Sunday, May 16, 2010


(Picture left: Beautiful Canadian Goose freely looking out over the pond at Harlem Meer. "God loved birds, so He created trees. Man loves birds so he created cages.")

Last night, while channel surfing around midnight, I stumbled upon a program called, "ROAR" on a cable public access channel. I'd never seen the show before. From the TV guide, it was apparently something about animal rights.

The program began innocently enough with a young woman questioning visitors to the Central Park Zoo about vegetarianism.

"Have you ever considered vegetarianism?" the voice from behind the camera asked.

Most of the people (a young couple, a father with a young daughter and a man with a dog) politely answered that they ate meat, but were somewhat open to the idea of other alternatives. All indicated that they cared about animals.

The program would have been interesting from just the standpoint of determining people's attitudes about animals and meat, as well as the interviewer's earnest attempts to enlighten and help others see the very real connection between animal abuse and various forms of human exploitation from slavery, to child abuse to the Holocaust. "Might makes right." "Its just animals" (or, "humans lower or weaker than us").

It seems all kinds of atrocities occur the very moment we objectify others, be they animals or humans.

Perhaps that helps explain why I personally cringe anytime people refer to either their pets or other animals as "it" rather than he or she. I never adopt to people who call their former or present cat or dog, "it."

But, I digress here......

Intermingled between the interviews in a pleasant setting, were unbelievably horrifying video clips from intensive factory farms, animal auctions, trucks and slaughterhouses.

There is in fact, no way to accurately describe the brutal, dark, grotesque and graphically violent images. Nothing out of any Stephen King novel or horror movie could ever come anywhere close to matching it.

Indeed, the only thing that does come close was an equally horrifying article from the Washington Post about ten to fifteen years ago. It was entitled, "They Die Piece By Piece." -- One coud never forget in a million years that article, if read.

Only the article was print. The show last night was visual and audible.

I immediately grabbed the remote control to switch the channel, (after all, I have been a vegetarian for 33 years!) but then another part of me admonished: Don't be such a coward! If it is painful for you to watch, how is it for the living and dying beings who actually have to endure and suffer this tyranny? You owe these beings the respect of at least acknowledging their suffering and injustice.

I forced myself to watch most of the roughly half hour footage, though there were moments I weakened and turned away.

I have not been able to sleep since seeing that program. I am afraid some of the images will come back to haunt in nightmares:

Dead, starved, diseased and dying chickens propped up by living ones in large "chicken houses" containing up to 50,000 chickens. The violent branding and castration of cattle and pigs without use of anesthetic. (The animals thrash and painfully bellow or in the cases of pigs, scream.) Burning the beaks off of fully conscious chickens so they don't peck each other to death in surreal and packed chicken houses or battery (egg laying) cages. The use of electric prods and metal batons to brutally beat pigs and cattle in effort to force them to move through winding chutes. Picking up sick or dying pigs and violently slamming the squealing animals to the ground, head first, to inflict death.

The rounding up, throwing and squeezing of chickens, turkeys and pigs in trucks to be sent to slaughter was something one could never imagine. And then of course, the slaughter itself.

There is nothing (and I do mean, nothing) "humane" about it.

Still conscious and thrashing chickens, pigs and cattle hoisted on one leg while their throats are slashed. Animals still alive scalded in boiling water.

How is it possible that we as "civilized" human beings could inflict this tyranny and horror on even one sentient being, let alone, billions?

Then again, we had a Holocaust and we had slavery, didn't we?

I feel ashamed to be human after watching this violent carnage and absolute, overwhelming injustice. -- Carnage, violence and injustice that is happening today (in mind numbing numbers), not 70 or 150 years ago. (Lord, forgive us, for we know not what we do.)

Were this a truly just and "humane" world, we as humans would be ashamed to even admit to still eating meat today. It is practically to acknowledge either one's ignorance or one's absolute callousness or even amorality in terms of how meat is "produced" today.

I realize there are some who will defend these purely evil and destructive practices by saying, "Hey, nature is cruel! Ever see a lion kill a gazelle or zebra?"

Sure, nature is "cruel." But, the lion doesn't have a choice to eat or not eat meat. Lions are carnivores -- part of the natural food chain. Nor does the lion possess the ability for moral or conscious choice as we humans supposedly do. Finally, up until the day the deer or zebra is chased down and killed, s/he had a normal and free life. S/he did not live a life of tyranny, abuse, deprivation, enslavement and brutality at the hands of a more "powerful" species.

Those of us who have and love our pets know and will swear that our cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, horses or other pets "feel" in many ways as we do. They experience joy, pleasure, playfulness, bonding, happiness, attachment, sadness, depression, loneliness, grief, fear, frustration, terror and even, sometimes, panic. Like us, animals can sometimes even be aggressive and/or bullying.

But, if these things are true for the animals we welcome into and share our homes and lives with, why would they not be true for the other animals we share the planet with?

Just because we don't see cows, pigs and chickens everyday (especially if living in the city) doesn't mean they don't feel or experience emotions, needs and life just as our "pet" animals do.

Could we ever justify to ourselves treating our cats and dogs the way we treat those animals we order up in a restaurant or "serve" on a dinner plate?

Of course, we kill millions of cats and dogs in shelters every year. So, our attitudes towards them are not so "evolved and enlightened" either. -- We just kill pet animals more "kindly."

Somewhere in the program last night, different quotes were flashed on the screen from Leo Tolstoy and Leonardo Da Vinchi (famous vegetarians).

I don't recall the wise quotes exactly, however, it struck that we have not come very far over a thousand or more years, have we?

Could these brilliant men ever imagined that we could be even more cruel and violent today towards non-human animals than in the actual times they voiced their quotes?

What's gone wrong? -- PCA