Promoting understanding
and compassion for animals



Book excerpt 7

Posted in: From the book2 Comments

4. Society

We like to think that we live in a culture of free thought and creative expression. We also like to think that our society encourages individuality and we abhor any type of propaganda or brainwashing.

But sadly, I believe we are all indoctrinated into a culture of “truths” or “half truths” on a range of issues, including animals and our attention is purposely diverted away from these important issues by a range of distracters including sport and celebrities.

There are a number of beliefs about animals that society likes to entrench in its members at an early age. These beliefs include;

 Animals don’t feel pain

 Animals are stupid

 Animals do not possess emotions

 Human beings are more important than animals

 Animal suffering is okay if there is a economic necessity

Believing these statements means that society can continue to exploit animals for food, sport and vanity without being questioned on its morals. These statements also allow the various animal testing and vivisection industries to exist without public condemnation. In short, they protect the billions of dollars profit that is obtained from animal related activities each year.

If we examine children’s literature, we can find a plethora of animal related themes and characters. While most of these stories are quite inoffensive, they usually place the animal in a human environment and endow the animal with human characteristics. However, this can lead to an inability to appreciate the animal for their own special traits and characteristics. It can also lead to a disassociation from animals when the child matures enough to realise that animals do not naturally behave like this.

When you have grown up to believe in an essentially human-based behaviour model, it can be difficult to accept something that does not behave in this way.

As the child grows, the human and economic factors begin to exert their influence. The teenager learns that human beings are the most important species on the planet and that some animal suffering is necessary for the advancement of the human race. They are also indoctrinated into the dreaded “real world”. Here they learn that although some things may be desirable in principle, in reality they are simply not possible.

 “Yes, it would be nice if we didn’t have to destroy animal habitats but there is no other alternative”.

 “Yes, it’s a shame that animals have to ‘give their life’ for medical experiments but what’s more important a human life or an animal life?”

 “Yes, it’s a pity that chooks have to live in battery cages, but if they didn’t we couldn’t afford to eat eggs”.

It seems that one of the greatest crimes in society is not rape or murder, it is refusing to accept “the way it is”. People who refuse to accept these lame excuses are accused of being dissidents, non-conformists and out of touch with reality. They are labelled radical extremists and trouble-makers who have nothing better to do than protest and generally make a nuisance of themselves. Consequently, mainstream members of society become reticent to voice any form of disapproval or criticism against these established practices and policies, lest they be considered one of these raving fanatics.

It is by means such as these, that the development of compassion for animals is severely restricted within our society. However there are individuals who have devoted their lives to the welfare of animals and have managed to raise awareness levels to some degree. In general, people afford some level of compassion to companion and native animals but still vehemently resist recognising the rights of farm animals. These animals are considered to be dim witted, unemotional individuals who also possess higher than normal pain thresholds. This allows us to continue performing operations such as castration with no anaesthetic or pain relief. Sadly, if people took the time to get to know a cow, goat or pig they would realise that these claims are simply not true.

While we still have a long way to go in the area of animal welfare, I must admit that we have made some progress over the centuries. Especially if we compare our modern day thinking to the barbaric ravings of philosopher Rene Descartes’ (1596-1650).
Descartes’ postulated that only human beings possess consciousness. Animals or brutes, as he refers to them, were “nothing more than unconscious machines”. Descartes’ followers therefore conducted experiments on live animals and viewed their cries of pain as “the mere creaking of the wheels of the machine”.

However, over the next hundred years there were an increasing number of intellectuals and scholars who questioned these depraved acts of cruelty.

“Among the inferior professors of medical knowledge, is a race of wretches, whose lives are only varied by varieties of cruelty; whose favourite amusement is to nail dogs to tables and open them alive; to try how long life may be continued in various degrees of mutilation, or with the excision or laceration of the vital parts; to examine whether burning irons are felt more acutely by the bone or tendon; and whether the more lasting agonies are produced by poison forced into the mouth, or injected into the veins…

What is alleged in defense of those hateful practices, everyone knows; but the truth is, that by knives, fire, and poison, knowledge is not always sought and is very seldom attained. The experiments that have been tried, are tried again; he that burned an animal with irons yesterday, will be willing to amuse himself with burning another tomorrow. I know not, that by living dissections any discovery has been made by which a single malady is more easily cured. And if the knowledge of physiology has been somewhat increased, he surely buys knowledge dear, who learns the use of lacteals at the expense of his humanity. It is time that universal resentment should arise against these horrid operations, which tend to harden the heart, extinguish those sensations which give man confidence in man, and make the physician more dreadful than the gout or stone.”

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

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  1. Nyvaeh said on 10/09/2011 at 5:30 am

    Thank God! Somonee with brains speaks!

  2. Marina said on 18/09/2011 at 4:38 pm

    You have really interesting blog, keep up posting such informative posts!

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