September 21, 2010
All I can ask is… How would We i.e. human beings, like to be treated in this way?
These are sentient beings, just like ourselves. For those of you who might not understand what sentience is, please read the following (lifted from Wikipedia, due to time constraints today) to see how other groups of human beings, who reside here on Earth with us, presently view our neighbouring and fellow life forms…
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Sentience… What Is It?
Western Philosophy And Sentience
Sentience is the ability to feel or perceive. The term is used in science and philosophy, and in the study of artificial intelligence. Sentience is used in the study of consciousness to describe the ability to have sensations or experiences, known to Western philosophers as “qualia“. In the philosophy of consciousness, “sentience” can refer to the ability of any entity to have subjective perceptual experiences, or “qualia”. This is distinct from other aspects of the mind and consciousness, such as creativity, intelligence, sapience, self-awareness, and intentionality (the ability to have thoughts that mean something or are “about” something). Sentience is a minimalistic way of defining “consciousness”, which is otherwise commonly used to collectively describe sentience plus other characteristics of the mind.
Eastern Philosophy/Religion And Sentience
In Eastern philosophy, sentience is a metaphysical quality of all things that requires respect and care… While most of Eastern philosophy is strongly connected to religious aspects of understanding i.e. Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, they nearly all recognize nonhumans as sentient beings. In Jainism and Hinduism, this is closely related to the concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence, toward other beings. In Jainism, all matter is endowed with sentience; there are five degrees of sentience, from one to five. Water, for example, is a sentient being of the first order, as it is considered to possess only one sense, that of touch. Man is considered to be a sentient being of the fifth order. According to Buddhism, sentient beings made of pure consciousness are also possible. In Mahayana Buddhism, which includes Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, the concept is related to the Bodhisattva, an enlightened being devoted to the liberation of others. The first vow of a Bodhisattva states: “Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to free them.”
Sentience is, from a Buddhist perspective, the state of having senses (sat + ta in Pali, or sat + tva in Sanskrit). In Buddhism, the senses are six in number, the sixth being the subjective experience of the mind. Sentience is simply awareness prior to the arising of Skandha. Thus, an animal qualifies as a sentient being.
Animal Rights And Sentience
In the philosophy of animal rights, sentience implies the ability to experience pleasure and pain. Animal-rights advocates typically argue that any sentient being is entitled at a minimum to the right not to be subjected to unnecessary suffering, though they may differ on what other rights (e.g., the right to life) may be entailed by simple sentience.
In the 17th century Thomas Tryon, a self-proclaimed Pythagorean, raised the issue of non-human suffering. Soon thereafter, many philosophers used the anatomical discoveries of the Enlightenment as a reason to include animals in what philosophers call “sympatheia” – sympathy, affinity of parts to the organic whole, mutual interdependence (the organic whole is similar to what Spinoza referred to as the notion of “God, or Nature”) – the principle of who or what deserves sympathy. Benjamin Franklin‘s autobiography identifies Tryon’s writings as an influence in his decision to try vegetarianism; later in the book, he reverts to eating meat while still following Tryon’s basic philosophy. Joseph Ritson coupled Tryon’s work with Rousseau‘s for “Essay on Abstinence from Animal Food” as many Rousseauists became vegetarian. Voltaire compared the Hindu treatment of animals to how Europe’s emperors and popes treated even their fellow men, praising the former and heaping shame upon the latter; in the 17th century Pierre Gassendi, and Francis Bacon also advocated vegetarianism.
The 18th-century philosopher Jeremy Bentham compiled Enlightenment beliefs in Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (second edition, 1823, chapter 17, footnote), and he included his own reasoning in a comparison between slavery and sadism toward animals:
The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason why a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor [see Louis XIV's Code Noir]… What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason, or, perhaps, the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day, or a week, or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? The question is not Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?
In the 20th century, Princeton University professor Peter Singer argued that Bentham’s conclusion is often dismissed by an appeal to a distinction that condemns human suffering but allows non-human suffering, typically “appeals” that are logical fallacies. Because many of the suggested distinguishing features of humanity — extreme intelligence, highly complex language, etc… — are not present in marginal cases such as young or mentally disabled humans, it appears that the only distinction is a prejudice based on species alone, which animal-rights supporters call speciesism — that is, differentiating humans from other animals purely on the grounds that they are human. In my eyes, this is akin to any type of bigoted racism.
Gary Francione also bases his abolitionist theory of animal rights, which differs significantly from Singer’s, on sentience. He asserts that “all sentient beings, humans or nonhuman, have one right: the basic right not to be treated as the property of others.”
Andrew Linzey, founder of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in England, is known as a foremost international advocate for recognizing animals as sentient beings in Biblically-based faith traditions. The Interfaith Association of Animal Chaplains encourages animal ministry groups to adopt a policy of recognizing and valuing sentient beings.
In 1997 the concept of animal sentience was written into the basic law of the European Union. The legally-binding Protocol annexed to the Treaty of Amsterdam recognizes that animals are “sentient beings”, and requires the EU and its Member States to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”.
The laws of several global states include certain invertebrates such as cephalopods (octopuses, squids) and decapod crustaceans (lobsters, crabs) in the scope of animal protection laws, implying that these animals are also judged to be capable of experiencing pain and suffering.
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I hope this at least causes one to think about the big long line of cause and effect in their actions… Whether the innocuously packaged meat on the shelves of our supermarkets not only hides the blood and gore behind the murder of these animals, but whether it also blinds us to the honest truth that all animals are really sentient in the same way that we are… And thus, if we treat any one Being with the slightest amount of disrespect, similar to that which is being shown to those animals in the so-called Bangkok “zoo” above the department store, then we are condoning malicious behaviour to sentient Beings… And, as we i.e. human beings, ourselves are sentient Beings, we are also propagating seeds for violence that might be towards ourselves.
It’s time to wake up… And realise that we can be Shepherds of the Earth. We have an ability to care for and tend to all Life that resides here in this intricate web of wondrous unfolding… We can use this long chain of interdependent memetic origination to make people aware of another’s plight… And so help change the causes that creates suffering. Perhaps then… Maybe… We can ensure that ‘nearly’ every living creature i.e. every “sentient” being, can have the chance to enjoy this garden of Eden that hangs in the inky black deserts of space and time, to live and do as “God, or Nature” allowed for it… Life is precious. It’s rare. And we are standing on one dot that has afforded many a chance to experience this lottery of existence. Everyone – all sentient beings – have a right… Maybe then we might well have a chance at being something more than blatant advocators of exploitation and usurpation… And so learn that Nature, too, in all its wonder and majestic splendour, is just as delicate and sensitive as the lover who lies by our side.
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If you’re having a hard time understanding that animals, like humans, have feelings too, and thus might not dig the kind of treatment that they’re being subjected to in that Bangkok ‘zoo…’ Then please check out Dr Jonathan Balcombe’s important work regarding animal rights by visiting his website here.
PLUS… If you’d like to read about how science is “grading” the facial expressions of mice while they are experiencing pain, in order to see if there is a common/universal language for mammalian expression, then please click here.
To find out how you can help prevent animal cruelty here in the UK, please visit the “RSPCA” by clicking here.
OR to visit the “World Society For The Protection Of Animals” website, please click here.
September 2, 2010
Over the last two days I have been fortunate enough to bear witness to some pretty amazing news – well, for me at least – which came through the Twitter vine. The organisation 350.org posted a Tweet which read:
Buddhists rock climate – the @DalaiLama endorses the 350 target: http://u.nu/8uhwe
The reason behind this being somewhat special for me is that my colleague – who is a Buddhist nun, presently out of robes – asked me why I gave up my car. Her reason at the time for asking this was that this action provided the biggest obstacle to my connection with learning the Dharma and attending Buddhist social events in Haywards Heath. As I may have already mentioned in previous blogs, I live in Tunbridge Wells, which is about 26 miles away going by car. Petrol and time wise, it cost me about eight pounds in fuel to get there and back again, along with a total of one hour and fifteen minutes in travel time. However, since I gave up my car several months ago, I’m now at the mercy of train fairs and delays. Basically the journey is double the time… Mainly as I either have to go from Tunbridge Wells train station to London Bridge and then back out to Haywards Heath… Or I have to go via Redhill in Surry, which requires three changes (four trains) in total. Also, the train fair is nearly doubled i.e. each return journey costs £15.10. So my Buddhist friend Chudrun did actually have a point. However, I argued that you couldn’t put a price on the environment. If it took double the time, and cost twice as much, then I’d have to go with it out of principle.
To be fair though, at the time I really did see her point i.e. that until one is truly enlightened, all our actions are somewhat based on self centred tendencies that – while they might be considered to be for the benefit of all living and sentient beings here on Earth – are ‘actually’ rapped up in pride and self obsessive tendencies, like “aren’t I good for helping the environment out!” kinda thing. Even so, my heart and intuition was telling me that despite what other say about my actions, this is even more important. When I finally got home that evening and sat down with a cuppa in my hand after meditation practise, I realised if someone didn’t make the effort, then all sentient beings would suffer greatly at from the whiplash caused by the chaos naturally inherent in ‘our’ dynamical weather system here on Earth…
And indeed we are all presently beginning to suffer at the hands of this indiscriminate master of fortune (the bestower of Life as we presently know it) and destruction. We only have to look at the radical shifts in recent weather patterns to see that our manmade effect on climate and regional weather patterns are wrecking havoc with the natural (and chaotic) order of things. The balance of the Tao is shifting to compensate for our actions and pollution. Just the other day Nature magazine reported that a brief cold spell killed millions of aquatic animals in the Amazon river. Also, droughts in China this year seemed to spell an ever exacerbating pattern for future times. It certainly doesn’t end there… Russia too was faced with hardship when the fires recently raged outside of Moscow city in the exceptionally hot and dry summer. And scientists around the globe are staggered at the rate at which the Arctic is warming up.
So there really seems to be something going on… And bearing in mind there are now nearly seven billion of us here on the Earth, I can take a pretty good guess as to what is ‘fuelling’ this climatic change. So while I hear some of my colleagues saying that reaching enlightenment is more important than curbing my use of petrol and plastics… I am also aware that if we don’t change our habits, then we could also hinder all sentient beings from attaining happiness, simply because we couldn’t – though I fear it’s more a case of didn’t want to – understand the effect that our actions were having on the Earth around us.
“We can create a very bad, negative situation for ourselves… Or we can create a very pleasant situation for ourselves.”
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche
Thus, last night I sent the aforementioned tweet off to Chudrun… Mainly to make a point about why I was going to stick with my decision about giving up my car, regardless of the consequences to my ultimate and eventual enlightenment… And this morning I got a reply… One which drew my attention to an interview of a friend – and fellow monk – of hers, Ringu Tulku Rinpoche. Here Ringu Tulku Rinpoche talks candidly and pertinently about his ideas concerning climate change, why it came about and how we might help effect a change for the benefit of all sentient beings – perhaps even all Life and its future generations – here on Earth… By changing our perspective, ourselves and our present self centred habits, by realising some harsh truths about our own inner workings and embracing them honestly, rather than sweeping them under the carpet.
‘Greed is also ignorance…We lose the overall view.
We almost stop thinking we are part of anything at all’
JS: Rinpoche, you have studied the world ecological crisis and seen Al Gore’s film. How does it make you feel as a Buddhist and a human being? How do you react to it?
RT: From the Buddhist point of view—and not just Buddhist point of view—nature does not pollute itself. If it is polluted, it is because people are polluting it. Obviously, we have polluted the air and the global environment which is why we have created the problem. I feel if we human beings have done something wrong to make it so bad, it is up to human beings to correct it, since it affects all sentient beings. This is the karma of the situation from the Buddhist point of view. Whatever kind of action we take, we will have to experience a corresponding kind of result. The climate issue is a very clear case of this. We can create a very bad, negative situation for ourselves or we can create a very pleasant situation for ourselves. Whether it is the planet, society, the local environment or relationships between people – this is how actions and reactions affect each other. The phenomenon comes precisely from our incorrect way of doing things, which is to say, without considering the effect of our actions. If we want to enjoy the world around us, for our lifetime and for future generations, we must do something to improve it.
There are predictions that the outcome will be or could be like this or like that, but there is nothing definite. There is just the indication, ‘if you act like this, then it could be like that. However, if you act like this, it can be better’. If people want to change their behaviour, the world can become better. Even in very negative dark ages, there could be periods of time that are positive and good. That has been predicted. Therefore, from the Buddhist point of view, how the world becomes depends on the people living there and how they act. If human society degenerates and the world becomes worse and worse, what is happening is that peoples’ negative emotions become very raw. They act, aggressively, greedily, negatively, violently. That is how the world becomes worse. War, famine, diseases, environmental catastrophe and diminishing lifespan develop from that. If our actions or reactions improve – we cease killing, lying, deceiving, and stealing from each other – from the Buddhist point of view, both the human and ecological situation will increasingly improve. The way we live our lives and the way we react to each other affects not just human beings, but our natural environment, the world we live in.
JS: So you are saying there is a psychic interdependence, on a collective level?
RT: Not only psychic, but behavioural. How we react psychologically is reflected in our behaviour. So what we do to each other affects the environment. For instance, if we are overly greedy, we take everything out of the earth, without any respect. We do not care for the land or the air. We ignore our pollution. If we react with hatred and just try to harm or destroy somebody or something, we devote great resources to manufacturing weaponry, and in the process we also destroy our own environment. Harming others is harming ourselves too.
JS: Or harming the future in this case.
RT: Yes, the future.
JS: The future others, and our future selves as well.
RT: That’s right. That is the Buddhist way of seeing.
JS: So you are saying it could go either way. It could reach some pitch, or some collective recognition, or not. And if not, it could come to a crisis point. Of course, we are already at a crisis point.
RT: That’s right. It can get worse if we do not put a stop to this way of acting and reacting. If we do change sufficiently, it could also reverse itself.
JS: It seems that greed is a key ‘poison’ being projected at this time. Powerful elites in society are not necessarily going to abandon greed. Change may now have to come ‘from the grassroots’.
RT: That is right. Greed is also based on ignorance. The assumption ‘if I have more, if I consume more, then it is better for me. It will bring happiness for me. Whoever has the most things is the better, happier person’ is based on fundamental misunderstanding.
JS: A misunderstanding assiduously cultivated by mass advertising.
RT: That is right.
JS: A system dedicated to generating greed contains the seeds of its own destruction, unless something really changes. On the scientific side, the de-glaciation of Greenland seems to be faster than they previously thought. It is potentially catastrophic for the world’s coastlines.
RT: I saw a BBC report that ships could now make the Northwest Passage, a short cut from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, north and west through the Canadian Arctic. The ice has melted so much that there is a waterway right through on the top of the world. Countries have already started to fight about who owns that ocean.
JS: Buddhism talks about ‘beginningless time’. If we look at the scientific history of the earth, it is 4½ billion years old. The biosphere, the living world is 3½ billion years old. The human species is less than a quarter of a million years old. So are we just referring to something ‘beginningless’ in terms of human consciousness?
RT: ‘Beginningless’ time is not based on one world system. It is based on countless universes throughout endless space. Space is limitless, so if there is this world system, there are also others. How many are there that our instruments can observe now? There could be different kinds of beings, worlds, limitless possibilities. It is not talking about this world. This world has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Indian Buddhist cosmology, one great kalpa is divided into 80 small kalpas. It takes 20 kalpas for one world system to form, from nothingness into existence. From the time of its existence until any kind of living being is able to survive takes another 20 kalpas. From the time living beings arrive, grow, flourish, and expand, until they become extinct takes another 20 kalpas. From the point that system starts to dissolve until it is completely destroyed and remains in dissolution is another 20 kalpas. That is a single cycle of one big kalpa. Furthermore, while one world is being created, another is living, another is dying, another is already extinct. There are countless worlds and universes like that.
JS: The Pope is issuing a ‘social encyclical’ on the issue of global warming and will make an appeal to the U.N. in person. The Patriarch of the Orthodox Christian Church has convened an interfaith conference on a boat near the North Pole—all faiths praying together. Do you think it is a good idea for Buddhist leaders to join forces in front of their students and raise this issue, at prayer festivals, conferences and teachings?
RT: I think it is very appropriate. More people are becoming aware of global warming, but only recently. Not long ago, people had little or no clarity on this subject.
JS: It has changed over the last year since the Fourth IPCC Report came out. Science progresses methodically and slowly. To reach consensus between 2500 world experts is not trivial. Finally they came up with 90% certainty that humans are causing it. After that there could not be any respectable opposition. The media woke up somewhat. However, even that has not stopped those opposing the truth.
RT: No, not at all.
JS: Even though the scientific conclusions are specific and water-tight, still the political arena does not change, because enormous profits being made through greed and waste. What about our own view and conduct in relation to the ecological crisis? Great spiritual masters like Guru Padmasambhava saw the world as dreamlike and illusionary, yet they went to enormous effort to benefit future generations. I wonder what this tells us about the view we should be cultivating.
RT: Emptiness, interdependence, impermanence, the nature of beings and things being dreamlike…these do not prevent us from doing things for other people. They do not prevent us doing positive things and reducing negativity. It may be like a dream, but it still affects people. The same question is raised in the Bodhicaryavatara. If everything is emptiness, why is there a need for compassion? There is a need because people suffer. They do not understand emptiness. Therefore it is important to work for their benefit, to reduce suffering. Its being like a dream does not change anything in that regard.
JS: I presume it would change the way in which we worked, and avoid anxiety, if we recognize the situation has twin aspects of being both dream-like and a crisis?
RT: Because things are impermanent, interdependent, emptiness, we should try to see them clearly, so that whatever the situation may be, we do not panic. We change our way of experiencing. That does not mean that we should not try to change the situation. Even if we have to live in that situation, we should do so in a peaceful and joyful manner. Within the situation, we should do whatever we can to make it better – without becoming negative, without becoming completely hopeless, or overwhelmed by tragedy. We should live in a way to make things better, both outside and inside.
JS: You must be familiar with this kind of situation. You were a refugee when Tibet was destroyed by external enemies. Do you see any relationship between these two crises?
RT: The situation for the Tibetans is very relevant. The Dalai Lama has repeatedly said we should not become pessimistic; we should stay optimistic. That does not imply we should ignore the situation, be unaware of the problems and injustices, or blame ourselves. Rather we should clearly see the situation we are in. Recognizing it, understanding it, accepting it, then we do not need to become utterly disillusioned. We need to see clearly what we can do to make it better. If we can find even a little thing to make it better, we should concentrate on that, rather than just mourning the negative things that have happened for us. If we do that, we become more positive, more enthusiastic, more optimistic. That was the message we Tibetan refugees received. Instead of becoming angry and hateful, feeling sorry for ourselves and completely losing hope – look at the situation and ask ‘what can we do now?’ That is why the Tibetan refugees tried their best to preserve their culture and improve their situation a little bit. This, of course, is not an easy thing, either inside or outside Tibet. There are so many negative forces. Nonetheless, it is working.
JS: Often at great cost.
RT: Yes, the cost is there. All the negative things happened anyway, so within that context, whatever positive could be done, was done.
JS: In the present climate crisis, there is the possibility that the human race is going to fail to recognize its karmic responsibilities. The IPCC have said that unless human society stops pumping 70 million tons of carbon gas into the atmosphere annually, within 10 years we could irretrievably damage our climate and the whole biosphere.
RT: According to Buddhism and according to our experience as Tibetan refugees, we never know if we will succeed in changing or reversing the situation, or not. We can never say how much can be done, or how much cannot be done. Nobody can say that precisely, but that should not prevent us trying.
JS: There is a great urgency that the world should arrive at a genuine treaty and put it into practice. What advice would you give as a Buddhist monk and teacher?
RT: I think the understanding of this information is very important. People have a vague idea that global warming is dangerous, but I think most have not yet experienced the urgency at a personal level. Governments talk a lot, but I do not know how serious they really are. Their actions do not match their talk. Maybe some more or less understand it, but their actions are inadequate.
There is a Sanskrit verse:
For the sake of the world you should sacrifice your country.
For the sake of the country you should sacrifice your village.
For the sake of your village you should sacrifice your family.
For the sake of your family you should sacrifice yourself.
Well, it appears the opposite attitude is prevalent nowadays:
For the sake of your country you sacrifice the world.
For the sake of your village you sacrifice your country.
For the sake of your family you sacrifice your village.
For the sake of yourself you sacrifice your family.
When that kind of situation has come about, we think “If I feel it is somehow beneficial for me, or if I get more money for a certain time, I do not care if the planet is going to the dogs or not.” That is a root problem; basically it is ignorance. We think our own welfare is assured because we get money or power or whatever. Yet we live in this world and actually if the world is gone, where will we use our ‘profit’?
JS: In the context of Global Warming, we could even say, collectively, this is pathological ignorance, possibly even a kind of ‘death wish’.
RT: It is as if we do not actually know, we are a bit confused. The kind of education we receive over-emphasizes personal achievement and personal goals. ‘I have to be the top person. I have to win the most. My success is the only thing. What happens around me is not the most important thing.’ It is an attitude, a way of looking that is too ego-centred. We lose the overall view. We almost stop thinking that we are part of anything at all. That is why some people become depressed, lonely and so forth. It also comes from this.
Interview by John & Diane Stanley, Sikkim, October 2007
Ringu Tulku Rinpoche (b.1952) was recognised by Karmapa XVI as a reincarnate lama of Rigul monastery. He holds the Kagyu title of Khenpo and Nyingma title of Lopon Chenpo. A professor of Tibetology in Sikkim for 17 years, Rinpoche authored a noted work on the non-sectarian Rime movement. His fluent English and congenial teaching style is appreciated worldwide. He founded Bodhicharya, an international organization that coordinates the preservation & transmission of Buddhist teachings with intercultural dialogue, education & social projects.
To see where I sourced this article from, please click here.
And to learn more about Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, please click here.
OR to find out more about how Buddhism is beginning to face the challenges set forth by human over population and the resulting effects of climate change, please click here.
To learn more about 350.org, please click here.
April 18, 2010
Just the other day I was having a discussion with someone in a recording studio – they know who they are – about why I was a vegetarian. And during this Q & A session, which felt more like a grilling about why I didn’t eat meat anymore, I seemed to detect a general lack of any consideration towards animals in general, and whether they really had any of their own feelings – just as we do – and whether they were conscious, as sentient beings tend to be. After much debate, my “adversary” – for want of a better word – proclaimed that animals just “didn’t have feelings like we, as human beings, did.” The blatant proclamation of this apparent ‘fact‘ somewhat took me aback and left me pondering about what the great Taoist, Chaung Tzu, once wrote concerning the happiness of fish…
On The Happiness Of Fish
Zhuangzi and Huizi were strolling along the dam of the Hao Waterfall when Zhuangzi said, “See how the minnows come out and dart around where they please! That’s what fish really enjoy!”
Huizi said, “You’re not a fish — how do you know what fish enjoy?”
Zhuangzi said, “You’re not me, so how do you know I don’t know what fish enjoy?”
Huizi said, “I’m not you, so I certainly don’t know what you know. On the other hand, you’re certainly not a fish — so that still proves you don’t know what fish enjoy!”
Zhuangzi said, “Let’s go back to your original question, please. You asked me how I know what fish enjoy — so you already knew I knew it when you asked the question. I know it by standing here beside the Hao.”
After I asked the individual in question what exactly made them say this with such certainty – a certainty that was almost as though it had been experienced first hand on some direct level – they replied that it was obvious from the way in which animals reacted in general to everyday situations. It was at that point that I relayed my own experience with just how the bizarre and egocentric view that human beings have on the world can allow them to make errors beyond recourse, and how this usually arises from their general lack of ability to accurately place themselves in another sentient beings “hooves,” let alone another human’s shoes. In fact, I went so far as to give them a link to a website called “Choose Veg!” so that they could see some of the types of treatment/slaughter/culling that deprive the animals of their lives and gave mankind their much treasured meat for their plates.
While it’s certainly not a pleasant site/sight… And there is no doubt that a scare mongering of sorts is going on here… I still know that the images are not too far from the truth of the matter. Having seen this “rant” about animal cruelty, I felt obliged to write a comment upon the website that had directed me to this shrine for our malicious, greedy murder for flesh…
Thankfully the types of farms that treat animals this way are rarely found in the UK now, if at all. Big up the British Farming Standards! But still, there “might” be a few around… Especially when it comes to battery chickens. So you never really know.
Thus… If you’re concerned – and can’t give up meat – you can always choose to buy your meat from private farms that look after their animals a lot better i.e. they keep smaller numbers of animals and so can leave them “free-range”, as well as provide them with better, more humane care because they look after them on a more intimate “one on one” basis… Many of the animals on private also have names, like you might give to your pet cats, dogs, horses, gerbils, etc… Still the images within “Choose Veg!” speak volumes about mankind’s detached and cruel treatment of animals for the meat industry! Having worked in an abattoir myself for just under two weeks – back in 1994, in between leaving school and going off to uni – I got a taste for what murder was like. And boy did it freak me… I simply couldn’t dig the thought of working in the meat trade after seeing the way animals were slaughtered (not killed, but slaughtered) for our food. So i quit 10 days after starting, which meant I wouldn’t get paid a penny for the hours I’d worked, as you had to be there for a month at least in order to get your first pay cheque. But after what I saw, that didn’t bothered me in the slightest…
While I didn’t become a vegetarian immediately, it planted certain seeds of awareness into my mind about where the meat on my plate came from… Not to mention, it made me rethink completely about what I was putting into my body i.e. meat laced with adrenaline and other stress steroids… But it wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I became a fully fledged vegetarian. Then, meat went right off my agenda. After all, you are what you eat! And I certainly wasn’t cruel…
Having said all that, if you can work in an abattoir and still eat meat – and there are many who can – then fair play to you. But please do be aware, death is still death. In old hunter gatherer times, people used to have a very different relationship with their food i.e. they used to hunt them and, thus, respected their prey’s cunning and stealth during the hunt. One was almost intimately entwined with their food, either growing it directly or hunting it in the forests and on the planes of mother Earth. Our ancestors treated their kill with respect and decency… In some ways, it was a fair game to play back then i.e. either catch/kill your food or it got away and you starved. But as we’ve lost contact with our ancestor’s ways, so we’ve forgotten what and who our food really is… And so we no longer see their alive, awakened bodies writhe with the taught sinews of their lives as we equal their own desire to live and exist while hunting them… And so what these animals means to us presently, as well as where they came from, beleaguers our own narrow “windows view” of the world through man’s own egocentricity. Many of us who understand our deep connection to these fenced in “creatures,” who are passive and so easily subdued in their fenced in fields, see them as nothing more than animals to fill our gut. But there are many, many more who don’t even connect the languidly grazing cows in a summer British pasture with the meat that goes on their plates, let alone the processes that kill them…
To be honest, I certainly can’t see that the methods being employed to kill animals in abattoirs getting any better in the near future, that’s one thing for sure i.e. a shot of morphine to knock them out before hand? Erm, not a chance!!! So if you’re going to carry on eating meat, then why not do so conscientiously, and at least ensure that the animals you’re eating have had as happy and healthy a Life as they can here on Earth i.e. they’re free to roam fields, they get some loving from the farmers to whom they belong (even the ability for a sentient being to belong to someone reminds me of the slave-trade that we abolished), they’re well looked after (they have easy access to animal health care i.e. a vet), they’re fed well and naturally i.e. not force fed like Foie gras OR Veal… RATHER than living in cramped, over crowded barns, with under nourished diets and a strong dose of drugs to get them up to weight… Again, this all too readily reminds me of the appalling conditions from the “concentration camps” that the persecuted had to endure before being killed during the second world war. Nobody dug those, i can tell you!!!
But if you’re the type of person who cannot speculate about the death of the animals you munch on for nourishment without feeling sick to your stomach… Or cannot talk about such cruelty without feeling repulsed and disgusted about the way your meat might have been treated… OR if you couldn’t kill, let alone catch, prey… Well… In my humble opinion then you probably shouldn’t really be eating their flesh now, should you… Food for thought, eh?
Despite what I’ve just written about… I’m a realist. I know there will be people who still will eat meat. So for the UK meat eaters reading this blog who might want to know more about how they can ensure that the flesh that they buy comes from “properly” – see above – treated animals, then please see below for some handy sites to visit. After all, if you choose to buy your meat ONLY from farms that look after their animals i.e. “farm assured produce”, then you’re effectively using your pound/dollar/euro to vote for better animal welfare. Now there’s a comforting thought, eh?
British Farming Standards info:
2) Red Tractor
However, if you’re already off meat and wondering what else you can do to stop animals from being exploited by their human “masters,” – chortle – then why not consider quitting all dairy products? There are plenty of milk alternatives, such as oat milk, rice milk, almond milk, or the common soya milk.
Either way… I don’t condone animal exploitation. For me, animals are sentient beings. They all have their own type of awareness and intelligence. Who are we to say whether they have feelings or not? We have already seen within the pages of these here blogs how “blinkered” our own points of view can sometimes be… AND just how prone we all are to optical, audible and other perceptive illusions. I mean, if we’re this prone to making errors about perceiving our own environment, then how certain can someone be about whether animals have feelings or not!? Surely if you find disturbing the idea of a highly advanced alien culture – who have levels of awareness that seem to stretch majestically beyond our own perceptive abilities – coming down from outer-space and milking humans for some nutrient in their blood, keeping them trapped in cages, riddled with wires and pacified like we do many animals… Justifying their cause on the simple fact that We – as humans – are apparently not sentient enough OR capable of the types of intelligence that our alien counterparts are… Well, then I would like to recommend that you should seriously reconsider the relationship you have with the meat that you eat.
I remember a rhyming verse I heard recently when someone was telling me about the Haitians and their current plight in Haiti after the earthquake:
“Human beings are part of a whole,
Of one essence and one soul
If one is afflicted with pain,
The others will be uneasy and feel the same,
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
Then the title ‘human’ you cannot claim.”
When I initially heard this I saw the deep truth behind its simple facade. And just recently, having read an article on mirror neurones that human beings have in their brains i.e. the areas for compassion and understanding one another’s emotions and actions, I wondered… Surely it would be equally as fit to replace the italicised word “human” for “animal?” This is lest we aim to truly become the autistic Life forms of evolution’s algorithm here on mother Earth…
But perhaps you see evolution as the driving force for life. Survival of the fittest, using the weak for their own needs and gain… Natural selection kills of the weak and leaves only the strong. And perhaps you feel that if advanced aliens did come down from outer-space to “milk” our human bodies of their nutrients… Well, this is again survival of the fittest and, so, is perfectly acceptable. But if this is all there is to Life i.e. use and enslave, then why do we as human beings hold the ideal of freedom above all others?
If you’re still somewhat having difficulty seeing how similar we are to other sentient beings… And thus are at a loss as to what I mean… And perhaps you feel that you want to know more on the subject… Then there is a gentleman who has thought long and hard about all of this. In fact he has written several deeply penetrating and insightful books on the subject, all of which I would highly recommend anyone and everyone reads at some point in their lives. His name is Dr Jonathan Balcombe.
Animal pain and stress, once controversial, are now acknowledged by legislation in many countries, but there is no formal recognition of animals’ ability to feel pleasure. Jonathan Balcombe — his books and his writings — debunk the popular perception that life for most is a continuous, grim struggle for survival and the avoidance of pain. Instead he suggests that creatures from birds to baboons feel good thanks to play, sex, touch, food, anticipation, comfort, aesthetics, and more.
Combining rigorous evidence, elegant argument and amusing anecdotes, leading animal behavior researcher Jonathan Balcombe proposes that the possibility of positive feelings in creatures other than humans has important ethical ramifications for both science and society.
Danger-junkie orangutans in Borneo climb dead trees and destabilize them until they begin to fall. They scream with excitement as they cling to the falling tree. Just before the tree hits the ground the orangs leap to another tree or vine, narrowly escaping death. Researchers call this peculiar behavior snag-riding and liken it to bungee jumping for monkeys. While no one can ask orangutans if they enjoy the same adrenaline rush as a person playing an extreme sport, one animal behaviorist sees this monkey fun as a bit of harmless thrill-seeking.
A growing number of scientists agree that animals are conscious and capable of experiencing basic emotions, such as happiness, sadness, boredom or depression. A few scientists even see the possibility for higher animal emotions like love, jealousy and spite.
Scientific literature, dating back to Charles Darwin, is dotted with examples of animals loving life, but rarely does the scientific community allow such musings. In fact, only one scientist is looking at the eat-or-be-eaten animal kingdom as a place where fun and mischief define the in-the-moment lifestyle of most animals.
To quote Dr Balcombe directly…
“I do feel very strongly that our current relationship with animals represents what the Hopi Indians would call koyaanisqatsi: life out of balance.”
And it is here that I would like to present an enlightened interview with Dr Jonathan Balcombe, which touches pertinently on animal rights, animal welfare and aspects of human consciousness and some of the various perceptive stances that We – as human beings – have about the world around us. I believe that once we can begin to see through our own deeply egocentric view of the Earth, We will be able to move forwards into new realms of behaviour that allow us to become “Shepherds” of the Earth, rather than plunderers and usurpers of this treasure that we call Life.
To find out more about Dr Jonathan Balcombe’s important work regarding animal rights, please visit his website by clicking here.
AND to find out where I sourced this interview from, please click here.
FOR more information about animal rights, please click here.
EVEN to read more about the ethics behind animal rights, please visit the BBC’s home page regarding animal welfare by clicking here.
PLUS… If you’d like to read about how science is trying to “grade” the facial expressions of mice while they are subjected to pain, in order to see if there is a common/universal language for mammalian expression, then please click here.