A creative non-fiction essay by Sheila Hernández González.

Sara was a lonely girl living in a rural town in an island lost in the middle of the ocean. The island was full of vegetation and the green landscape that spread in front of her eyes was immensely beautiful. She loved living there, where nature gave her everything she needed. He parents were farmers and their house was far from civilization, and so she grew up among all sorts of animals. Sara was not afraid of them for she considered them to be her equals, her friends. Most of the time she felt very alone, with no other kids to play, too young to go to school and make real friends, having the sole company of her mother (that was often very busy) and the farm animals that they bred. Therefore, Sara felt forced to make friends out of them. She knew each animal’s personality, what they liked and what they didn’t, and how they would react to certain behaviors. She knew, for example, that Clara was the only goat that would allow her to touch her without having to be careful, or that Sam the pig liked it when you rubbed his forehead. She felt just like one of them. They were what she knew of the world. For what she understood, they lived in a situation of codependence: Her parents and she fed the animals so they would survive and, in exchange, the hens lay eggs for them, the cows and goats gave milk to drink and to prepare cheese… And when they were too old, they were sacrificed and their meat was enjoyed by the family: a celebration for the end of a happy life. Sometimes animals got sick and they had to be killed and burned to destroy the root of the problem. Their meat could not be eaten. Those were sad days for Sara, seeing a friend die in vain… And the smell remained in the air for days.

It wasn’t until she was four that she began to understand. One day she was playing in the dirt, behind the rabbit hutch, when something disturbed her. She was playing with a small toy car, sitting with her eyes fixed between her legs, and she started to feel a presence. When she looked up, she found herself face to face with a rooster that was bigger than her in size. She was not afraid for she thought she had nothing to be afraid of, but she noticed that the rooster was acting strangely. He was a new animal in the farm and she was not familiar with his behavior, but she had never seen a hen act like that. She ignored him and kept playing, but when she looked up again, the rooster had not moved and was staring at her unceasingly.

Sara was growing more and more uncomfortable so she decided to go somewhere else, but when she got up in order to leave, the rooster reacted aggressively and attacked her, tearing her t-shirt apart and scratching her back. She screamed while the rooster was still hooked up in her shoulders, with its claws into her skin. After that her parents had an argument that lasted for weeks. Her mother considered the rooster had to be killed to pay for its unpredictable and aggressive behavior, claiming that it was not the first time it had acted that way. Her father refused. And Sara understood. She understood the rooster was not her friend and that maybe all other animals were not her friends either. She understood the rooster had not evil intentions, that it was just an animal and that maybe the other animals just tolerated her, but had no feelings for her, neither good nor bad. She understood she was not one of them because they were not like her. And she felt lonelier than ever.

Years passed, Sara grew up, and little by little she learned more about the relationship between human beings and animals. She learned things were not always like her parents explained. Those animals that were killed to be eaten were not always old, and she understood she had been above the animals all those years, even if she had lived trying to be among them. She learned her family needed the animals to survive, but the animals did not need them for they could feed themselves. Nature is wise and humans are dependant. Then she learned about the outside world, about the meat and dairy industry, contamination, deforestation… And she realized it was an abuse. Sara understood that most people who defend the protection of the environment do it in a selfish way because, just like her family, the entire race depends on nature and the state of the Earth; because if we completely destroy the planet, we will be helpless. But human beings are not so important. The protection of the Earth should not be the result of our own interest, but the result of appreciation for the planet and the living things on it. The planet is not worthy for what it means to us, animals are not important depending on how we see them and how we use them, plants are not valuable because they create oxygen for us. The planet has value per se, and we should not need more than that to protect it.