January the 25th is Burns night, when Scotland and its friends celebrates the great bard (poet) and his contribution to Scottish culture. But did you know that Rabbie Burns delighted in nature and the animals we share this world with and was an outspoken critic of animal cruelty?
I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union
These powerful words from his poem To a Mouse that have only got more poignant and relevant in the 220 years since his death. The poem is about a mouse whose nest is destroyed by a plough. Burns goes on to refer to the mouse that is disturbed by a plough as an “earth-born companion” and a “fellow mortal”. This idea is also reflected in our name, OneKind, which, like Burns’ writings, reminds us that we humans have so much common with animal kind.
Another great Burns poem that reflects his compassion for animals is The Wounded Hare. This is an angry but touching and thoughtful response to witnessing the shooting and maiming of a hare. It starts like this:
Inhuman man! curse on thy barb’rous art,
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart!
Go live, poor wand’rer of the wood and field!
The bitter little that of life remains:
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains
To thee a home, or food, or pastime yield.
This poem, which was written in the 19th century, is a reminder that compassion for animals and opposition to cruelty is not a modern phenomenon as it is often made out to be. In fact, it has a long tradition that we should celebrate and take encouragement from.
Happy Burns night!
You can read To a Mouse and The Wounded hare by following these links, or why not learn more about how much we have in common with animal kind on our animal behaviour pages.