Comments on animals, ethics and Robert Burns

Posted in CF Writing by chrisfremantle on January 28, 2011

Some members of the ecoartnetwork responded to the short piece reflecting on Robert Burns’ To A Mouse and they kindly let me share their thoughts:

Chrissie Orr (and you can find out more about Chrissie at said,

Chris, I have always loved this poem. I was born in Scotland and  grew up hearing  the poems of Burns. My father was well known for reciting them at the Burns Suppers. I used to be able to recite this one by heart but over the years it has become more and more difficult to remember it all.  Out here in New Mexico there are not many opportunities to use it and I’m out of practice.

However with this new and interesting take on it I might revive my recitation and Scottish accent skills.  I did use Address to a Haggis in an exhibition that was held at the State Capital in Santa Fe which was called Food and Politics!
Thank you for you interesting thoughts on this,


Viewed up close nobody is normal.
Caestano Veloso

Beth Carruthers (and you can find out more about Beth at or said,

Thanks so much for this Chris

I know this poem and what I like about it is not only the commiseration and empathy, but also as you say the recognition of relationship, of being together in a world. There is indeed a very long and deep history of people being not only human. Yet so many stories have been lost through the loss of the oral traditions of record keeping. I am fond of some stories that have survived in the Irish tradition, best known might be the Story of Fintan, and parts of the Song(s) of Amergin, which was written down by monks in 3500. The intertwining of being and the shape-changing is also very common here on the Pacific coast of Canada, in the traditional Haida culture, with its oral tradition. For the Haida, it was Raven who discovered the first men (and also, separately, the first women):

“Very strange creatures they were: two legged like Raven, but otherwise very different. They had no feathers. Nor fur. They had no great beak. Their skin was pale, and they were naked except for the dark hair upon round, flat-featured heads. Instead of strong wings like raven, they had thin stick-like arms that waved and fluttered constantly. They were the first humans.”

Traditional Haida tale of Raven finding the first men, as retold in translation by Barry McWilliams in Raven Finds the First Men

The world is full of persons, not all of whom are human 🙂

Canada is chock full of descendants of Scots settlers and my grandparents had the Gaelic – although they wouldn’t teach it to their children, for fear they would become social and economic outcasts in a British colony should they have a Scots accent. Normal, at that time. I certainly got a deep sense of interspecies relationship and of being part of a living and aware world from the Sinclair side of my family.

(BTW, here, on Robbie Burns Day, there are dinners, haggis, dancing and piping galore. Simon Fraser University – where I used to both study and teach – has 3 campuses around the city of Vancouver. Each year on this day a haggis is carried behind a kilted piper and protected with a ceremonial sword as it is carried to visit all campuses as a part of the celebration ritual – all by way of public transit (tube/skytrain). It is something to be on the train when they board 🙂


and Mary Arnold commented,

Chris & Beth,

Then there are the Selkie legends — tales of love and possession, hidden and dual identities, alienation and loss, as in this old recording.


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