where our human wisdom comes from. It does not have to be a lesson in pain, such as touching the hot stove, but could simply be letting that child wear one shoe and one sandal to conclude on their own that it is not all that comfortable.
Every human being should have the freedom to control their own body. A young man does not like being jabbed, a girl does not appreciate her skirt being lifted, a baby may not need six kisses from Auntie Joan. Our body is our home.
Just like grownups, children need the freedom to heal — and healing may look different for each of them. To understand this, it is important to ask what is needed. ‘Get over it’ is not liberating or empowering nor does it mitigate fear.
The freedom to hope. Can you imagine the pain of those young persons who cannot see their own future for the darkness; those who do not have trust in the future? Hope gives us the strength for the day and a belief that there is a tomorrow, a heaven, and a chance.
There are many intersections in the family unit and they differ for all of us. Children do not come with a play book, and as parents or guardians we do the best we can. But it does not have to be complicated. Sticking to the five freedoms intersects with many other aspects of human emotion and growth.
The histories we create become part of the history for others, and it is good to reflect on what we want our stories to be. Leading by example in the way we treat each other and our animals is a wonderful foundation for empowerment, and for those conversations we need to have and actions we take to honour those entrusted to our care.