Growing up, I attended circuses, visited zoos, marine parks and the like. Looking back now, I will never truly understand why I did not see behind the wizard’s curtain into what really was going on underneath the laughter and the lure of watching animals in such an unnatural habitat.
After all, they were brought into my habitat, and I was perfectly comfortable inviting them in. I was a child and I marveled at the animals. I just didn’t know about the suffering it took for them to come and entertain me. I didn’t know about the miles and miles they traveled in trains and trucks in cold and heat. I didn’t know the methods used to “train” them to perform those “tricks” that made us squeal with delight. I didn’t know they would be relegated to a life behind bars, in chains or small pens, without the ability to roam daily for miles and miles, as was their natural instinct.
I certainly didn’t know they were taken, stolen, ripped from their families, from their homes in the deserts, the oceans and the forests that were the very essence of what home meant for them. Denial and ignorance lingered into my adult life and when I had a child, I set about planning the same “entertaining” afternoons for my son as had been planned for me. He’d squeal with delight at the circus and talk to the animals through the cages at the zoo. He couldn’t see behind the curtain either. He was just a child.
My awakening was very rude indeed. When I became vegan, I was immediately shifted into a new paradigm — a new way of seeing the world with the veil lifted, the curtain drawn. You see, veganism does not only entail eating a healthful whole-food plant-based diet. Veganism is the realization that all animals (not just our pets) are here with us, sharing life in this web of mystery and wonder. They are not ours to use in the myriad ways we use them: for food, for clothing, for entertainment or experimentation. All animals have their own instincts, rituals and behaviors.
We may ask ourselves the ultimate spiritual question, “What are we doing here?” We may not have the answer, but one thing is for sure — the animals are here for their own mysterious purposes. We are not the ultimate beings. All animals are wondrous and miraculous, if we just take the time to see it. What binds us is that all animals (including humans) are sentient beings who can feel love, fear and pain. Animals have strong family bonds. They fiercely love their children and mourn them as we do ours. But somehow we have this illusion we are superior and therefore we can use them in any way we see fit that will suit our needs or desires. Somehow, we took a very wrong turn — and became lost.
The sun has finally made an appearance in the northeast. School is out for summer, time will slow down a bit and we’ll remember why it is such a blessing to live in the Hudson Valley. When we begin to plan family outings, we can choose to participate in activities driven by compassion, education and joy. We can steer clear of zoos, animal circuses, rodeos, marine parks and all caged animal events. Don’t be fooled — these are all filled with disheartened animals and these events are purely profit driven. We can make a conscious and compassionate choice. We can choose to visit an animal sanctuary instead.
Animal sanctuaries save animals in need, but mostly from the hands of slaughterhouse workers. Animal sanctuaries give these gentle beings a chance to live out a life of peace with caregivers who will feed them well and show them compassion, probably for the first time in their lives. They are nurtured and loved and respected. That is a beautiful thing to see and is why I encourage each and everyone reading these words to visit an animal sanctuary this summer or fall. This is the entertainment-education activity that can change the world we live in for the better.
These animals will induce the excited squeals of happiness we remember from our childhood, but this time, both our children and the animals will be happy. Our children will see happy animals displaying fun-loving and natural instincts that foster joy and curiosity, compassion and love for animals — all animals.
Sande Nosonowitz is a certified yoga and meditation teacher as well as a certified vegan lifestyle coach and educator. Reach her at Sundara website www.sundarajewel.com or email email@example.com
Here is a sampling of animal sanctuaries that are either local or a daytrip away. Check out their websites, put gas in the car, pack a cooler with fruit and lemonade, and get ready for an unforgettable encounter with compassion.
- Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Saugerties: https://casanctuary.org/
- Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, High Falls: http://woodstocksanctuary.org/
- Safe Haven Animal Sanctuary, Beekman: www.safehavenfarmsanctuary.org
- Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen: http://www.farmsanctuary.org/
- Skylands Animal Sanctuary, Wantage N.J.: http://www.skylandssanctuary.org/
- Lasa Animal Sanctuary, Jefferson, Ohio: http://www.lasasanctuary.org/