What is it about suffering that makes us, the human race, accept it as a part of normal daily life (when we are not the ones personally suffering, that is)? We move along in our mundane lives, while at the very same moment hundreds of thousands of sentient beings are enduring inextricable pain…at our own hands, no less.
In Saudi Arabia, where I grew up as a US expatriate, suffering abounds, especially for females. There, naturalized women are slaves, truly at the mercy of their masters – husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles – the men in their lives. These men will decide if their property will live in relative comfort, or in utter agony. I could not come to terms with imposing suffering on an innocent being. Why would a “master” choose to make his “subject” live all her days in anguish?
Then, one day I too became a “master”, of two fabulous Newfoundland-Shepherd mixes. Their fur was as soft as dandelions! Their emotion-filled eyes followed my every move, so eager and grateful to be a part of the pack. A walk or a ride in the car resulted in their whole bodies wiggling in delight! All the joy they would ever have was up to me. Indeed, I intended to make their lives as enjoyable as possible because I am an animal lover…just as millions of people are who eat animal flesh. As I marveled at my dogs’ magnificence, I placed an animal just as beautiful on my plate at every meal.
So, when I was introduced to the plight of farm animal suffering at the hands of their masters, it took barely a moment for the paradigm shift to occur. I had stuffed the notion of farm animals’ sufferings in the back corners of my conscious my entire life as we are all taught to do. I was unwilling to come to terms with an idea which we are all at least vaguely aware: cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are glorious creatures, and they are being tortured every day at the hands of their masters, at our request, so we can eat them.
In America, we have decided that a dog or a cat is worthy of protection against cruelty, but a sheep is not. We cannot shoot kittens in our back yards, but cows can be skinned alive while hanging from one hoof. A dog cannot be kicked, but a sow can have her brains smashed in on a concrete floor. These are regular actions that take place in slaughterhouses, and worse. Much worse.
American corporations have done a good job at hiding the atrocities that take place regarding farm animals, but we have also chosen to buy the lie…and for the most horribly selfish of reasons. Why do I give my love to a dog but not a lamb? Because the dog I do not want to eat.
Yes, that is what it boils down to. The animals we have compassion for are the ones we do not want to eat, and the ones we will turn our backs on are the ones to whose meat we are addicted. I once was this way, but no longer. I cannot be a part of animal torture. That is why I am a striving to be vegan.
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