One of the purest of loves is that of a mother for her child.
Recently, at Farm Sanctuary's Orland California farm, a beautiful sheep mother gave birth to two baby girls, Zuri and Elizabeth. Scads of folk have been overjoyed by regular Facebook updates on their young lives, the happiness they exude, relishing photos of their farmyard gymnastics, and witnessing the enduring closeness have with their mother. If only they knew how many humans are monitoring their progress and how many human hearts they have healed just by being alive -- straight across the North American advocacy community and beyond. This little sheep family will happily live out their lives just being sheep, doing sheep things, having their sheep needs met. In their first three weeks, the babies have been "liked" thousands of times, everyone anxiously awaiting the latest photos of the little darlings and their ultra-proud momma, Dolly.
This was juxtaposed with another recent event in Asia this week, where humans witnessed and reported a mother bear killing her own child and then herself. Now, I'm up to my ears in animal issues, but I've never heard of animal suicide. I could almost not believe what I was reading. Sadly, the mother bear was trapped in a bile manufacturer setting, where the animal is imprisoned in a cage with a tube permanently inserted in to her stomach that removes bile for commercial purposes. The mother, knowing what they were going to do to her baby, rushed the young one when she had a chance, smothered it to death and then ran herself straight into a wall head-first and killed herself.
Working in animal advocacy is always tough. Bridging the discrepancy between our societal beliefs of animals (and how much we love them) and our actual treatment of them (how we exploit them), is a near impossible goal that animal advocates work on 24/7, straight across the globe.
This Valentine's Day, as I think about Dolly and her babies, and the poor dear bear and her young one, I am reminded of my own mother. Now nearly five years gone, my mother's love lives in my heart, her voice comes out in my words, her spirit comes out in my actions, her teachings guide my life. My mother's name was Mary. She taught me to never walk away from someone in need.
Dolly the sheep is now teaching her young how to navigate farm life, how to stay together as family, and how to watch out for and protect each other. I wonder what that dear bear mother would have taught her young one, had she not been cruelly trapped and forced to live a life of hell. But perhaps in reflecting on it, the bear mother showed the greatest love of all: protecting her child at all costs from a world that only cared about money and commerce, and didn't care about life or love. Showing the greatest emotional and physical strength, this momma bear put an end to it for herself and her baby.
I hope anyone reading this will take the time to remember just how much every mother loves her children, whether they are human or animal, and take conscious action to help reduce the suffering for animals. This Valentine's Day, I'm holding that momma bear very close in my heart, and I'm making sure in the only way I can, that her love, her story, her voice, will live on.