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.

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.

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.

Fur Farms-Stop the Cruelty

You wake up in a filthy, cramped metal cage, surrounded by dozens of others who are all as confused and scared as you are. You don’t know why you’re there, but others around you keep disappearing. You don’t know where they’re going, but their agonized cries tell you their destination is a place of death and suffering.

One day, someone grabs you from your suffocating prison and takes you against your will. You know you’re about to experience the same horrors as the others who have been taken. The air stinks of blood. You are hung from your feet, and before you can scream in protest, you feel the searing pain of a knife cutting into you…

If this disturbs you, be aware that this is the fate of thousands of animals globally, who are often skinned alive for their fur. Eighty-five percent of the fur industry's skins come from animals on fur factory farms. We must ask ourselves: why are animals subjected to such inhumane treatment, and what can we do to put an end to such cruelty?

While it is true that humans have been wearing animal fur for millennia, what is unprecedented is the severe abuse that animals experience solely for economic and materialistic indulgence. In early human civilization, animal fur was used for sheer survival and necessity, but this is clearly no longer the case today. As human technology has progressed and created a diverse range of clothing options available, there is no reason to wear animal fur other than for conspicuous consumption and monetary gain. In a capitalist and competitive global market, fur farming methods are designed to benefit only the bottom line. In the end, innocent animals pay the ultimate price. The true bottom line is that fur-farming is a shamefully inhumane practice, and it is our responsibility to put an end to this cruelty.

What kinds of animals are killed in fur farms?

According to Born Free USA, more than 36 million animals die on fur farms around the world each year. Thirty-one million (or about 90 percent) of these animals are mink. Foxes account for another 4.5 million, while chinchillas, sable, ferret (usually marketed as “fitch”), coypus (an aquatic mammal also known as “nutria”), and raccoon dogs (not to be confused with the North American raccoon), account for most of the remaining half-million animals. Due to the recent drop in pelt prices for mink and fox, some of U.S. fur farms have attempted to ‘diversify’ by raising bobcat, coyote, raccoon, and beavers, along with coypus and rabbits — all in equally abhorrent conditions.

What happens in fur farms?

When they see the term “farmed fur,” many people conjure images of a lush farm where animals are treated humanely, but the harsh reality is that this couldn't be further from the truth. Although animal rights advocates have done a phenomenal job of raising awareness about the cruelties involved in fur trapping, little attention has been paid to the atrocities that take place on fur farms, sometimes also referred to euphemistically as “fur ranches.” A recent study conducted for the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies indicated that most respondents objected to trapping animals to make fur products and voiced a preference for furs from fur farms (Born Free USA). It is now time for the public to realize that fur farms are just as cruel as trapping.

Animals in fur farms often spend their entire lives in tiny cages that are stacked on top of each other, with feces and urine falling down through the cages into their food and water. They have nothing to stand on but cold, hard, wire mesh. In many cases, animals must share cages with each other in a single cage that does not allow for full movement. Often times, animals are left with no protection from the elements. As a result, studies have shown that up to 85 percent of these confined animals develop behavioral abnormalities, such as rocking, head-bobbing, self-mutilation, psychosis, and infanticide due to anxiety, boredom, and an inability to live in a way that meets their instinctual needs.

As cruel as life on a fur farm is, the methods of killing used in these factories of death are horrifying to say the least. On U.S. and European fur farms, one of the most frequently used methods of killing animals is electrocution: the “farmer” puts a metal clamp in an animal’s mouth, a metal rod in the anus, and sends a high-voltage current surging through the body. Sometimes the power surge forces the rod out of the anus, so the procedure must be repeated to kill the animal. Other commonly-employed techniques include: homemade gas chambers, such as a box hooked up to a tractor exhaust pipe; lethal injection of various chemicals that kill through paralysis, which can result in immobilized animals being skinned alive; and neck breaking (Born Free USA).
China is the world’s largest fur exporter, and its fur farms have demonstrated some of the most harrowing abuses of animal rights to date. Before they are skinned, humans yank the animals from their cages, throw them to the ground, and bludgeon them. Undercover investigators from Swiss Animal Protection/EAST International found that many animals are still alive and struggling desperately when workers flip them onto their backs or hang them up by their legs or tails to skin them. Some of the animals' hearts are still beating five to 10 minutes after they are skinned. Due to the absence of regulations, many animal furs (including cat and dog) are advertised as different animals. There are currently no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms in China.

What can we do to stop fur farming?

Fur farming, like any other industry, depends on the basic economic process of supply and demand. Consequently, the best way to stop fur farming is to ensure that you do not buy any fur products – including any products using fur trim – and take extra precaution even when buying faux fur. Because there are very few countries that have regulations or laws against fur farming, we must pressure our governments to end this cruelty for the sake of fashion, economic greed, and status. International laws are diverse in strength, but a few countries have strictly regulated or completely banned fur farms (Austria, the United Kingdom, and Croatia have bans, the Netherlands has a ban on fox and chinchilla farming, and New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland have strict regulations).

No federal laws regulate how the animals on the nearly 400 fur farms in operation in the U.S. are to be housed, cared for, or killed.However, recently, West Hollywood, California became the first city to ban the sale of wearable fur in the form of any article of clothing. Let us follow in their footsteps and put pressure on our government leaders to set a global example. It is clear that no living creature deserves to be treated this way, and if we are to make any strides as a compassionate society, we must abolish fur farming.

Tasty Vegan Meals

It’s been contended for years that not only is a vegan diet the most conscious diet one can follow, but many also believe that it is the ‘greenest’ diet. It’s important to remember and note, of course, that veganism is not simply a diet, it’s a lifestyle – and an awesome one, at that!

Vegan cuisine forgoes the use of any animal product, or any product derived from animals whatsoever. This means not only eschewing meat, eggs, and dairy, but foods such as honey. Honey is made by bees, therefore it belongs to the bees! Even without all these foods and food groups that are staple in the standard diet of omnivores, vegan cuisines are variable and delicious!

No matter which city you live in, you’re bound to have a wide variety of vegan or vegan friendly restaurants to choose from to have a lovely meal. All you have to do is a quick Google, ask Siri, or check your local Yelp listings. Once you’ve chosen a place, you can go on a friend date or something more intimate with your sweetie and have a delicious pad Thai with tofu, or a delicious Vietnamese seitan creation.

These foods are not only rich in vegetables and other health foods, but the lack of animal products means that they’re lower in fat, absent in cholesterol, and still piping with wonderful flavors!

Once you’ve tasted of vegan splendors out on the town, you could (and should!) hit up the local health food store to pick up some ingredients for your own vegan feast. Maybe you’ll make it into a dinner party for work associates, or maybe you’ll bring a dish to a family dinner, but either way, you’ll be showing others that meatless, animal friendly meals are still yummy to the tummy!

Finding a recipe to work with is easy. The internet is a wonderful resource with literally thousands of vegan food blogs to peruse. There are bound to be plenty that suit your palate, be it Southern comfort food, Cambodian delights, or even vegan sushi! You can also check with your local food market vendors and ask what their favorite meat free recipes are.

Once you have found your niche in vegan cooking, you can explore whole new venues in the vegan lifestyle. It may be certainly worth considering to eliminate more and more meat from more and more meals. Meatless Monday has been around forever, but why not make all dinners meatless? They are healthful and delicious without animal products!

Once you get ready to step outside your comfort zone of vegan cuisine, the next place to look is a matter of choice. The options are out there, and they are all of them a matter of personal choice and selection! There are dozens of fantastic vegan cooking podcasts available to download for free, for instance, which can give you countless helpful tips in the kitchen, be it how to cook a jicama or how to properly slice your root veggies.

Another option to explore are vegan and vegetarian cooking classes. These classes are often hosted at local community colleges and learning centers, and, for a fee, you can continue to expand your view of vegan cooking. It might be worth it to take a friend along—pay their fee as a small gift and allow them to also experience the joys of vegan cooking.

Tasty, plant based meals come in many shapes and sizes and span the breadth of a world of ethnic cuisines. Vegan burritos are a cheap, fun, quick, and easy meal to whip up after a long day at the office. You can even make them ‘build your own burritos’, and set up containers of chopped veggies, vegan protein sources, and tortillas so you and your family can have fun coming up with your own unique and delectable combinations.

The Time to Evolve Our Consciousness is Now: Kathleen Lowson’s Groundbreaking Film Cry of the Innocent Makes Us Think Before We Buy

It has been said that all art seeks to explore and understand the human condition. What distinguishes us as humans? How do we differ from our fellow animal companions? Is it our proclivity for self-reflexivity, our ability to acknowledge our place in the universe, and our endless desire to expand our knowledge? Perhaps. Yet, it is my firm conviction that it is our inherent drive for empathy that is what renders us truly humane. It is this aspect of our consciousness that director Kathleen Lowson wants us to explore, and her film Cry of the Innocent: The Voices That Can’t Speak is a call to action, urging us to ask and answer the question: who are you wearing?

Taking a unique soul perspective, the film is a psychological and spiritual study of the human condition focusing on the cruelty, absurdity, and frivolity of the modern fur trade. This unnecessary practice is a symptom, a sign that as a species, we are in need of elevating our consciousness, expanding it such that all life forms are treated with the dignity, love, and respect they deserve. Lowson impresses upon the viewer that “when we disconnect from the suffering of sentient beings, we disconnect from our own suffering.” This is a statement that merits deep reflection, as her words could not ring more true.

What makes this film so accessible and unique in its approach is that it does not employ shocking and gruesome imagery to communicate its message; rather, it unveils the reality of these innocent animals while providing empowering quotes from evolutionary leaders such as the Dalai Lama. It asks the viewer difficult questions, inspiring us to delve beyond our egos and into the deeper aspects of our psyches, to demand why it is that we as a species have tolerated the abuse and slaughter of animals in the name of fashion and temporary economic gain. It illuminates the reality that we have little to gain from such deplorable acts, and so, so much to lose. Namely, if we cannot recognize the pain and irreparable damage that occurs when we so callously end the life of an innocent, not only to the animal, but to our own humanity, how can we hope to bring about true peace and change in this world?

Lowson delivers this message with a conscious, gentle, and philosophical touch. She presents the viewer with the disturbing reality that countless animals must endure at the hands of certain humans. The film begins with the Canadian seal “hunt,” the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Appallingly, it is subsidized by the Canadian government, bringing Lowson to encourage us to boycott the Canadian seafood industry. By empowering an industry that profits from death and cruelty to animals, we are only perpetuating a stagnation of the human spirit, rather than stimulating its growth and evolution.

 She also brings to light the deplorable and unspeakably repugnant conditions in China, where dogs and cats are killed for their fur to create trinkets and trim on clothing. It may come as surprising to some readers, but Lowson stresses that even items labelled as “faux fur” or “synthetic fur” may actually be dog and cat fur. Depicting these beautiful creatures crammed by the dozen into stifling cages, these images are heartbreaking and difficult to watch, but it is crucial that we open our eyes to the horrific crimes that take place in these fur factories. Lowson calls on each of us to question why we invest in China, and to demand that laws be put in place to protect these vulnerable and defenceless animals who are unable to speak for themselves.

Over 50 million animals, from baby seals, dogs, cats, foxes, minks, rabbits, raccoons, and other innocent creatures are killed in the name of profit and fashion. And due to the globalization of the fur trade, it is virtually impossible to know the countries in which fur products are made. Even if a fur garment’s label says it was made in a European country, it is likely that the animals were raised and slaughtered elsewhere; in a majority of the cases, on an unregulated Chinese fur farm. These facts make clear the urgency of establishing laws that will put an end to these acts of cruelty, abuse, and murder. The time to evolve our consciousness is now, and Cry of the Innocent: The Voices that Can’t Speak is a monumental film and call to action that is a magnificent contribution to the animal rights movement.


We find it so easy to call others to action over what are really menial, inconsequential things. For instance, how many people take to Twitter to pour out their outcry over the cancellation of television programs on major cable networks? How many people will start an Internet petition to bring back a certain flavor or brand of soda? How many people out there frothed at the mouth and ‘literally could not even’ over the disbranding and discontinuation of Twinkies just a few years ago? Our passion as a people runs high, yes, but are we not focusing on entirely the wrong things?

Can we not find something that actually matters to be upset about, because, I assure you, there are almost no limits, sadly, to the awful things that actually matter, yet are widely ignored. Yes, we should be upset, but not about TV shows or cola.

How disconnected and divided as a world society do we need to be in order to focus on petty instances of our own differences and mundane, trivial matters like voting for a new flavor of potato chip? As disconnected and divided as it takes to ignore the facilitated violence against women, children, and animals everywhere one can look. This is not new information. We know that women and children are sold and trafficked. We know that children go hungry each night. We know that the elderly and mentally infirm are often abused and neglected. We know that animals are tortured for fun, literally, are beaten, are abandoned to the cold and elements. What does it say about us that we find time for frivolities such as those listed above (and more), but cannot seem to come together against abuse?
Partly, it says that we’ve lost some of our soul. We used to know what it was to stand up for the underdog and fight for those that could not fight for themselves, but part of that has fled away, anesthetized by the static and comforting sounds of our television screens and the voices of those who cleverly instruct us on how to think, feel, and act. Isn’t it time to empower others by empowering ourselves? Isn’t it about time that we refocus, reconnect, and once again become the people that give a damn? If we don’t, then who will? If we don’t, then what next, or, more likely who is next? When the world runs out of victims as it currently stands, who becomes the next victim? Is it you?

Hopefully, it will never come to that. Hopefully, we’ve now come far enough to reflect on what we have allowed ourselves to become and put our metaphorical foot down. Why should another young girl miss out on the happiness of youth just to be taken as a child bride far away from her home? Where is the outrage for that?

Some people excuse their apathy as defeatism, disguising their silence into learned passivity, because, according to them, it’s hopeless. According to some people, there’s nothing we can actually do to improve the station of those that suffer. If these international slavery rings exist, what can an individual do to stop them? If animals die every day at the hands of abusers and neglect, what can I do to ease their pain?

What individuals do, what they have always done, in times such as these, to respond to the call of action that each of us should inherently feel at the knowledge of suffering and injustice, is to collect. This is our time to come together, rather than split apart, or continue hiding behind our television screens and smart phones because it’s too hard to support causes that matter. We need to stop making excuses. The suffering of others is real, and, no matter which country the victim comes from, no matter what color their skin may be, no matter if they have hands or paws, their pain is significant. It matters.

The children sold by their own parents matter. The dog kept in a filthy kennel for its entire existence matters. What flavor of potato chip reins king in 2014 seems a little trite in the face of real suffering, does it not?

Animal Rights

Animals are sentient and conscious creatures that demonstrate striking similarities to humans. Although they may not express them identically to humans, any pet owner can easily tell that each animal is unique, precious in its own identity, and its life should be cherished and protected. Many people believe that certain animals cannot feel pain, or because humans express higher intelligence than certain animals they should not be concerned about animal welfare, but these notions are easily refuted when we consider the cognitive and paradigmatic biases from which they arise.
Speciesism is the discriminatory practice of giving certain rights and privileges to individuals based solely on the species group to which they belong. Like sexism, racism, or ageism, it is a flawed system of belief that does not take into account the basic rights to life that all animals deserve. Anthropocentrism is a similar term that denotes a set of beliefs that places humans above all other animals; again, it makes a moral distinction between humans and animals. Finally, sentiocentrism is the belief that if an animal cannot feel, sense, or experience the same things that a human can, then that animal should not be awarded the same status as a human. All of these belief systems are borne of a false sense of righteousness and entitlement. Once these cognitive biases are overcome, the reality that all animals do have rights becomes salient.
Another right of animals that must be respected is the right to thrive in a clean, safe, and sustainable environment. It has grown increasingly clear that human behaviour has wreaked unprecedented havoc on some of the most sensitive ecosystems in the world, turning what used to be lush rainforests into flat plains, and bustling coral reefs into ocean wastelands. By destroying the environment for human gain, we are also destroying some of the only places our animal relatives can call home. Thus, the environmental or ‘green’ movement is also closely linked with the animal rights movement. Because the two are inextricably connected, it is clear that in order to protect and ensure animal rights, we also have to become stewards of the earth and fight for environmental sustainability.
The use of animals for products is perhaps one of the most disconcerting displays of human greed that has grown in popularity. When there is an economic incentive, many people disregard morality altogether. For example, poachers, shark finners, and black market participants often view animals solely as commodities. Quite disturbingly, the basic rights of a life are discarded and replaced with a dollar sign. Given that animals have the right to live free of suffering at the hands of humans, it is crucial that we consider the many viable alternatives to animal products. By voting with our dollars, so to speak, we can make an impact on the global animal trade. We must also hold those who manufacture animal products or conduct animal testing publicly accountable.
Ultimately, animal rights activists have a strong sense of core beliefs guided by an unwavering morality. Some of the primary things that animal rights advocates believe are:
  • non-human animals are conscious beings, not machines or objects
  • non-human animals have interests of their own
  • human beings should respect the interests of non-human animals
  • human beings should not exploit non-human animals
  • human beings should not treat non-human animals as objects
  • human beings should not kill non-human animals
Although the topic of animal rights is one that could span volumes, it is my sincere wish that this article has sparked some interest and will generate discussion about the basis of the animal rights movement and why it is important. I firmly believe that it is up to each of us to be courageous enough to stand up for animal rights, as it is a progressive movement that will ultimately result in a more compassionate and equitable world.

I Am the Voice of the Voiceless

In this world full of disintegration, disease, war, scam, betrayal and turmoil, Humanity should be our most prominent pursuit in life. If we don’t have one another, if we don’t share the bond of humanity and if we are not vaulted in this beautiful bond of humanity, we are nothing. Without humanity, this prolific bond and the prolific nature of the earth will be brought to a vicious end. Without humanity, so to speak, the Earth and the Mother Nature will be brought to their own demise. We need to procure and sustain the intricate and beguiling circle of life on this planet. That means protecting humans and animals both, and not only standing in the favor of one, because both of us come from the same place. We are all flesh and blood and we all need to give a supporting shoulder to the one standing by us to create the ongoing and incombustible circle of life. We need to pursue the notion of trust, happiness and sustenance.

Every day in this huge world, thousands of people are bombed, shot, terrorized and killed. The ordinary man becomes the casualty of a quarrel between two forces of tremendous proportions, as compared to the ordinary man himself. But the ordinary man is not so ordinary; every creature with a beating heart, flesh and blood is an active pillar in sustaining this earth, and the importance of even a single soul is too important to be neglected or to let it go to profligacy. So to procure this bond of humanity there is a lot we can do, all we need to do is plant the seed of positivity. 

One might think that as an individual, it is a task of humongous proportions to help the entire world but once one brings change to self, the rest happens. If we change the environment around us, we will be affecting the minds and hearts of many people we interact with, thus inspiring them to do the same and perpetuating this endless cycle of helping one another. There is no such thing as a single person being too little for a huge task. It takes lots of small figures to make a huge difference, and every figure plays its own part. As individuals, we can indulge in small acts of charity. We can put a smile on someone’s face and manifest our humanity in a small gesture of humanity and devotion.

Businesses and corporations can also play a vital part in this integral cause. First by bringing change within the corporation, by utilizing green ad nature-friendly means of working, by being friendly and just to each and every worker and by donating. Businesses can also start campaigns, urging people to do charitable work, help others, protect animals and take part in essential and effective activities that boost the ideas of positivity, love and humanity. To make a mass impact, everything has to be started by bringing positivity to each and every soul. That can be done by adapting these things yourself; urge the people around you to do the same and later those people will urge the ones around them.

A very famous quote of Henri Nouwen goes something like this: “Each day holds a surprise. But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us. Let's not be afraid to receive each day's surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy it will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.” This quote gives us an excellent perspective about how we need to look at life. We need to look up to every new day and make it better.

If we do not take a stand for another person or animal then we can’t expect to have someone stand up for us. Empowerment and bravery should be our pursuits, but we should not forget about acceptance. Everyone has a flaw and everyone is different from one another. Instead of making fun or letting these people become outcasts, it is our moral obligation to accept each other despite of the differences in race, color, looks or personality and perpetuate positivity for everyone to become a good member of the community. Negativity is rooted in the scarcity of acceptance.

If we ignore negativity, we are allowing it to spread. Instead of letting immoral and negative things dwell and transpire around us, we need to accept one another, be civil to others’ identities and realize our purpose on this planet other than just following our basic instincts.

Animals are also a big part of our world. In fact they play a more important role in sustaining the eco-system of this planet than humans do, in this era. Animals help keep certain things under control. Animals help spread forests and lend a very vital hand in further developing  nature. In this food chain, each and every animal holds its own importance and helps keep control over the eco-system. If one animal is less in number, then the prey will increase in number, causing things to become unbalanced. Many examples of such incidents are present in human history when the killing of one animal has led to superfluous numbers of the other, thus bringing about utter destruction.

The main point here is to pursue and perpetuate positivity, integrity and humanity, after that the possibilities are endless and ever profiting. There is nothing beyond the most basic bond of humanity we share. We are all made of the same things and placed in the same system.

We can only really bring about a change if we realize the importance of each and every living thing and make our voice heard by becoming the voice of the voiceless.

Child Trafficking

12 Billion Dollars every year, with over 1.2 Million.

What do these numbers mean to you? Let’s try another set:
2.8 million, 12 years, 300,000,
What do all of these numbers have in common? Well, if you read the name of the article you’d have figured it out by now that we’re not discussing the rising rates of lollypops, or the numbers of gallons sold in gas.

Actually these numbers are far more tragic in that we could willingly allow for something like this to happen; 12 Billion Dollars is a lot of money isn’t it? Almost makes you think twice… until you find out that those proceeds come from 1.2 million child victims who are bought, sold, and used for sex.
Do you know where your children go?

Reportedly, there are as many as 2.8 million children running away from home every single year, and those children are on the streets within 48 hours. What makes that statistic scary is that the average age of victimized children is 12 years old, and 300,000 American children are at risk for commercial sex exploitation according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

So where do these kids go? That is the million dollar question… where does someone go when they are bought, sold, and used for molestation, abuse, rape, drug abuse, and even death? Well… they go in a dark alley somewhere eventually, or left in front of a hospital (if they’re lucky), or taken somewhere and killed for their silence. We don’t know… that’s the point.
Have you read enough, or do you need more convincing that awareness on child trafficking needs to come to an end? Because the next numbers you find on this article isn’t going to be as open to interpretation as the first set:
Try this one… 600,000 to 800,000 people every day are bought and sold across international borders; of those numbers, more than half of the amount are children, and more than that are female who will inevitably, eventually be forced into sex trade on a commercial level, this, according to reports from the U.S. Department of State on Human Trafficking.

Who is the most ghastly to profit from this? According to the Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Study; an average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime… 400 victims… that’s 400 children who will have that innocence stripped away, never to return, and they would never know why they were picked for such a ruthless, brutal and emotionally traumatic experience such as this either. See we’re not talking full-fledged adults here right now, we’re talking about children; children who have no idea yet about the real world, or any concept other than what they’ve seen on television.

I know these numbers, these statistics are brutal to look at… but it’s obvious from the figures that this kind of market isn’t going to go away on its own, it will take awareness on such a high level, and with over 200,000 people trafficked within the United States alone, it gives us a good place to start with the rise of missing children.

12 billion dollars, and 1.2 million missing children… it’s like a scandal straight out from a suspenseful movie, but the reality is far more terrifying, because deep down inside it’s not only about the child gone missing, but the family that has no idea what really happened to their precious daughter or son.

Bring an end to this; become aware of what’s happening right in front of you…

Narcissistic Abusers

The residual effects of any abuse can be devastating, however, when most people think about abuse — be it spousal, parental, etc. — they tend to focus on physical abuse. Mental and emotional abuse can be just as if not more damaging, especially when the abuser is someone close to the abused.

Perhaps the worst type of abuse comes from the hands of those who are so preoccupied with themselves that they fail to see or care about the results of their actions. This type of narcissistic abuse can be found in many different types of relationships including parent-child, spouse/significant other, and even friendships. Emotional abuse by a narcissistic parent can be especially insidious as it may damage the child’s ability to form stable relationships in the future. It has been proposed that due to a lack of an appropriate model of a healthy relationship, those who suffered emotional abuse as children tend to end up in similar abusive relationships as adults.

In the United States, the 1980s were viewed as a time when self-centeredness and egocentrism was not only acceptable, it was expected. The “Me Generation” had created new extremes of narcissism. Many were willing to disregard the well-being of others for their own sake.

Despite this inward focus, most of the individuals we think of when we think of this period in time were not true narcissists in the strictest sense. The term narcissism is derived from the Greek story of a Naissus, a hunter who was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He possessed such beauty that even he himself could not be free of the attraction. The god Nemesis tricked him into gazing into a pool whereupon he saw and fell in love with his own reflection, only to die there contemplating his own fair features.

Narcissism is defined as “inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity” or in psychoanalytic terms as “erotic gratification derived from admiration of one's own physical or mental attributes, being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.” This term is used for common self-absorption. In 1968, an extreme form was added to the psychological literature as a definable diagnosis.

The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM- V) of the American Psychiatric Association defines Narcissistic Personality Disorder as:

 A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:
1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).
2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
3. Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high- status people (or institutions).
4. Requires excessive admiration.
5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations.
6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends.
7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her.
9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes.
In addition, the following criteria must be met to justify a diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder:

Significant impairments in personality functioning manifest by:
1. Impairments in self functioning (a or b):
a. Identity: Excessive reference to others for self-definition and self-esteem regulation; exaggerated self-appraisal may be inflated or deflated, or vacillate between extremes; emotional regulation mirrors fluctuations in self-esteem.
b. Self-direction: Goal-setting is based on gaining approval from others; personal standards are unreasonably high in order to see oneself as exceptional, or too low based on a sense of entitlement; often unaware of own motivations.
2. Impairments in interpersonal functioning (a or b):
a. Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify with the
feelings and needs of others; excessively attuned to reactions of others, but only if perceived as relevant to self; over- or underestimate of own effect on others.
b. Intimacy: Relationships largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation; mutuality constrained by little genuine interest in others‟ experiences and predominance of a need for personal gain
Pathological personality traits in the following domain:
1. Antagonism, characterized by:
a. Grandiosity: Feelings of entitlement, either overt or covert;
self-centeredness; firmly holding to the belief that one is better than others; condescending toward others.
b. Attention seeking: Excessive attempts to attract and be the focus of the attention of others; admiration seeking.
C. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are relatively stable across time and consistent across situations.
D. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not better understood as normative for the individual‟s developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
E. The impairments in personality functioning and the individual‟s personality trait expression are not solely due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., a drug of abuse, medication) or a general medical condition (e.g., severe head trauma).

While all of this may seem overwhelming, by focusing on a few key portions of the diagnosis we can see how a relationship with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder could easily become a living Hell. As stated in the first quote, individuals with Narcissistic Personality Disorder fell that they are more important than other people. Not only do they place themselves on a pedestal, they think that others do the same. A healthy relationship is not one in which one person lords over the other, but these narcissists can not form healthy relationships.

As we see in the second quote, there exists an inability to form proper attachments due to a lack of empathy for others or form intimate relationships. The fact that is especially telling “Relationships [are] largely superficial and exist to serve self-esteem regulation.” (emphasis added).

A relationship with someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder is a one way street. All of the attention and emotional support flow from the individual to the narcissist. These relationships are characterized by verbal and mental abuse, belittling, complaining, and even physical abuse. Narcissists believe that they can do no wrong, so any problems with the relationship — and even problems which arise in day to day living — are the fault of the other partner. If a mistake is made, the partner is somehow the one to blame.

The narcissists’ need for attention and admiration lead them to constantly seek out those who will reinforce their inflated sense of self-worth. This translates to a series of short relationships and a long stream of discarded partners. If the narcissist is married, there is a high probability that he or she will not be faithful. Naturally, if infidelity is discovered, the partner will be to blame for not being pretty enough, caring enough, etc.

Victims of a narcissistic abuser often display similar characteristics. The most common is a poor sense of self-worth, often accompanied by an inability to make decisions for themselves. They spend years of being told that they are not good enough, not smart enough, not something enough. Over time they come to internalize these negative statements. They doubt their own abilities. This makes them more reliant upon the narcissistic abuser, creating a cycle of co-dependency.

This is one of the most troubling aspects of narcissistic abuse in terms of parental care. When children are constantly belittled, they grow up believing that they are not capable. When they are finally out from beneath the control of their narcissistic parent, they lack the coping skills required to survive on their own. Doubting their own decision making abilities and crippled by poor self-esteem, they gravitate towards someone who will accept them despite their self-perceived flaws and make decisions for them. In short, they enter into relationships with narcissistic abusers. They leave their parents only to end up with someone exactly like the very people who abused them in the first place.

Those who have suffered at the hands of a narcissist may display any number of emotional and physical symptoms which may be difficult to attribute to the relationship as they are a result of the stress they face daily. These include confusion, disassociation, poor eating and sleeping habits, and even signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It is especially difficult for those in a relationship with a narcissist to get help as they have become conditioned to looking to their abuser for most if not all decision making activities. Their poor sense of self worth makes it easy for them to ignore the idea that they deserve better. Obviously, in their minds, no one else would have them. They should be happy with the relationship they have, despite the fact that they are unhappy. This is a theme which the abuser will reinforce as well.

While difficult, it is possible to escape the cycle of narcissistic abuse. The first step must be accepting that no one deserves the constant humiliation and demands of the narcissist. As the self image is restored to a healthy level, it becomes easier to make decisions without the abuser’s input. Naturally, this is an extremely difficult process which may require the help of outsiders including professionals. Unfortunately, it is common for narcissistic abusers to restrict their partners’ access to others, especially those who would express opinions which run contrary to their grandiose sense of self.

Bullying and Toxic Relationships

Do any of the following situations sound familiar to you?

Your friend, coworker, or partner uses threats of violence to manipulate your behavior.

Your friend, coworker, or partner constantly belittles you and your choices, insists that your decisions are wrong, or uses other emotional tactics to influence your actions.

You have a friend who constantly gets her way, who makes all of the decisions, and refuses to participate if her demands are not met.

Someone only calls you when she is in need of something: a favor, money, etc.No matter how many times you help her or what you have given her, she never reciprocates.

You find yourself reacting to demands by engaging in passive-aggressive behavior, going along with the other person despite not wanting to do so, because it is easier than the confrontation which would ensue if you stood up for yourself.

Dealing with this person leaves you feeling drained, physically and emotionally, and doubting your own self-worth.
If you identify with any of the scenarios listed above, you may be part of a toxic relationship.

Is Your Relationship Toxic?

A toxic relationship is one in which one partner controls the other via physical, mental, or emotional manipulation. Instead of exhibiting the equality, caring, and mutual self-respect of a healthy relationship, these dysfunctional relationships are characterized by an imbalance of power in which one partner uses a variety of methods to insure that her needs are always met, often at the detriment of the other.

When one speaks of abusive relationships, many immediately think of romantic partnerships. While this is certainly a problem in modern society, toxic relationships are not limited to those who are romantically entwined.  They also include friendships and working relationships. Any situation in which one individual abuses the bonds with others has the potential to be toxic.

As illustrated by the situations listed above, there are a number of characteristics which are common in a toxic relationship.  While not all of these symptoms need be present, many will be.

One partner is in control of the relationship.  She decides where they will go, when they will get there, and what they will do upon arrival.

This individual makes sure that her demands are met using a number of techniques ranging from physical abuse and the threat of physical abuse to verbal bullying, from mental and emotional manipulation.

The individual not in control feels powerless to confront or contradict the one in power.  She will acquiesce to the demands of her friend, despite a lack of interest in the proposed activity.

The relationship is a “One Way Street,” with the person in control receiving all of the benefits of the relationship.

The powerless individual may find herself acting out in uncharacteristic ways as a result of feelings of helplessness and lack of control.  She may participate in activities in a minimal way, performing poorly because her heart is not in it.  She may agree to activities, but then complain throughout the time together in an unconscious attempt to shorten the activity.  She may engage in passive-aggressive behavior in an attempt to make the person in control uncomfortable.

Interactions of this sort often leave the powerless partner feeling emotionally and physically drained.  During the activity there may be a component of fear as she tries to avoid angering the person in control.  Fear of retribution, once it has dissipated, leaves one exhausted.

The Toxic Friend — Recognizing Bullying

The most obvious type of bullying, the one which is most identifiable, is one which carries with it the implied or overt threat of physical violence. This has become a well-recognized topic, often associated with romantic relationships as well as other interactions. Physical bullying, however, is by no means limited to these areas.There are many instances of friendships which carry with them the threat of violence.

It is important to note, however, that there are other, more subtle, types of bullying.  These may be more prevalent in friendships which meet the definition of a toxic relationship.  As with romantic relationships, bullying in a toxic friendship can, and often does, include an element of emotional manipulation.  The techniques of  mental and emotional manipulation can vary widely.

There is the friend who belittles someone, constantly pointing out her flaws and shortcomings, be they physical, emotional, or a lack of other companions.  This person makes her friends feel like she is doing them a favor by participating in activities with them.  Without the bully, they insist, you would have no one.  “Your choice is to be with me or be alone.”

There is the friend who guilts others into being with her and doing what she wants to do. She may insist that “We always do what you want to do.”Even though this is not correct, it implies a give and take which does not exist.  It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “If we do what she wants to do this time, we can do something I want to do next time.” Unfortunately, there is no “next time” that fulfills this wish.

There is the friend who may acquiesce to other’s wishes, only to make their lives miserable.  She may allow someone else to choose the restaurant, but will complain about the service, the food, the atmosphere, the parking, the other diners, and anything else which comes to mind.  One learns quickly that there is no point in trying to do anything other than what she wants to do.  Anything else will simply be a miserable experience.

Why are these toxic individuals the way they are?  Why are they self-centered, unreliable, and manipulative?  It should come as no surprise that there are a number of answers to this question as well.  Bear in mind that the following descriptions do not seek to excuse toxic behavior, only explain it.

Some individuals are reacting to stressors in their own lives.  When one feels out of control in one aspect of life, due to other relationships, occupational demands, poor physical health, or any one of a number of other reasons, she may seek to exert control in another aspect of her life.  This may be a temporary solution to a personal feeling of powerless and could be easily redressed.

Others may show the lack of empathy and awareness of others that are traits of true sociopathy.  There is no changing these individuals.  In fact, any attempt to do so may result in an escalation of toxic behavior.

Finally, there are those who bully, manipulate, and engage in other negative behavior for the simple reason that they have learned that these actions are rewarding.  If they push hard enough, they will get what they want.  Why bother to enter into a reciprocal exchange when one can act in such a way that they achieve their goals without having to give anything up?

Does It Take Two To Tango?

Those who are on the receiving end of this type of toxic behavior may end each interaction with their bullying friend with the same question: Why do I put up with this?

I deserve it. Low self-esteem may be part of the answer.  If one is told throughout her life that she does not deserve good things, it is only natural that she will come to internalize this idea.  The toxic bully reinforces this self-image with every interaction.  The first thing that you must realize is that no one deserves to be treated poorly.

In one sense, being part of a toxic relationship is actually easy.  There is no need to plan for oneself when you know someone else is going to tell you what to do.  The rules of the relationship are spelled out quite clearly.  You do what the other person says and you avoid negative consequences.
What else is there?  If one has been constantly manipulated, whether it is physically or emotionally, one comes to question the reality of any other kind of relationship.  If you convince yourself that there is some aspect of bullying and manipulation in every relationship, it becomes easy to convince yourself that there is no reason to look for a different friendship.  You are already familiar with the devil you know, after all.

Stop The Music

If you found yourself nodding as you read the previous section, there are some important things which you must know.  First off, none of the negative things which you have endured are your fault.  The bully is to blame, not you.  Secondly, there are different types of friendships out there.  It is possible to bond with people because of mutual shared interests.  There are people who will engage in mutually beneficial relationships.  There are people who will want to be with you because of who you are, not because of what you can do for them.  Finally, and most importantly, you deserve better treatment.  This may mean confronting the other half of your current toxic friendship or looking for new relationships.

There are a number of different tactics for dealing with bullying behavior and changing toxic relationships into healthy ones.  Before we address those, we should reinforce two ideas.

Know that you deserve better.  This is the key to any potential change.  Everything discussed below hinges upon the knowledge that you are worth more than you have been getting.

Bullying, physical abuse, emotional manipulation, and other aspects of toxic relationships are unacceptable behaviors.  These are things which the bully does and they are not OK.

If you are ready for a better relationship, there are some things which you may want to try:

The simplest answer but potentially the most difficult is to end the relationship altogether.  This means not receiving phone calls, not answering texts, ignoring any of the manipulative behavior which will restart the cycle of toxicity.  It seems like an easy fix, but when one has invested time and energy into a friendship, even one which is not beneficial to one’s own well-being, it can be difficult to end.  This is even more difficult if the relationship has an element of physical abuse.  If this is the case, make sure that you are safe and there is no chance of physical repercussion.  This may involve outside assistance from family, other friends, or the authorities.  There are many programs and shelters which may also provide assistance.  Above all, be careful and act in such a way to protect yourself.

If you do not wish to end the relationship, it will be necessary to address the bully. Point out the behaviors that are unacceptable.  Again, if there is an aspect of physical abuse, take extreme care when doing so.  It is likely that the other person will become agitated, angry, or upset during this conversation.  Remain firm in your stance that the toxic behavior will not be tolerated.  It is also important to remain calm during this discussion.  The conversation may start to escalate into an argument.  Do not engage the bully in name calling, threats, or similar behavior. Simply reiterate what needs to change and why.

It is extremely important to not back-slide. If, after a few weeks of better behavior, the old methods of manipulation begin to creep up again, point them out in a calm, non-aggressive manner. Restate that these are the actions which will not be tolerated.

Regardless of how you choose to deal with the toxic person in your life, it is beneficial to find other friends with whom you can relate to.  Not only will these people provide companionship should the toxic friend exit the picture, they will also provide examples of how a friendship should work.  Moreover, they will reinforce the idea that you can be part of a healthy relationship and deserve to have good friends.