Cultivating a Compassion Footprint

Paw and handprints in sand

“When people tell me that they love animals and then harm or kill them I tell them I’m glad they don’t love me.” ~ Mark Bekoff

“Carbon footprint” has become standard jargon in talking about global warming and other environmental issues, and some people are even beginning to think about their “foodprint.” But what about our “compassion footprint”? How far are we willing to examine and extend our concern for others, especially other beings not of our own species?

Author and scientist Marc Bekoff recently wrote a great essay about our relationship with animals and our need to cultivate a compassion footprint and “compassion credits.” He says,

Every individual can make positive changes for all living beings by weaving compassion, empathy, respect, dignity, peace, and love into their lives. It’s simple to make more compassionate choices about what we eat and wear and how we educate students, conduct research, and entertain ourselves.

One of the most frustrating elements for people who care about all social justice issues is that caring for animals — as individuals with their own interests and needs, as well as being part of a species — is often completely missing from the conversation. Green guides, books, magazines and websites tout tips and tools, simple and great, but they also condone and support the exploitation and oppression of animals in reaching those green goals. There are organizations that promote social justice and sustainability for all — one magazine I adore has the tagline “supporting you in building a just and sustainable world,” an organization I support includes the tagline “…to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society” — but the justice and sustainability they’re talking about don’t extend to nonhumans.

Bekoff’s call for increasing our compassion footprint is an important and necessary one. Consider sharing this essay with friends and family, or using it to spark discussion.

~ Marsha