The extent of this
transspecial violence is truly astonishing. According to the Worldwatch
Institute, by the year 2025, a quarter of all species will be extinct
in the wild, and precious biodiversity essential to our own survival
will be lost with them. On the domestic front, in 2000 nigh on 10
billion farmed animals were slaughtered in the United States according
to USDA statistics, and that figure worldwide is approaching 44 billion.
In the U.S., an estimated 20 million animals annually spend their
whole lives in barren laboratories to produce branded drugs and toothpaste.
If we are largely unaware of this war, it's because the majority of
these abuses are conducted by institutions and behind closed doors,
funded by public and consumer money and fueled by indifference, ignorance
and inaction, those paragons of passive violence.
How does the
war on animals affect us? Anthropologist Margaret Mead commented,
"One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child
is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it." Children
certainly possess a natural empathy with animals. Yet some children's
first encounter with another animal takes place on the dissection
table. That these confusing messages have devastating effects on
human society, and serve as a catalyst of human violence there is
no doubt, for there is extensive evidence on the connection between
animal abuse and human violence. If overt animal abuse has this
kind of effect, the question we must then ask ourselves is how covert
institutionalized animal violence and passive violence affect society.
Our lack of
awareness of this hidden war is born out of our suffering from what
the Dalai Lama terms "the illusion of separation": the
belief that those towards whom we are violent in our thoughts, actions
and deeds are separate from us. Contrary to this general perception,
recent advances in quantum physics have demonstrated what wise people
have been teaching since ancient times: we are all connected. What
affects others affects us. The voice of wisdom inside us tells us
that we all bear the burden of responsibility for the violence by
which the world is consumed, for we all have violence in our hearts,
we all commit daily acts of covert violence, from harsh words or
thoughts to eating a chicken for dinner to watching performing elephants
at the circus.
then, animals are human mirrors, and our treatment of them reflects
our treatment of ourselves. Instead of fearing "other",
it is time to embrace "other." We come to realize that
extending our compassion to other species has the power not only
to change our lives beyond recognition, it plays a vital role in
reducing violence in society and could hold the key to our own survival.
Martin Luther King Jr. put it best when he said, "Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
What can we
do to counteract this violence?
Gandhi was a
huge proponent of compassionate action, or of what he called "dynamic
harmlessness" (ahimsa). Just the very fact of possessing moral
concern for others can prove a life-changing force. Acting upon
this can move mountains. The choice before humanity, to quote Gandhi's
words, is quite simple: "We have to be the change we wish to
see." Unless we change individually, no one is going to change
collectively. We can accomplish great things just by our personal
choices. If we long for a peaceful world, we must be willing to
do the never-ending inner work to reflect peace. As long as we destroy
the environment and abuse our fellow members of the community of
life, as long as we remain ignorant of the violence in our hearts,
humanity will never experience peace. The choice is ours.
In the words
of Charles Darwin, "The love for all living creatures is the
most noble attribute of man." Animal violence is not only unnecessary
in the 21st century and unworthy of us as a species, it also greatly
obstructs the path of peace. It's time to move away from what is
beneficial for the individual and focus on what is good for creating
a peaceful world. We are pioneers in what the Dalai Lama calls "universal
responsibility," the cultivating of a sense of compassion for
self and society, other species and the Earth. Ironically, the events
of Sept. 11 have brought our great capacity for compassion for others
into full view, as demonstrated by the enormous outpouring of public
generosity and selflessness towards those affected by the tragedy.
We need to harness this sentiment and vow to be guided by and infused
with this respect and compassion for all beings and the Earth from
this day forward.
all into rejecting violence to all beings and the planet and creating
peace in our hearts is a positive, energizing action, an enactment
of the highest good of which humanity is capable. Albert Schweitzer
said, "Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living
things, man will not himself find peace." The events of Sept.
11 provide one wake-up call that we cannot afford to ignore. We
must end the war on animals and take the first step in breaking
the cycle of violence. Each of us has the opportunity and the responsibility
to choose the future. How can we begin this process? Decide on two
days a week when you will not eat animal products. Voice your concerns
concerning animal testing to manufacturers. Let us seize this challenge
today to create a positive, nonviolent future for all of us - both
human and non-human.
more about the author, visit her site at www.newworldvision.org.