Monday, March 27, 2017

Animal Rights: The Cognitive Dissonance of Arrogance

This is a time in our history in which numerous dynamic changes and possible truths have come forward. There are things now possible that we have only been able to dream of in the past, and there is knowledge abound that can help save us all. At the apex of these wondrous breakthroughs, there is another idea that should not be so revolutionary: The idea that human beings and animals share the same rights, and that all species should be treated equally. The basic tenants of what we consider our basic rights as human beings should, in turn, be given to other sentient beings. After all, we consider these rights inalienable to us simply because we are sentient beings ourselves.

Our fellow beings share many of our characteristics, yet we conveniently ignore these shared characteristics when using the flesh of animals for our meals and skins of animals for our clothing, among other heinous purposes. Our fellow mammals also breastfeed their young, feeling the same loving connection to their offspring as we do to ours.

Other animals also feel pain, which we inflict on them with no thought, but avoid religiously for ourselves. The point of this article, however, is not to enumerate the ways in which animals and human beings are similar. In fact, many know that humans are often the lesser animal to many species, as we are the cause of climate change, deforestation, etc. We human beings are animals, too, and far more destructive than almost any other species on this great, green Earth.

Another common practice which stands in opposition to animal rights is the use of animals in medical and product testing. There’s a popular saying about this: “Don’t test the animals, they don’t have the answers.” Perhaps this is somewhat silly, but the sentiment carries the truth. In fact, all drugs and products tested on animals still must undergo human trial. Using non-human animals to search for drugs for humans is a colossal waste of time and resources for many reasons. Most every drug that passes through preclinical trials, tested on animals, are deemed useless or harmful when tested on human individuals, negating all the time and effort and resources on the part of the researchers and causing needless pain and suffering to innocent creatures. In spite of all this testing, major diseases such as cancer and diabetes have remained incurable. Despite all of the animals that have endured torturous circumstances and vivisection, there is little to nothing to show for it, for those that tout its importance.

We would be less likely to fall to deadly diseases associated with high levels of cholesterol, fat, and excessive protein. We would be kinder, showing more appreciation for our fellow beings. We would have a steadier supply of clean water to drink, and would lose less topsoil to atrocious farming practices. So very much is to gain from granting animals their rights, and so very much to lose from remaining stagnant, stuck in our current, destructive ways.

We begin with the vital question: What exactly is meant by the term “animal rights”? Does it mean that a dog can run for public office, or that a cat is responsible for paying taxes? Of course not. Animals do not share the same social responsibilities as we do. We are their guardians, their wardens, charged with conserving their territories and caring for them. Animal rights simply refers to the rights we, for the most part, deny to animals and fight for ourselves.

We would consider it universally sickening and disturbing if even one human being was raised from birth to have his or her body hair harvested to create coats, their skin used to make clothing or sporting items, and their flesh cultivated in order for others to consume. How, then, do we, as a collective society, find it acceptable that an unfathomable sum of animals we often think of as ‘cute and cuddly’ are killed by the minute for these very purposes?

As keepers of the planet and investors in the welfare of other creatures who also inhabit this Earth, it is our duty to bestow the esteem and respect we owe to our fellow creatures. It is our charge to do what we would consider right by other humans and grant animals rights that protect them from harm and exploitation. With this in mind, there are acts that cannot continue, in the name of animal rights and the sanctity of life for all creatures.Human beings do not require animals in their diet in order to thrive, let alone live. As obligate omnivores, we could exist exclusively as herbivores, taking no meat and living on a plant-based diet, and live healthy lifestyles. In fact, it has been studied in numerous cases that those who do abstain from the consumption of meat have lower instances of dreaded diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The instances of these illnesses in vegan individuals are even fewer. It is also true that raising animals for food has led to such atrocities as deforestation to raise cattle, the loss of topsoil, befouling of water sources, and overall contributions to global climate change. We have the means and technology to keep the entire world healthy and fed on a plant-based diet. For the sake of animal rights, as sacred and important as human rights, the consumption of their flesh must end.

We simply do not need to harm other creatures in order to live, thrive, or even have productive lives. No being deserves to be abused for the benefit of others; this is something that civilized persons have accepted for a very long time. Why has this not been extended to animals? We have no right to take advantage of our fellow beings and exploit their reactions to pain and chemical, possibly hazardous, materials; it is their right to be protected as we are protected by law from such treatment.
It is erroneous to assume that those involved in the Animal Rights campaign, who hold the values expressed in this article dear to their hearts, care nothing for the suffering of human beings. This is a false statement, presumptuous and harmful in its very nature. Denying that humans have dominion over animals is not equivocated to denying human rights. Animal rights activists simply believe that animals should enjoy the same freedoms from threat of injury and exploitation that we do. Most individuals that champion animal rights are in favor of fundamental rights for human beings as well, because empathy knows no barriers, not sex, race, class, or species. By showing respect toward all life, the lives of human beings are not devalued. In fact, human beings stand to benefit from giving animals their fundamental rights. We would have better medical practices for research, leading to possible cures and improved treatment for diseases. We would have enough arable land to feed the world population, and help it to thrive.

©Shenita Etwaroo

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Breadth of Kindness

Just what is meant by the term "Animal Rights"? Does it mean that animal life needs to have prerogatives and precisely the same rights as humans? No, of course not. But it will mean that all creatures should be allowed to live their natural lives without hindrance, exploitation or cruel treatment from humans. Individuals do not require to exploit other creatures. We've got the cleverness and inventiveness without relying on the other animals who share the planet with us, to reside. As needing other insects as well as bees for the pollination of many food plants, the only real ways in which we do need to rely on different animals is in such matters.

There would be famines and starvation without the bees doing their job. In addition, we rely on different creatures to keep down the amounts of insects that would eat all our crops. Better to rely on these creatures than to spray poison everywhere. For some other animals, where there is no exploitation by us, we don't have any need apart from a couple of cases like these to help us - we have no need to utilize or mistreat them.

We do not require animals for food - we are healthiest on a vegan diet. Along with that, the planet could take a far better state for us, also, if we adopted a plant based diet, because animals raised for meat and milk use tremendous levels of food and water, and create vast lakes of slurry and clouds of methane and carbon dioxide, which are climate-changing green house gases. Land needs to be prepared for them and the millions of tons of food that is fed to them could be utilized to feed starving individuals. Having a plant based diet means that enough food could grow to feed all the world’s citizens.

We do not want animals to help us generate medical products. The annals of experimenting on non-human animals in the expectation of locating people drugs is one of a huge waste of time and resources. Most drugs that pass the preclinical stages, and look to be safe and effective in the animals used to analyze them, fail when tested on individuals. Despite the cruelty and suffering involved in this deceitful research, among the reasons the practice is allowed to continue is because the researchers have learnt no other method to do their work. It is what they've been trained to do. They are used to and comfortable by it. And when the drugs kill and harm people - as they frequently do, the drug companies can plead innocence to charges of negligence since they tested the drugs in rats and dogs and monkeys, and they appeared to be safe. Despite all that testing, 100,000 Americans die each year due to the effects of medically prescribed that are drugs. The exact same pattern is seen in other nations. No, we do not require to make use of other animals to find treatments for individuals. After a century or even more of testing on monkeys, rats, dogs, cats, bunnies along with an entire menagerie of animals, states of ill health in industrial nations and all the greatest killer diseases are no nearer to being cured.

Abuse and we just do not need to use other critters. Because folks do not care about all the suffering they cause, barbarous practices and abuse continue. Their taste buds would be preferably pleased by them than give a notion to allow them to fill their bellies for the chickens, sheep and pigs which are killed. The use of those animals in research is fake science also it hasn't been validated as a precise means of finding drugs. Hundreds of scientists and doctors, a few of whom were once involved in this research that was inhumane, have pointed out how useless and cruel it really is and have publicly declared their opposition. Humans possess the right not to be tested on. It is time other critters were given that right. They endure as much as any human. They feel pain and fear like we do. We don't have any right to make use of them even if such use were advantageous to us - which it isn't.

It is sometimes presumed that Animal Rights campaigners care nothing for people. Nothing might be farther from the reality. Most individuals who campaign for rights for other animals likewise have a deep empathy for humans. Previously, in Quaker in Pennsylvania who despised cruelty of all kinds, Benjamin Lay, a vegetarian and the 18th Century, campaigned for the abolition of slavery. These are only two of numerous cases where those thinking about protecting non-humans have extended their empathy to suffering humans also. Empathy knows no barriers of sex, race, class or species. Most campaigners for animal rights believe that creatures - including human ones - should have fundamental rights. Many are involved in political and social justice movements along with efforts calling for an end to cruelty towards nonhuman animals.

It is wrong to exploit others. It is incorrect to do unkind things. It's erroneous to slaughter animals. It is also erroneous to do it to other creatures, if it's wrong to make a move to humans. Can non-individuals be treated badly because they lack the intelligence of most human grownups? If so, you will find human adults who lack the brains of a few other creatures. But no reasonable individual advocates that they should be handled in the cruel ways which are allowed for animals on farms, in circuses as well as in the wild or that they be used to discover and develop drugs.

By showing respect to all animals these days and permitting rights to them, we individuals would benefit. We would have better health from better research techniques. More water, as it'd not be employed for farm animals which currently want millions of gallons a day. More property for recreational use - including areas to see wild creatures. Less pollution - including the pollution that adds to global warming. Clearer consciences. And possibly admiration and empathy for every other.

©Shenita Etwaroo

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Veganism at Its Core Is Kindness

With as much as it troubles me to say it, we all know it: There can be some pretty mean folks within the vegan community. I’ve met more than one person who prided themselves on being a “vegan elitist” who publically shamed other vegans in online forums for their choices. I’ve visited this forum, and a lot of this is bashing celebrities who give up the vegan lifestyle for whatever reason, which truly is none of our business, and, seemingly as often as they can, linking to the pages of other vegans and criticizing them so harshly for things that, again, are none of their business.

I don’t have to tell you how so many people feel about the vegan community, and the assumptions that they make about us as a group. Some folks just know that every vegan is sanctimonious and hung up in the smallest details of what makes a real vegan and what constitutes a person to ridicule and castigate. One such instance that I saw ruthlessly tore a woman apart for having a companion animal. Another generated much vitriol because a vegan gave their chicken’s eggs to someone else. I’m of course not interested in getting into whether either of those things are “okay” or make or break someone’s veganism. My point more or less rests on, well, how very unkind such behavior is and can be, and isn’t our entire cause rooted in kindness?

As vegans, we loathe the horrifying treatment our fellow creatures suffer at the hands of human beings. We loathe the way that we treat our planet, and fear the repercussions of our actions. We want to be good and kind and to spread a message of loving kindness throughout this world and the universe. How come, then, it sometimes becomes so difficult to do so?

 I won’t claim to be perfect, either. I’ve had moments of disgust where a friend tells me that they just don’t care about animal suffering, because it doesn’t stack up higher than how much they enjoy the taste of flesh. I know that veganism would probably save my grandfather from much of his health maladies, and probably some spiritual ones, too, but he holds steadfast to the way he wants to live his life, which is not for me to decide for him. Veganism is a personal choice, it is a conscious decision, and it is one borne of kindness and love. How can we so often forget to apply this logic to other people, as well?

I think it’s time we all carefully considered our attitudes toward other vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, and everyone in between. We can encourage, but we should never shame. These are perfectly different concepts. One is inspirational, where one is designed to hurt, and we cannot hope to change the world by spreading negative vibes. Our message of love, kindness, and goodwill to all should be one that catches on to others joyfully. How we represent veganism as its ambassadors makes all the difference in the world.

The Interpersonal Politics of Food

No, I don’t mean this one in the wider sense of the politics of animal testing, factory farming, and other senseless events that make my heart heavy. Things like these are the reasons, among many others, that I proudly call myself a vegan, and have for many years now. I have met and made vegan friends since I made the transition myself, and certainly vegetarians and assorted other members of the conscious eating family. I have not, however, known anyone from my pre-vegan (or pregan, ha!) life who stopped eating animals. Nada. Zilch.

Strangely enough, people who I thought were perfectly logical individuals began to treat me very differently around the time that I changed my own life, and some even became downright nasty toward me. Even my closest friends seemed unable to resist making comments that were completely unprovoked, such as making a point to tell me that they would be eating an extra rare steak on my behalf. You may ask yourself now what sort of friend would make such an unnecessary comment completely out of the blue, and I struggled to find my patience with them then, too.

Since then, things have changed. It’s been many years, as I said, and while I stopped communicating with one or two people, unfortunately, for how very unfairly and cruelly they could act toward me at some times simply for knowing that I was a vegan, I have remained friends with the people I have always loved. I still get the occasional “I just love cheese so much” sort of comment, but nothing truly malicious or meant to be a challenge to my core beliefs.

Even now, though, and I have thought about this a lot since a recent dinner I hosted at my home, there is a strange behavior held by many of my friends about the food that I cook. My friends all respect that I am not the sort of vegan who will purchase and cook a cut of meat, and no one complains about my delicious veggie pizzas or pastas or enormous, mouth-watering salads. They ooh and aah at the colorful array of foods arranged so carefully on my dining room table, and I have to smile at myself and give myself a nice big, mental pat on the back as they sit down and begin pouring themselves drinks. It’s a nice feeling when you can make good, wholesome vegan fare for omnivores, isn’t it?

It seems entirely strange to me, then, that meat alternatives are met with such disgust. Not long ago, I brought some homemade lunch to a mini-picnic with my friend and one of my containers had a stirfry in it. As we’re inclined to share, my friend went on and on about how delicious it smelled, how appetizing it looked, but paused and asked if those were little bits of meat in the stirfry. I told her no, it was actually seasoned tofu, and you would have thought I told her it was toenails. Food for thought, right?

Ecofeminism: Where Animal Rights and Women’s Rights Intersect

Gender theorists and a score of different types of scientists, from evolutionary theorists and climatologists have weighed in on how their chosen field of concentration affects both society and the world as a whole. The conversation about ecofeminism, however, is about the intersectionality of human and animal rights. Many of us are seeking changes in the world and society that we live in. We look for the end of hunger, for young girls to have the guarantee of a good education in a world where the shocking majority of illiterate are women, we seek to end the needless torture of countless animals whose worth has incorrectly been defined by our palates.

It is difficult to face the issue of speciesism without taking into consideration how the oppression entailed there compares to the oppression handed down by a patriarchal society. Part of the commentary of feminism responds to a common thread or feeling that some women share; the feeling that misogynists have treated them as though they are little more than a slab of meat. Using this tragically commonplace and damaging correlation between women and “meat” alone draws the parallels that ecofeminism and its adherents fight to shake free from.

The aim of feminist pursuits is a peaceful coexistence which directly calls for equality between genders regardless of association, but how can we deny the equal rights of non-human creatures in this pursuit of equality? As feminists, we fight the exploitation paradigms that we live under, and as ecofeminists, we strive to include all life in the harmony of equality. Part of the separation of genders as prescribed by modern society is a holdover from previous generations: The hunt, or rather, the act of hunting, particularly by men, particularly hunting animals thought of as dangerous, proving their masculinity. Not only are males expected to take part in these activities, societal pressures equates the death of innocent creatures with a concept of masculinity as arcane as they come.

The uncomfortable truth is that the majority of hunting in North America takes place not for sustenance, but for sport. The taxidermy industry quietly thrives on the steady flow of carcasses murdered and claimed in the name of masculine pursuit, just as the struggles of the modern woman are paralleled by this. Women today, too, often feel “hunted”, as more report stalking behavior and other unwanted attention, and the struggle of feeling like prey simply by walking to a vehicle in a dark parking lot prevails.

Our duties to be kind and loving to our fellow creatures knows no bound, but in practice, we human beings tend to leave much to be wanted. Think of your faithful pet, and the joy and love they bring to your lives. What if it were that simple for all of us to bring joy and love into the lives of all we encounter? Animals are our greatest teachers. Let us look to them for inspiration in loving kindness.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Animal Adoption Rocks

You’ve heard a lot about rescue animals, but what are they, really? At the dog park, you’ve probably met more than one friendly face proudly smiling at their pal and proclaiming them a ‘rescue’. The term is endearingly sweet, and very meaningful to the owner, but the implications of the meaning may be very grave and shocking to you.

 You see, for a cat or a dog to be considered a rescue animal, this means that they will have to have been literally rescued from a situation or shelter in which they otherwise would have been subjected to euthanasia. A rescue cat or dog literally owes its life to its owner, and rescuing a pet can create a lifelong bond of love and trust. Some animals are also considered rescues when they are taken from abusive or neglectful homes and rehomed to a responsible pet owner. Whatever the case, a rescue is an animal saved from a horrible fate by a kind-hearted person.

 Just hearing all of that underscores one of the most important reasons there are to adopt or rescue rather than buy a pet: individuals selling the litters of their animals are not only committing an act that is morally ambiguous on its own, but saving an innocent animal from being killed is the obvious and superior choice. Some people may turn up their nose at an animal that doesn’t have a pedigree and is not purely bred, but ask yourself, does a thing like that really matter?

 Our pets are here for us to love and take care of them, period, and whether or not they have papers to prove a pure bloodline have nothing to do with that. Our cats and dogs love us in turn for providing them with safe and loving homes, along with the occasional treat and new toy, and this is what truly matters. You can love a rescue pet just as easily as a pedigreed pet, and they can return your love just as easily, too.

 You may have to prove that you have accommodations necessary for the animal that you’re rescuing, and you may also have to pay a fee. Usually these fees are important contributions that help feed the animals that have yet to be rescued, and keeps these animals from being sheltered in a place that would euthanize if they were not adopted after a certain period of time.

The amount you pay to adopt your rescue pet is worth much less than the life of the animal, of course, and the love and bond you’ll experience with your pet over the years will outshine that paltry dollar sign very quickly.

End the Cruelty

It’s no secret that we all live in times of dire violence and destruction. One need only turn on the evening news to hear atrocious stories of husbands murdering wives, children horrifically abused or neglected, riots in the streets of heavily urbanized areas, and other unfortunate tragedies. It is remarkably easy to allow ourselves to become desensitized to these violent acts; indeed, what seemed horrific ten years ago might seem so very quaint today. Where does all of this come from? How have we, as a people, become so cavalier, so devastatingly accepting of evil acts and deeds perpetrated by our fellow man? Where does all of this end?

When do we finally say, enough is enough is enough?

We teach our children by our silence. Through our lack of outrage, our kids become passively indoctrinated to look the other way and simply be grateful that nothing has happened to them. We’ve turned our backs on one another, in large part, and our world is shrinking as we lose the ability to feel warmth and love and empathy for our neighbors. What about those other children, though? What about those children on the news that are so ‘politely’ tucked away into the corners of our minds? Are they not valuable human beings, too?

Unfortunately, because it is so terrifying and horrific, many are willing to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the shocking issue of human trafficking, even when those humans are small, innocent children. Many have adopted the ‘better them than me’ attitude and ignore the sums and figures, but today, we’re dealing with facts, not fantasies. We’re dealing with the millions of individuals, children of all ages, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds, sold into slavery, sometimes for labor, sometimes for sex, sometimes for other unspeakable practices, who are forgotten every single year. This is the real news, not the latest celebrity antics. The children and adults sold and trafficked every day are valuable for their status as living beings, period, not for the dollar sign attached to their torment.

Of course, we’re desperate to turn a blind eye to the suffering of our most faithful companions. This cognitive dissonance has led to the suffering of incalculable animals all across the globe, and the figure rises to frightening totals with each day that passes. We speak not only of the detestable practices of animal testing, vivisection, and the rampant crimes constantly excused in the meat industry, but the things happening in backyards everywhere – right now.

Look down at the foot of your bed or at the other end of your couch. Look at the windowsill, or anywhere else your beloved cat or dog might be lazily snoozing or licking their paw. Could you imagine refusing them a pet or snuggle when they rub up against your leg or climb into your lap? Could you imagine not filling up the water bowl with fresh, clean water several times a day, or scooping out a heaping portion of food, or making sure your pet has a warm place to sleep at night? Probably not. Could you wrap your head around ever striking your animal? The answer, hopefully, is of course not. This is the sickening reality for an outrageous amount of cats, dogs, and other animals. The injustice could bring the strongest to their knees in sorrow, for what could be more sad than bringing pain to a creature that only wants to love and be loved in return?

It is time that we all stop turning a blind eye to the issues of human trafficking and animal abuse. Part of the reason we have become so violent against one another is because we have institutionalized violence against the innocent and helpless. We are, if nothing else, stewards of the animals and guardians of the children, both relying on us, in their own way, for food, comfort, shelter, etc. When that role is perverted into something different, there is suffering, period. We can no longer stand idly by while the helpless are traded like currency. We can no longer simply ignore the silent cries of the innocent and go about our daily lives as though their pain and hunger do not exist. Quite the contrary, they do exist, and it is our responsibility to help.

We urge you now to take action like never before. The fate of millions rests in our collective hands, and we have the power to make significant change. The first step for many is to merely acknowledge. Acknowledge that girls go missing from their homes at night, kidnapped and transported across borders to serve as cheap labor. Acknowledge that it isn’t okay to ignore the sad animal abuse ads on television simply because they are sad, because that is the point of those advertisements. You shouldn’t simply change the channel to the latest sitcom and numb yourself to reality, and that isn’t something that responsible citizens of this world do. It’s there. It’s real. And it’s not going away just because cable offers numerous ways for you to occupy your mind otherwise.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that injustice everywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. It’s time to stop these injustices before they spread even further or are used to justify suffering of even more groups. Get concerned. Get active. Spread the word.