The Fear of Pain and Suffering

I recently read a paper published in 2010 by Oscar Horta University of Santiago de Compostela entitled, “Debunking the Idyllic View of Natural Processes: Population Dynamics and Suffering in the Wild.” (accessed through

Horta mentions that we have some romantic idea of what it must be like for animals to live in the wild and do not consider the suffering experienced with these animals, such as the pain of mating, giving birth, and dying.

People want cute and happy. They don’t want to talk about pain, or hurt, or death.

It’s true, you know. Some of us humans are so hell-bent on animals not suffering that we inadvertently cause them greater suffering. So we fly animals cross-country to increase their odds of adoption and place them in sketchy rescues that turn out to be fronts for hoarders.

We feed wild animals such as birds, raccoons, and even bears, then wonder why those animals start hanging around areas inhabited by humans and spread disease, and in some cases are eventually killed.

We see people taking in baby wild animals like deer and opossums and rearing them because otherwise they’ll die. Then when the animal cannot survive in the wild (because they weren’t taught how), they’re kept as pets.

We humans don’t think we should have to suffer, either. And yet, life is about suffering. People will be harmed physically. Emotionally. They will hurt. They will die.

I cause pain to people just by doing the job I do. No one likes to see me knock on their door, and know a painful experience awaits once the door is opened. But that has never bothered me, and I’m more than willing to put a little heat up under someone, because I know that, for most of us, it’s only when we hurt enough we are willing to change.



In Nature, babies die soon after birth-more die than live. Animals starve. They are brutally killed by other animals who must eat them to survive themselves. That’s the way Nature works.

We humans, however, have decided we know better than Nature, and we want everyone to live. Since we have no natural predators, our invalids and challenged individuals survive. More of our children survive than don’t, and we punish mothers if they don’t do everything in their power to keep their babies alive, even if it means sacrificing themselves in the process.

Because we have adopted this way of thinking, we are tapping the Earth’s resources, making it impossible for many of the other species of life to survive, and making it likely that eventually we, too, will suffer and die as a species.

We are so afraid of a little suffering that we will bring about our eventual demise. 

22 thoughts on “The Fear of Pain and Suffering

  1. yes… I agree. And I have to admit that I’m one of those who change the channel when “life happens” and a lion kills a rabbit or a gator eats a fawn… and even when we want to see or to know it, this circle of life is essential for our planet…. sigh…

  2. Our pursuit of comfort is what has made us proliferate. So its not bad as survival mechanism. We devise easier and easier ways to do things. We devise better and better ways to survive and avoid hunger. We even develop civilization and finally we are even addressing social injustice – all as a way to achieve comfort on some level or another.

    Not that the pursuit of comfort is always a good thing. In particular its not a good thing on an individual level. But on a large scale its an interesting driver.

    1. And you who recently experienced death know all too well how your sweet Sam suffered. I’m sure you would have done whatever you could have to prevent it.

  3. During a severe drought that swamped much of the state of Texas in recent years, scientists noticed that some female animals in the wild, particularly deer, were abandoning their newborns. The reason was obvious: the animals’ immediate environments were in dire straits, with scarce food and water. It looked cruel to many people, but others realized it was necessary to prevent the babies from growing up into a painful existence.

    Such tragedies even occur among humans. In many conflict-riddled areas around the world, people (usually mothers) kill their babies and even toddlers. Again, the reason should be obvious: the young would otherwise grow up hungry and scared. Some folks just don’t want to talk about it. Death is too scary, when in fact, it’s just another stage of our natural lives.

    My dog will be 14 in June – if he makes it. The other day I could tell he was hurting; he moved slowly, wasn’t as alert as usual and kept arching his back. I have him on arthritis medication, even though his vet hasn’t formally diagnosed that condition. I told my parents more than a year ago that we need to start preparing ourselves for his eventual demise. The illness and death of a German shepherd we had more than 30 years ago caught us off-guard.

    No one is really prepared for the death of a loved one – human or animal. But we have to face that reality. There’s just no other option.

    1. Como nacemos, lo único cierto… es que un día vamos a morir.
      Perder un amigo leal, animal o humano, siempre es difícil y doloroso… y hablo por experiencia. Lo siento por tú perro, éstaras cerca de él cuando se vaya, ayudadolo con tú presencia para que su Alma/Espíritu puede encontrar la paz.
      Yo soy budista y estoy segura de que los animales tienen una Alma y tambien creo en la reencarnación de todos los seres.
      Serenidad :-)claudine

  4. Great read agreed!! I especially like to focus on the fact of how our society eats meat and prefers not to think about how their food comes to be. They will choose denial over the truth because it hurts to think about and makes them uncomfortable in the face of change yet they will continue to support a violent & destructive industry. There is no doubt that people are outraged when a dog or cat is abused and makes the news but when atrocities happens to farm animals everyday in a slaughterhouse no one seems to care? There is no humane slaughter no matter if they’re factory farmed or free range. This article by The Washington Post talks about how humane treatment is non-existent at slaughterhouses. Somehow society sees this suffering as different and has no concern? I can’t understand how we love and protect some animals but will not think twice to eat others? This website by Melanie Joy, PhD explains about the invisible belief system called carnism. Some people will even be disturbed by just reading this post. Why would good people choose to make choices that would hurt others? We should extend our compassion to all animals wherever they are in need.

  5. Amen! I find that trying to avoid my own suffering actually increases it.

    And truth be told, one reason I moved onto a boat was because I felt the need to be more connected to my survival and bodily needs in a more direct way.

    The inconveniences I experience on the boat are not truly suffering. But shivering on board when temps drop into the 30s or hanging on tight when we’re being bounced by 8 foot waves has given me a whole new appreciation for those brave people who set out on open water in small boats trying to escape war and arrest and torture.

    As for the human sentimentality we bring to wild (and domesticated) animal life, my husband likes to say that when the documentary is about the polar bear, we root for him to get the seal. When the documentary is about the seal, we root for him to escape the polar bear.

  6. Only one thing is for sure, after birth we shall one day die… and this life is a gift, which should allow us to collect many virtudes doing the best we can with love and compassion towards all living beings. The law of Nature is for many hard to take and conceive, but we should not interfere. But still too many are acting incredibly selfish and senseless… this is getting worst and worst day after day… at the conclusion will bring humanity to self-destruction. But, as Nature knows better, but to tell you the truth, maybe this is just what we deserve.
    Serenity :-)claudine

  7. it is humans who are destroying the planet not the animals. it is we who don’t allow the natural course of life’s events to happen. it is we who are over-populating the plant and will eventually kill off the human race for lack of food. it is we who prolong life to the extent that we need to overload a person with pain killers and try to “fix” the problem of a dying person. even with a dnr doctors try to do what they can. i won’t even enter into the discussion of assisted suicide when a person feels enough is enough.

    when will we follow nature’s lead? sorry, no caps until my cast is off.

      1. Absolutely. I have DNR orders, and no heroic measure orders, drawn up and signed in the US – but now I live in Ireland where they’d rather let an adult woman die a horrible prolonged death because her dying foetus wasn’t quite dead enough yet. I doubt they’d care much about my suffering as long as it appeased their own conscience. Horrifying idea that we are all captive to that here right now. I’d not let my animals suffer, why would I let my husband who can actually TELL me it is time to end the pain?

  8. Very interesting post. You bring up a lot of good points. Suffering is a part of life and the sooner people accept that the sooner they will reach happiness.

  9. WIth the clear skies the past couple of days, the local hawks have been out hunting. So cool to watch them glide across the fields until success. It’s a bit sad to come across hawk kill sites, but that’s life.
    I’m not sure about humans having no natural predators though…Some of our own kind are doing a pretty good job of it. People just don’t seem able to get along. Maybe that is part of nature’s plan for the top of the heap?

  10. Humans don’t just exploit other species to make themselves more comfortable, they’ll turn a blind eye to the working conditions humans, including children, in other countries endure just to bring them the latest gadget or fashion at an “affordable” price.

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