Master was watching a squirrel frolic around on a high tree branch. Hidden from her direct line of sight, at an angle on a lower branch, was perched a cat, eyeing her prey.
Soon enough the attack came. Squirrel tried to escape on to a higher branch but it was not her day. Cat slowly descended the tree with her prey still alive and squirming in her mouth as it walked past the master.
Later during the evening sermon Master recounted the incident and asked the assembly.
“Do you think I should have saved the squirrel”?
Almost all the disciples present raised their hand and chanted yes in unison.
“Why”? Master asked.
‘Because Master, life is precious even if it is of an animal hence it worth preserving’. Came a voice.
‘Because Master kindness and compassion is our basic humanity’. Spoke another one.
‘Because Master cat can find another prey but squirrel will not find another life’. Someone offered a relative reasoning.
“All these reasons are valid”. Master nodded.
“However consider this”, he spoke softly as if lost in some deep thought “if all of us adopt that as a moral principle that we will save animals from their attackers, all the predators will die of hunger or will become too weak to hunt and hence subsequently die”.
“So what you advocate as a right course of action in one case, if it was made a universal rule, would end up upsetting natures cycle by condemning one set of animals to death”.
“So Master what should we do. Should we not save an animal if it is being attacked by another animal”.
“This is the dilemma of moral reasoning about nature’s order. When you consider the second order effect of moral actions there are no clear cut yes and no answers. So I can’t guide you about your course of action on this but I can share with you what I do.
“Six out of ten times I take the side of the prey and intervene while for the other four I stay on the side of predator and let nature take its course”.
“However there is one exception to this moral prescription that I follow.” He added after a pause.
What is that. Everyone was straining to hear as masters voice had turned soft by the time last sentence was uttered.
“I would intervene ten out of ten times to safeguards an animals life, if the wild predator was a man’.