We Are Their Only Hope
an Essay by Karen Borch
Americans spend close to 50 billion dollars a year on their companion animals. The love and devotion extended to these companion animals is admirable. Many of them are rescue animals who were adopted and were fortunate enough to find loving homes. Most animals on this planet are not so lucky. Those of us who are devoted to all the animals in our care need to expand our circle of compassion. We need to become stewards and become involved with, and show the same devotion to all of creation. There are millions of animals in the world who suffer needlessly their entire lives. Most of them are caught in a vicious cycle of abuse. They need our help and involvement by direct action, contributions of time and energy, and our commitment to try to lessen their suffering in any way we can.
There is something profane about condoning, promoting or committing violence and brutality against animals. There are strong belief systems worldwide, that embrace the philosophy that animals are just products, sources of cheap food, goods, or money making machines for entertainment. A common and inappropriate response from people who embrace this disgraceful ideology is, to react to a call for compassion, and changes in our purchasing habits and diets, with; ridicule, disdain, hostility, scoffing, and even laughter. Such callous responses are incomprehensible and irrational, not to mention, perplexing. They fail to recognize that animal welfare is an immensely serious issue. It speaks volumes about our fundamental unwillingness to acknowledge the terror and the pain of other living beings, purely for our benefit, and how we are not open to change.
Considering there are seven billion people on the earth, and that every year fifty-five billion land animals are slaughtered for meat, world-wide, it is imperative that we seriously consider the carbon footprint of the food we consume. Most people are unaware that the leading cause of global warming is animal agriculture, more than is produced by all the vehicles in the world. (See Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options). For additional shocking statistics on the enormous degradation to the planet, go to this website. (See Global Warning! www.idausa.org)
Even in the face of a huge growing body of knowledge regarding heinous animal cruelty in industries exploiting animals for profit, change is painfully slow. Improvements to reduce or stop heinous animal suffering are regularly blocked by powerful politicians backed by obscene amounts of money from these industries not to implement any changes at all.
Although a few universities in America offer courses in animal law in their Law Schools, it should be taught in every law school in the country, and indeed, every law school in the rest of the world. Civilized societies everywhere have the obligation to honor the animals in their midst by protecting them. Because animal cruelty laws in place are actually being enforced in many cases, the incidence of animal cruelty court cases is becoming more common. Also, many cities have animal cruelty officers or animal cops who deal with animal cruelty every day, but the overwhelming need far exceeds their numbers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_Cops). In spite of, thousands of films, websites, and exhaustive research, exposing the plight of billions of animals worldwide, and in spite of an awareness beginning to develop, the indifference abounds. These animals are living desperate lives, and yet regardless of the facts, once people become aware, they often dismiss this world crisis and are unwavering in their convictions, living blissfully in a climate of unmitigated denial. There is something morally repugnant when people are willing to pay others to abuse, and slaughter animals so they can eat them, because they are absolutely unwilling to slaughter animals themselves. Doesn’t everyone know where lamb chops come from? Isn’t it disingenuous if you can’t slaughter, skin and dismember an innocent baby lamb crying for its’ mother, yourself? Then, in my judgment, you can’t have that lamb chop.
Animal atrocities continue to exist because there is an acceptance of the intolerable. Animal suffering ordinarily, is not questioned, because it has become a cultural norm, instead of compassion being the norm. Refusing to recognize the enormity of rampant worldwide animal suffering is the norm because then people can continue to live a sanitized life and make no changes in their buying habits or diets. However, I believe without question, this makes them culpable.
An exception to this fierce resistance to consider animal welfare is that sometimes, overnight, people will change to a plant based diet, not because they have any concern or care about animal cruelty, but because they had; a serious heart attack, a debilitating stroke, developed diabetes, or some type of cancer and suddenly are faced with their own mortality. They simply don’t want to die.
A remarkable fact about Loma Linda, California is that people live longer there than anyplace on the planet. The majority of the population there are Seventh Day Adventists who adhere to a strict plant based diet as part of their religious beliefs. Heavily researched by the scientific community for decades worldwide, their plant based diet has had a dramatic effect on their longevity. (http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/what-adventists-mean-to-you )
In a perfect world, people would be outraged over any product or service that was the result of cruelty or suffering of any living being. Most people would not knowingly support and purchase goods, foods, or products from corporations, that made a profit from exploitation, cruelty and suffering of innocent human beings, like blood diamonds for example. Most people will remember that when the public found out that young children were forced to work in factories for twelve hours a day, making Nike sneakers, under deplorable conditions, the reaction was an immediate public outcry. That outrage and effective boycotts that followed, put a stop to the practice. The media exposure was extensive and the Nike Corporation had to conform to the conscience and moral values of the market or lose billions.
The purchasing power each of us has as consumers is powerful and effective. In this high tech age, it is easy and inexpensive to take action and use the internet to; post blogs, emails, tweets, and use Facebook to get the media and cable talk show hosts involved in issues you believe in passionately.
Years ago there was no such thing as dolphin free tuna. Dolphins, seals, albatross, huge sea turtles, and other sea creatures were routinely caught up in tuna nets and strangled or ground up alive, because the tuna fishermen had no use for them. That industry finally bowed to public outcry, extensive media involvement, films that were distributed of the carnage, and finally they invested in dolphin safe nets. Although there still are egregious violations in this industry, it was a victory of sorts. However, there are still other atrocities committed against marine wildlife including; commercial fishing, shark poaching and finning, seal hunting, and whaling, to name a few, and the use of hideous driftnets. These violations are hard to stop, especially in international waters. (For an in depth account of these ongoing crimes, check out the heroic efforts of Captain Paul Watson, his crew, and the thousands upon thousands who support him worldwide, at http://www.seashepherd.org/)
Another effective public outcry was against the fur industry. When the media, and animal rights groups exposed the shocking conditions involved in that industry, and photographs, films, and statistics were given wide exposure, an extraordinary backlash occurred. There was a vehement public outcry. When the truth became known about the unspeakable horrors of the sinister fur industries, people recoiled in disgust. That industry suffered a huge financial loss in the United States, with the exception of some Northern states, especially Alaska. What developed was a stigma against wearing the fur of a dead animal that had suffered so much. Those who continued to wear fur were walking advertisements of callousness and it became generally, socially unacceptable, a statement to all who see you that you condone animal cruelty. This dramatic reaction to the cruelty of wearing fur can be compared to, finally a public acceptance that smoking is bad for you. It causes cancer, you could die from it, it definitely is not cool or sexy, and many find it downright, disgusting. That change in public perception regarding smoking was due to prolific media campaigns, scientific evidence, tobacco ads not appearing on TV or in the media, and explicit warnings against the use of tobacco as a deadly substance, and it worked. Likewise, it is rare in America to see women flaunting their fur coats anymore, because people look at them with disdain. As it was with smoking, being glamorous and sexy, the growing outrage against animal cruelty in the fur industries is slowly becoming a new acceptable cultural norm in America.
Sadly, wildlife seems to be exempt to this media trend because tragically, the pelts of millions of wild animals that are hunted in America are sold to foreign markets for their products. The shocking truth is that the fur of many of these beautiful American wild animals end up as coats sold in air conditioned malls in Dubai. It is unfathomable that in such a warm climate, people need fur coats. The obscenity is, they don’t. Those fur coats are a mere status symbol and that is pathetic. There has to be more effective critical media exposure against the considerable callousness and brutality in hunting wildlife. The despicable use of steel leg hold traps, snares, and the cruelties of bow hunting, must be exposed. The reckless indifference of wildlife officials needs to be challenged. They need to monitor hunters who maim animals when they run off to die slowly by bleeding to death, starving or becoming helpless prey for other animals. There needs to be stiff penalties for poaching and other crimes against wildlife. The officials who do not enforce laws and the hunters with no moral conscience must be held accountable. There must be heavy fines and no licenses issued to these serial abusers in our forests. Until the public becomes aware of this violence, nothing will change.
Another real change that was readily accepted and changed buying habits of the public, was the exposure of the atrocious tests on animals in those industries that manufacture; soaps, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, chemicals, household and products. The dark secret of the bloody and painful tests done on innocent animals that caused great bodily harm, blindness and even death, stunned the public. There was strong and immediate response to this unnecessary testing and the boycotts worked, so it does matter when we speak up. It is very effective and those companies will conform or lose their markets. In general, sales increase across the board whenever there is a label stating, not tested on animals, so stopping this horrid practice has become an asset and provides increased profits. For a comprehensive list of companies who still condone cruelty against animals in these industries, check, (http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-experimentation/animals-used-experimentation-factsheets/product-testing-toxic-tragic/)
An incomprehensible reaction to animal abuse, that is standard in the media, is their reluctance to expose the horrors of routine animal suffering for profit. No videos of horrific factory farms, feed lots, and slaughter houses, the fur industries, bull fighting, heinous hunting practices, etc., will ever be seen on the evening news. When the Chinese dog and cat fur industry was exposed a few years ago on evening TV, showing a clip of a beautiful German shepherd being skinned alive, while he was wagging his tail, the public was horrified and the criticism was immediate against the TV station to censor such videos. It did not result in a deluge of negative responses against China or those companies who bought and sold those dog and cat fur coats. Is this because we are moral cowards where animals are concerned? Why do we care about some animals and not others? Why do we care about some forms of cruelty and not others?
Not until people find it reprehensible to condone any and all forms of animal abuse, will these powerful beliefs be challenged. Those making obscene amounts of money from animal suffering and exploitation, routinely and vehemently challenge the veracity of the factual evidence. They ignore the public outcry, because conveniently, they won’t have to justify the deplorable brutality, and greed wins out.
Try to book a guided tour through a factory farm for cattle, pigs, turkeys, or chickens, or maybe a guided tour to your local slaughter house just to see their operation and perhaps take some photographs. Not in a million years, would anyone be allowed to view the appalling and shocking treatment of living beings in these institutionalized houses of horror. Those corporations protect their privacy with a fierce secrecy. That is why they are located outside of cities and towns with heavy security. If one tried to get in just to observe, it would be like trying to break into The United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox. No visitors are permitted, and no exceptions are made.They do not want the general public to become aware of the atrocities committed there and will jealously guard against anyone being a witness to their crimes against sentient beings.
Their status quo is therefore preserved at the cost of horrendous misery for animals. Generally, the response to a genuine attempt to even have a discussion with people who are woefully ignorant of the pervasive violence against other living beings, is that they feign being so sensitive, so genteel, and emotional, that they simply cannot bear to be exposed to anything so gruesome, like it was pornography or a snuff film. It is always a very effective standoff and a very effective way to tell devoted animal stewards to just shut up. Their perception of animal stewards is disingenuous to say the least. It is predicated on the ignorant notion that, those who find the treatment of animals abhorrent and detestable, are all; left wingers, extremists, tree huggers, sappy environmentalists, politically radical, vegetarians, global warming believers, social justice advocates, supporters of women’s rights, gay rights, animal rights, and people who; exaggerate, love to march in demonstrations, are eccentric, prejudiced, opinionated, and most definitely, self-righteous. Nothing could be further from the truth. Animal advocates can be found everywhere in all strata of society. People, who love, honor and want to protect animals by eliminating animal cruelty cut across all ages and all walks of life. They have different educational credentials, religions, come from different political parties, and are both men and women, world-wide. They represent all cultures, countries and nationalities. For the record, collectively they do find it morally repugnant to blindly accept as a norm that we can, without conscience, treat animals with callous disregard, and absolute impunity. Animal stewards also have another thing in common, the message from society to them, the unwritten law is, to always walk on eggshells, keep your opinions about animals to yourselves, don’t ruin our meal or our Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and don’t offend us or make us nauseated because we don’t want to hear about that drivel. We maintain our right to censor any information regarding animal cruelty because it is just plain offensive, and, “why aren’t you people concerned about starving children who are enslaved?” (A common remark to diminish the speaker and immediately change the subject.) The logical answer is always “why can’t we care about both?” Is there a shortage of compassion poured into each person at birth, so if you use it up on animals, surely you cannot care about suffering children?
Those who want to silence animal stewards need a wake-up call. Silence about animals in peril has no merit. In fact, it is disgraceful and pure complicity, and it is patently absurd to write off this epidemic of animal cruelty as insignificant. If we stay silent it dishonors us as caring human beings. Compassion for animals should be who we are, in the deepest part of our souls. Animal stewards need to appeal passionately to those who are courageous enough to listen when they hear about these atrocities, and not be intimidated by adversarial responses by remaining silent. It is my deep conviction that the main reason people are so determined not to become knowledgeable about the gruesome truth of animal cruelty, is because, then they will have no excuses and they will have to make some serious changes in their lives, because, now, they know. Some will never cross over, but those who do will find their lives significantly better. Somehow that awesome silence must be confronted.
No more walking on egg shells to accommodate people, whom I am convinced, would be horrified, shocked, dismayed, ashamed and angered if they knew the magnitude of this malicious and despicable treatment of other living beings on this earth. Why should they be shielded from the truth anymore? Like Ann Frank, I believe most people are basically good, so my premise is, if animal stewards are serious about this struggle, they will break through this deceitful wall of silence.
It is sacred commitment and a real calling, to inform the public with great clarity about this world crisis regarding animal atrocities, by exposing those responsible. One may wonder why animal advocates are so dedicated and motivated to changing the world view that animal suffering is of no consequence. Do they have a different DNA or are they just naïve or they have nothing else to do with their time? The truth is that animal advocates are in a constant state of grief over the atrocities and they feel helpless to change things. It is hard to have hope and keep walking in the light, but whenever there is a breakthrough and a success for animal welfare is achieved, it is like raindrops on your face, or finally the sun breaking through the clouds. It takes great love and dedication for animal stewards to keep up the good fight only to be faced with the constant and very confrontational intellectual gymnastics, defensiveness, and semantic arguments that serve no purpose. The only intent in such a response is to discredit the speaker and refute, at all costs, what is being said. When people cannot justify the callous indifference that allows them to accept animal cruelty as insignificant, the conversation is usually over. Does anyone have the right to inflict the grievous, unspeakable animal cruelty that exists worldwide, with impunity? To keep up that indefensible argument, which serves no purpose; can people continue to claim they are not culpable and don’t have to feel remorse?
Most people are appalled at the institutionalized cruelty that appears to be acceptable, but they don’t take the next step. If we have advanced at all as human beings, we must consider violations against our animal brethren as completely unacceptable. Are we not all responsible when any animal suffers? We must continue to fight against the deceit, the falsehoods, outright lies and abundant disinformation from those who find it acceptable to abuse, torture and kill animals with impunity, just to make a buck. This comprehensive across-the-board deception and absurd distortions must always be confronted. The disgraceful denials of egregious animal cruelty are an affront to caring and compassionate people everywhere.
We must continue to fight against all forms of animal abuse, and act as though it already was an accepted standard in polite society to question animal suffering. All life has meaning and has value. The so called collective acceptance of animal abuse just for a tasty meal, a coat, some cosmetics, jewelry, leather coats, sofas or purses, is an abomination. If we accept that all life is precious, does it not seem honorable that we should treasure such lives? What kind of person commits or condones this brutality?
Moral and spiritual maturity comes from recognizing the gift that animals are to us in so many facets of our lives. Ignoring their plight in any guise means we do not recognize their significance, and we do not recognize the magnificent capacity they have to enrich our lives. Perhaps it is exceptional or rare to care this much? I don’t think so. I think we all have the divine capacity to be endlessly compassionate. It is incomprehensible that anyone could condone or approve of such widespread, unconscionable, cruelty. Such a kind and gentle world is almost unimaginable, but certainly a worthwhile goal.
People of good will need to know; that geese are being violently force fed to make goose liver pate from their enlarged and diseased livers, ( Foie Gras), that baby pigs routinely have their teeth pulled out by pliers, tails docked and are castrated with no anesthetic, that there is an annual fiery festival in Spain where hot tar is poured on a bull’s head and he is set on fire while he runs frantically through the streets surrounded by cheering crowds, until the tar burns into his brain and causes a gruesome slow death. Those who claim compassion for animals should also know about the worldwide grisly treatment of male chicks. These newborns are ground up alive, electrocuted, or thrown into trashcans where they slowly suffocate on top of one another, because they have no value as broilers and can’t lay eggs.(Last year 250 million male chicks in America, were massacred in this appalling and truly evil manner.) Those people who love fur coats should be obligated to watch beautiful fur bearing animals being anally electrocuted, suffocated, gassed, or poisoned, so there are no marks on their bodies for the coats. People who self-identify as so called “sensitive people,” do not want to hear about; baby seals being bludgeoned to death for fur coats in front of their terrified mothers, the annual frenzied, brutal massacre of hundreds of pilot whales in the Faroe islands, the horrific dens of disease called puppy mills, sharks having their fins and tails sliced off only to be dumped into the sea to starve and drown, appalling information and videos of the slow and cowardly ritual slaughter of bulls in the ring, whales being harpooned which takes hours to die a slow and horribly painful death from grievous wounds and blood loss, animals in labs who suffer the most heinous experiments, most of which cannot be extrapolated to humans, military experiments on live goats, pigs and dogs that involve being set on fire, shot, and legs cut off with shears,(See the video on www. youtube.com, by Academy award winner, director, and former U.S. Army veteran, Oliver Stone, who exposes this, “Horrific Military Training”). American horses are repeatedly stabbed in their necks to paralyze them, not kill them, in Mexican slaughter plants, then disemboweled and skinned while conscious, because of the reckless mismanagement of the Bureau of Land Management to round up the remaining wild horses in this country for foreign meat markets, (against the will of the majority of Americans).
The American public also needs to know that 100 million dollars of your taxpayer dollars are spent annually to poison our wildlife on public lands with sodium cyanide, which is delivered by a trip wire, and which is also a hideous and painful way to die. (http://www.nrdc.org/wildlife/animals/wolves/predatorcontrol.asp)
People who buy cheap fur need to know that much of that fur comes from cats and dogs from China, after they are hung to death, but many are skinned alive. Then the fur is mislabeled as rabbit, or unknown origin, so it can be exported to America and Europe. (Dog and cat meat in China is considered to be better tasting and more tender if they are beaten and die a slow death.)
I wonder if “sensitive,” people care if the meat they eat, or the milk they drink is the result of enormous unspeakable animal suffering? A cow’s normal life span is 30 years, just like a chicken in the wild, and all chickens used to be able to fly and they roosted in trees at night. Cows are lucky to last 3 years on a factory farm, and broiler chickens are slaughtered at 6-12 weeks. (Egg laying hens are forced to lay 250 eggs a year instead of a normal free roaming hen who lays 25-30 a year.) Factory farm hens all suffer from severe osteoporosis, often uterine prolapse from constant egg-laying and most have respiratory illnesses from ammonia fumes. They are so spent, used up and diminished, health-wise, they don’t last more than a year before they are slaughtered, nine billion a year in this country. Turkeys are genetically bred to develop enormous chests so they have more white meat, and by the time the half billion are slaughtered annually, they are so overweight and crippled, they can barely walk and they are in constant pain. Male turkeys are kept in the dark and milked for their semen once or twice a week. Females are clamped into metal forceps upside down and inseminated, twice a week. All poultry are debeaked with a hot blade at birth, their toes are clipped causing chronic pain, interfering with eating, drinking, preening, mating, and nesting. All male turkeys have their snoods sliced off which is excruciating painful. In the wild, turkeys all can fly up to a speed of 55 miles per hour. How sad is that? Turkeys have strong family bonds, amazing mating rituals and elaborate dances and all this is brutally diminished and eliminated because humans do not respect or revere animals.
For the record, all farm animals are considered livestock and no animal welfare laws protect them against institutionalized animal cruelty. No one can be prosecuted for; torturing, engaging in bestiality, maiming, beating, starving, not providing water, or veterinary care of any animal considered livestock.
Deliberate and devastating animal cruelty is part of a worldwide institutionalized ideology, promulgated by industries that make huge profits from this misery, based on their conviction that, cruelty is acceptable to most people. Indeed, their very livelihood depends on their devious propaganda. The public has been duped and these malevolent industries are laughing all the way to the bank.
I hear often that it doesn’t matter to the animals. People play the air violin, indicating their sarcasm, or contempt, or making a mockery and belittling what animal stewards are attempting to share, and the comments regarding animals are shocking. “They can’t think and use reason or make logical comparisons. They don’t even talk, they aren’t intelligent, they don’t feel pain, and anxiety, like we do, and hence we can treat them any way we want, etc., etc.”
Granted, a cow will never write a best-selling novel, a chimpanzee won’t get a Nobel Peace Prize, a pig won’t invent a cure for cancer, nor will a goat compose a symphony, but does that justify; depriving animals of a safe environment, the freedom to move, sunshine and fresh air, taking them away from their families, forcing them to be on drugs, antibiotics and hormones their entire lives, making them endure painful mutilations without anesthetics, and ending their short lives by excruciatingly painful slaughter techniques that often don’t work, so many are fully conscious when; they are immersed in boiling water, have their throats slit, limbs cut off, or are disemboweled?
How intelligent or competent do animals have to be before they are afforded humane care and treatment? What about chimpanzees who have learned sign language and know how to communicate with humans? Are they exempt from brutality because we can have conversations with them? What if a chimp said no to painful medical experiments, or leaving her cell and having her baby taken away?
As if it isn’t bad enough that indifference to animal suffering abounds during their short, wretched, lives it is an acknowledged fact, that animals do feel pain as intensely as humans, they do suffer from depression, loneliness, intense fear, and many develop neurotic and psychotic behavior from our contemptible treatment of them.
We must not condone worldwide animal suffering as an acceptable norm, and we must respond to it, as morally reprehensible and unacceptable. Egregious animal cruelty is unprecedented and it continues unabated. The conspiracy of silence is dominant and it is part and parcel of our entire social system. I believe we know in our hearts this is wrong, and we need to step up to the plate and; strongly condemn these atrocities, make no purchases that support animal suffering, and consider celebrating your own life, health, and longevity by moving towards a plant-based diet.
It should be a moral imperative to cherish this earth and all its’ living creatures. Somewhere within the human spirit there must exist a caring heart and a conscience that recoils in disgust, shock and horror over the reprehensible animal cruelty the world over. We are the recipients of the boundless joy animals bring to us, and they deserve, without question, our endless compassion.
Making a commitment to nurture and protect the other living beings we share our planet with, is a powerful, liberating, and honorable decision. It shows great strength of character, in a world that is, for all intents and purposes, hostile to animal suffering. It is only right that we cherish and protect them. Animals are part of this world and part of life. It takes great integrity and courage to speak out against the horrors that have been under wraps for too long. Animal stewardship requires an unwavering commitment to embrace, promote, and encourage any and all initiatives that seek to lessen or eliminate animal suffering. Recognizing our sacred relationship with other living beings must become the new norm. Being outraged on behalf these crimes against animals, must inspire us to action.
Remember, the animals have no voice. We are all interconnected, and we are their only voice, their only hope.
Only when societies acknowledge the widespread and reckless disregard for the precious creatures we share this planet with and honor the sanctity of all life, will we grow in spirit and advance as a population with common decency as a core value.
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