Flying above the 250,000 trapped residents of Aleppo, Syria, Russian planes dropped leaflets issuing a dire warning:

“If you don’t leave these areas quickly you will be annihilated.”

But where could they go? Thousands are fleeing due to the violence, joining nearly 11 million people who have fled or been displaced since the conflict began.

When I received this news from Oxfam in November, I had to wonder. Where could they go? Who would take them in? To whom could they turn for mercy and life?

“Slaughtered like sheep.” “Left to die like dogs.” “Butchered like innocent cattle.”

We struggle to find the language to describe the cruelty and horror. So we rely on analogies.

And yet there is a subtle irony some are grasping: Is it ok to slaughter sheep? Annihilate pigs, butcher cattle and kill millions of dogs and cats yearly?

Is there a qualitative difference between human life and other life? And does it matter?

I know Aleppo, Syria. It’s called “Halib” in Arabic, the root word, I believe, for milk.

I don’t know why exactly. Perhaps it expresses deep feelings of love for Aleppo as the “nourishment,” the “cream city” of cities.

I once drank coffee at the famous dowager Hotel Baron, a masterpiece of elegance; rich, weighty with legacy. I drank a cold beer on the porch, and leafed lazily through the faded guest book.

It dated back to the early 1900’s.

I felt like a child when I ran my finger down the faded ledger and saw the rather neat signature of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) who stayed in Room 202. Agatha Christie preferred Room 203.

Lawrence had a balance due on his account, which he acknowledged with a careful signature and notation. Britain owed the Arabs so much more.

What’s left of the hotel are its bones.

The destruction of Syria (or any country) has to be seen in the context of interspecies killing and suffering, whose horror and brutality affect all living things.

Plants, trees, animals, bodies of water, the air, the earth are also destroyed and corrupted by the insanity of the “war addicted.”

We are all killed.

Did we always know that?

Did we know that life is connected, and the pain of one species is the pain of another, without hierarchal difference?

For whom the bells toll isn’t all about humans.

At last count, more than 480 thousand Syrians have died in the carnage.

At last count 56 billion animals are slaughtered every year in the United States.

The number jumps to 150 billion animals worldwide, not counting laboratory animals. (

There is no way I would get drawn into a discussion about whether the life of an animal is equal to the life of a human.

But that’s my point.

Why make the comparison?

What point does it serve to value one kind of life over another: an American over a Chinese, a white person over one of color; a Syrian over a Swede, an Israeli over an Arab…or a dog over a person.

This section from Animal Equality struck home for me.

“An animal’s life is as important and irreplaceable to them, as ours is to us. As children we intuitively start out loving animals and even talking to them (“ Mommy, Rover says he’s sad because he has a tummy ache.” ) Then we are weaned away from that: “Animals don’t talk, Johnny. You know that! Come along now.”

We come easily to view cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and fish as entities whose reason for life is to provide us with food.

We come easily to see that the Syrian people (and people) are just food for the machinery of war and conquest.

Perhaps blame Book of Genesis where we are told humans are given “dominion” over all the birds, beasts and things of the sea.

Is there a connection between Aleppo, abattoirs, poaching elephants for umbrella stands?

I think so.

The difference between Aleppo and a slaughterhouse is the difference in species only, and we fail daily to recognize the “sameness” of our “beingness,” the sacredness of all life.

Run people of Aleppo.

Run animals of the world.

But where?

Screen Shot 2017-01-16 at 12.12.37 PM In our everyday lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the sacredness of all life. Today, I challenge you to develop a deeper consciousness of life. Step outside observe a member of another species–a tree, a bird, a squirrel. Recognize that they were put on this earth for more than just the pleasure and needs of human beings. They have a life and with it, their own joys, happiness, and feelings. This is more than merely a “nice thing to do.” It’s a recognition of the reverence in all forms of life.