The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 275 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.

But to what horrid deviations from these benevolent intentions are we daily witnesses! no small part of mankind derive their chief amusements from the deaths and sufferings of inferior animals; a much greater, consider them only as engines of wood or iron, useful in their several occupations.  The carman drives his horse, and the carpenter his nail, by repeated blows; and so long as these produce the desired effect, and they both go, they neither reflect or care whether either of them have any sense of feeling.  The butcher knocks down the stately ox, with no more compassion than the blacksmith hammers a horseshoe; and plunges his knife into the throat of the innocent lamb, with as little reluctance as the tailor sticks his needle into the collar of a coat.

If there are some few who, formed in a softer mould, view with pity the sufferings of these defenceless creatures, there is scarce one who entertains the least idea that justice or gratitude can be due to their merits or their services.  The social and friendly dog is hanged without remorse, if, by barking in defence of his master’s person and property, he happens unknowingly to disturb his rest; the generous horse, who has carried his ungrateful master for many years with ease and safety, worn out with age and infirmities, contracted in his service, is by him condemned to end his miserable days in a dust-cart, where the more he exerts his little remains of spirit, the more he is whipped to save his stupid driver the trouble of whipping some other less obedient to the lash.  Sometimes, having been taught the practice of many unnatural and useless feats in a riding-house, he is at last turned out and consigned to the dominion of a hackney-coachman, by whom he is every day corrected for performing those tricks, which he has learned under so long and severe a discipline.  The sluggish bear, in contradiction to his nature, is taught to dance for the diversion of a malignant mob, by placing red-hot irons under his feet; and the majestic bull is tortured by every mode which malice can invent, for no offence but that he is gentle and unwilling to assail his diabolical tormentors.  These, with innumerable other acts of cruelty, injustice, and ingratitude, are every day committed, not only with impunity, but without censure and even without observation; but we may be assured that they cannot finally pass away unnoticed and unretaliated.

The laws of self-defence undoubtedly justify us in destroying those animals who would destroy us, who injure our properties, or annoy our persons; but not even these, whenever their situation incapacitates them from hurting us.  I know of no right which we have to shoot a bear on an inaccessible island of ice, or an eagle on the mountain’s top; whose lives cannot injure us, nor deaths procure us any benefit.  We are unable to give life, and therefore ought not wantonly to take it away from the meanest insect, without sufficient reason; they all receive it from the same benevolent hand as ourselves, and have therefore an equal right to enjoy it.

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The Illustrated London Reading Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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