|Enewsletter • November 3, 2004|
Despair leads to inaction,
and there is no time for that. There's too much
work to do.
A Fresh Start
There are a number of times -- the holidays, New Years, the first day of school, etc. -- when people decide that it is time for a fresh start, when they choose a new path or re-dedicate themselves to what is truly important.
Today is a good day for us to renew our commitment to making a better world. We should take a moment to remind ourselves of the hidden suffering, and review what we can do to help.
The animals have no voice but ours.
Decency, Justice, and Why Animal Rights Is Not So Radical After All
by Joe Espinosa (at right)
As the twelve year anniversary
of my "awakening" approaches, I find
myself looking back at what motivated me to
stop eating my favorite foods, then to go on
to ask tens of thousands of other people to
do the same. Was I someone who always exhibited
a closeness to animals? Not in an affectionate
or emotional sense. I had always been interested
in animals, but more in the sense of viewing
them as fascinating subjects of study, rather
than as individuals with interests of their
Many people with this background viewpoint go on to celebrate animal exploitation in various ways: sportsmen who hunt and fish for fun, biologists who disrupt or take animals’ lives in the process of their profession, veterinarians who make a living in service to the animal exploitation industries, vivisectors who actively traumatize animals in their quest for knowledge, recognition, publication, and money.
Nearly all people seem to hold the background attitude that even the largest animal interest -- avoiding brutal suffering -- does not outweigh the most trivial human interest. When people say "humans come first," they may think they mean only that given a choice between their child or their dog, they would choose their child. But the reality of the sentiment is that horrible cruelty to animals is acceptable for even the most minor amount of pleasure for humans.
Nothing demonstrates this unbalanced equation better than the institution responsible for the vast majority of animal suffering: animal agriculture. The immense suffering that chickens, pigs, turkeys, cows, and other farmed animals endure every day -- for the small amount of momentary pleasure derived from eating their flesh, eggs, or milk -- is simply unjust. It is that simple. The magnitude of this injustice, the absurd imbalance in the equation between human and animal interests, is what pulled me off the path of an unthinking supporter of animal suffering and into the role of animal protectionist.
Hundreds of years ago, those who noticed a similar imbalance worked against the abuse, enslavement, and killing of First Nations people and Black people in the "New World." The abuse and exploitation of these weaker groups by those in power was justified by their different appearance -- obvious yet arbitrary genetic differences. Working against the exploitation and abuse of the weak by those in power has a long tradition that we should be proud to carry on. Simple principles of decency, like the Golden Rule, demand that we work for justice for those who suffer so terribly. This is true for those of us who feel a close, affectionate connection with members of the groups who suffer, as well as those of us who are motivated by a vision of the day when others suffer no more. About 10 billion animals will endure miserable lives on factory farms and deaths in industrial slaughterhouses this year. As individuals of conscience, it falls on us to do the work that puts the wheels in motion that will one day end this suffering.
We must do this.
When I first became vegetarian and then vegan, I shared my discoveries about the horrible cruelties done to farmed animals with my friends and family. I was quite sure that they would respond to these troubling facts much like I had -- by withdrawing support for the industries that perpetrate these brutal practices. By and large, that was not the case. Looking back on my efforts now I see that I was mistaken in thinking that my relationships with family and friends would be the factor that moved them to stop supporting such suffering.
The issue of animal cruelty really speaks for itself. But not everyone is honest and brave enough to undertake change in order to alleviate that suffering. The chances are low that a significant number of people that we know personally would fall into this category. However, taking the case out to a wider audience, via leafleting on college campuses, significantly increases the chances of finding receptive people -- those with the right combination of humility, honesty, courage, and strength to change their diets in order to stop sentencing animals to this brutal fate.
Perhaps many vegetarians and vegans who would like to help further reduce animal suffering fail to act because of thinking, "If I could not convince my own parents/brother/cousin/boyfriend to stop eating animals, what chance do I have of convincing a stranger?" My personal experience has been that there are tens of thousands of strangers that are interested in getting a Why Vegan booklet, if only we are there to offer it to them. To save many animals from terrible suffering and death, it just takes our presence on college campuses and some patience to filter through the population in order to find those interested. This is a better use of time and energy than continuing an argument with your father about whether God approves of battery cages.
Many campuses are not yet covered, meaning students who would stop eating animals will continue to do so simply because one of us was not there to present them with a compelling reason to stop. You can be there.