2.1 Belief
The way that people look at the world around them depends on their background. To some people, a fox is a reddish-coloured animal which hunters chase on horseback. To animal lovers, the fox is a lively, rather rascally creature who has managed to live not just in the countryside, but also in the town. To the farmer, the fox is a pest which kills chickens. To someone who is against hunting, the fox is an innocent victim of human cruelty. To many storytellers in many lands, the fox is a clever and cunning character, as in the French story of Reynard the fox. To Hindus or Buddhists, the fox has a soul like their own, and may even be someone they knew before who has died and been reborn as a fox. To many Japanese people, the fox is a frightening sight, because they believe that evil spirits live in the bodies of foxes waiting to take over human beings.
So, What is a fox?  It is clear that the answers people give depends on what they believe. This is true of everything around us. We understand things because of what we believe. If you believe that hunting is wrong, then you will see animals like the fox, rabbit or tiger in one way. If you are a hunter, then you will see them in a very different way. If you like sausages, then you will see the pig as a source of food. If you are a vegetarian, then you will not. If you believe that the world is there to use as you want and when you want, then you are not going to care very much for it. If you believe that everything in the world is the same sort of being or soul as you, then you will be very careful how you treat all living things.
The same is true of religious beliefs,  Because of what we believe about our origins, and life's meaning, we see different worlds.
However we now have a common scientific understanding of the interdependence of all things.  This is a common belief of all religions, but you do not have to be religious or a scientist to realise the preciousness of life and the right of even the tiniest insect to exist.
In a letter to young people of the world, introducing a book of creation stories published by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the Dalai Lama of Tibet put it this way.
.... as we look around, we witness needless cruelty to animals, defenceless as they are.   Through the newspapers and television we come to know about the extinction of many forms of life, the degradation of the soil and plant life that have sustained us for so long.
No government or organization no matter how well its intention may be, can tackle the root of the problem without the awareness and participation of everyone in society.   That is why the efforts of the World Wildlife Fund are so important and should be supported whole-heartedly by all of us.
The stories you will read in the following pages try to explain the way all forms of life are regarded by different people all over the world.   Some of them may not sound factual but that is not the point.   It is what we learn from the ideas behind them that matters.
Next time, when we are about to trample a plant, destroy a flower or kill, a harmless insect, can we remember the message of some of these stories and in return for the gift and beauty nature has enriched our lives with, treat it with more gentleness and appreciation?