According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary 11th edition the definition of the word “compassion” is: “Sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it”. Very well, by the definition thus given we see right off the bat that compassion is more than just a feeling, or a pretentious connection with others’ pain. It is far more than a buzzword to be bandied about in the name of a cause.
Compassion is the precursor to acting on behalf of another’s well being. Without this “desire to alleviate another’s distress” we don’t have compassion, we have sympathy. And sympathy is really more about our own feelings towards another than any serious desire to help. It’s not my intention to split hairs or play games with words. However, far too much of what we hear today when it comes to the rights, welfare and liberation of Animals and the Earth is just that, wordplay.
In reality when you go to a Vegan restaurant or wear a t-shirt with an Animal Rights message (even the ‘radical’ ones) the Animals aren’t thanking you. The Animals are in cages, behind walls, on their way to slaughter or suffering from the nefarious designs of human exploitation. The male chicks thrown into the grinders because they can’t lay eggs aren’t thanking you or me for anything. They are dying and wishing that they were living, just as we all wish to live.
Therefore, if we have compassion for Animals then it means we have a desire to stop their abuses, not just a desire to have people that front for organizations of activists validate our sympathy. The Animal Right’s and Vegan community worldwide has come a long way in the last two decades. As far as Vegan outreach, education and legal battles are concerned we are doing better and are more organized on these fronts than ever before. And still Animals die in larger numbers than any year before in world history. The Earth as well is being raped for every “natural resource” more efficiently and quickly than any year before in world history.
This leads me to believe that the problem of Animal exploitation and murder isn’t a political problem, it’s not a problem of lack of information, lack of press coverage, lack of Vegan options, lack of funds or lack of networking. Because no matter what the body politic, no matter how much information is disseminated online, no matter what level of press coverage occurs, no matter how successful the Vegan product market is, no matter how many millions of dollars certain Animal and Earth welfare organizations receive and no matter how many conferences and workshops are held annually the barbarity of Animal use and abuse does not remain the same, it’s growing exponentially. The root problem is one of apathy, uncaring, desensitization and in general ignoring the suffering of all those outside our sphere of concern. It’s an existential human fallibility, not an ethical marketing problem.
Back in the late 90’s as a young man I built slaughterhouses. It’s a story that I have told many times, specifically about the horrors I had witnessed and was at the time a cohort to. But my story is not at all typical because most people that work in the same industry never have a Vegan/Animal Liberation epiphany. Most people when they come in contact with violence either, ignore it, rationalize it or become desensitized to it. This makes good sense for the sake of safeguarding ourselves from mental stress, acute anxiety and personal responsibility but outside of that it is the death knell for all innocent life. A question I have asked myself many times over the years is “why me”? Why do I care? Why do I feel the need to intervene? Why did I have to act up until the point of living my life in a cage? Why, indeed…..
But I am not alone. More and more people are waking up to the wrongness of these ghastly spectacles of Animal cruelty and wanting it to stop. And they are doing so at younger and younger ages. I think this is a hopeful sign. Of course, we are still outnumbered by the avarice of flesh addicts. But who knows, perhaps the sinners will always outnumber the saints. In any event this is not the immediate concern. The immediate concern is for all of us that do care and that do have compassion not waste it on worthless pressure valves like internet chatter, self-righteousness, pretentious and public displays of concern (more for the cameras and each other than for the Animals). Instead take this compassion and combine it with a sense of urgency and actually save the Animals!
You pick whatever avenue of activity works best for you so long as it results in life for an Animal that would not have had it otherwise, or the DIRECT improvement of the quality of an Animals life as a result of your work. The goal to all our work, activism and compassion needs to be the shortest distance to Animal Liberation. If every one of us saved an Animal or helped an Animal in need it would mean total liberation for each and every one of those lives! This is a far greater victory than objectifying Animals albeit “compassionately” to get the attention of the media, public or peers so that YOU can feel like YOU are making a difference as an ambassador of a righteous cause.
Selflessness, compassion, and liberation for the Animals and for the Earth starts in our hearts. Let your heart guide your mind and then use your heart, mind and body to save the Animals. Wean yourself off of needing approval or pats on the back from others and let your actions do the talking. Because if you don’t help them, if you don’t find a way, then no one will.
And the billions upon billions of critters that face life in a cage, forced impregnations, slaughter, vivisection, the carriage cart or the trainers whip deserve a far more real, effective and concerned advocate from the human race than what most of us currently are. It’s not right to make Animals lives and deaths our activist hobby or scene. It is our responsibility to care when others don’t and to intervene where others won’t. It’s our responsibility because for whatever reason we have been given compassion where others have not and we were given that compassion as a motivation to try and make this world a better place. Not to socially network with one another about our concern until it’s alleviated and exorcised.
Meanwhile, those in the cages and corrals, those that face the slaughterhouse and the laboratory, continue to hope for an intervention that never comes.