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It’s Time for a Paradigm Shift

Posted by at 5:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)


We are all too familiar with the pain of seeing examples of cruelty to animals, whether it’s through the sadness in the eyes of an abandoned dog, the agony and desperation experienced by a downed cow or other farmed animal, or the desperation of an oil-soaked bird. These images touch our hearts and frequently elicit deep emotions.

If you are like me, then you often wonder how come more people are not touched when confronted with such heart-wrenching stories and pictures. Do they have no empathy? Do they not see the obvious, that there are millions of living beings in desperate need of help? How come mainstream society has not yet woken up to the horrors that many animals are forced to endure? How come people still do not feel more strongly about factory farms, for example? When I think about all those questions, one possible answer comes to mind: desensitization.

What do I mean by that? I think one thing that needs to happen in order for animal rights to be more broadly adopted in society is to change the paradigm through which animals are viewed. Speciesism is still prevalent, as people continue to think of animals as lesser beings who do not deserve many of the same rights and privileges as humans. There are too many ways that this paradigm manifests itself in our everyday lives.

For example, as I typed this last paragraph, my word processor’s grammar-correction tool kicked in, insisting that animals should be referred to as “that” instead of “who.”

There are also those individuals who give their animal companions disparaging monikers: “Stupid” and “Useless” are a couple of examples. Would you call your child that? What are we teaching our children about kindness and compassion when we demean the animals they love? And what are we teaching them about us?

How about companion animal contests that feature “ugliest pet”? Most who feel compassion toward animals rail at the thought that any animal is ugly. It is OK because we are dealing “only” with animals, right?

But perhaps worst of all are the ways in which some speak to those who have lost beloved animal companions.  “I understand that you’re upset,” they might say. “But she’s just a dog. It’s not like you can’t get another.” Can you imagine the same sentence being spoken to someone who just lost a child?

Of course, the above does not cause much suffering when compared to what happens on factory farms, in circuses, or in laboratories. But I think that when the day comes when treating animals as things instead of beings is no longer acceptable, it will be much more difficult for people to turn their heads when confronted with clear cases of animal suffering.

What is your take?

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8 Comments

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    Patty Bowers says...

    May 18th, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Thank you for stating SUCh an important issue so clearly and succintly.
    It also reminds me that Mitt Romney thinks corporations are PEOPLE and dogs arre LUGGAGE! How screwed up is that thinking?

    Rachel Lunden says...

    May 19th, 2012, 7:00 am

    Agreed. This is something I have been battling externally as well as internally for years. How did we as a people become so desensitized? No one source can be fully to blame. However, nowadays the media does push the envelope for new shock factor enertainment which for sure does not favor displays of care and compassion for living “whos”. In addition, I believe there is a warped sense of reality when it comes what we deem appropriate and/or necessary.

    Pauline Moore says...

    May 19th, 2012, 1:37 pm

    Animal cruelty/abuse must stop right now!

    thomas moore says...

    May 19th, 2012, 1:47 pm

    ANIMAL CRUELTY/ABUSE SHOULD BE A FELONY PUNISHABLE WITH MANDATORY PRISON TIME ALONG WITH VERY HEFTY FINES. NO EXCEPTION.

    Julie K. says...

    May 19th, 2012, 6:53 pm

    What I have found in talking with people is that a lot of them simply do not know. They might hear about a factory farm raid, but they never make the connection between their purchases and consumption, and the horror that they hear about. They really do not understand that this is where mainstream grocery store items they buy are coming from. Many have never talked to a vegetarian or vegan, and imagine that such people are weird, or see it as some out there radical political stance. The meat industry does not help; they have huge budgets devoted to advertising and PR. Self-righteous veggie people accusing orhers of murder or of not caring don’t help our case. Compassion toward the misinformed is going to be the key in reaching them.

    Nancy says...

    May 19th, 2012, 9:32 pm

    Thank you and so well put… After seeing a segment on how beings became dinner, I gave up flesh 34 years ago. As a family, we have rescued numerous cats and dogs, and given when our home became to small for more.
    One of the reasons, I am a proud member of PETA is their aggressive stance and constant reminder than animals are our equal!
    Thank you PETA, for never backing down!

    Marybeth Pearson says...

    May 21st, 2012, 10:55 am

    Hi Kris. My name is Marybeth Pearson. I think that “empathy” is not part of the genetic makeup of a lot of people. They have to be taught kindness. An animal should not be called….it. How do we effect this change is the big question. Sooooo many people quote the bible as saying we have the right to do what we want to animals. We need to persuade our religious institutions to see the light.

    SteveR says...

    May 23rd, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Kris Lecakes Haley, you ask “Do they (who watch the PETA commercials showing abuse) have no empathy?” Well, I can’t answer for anyone but myself, but I’ll try to put my thoughts down and see what you folks think…

    1.) Compassion fatigue – this is the same thing I feel when looking at third-world children with swollen bellies and pipe stick arms. It’s not that I don’t want to help them, it’s that I feel that my efforts are futile. Next year, there’ll be another 100,000 starving children or scarred dog fighting victims or another bastard like Michael Vick or more labs performing useless, crippling “experiments” on helpless animals with the government’s blessing and THERE”S NOTHING I CAN DO. Jesus God, I can weep for those lost animals or children, but I’m out of money and out of tears. The government and big business aren’t out of money and don’t care about tears. The sense of futility is scarring and bitter; it feels like an unbandaged would in my psyche and I have to turn away (Pink Floyd, anyone?) in order to save my sanity.

    2.) History – Google the “Brown Dog” and read the story. In brief, it’s a tale of unanesthetized vivisection during which one of the scientists (sadists) patted the dog who whined in pain and said “good dog” to the amusement of the gallery of other sick bastards who were watching. Eventually, the anti-vivisection society raised a bronze statue which was promptly stolen by the pro-vivisection society. There was a pitched battle (yes, a real battle) and eventually the London police were called in and arrested anybody who was fighting (this is from memory; read the article for complete details). This ties in with my comment about compassion fatigue above; if we can’t REALLY stop animal abuse (although PETA has won some victories that I thought impossible) after centuries, what’s the use? All we can do is protect our animals and make sure they aren’t stolen to be sold into labs or other sick purposes.

    3.) Humanity, or the lack thereof – many of these crimes and animal torture were perpetrated by pseudo-scientists under the guise of “research”, or in back rooms (suitable sound-proofed of course). Now, they’re being committed by adolescents, adults, young children…our society has become one of coldness and sadism where once attributes such as civility and manners were taught. If this sounds like something your great-aunt would say, consider programs on TV. Where we once had gentle comedians who could make you laugh with a well-timed joke or pratfall, now we have people who I would protect my 92-year old mother from watching.

    We have “The Walking Dead” where a fat zombie is partially pulled up from a well, then breaks in half and the lower part falls back into the well. One of the characters loses control and bludgeons the zombie’s head into hamburger, much to the audience’s amusement.

    Please, please keep in mind that I’m not lecturing on TV propriety; my thesis here is that programming such as this leads to more violence, which is like a drug – we need more and more to sate our needs. Consider car wrecks; once one or two cars would crash and the scene would end. Now we have wholesale destruction of cities, extermination of people through the most hideous ways – all of which encourage violence.

    Think about it – when was the last time you read the Tao Te Ching, the Bible, the Koran, the Kabbalah? Their basic messages are all the same; love one another, care for the weak or sick, treat each other as we would be treated. I think our society has turned away from the sources of wisdom such as these and others (forgive me if I forgot your religion’s book(s) – I’m not a religious scholar). When we turn away from suffering – human or animal – we are turning away from the simple, loving message contained in these books and, in that, we are turning away from someone who desperately needs us. We are doing something ugly to our souls and I apologize, for I don’t have an answer how to remedy that.

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