We use animals.
We use their bodies and their secretions for what we believe is “our food.” We use their skin, fur and feathers for our clothing. We use them to entertain our children in zoos, circuses, rodeos and marine parks. We cage them in laboratories for product or medical research — to see if shampoo or makeup will sting their eyes or we inject them with lethal viruses to see how long it will take for them to die. We use animals by the billions and billions each and every day. We use them because we consider them something other than feeling, sentient beings. We don’t believe their lives have nearly the same value we place on our own. We use them because we can.
Each and every time we use an animal, we are categorically disregarding that animal’s interest in his or her own life … and concentrating solely on what we want from them, or how we can profit by using them. We have reduced them to economic commodities. They are as disposable as diapers, pens or plastic zipper bags. They are just sandwiches and shoes. Their feelings go completely unnoticed and unattended to. That is, unless they are our pets.
There is documentation, substantial evidence and scientific research proving that the use of animals is unnecessary. We know that the animals in zoos and circuses suffer loneliness, cruelty, confinement and loss of habitat. We know that laboratory animals live their entire lives in tiny cages, with needles and chemicals, and without love, family or kindness of any sort. We know that animals raised for what we call “food” suffer atrocities too numerous and horrifying to mention in this short column. The animals we skin for clothing were once beautiful and vibrant, but our down feather jackets, designer shoes, leather belts and handbags have become the backbone of our fashion consumerism.
So why do we use animals? Because it has always been that way? Because they are a lower life form than us? Because we are the highest link on the “food chain?” Because we were taught that in school? Because that is what we learned from our parents, our church — because it’s just the way it is?
Because we never stop to think about it — to really, really think about it.
Melanie Joy, Ph.D, asks an important question in her mind-opening book, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows.” She asks, “Of the ten billion animals that have been raised, transported, and slaughtered over the course of the past year, how many have you seen? Though we may eat meat on a daily basis, most of us don’t stop to consider how peculiar it is that we can go through our entire lives without ever encountering the animals that become our food. They are not grazing amid grassy fields and open barnyards. They are not sleeping in spacious stalls with fresh hay. From the moment they are born, these animals are kept in intensive confinement, where they may suffer from disease, exposure to extreme temperature, severe overcrowding, violent handling and even psychosis.”
Have you ever seen what goes on inside a concentrated animal feeding operation or behind the scenes of a circus, where they use bull hooks to train the elephants to form a circle with their front legs resting on the back of the elephant in front of them? Have you ever seen the inside of a medical laboratory that uses monkeys, rabbits or beagles to test cigarettes, cough medicine or just the psychological results of mother deprivation? Joy goes on to tell us, “The most effective way to distort reality is to deny it; if we tell ourselves there isn’t a problem, then we never have to worry about what to do about it. And the most effective way to deny a reality is to make it invisible.”
Gary L. Francione is a Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law, Rutgers University. He is what is known as an abolitionist, speaking out against using animals under any circumstances. He shines a light on our “moral schizophrenia” toward animals and our ability to regard some creatures as beloved companions and others as food and clothing. He offers philosophical essays defining what it means to give the interests of nonhumans moral consideration. He believes, and I agree, that veganism is the moral baseline. If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option – it is a necessity, a moral imperative: http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/
Veganism is defined as a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as is reasonably possible, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, entertainment and experimentation. If we could live a healthy and happy life without harming others, why wouldn’t we?
Wishing you peace and compassion. Namaste.
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
To read more about the moral issue of veganism, here are some resources:
“Animal Liberation” by Peter Singer
“Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows” by Melanie Joy
“Eat Like You Care: An Examination of the Morality of Eating Animals” by Gary L. Francione
“The World Peace Diet” by Will Tuttle
“Earthlings, the Documentary” www.earthlings.com (free to view online on youtube)