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The Deer And The Heartbroken Vegan

How smart are animals, anyway? If they are smart, should the fact of their intelligent consciousness drive us to veganism?

Here’s my story about a couple of smart deer…with my answer at the end.

While seeing deer alongside the roads where we live should be a fairly common occurrence, it hasn’t been the past few years.

Until the past couple of weeks.

Last week while on the way home from grocery shopping, I had to put on my brakes for a doe streaking across the road. Her fawn was apparently trying to follow her, so since nobody was behind me I slowed way down to give him a chance to run across the road. Instead, he ran beside my car for a few yards, then finally dashed back into the woods that he and his mother had come out of.

Yesterday, I saw two deer again. This time it was on my way to the store, and they were both adults. I had just finished coming around a sharp curve that goes downhill, and except for teenage boys looking for a thrill and to lose their car privileges for the next six months, people drive five to ten miles under the speed limit there. So I was going not quite forty miles per hour when the first deer crossed the road not too far in front of me.

That’s not surprising in and of itself. What surprised me was that the deer did not run across the road. She sauntered. She had to have both heard and seen me coming, but she must’ve been a local and known that at the speed I was driving, she had plenty of time to cross.

Many humans have trouble figuring out that kind of space-time problem. But this deer seemed to have it down pat.

That level of intelligence was enough to set me in a state of awe. But the scenario hadn’t ended. There was one more deer at the side of the road. Now, I don’t know about you, but every other deer I’ve encountered at the side of a road has run away like lightening in the other direction whenever I’ve passed it.

This deer did not. In fact, she didn’t move. She didn’t show any signs of being frightened. So, seeing that nobody was behind me and knowing that chances were small that anybody else would be coming up behind me at that time of day, I slowed to a stop to let her cross.

She stared at me.

I stared at her.

I think I may have even motioned with my hand for her to go across, like she might actually understand the gesture.

And she may have. But she just stood there, waiting. Watching. If she’d been wearing a watch, she might have lifted the leg with the watch wrapped around it as if to say, “Geez, come on, lady. Would you go already? I don’t have all day.”

As it was, I got a different communication from her. I heard her thinking loud and clear, “I don’t trust you.”

She thought that the instant she set foot in the road, I would gun my engine and try to run her down.

You’re laughing, but the fact of the matter broke my heart.

Confession time: I did eat venison one time, years ago before I’d had the revelation that in God’s ideal world, animals – human or not – would not kill other animals. But besides that, I’d never had anything to do with a death of a deer. I’ve never hit a deer with my car or shot one with a gun.

So it bothered me that this deer refused to cross the road in front of my stopped car.

On the other hand, that kind of wisdom is probably why she was still alive. After my encounter with the doe and the fawn, J told me that he’s read that during deer hunting season (which it is now), the deer figure out that not a lot of shooting is going on close to town, so they will migrate as close to towns as they can get until deer hunting season ends.

Tell me deer aren’t smart.

Anyway, I finally took my foot off the brake and accelerate slowly passed the vigilant deer. I guess she crossed the road then. I didn’t see, because I was coming up on another curve that goes uphill so I had to keep my eyes on the road in front of me.

But I wondered off and on all day how the world would be different if people didn’t commit violence against innocent animals. If we would all do our part to make the world as Garden of Eden-like as we could.

Because the answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this post is “yes.” Yes, we should have enough respect for animals as intelligent beings to compel us to become vegans.

Especially those of us who claim to follow the Bible.

I wish the deer long life and happiness.

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