There are many arguments for and against the use of animals — and whether or not we have dominion over them.  Ultimately, it is an ethical and moral choice that each of us has to make.  However, Jeremy Bentham’s quote that is my subject line sums it up for many of us who believe that all life has value and should be respected and protected. 

There are consequences resulting from various animal abuses that affect our health and environment; so, even those who may not be concerned about the welfare of sentient beings are ultimately affected by their mistreatment.

We can choose to live in denial so as to justify our actions or avoid having to make changes; we can look the other way and pretend the exploitation and cruelty do not exist, because the images and knowledge upset us.  However, while we are averting our eyes or refusing to listen, billions of innocent, feeling beings are literally suffering to death every single day.  Animal exploitation has a massive negative impact on society, if not our very souls.

Factory farming greatly contributes to the destruction/depletion of the earth’s resources, harms the environment, reduces the potential to feed millions who live in poverty, impacts global warming (the results of which we have observed or experienced in recent years via the climatic catastrophes), imposes massive suffering upon innocent animals, and poses a huge threat to our own health and lives.

Animal experimentation is another controversial issue.  There is countless research disproving the efficacy of using animals, as they do not respond the same as humans. . .even though they feel the same sensations, including fear at the hands of researchers.  Imagine yourself being tested upon by a doctor who does not care about your comfort or pain level and whom you cannot communicate with because you can’t speak.  That is horrifying in itself, but let’s take it a step further.  That same doctor does not value your life, either.  Wow, my heart just froze at the thought.  With so many better and more accurate methods of testing that are available today, we no longer need the archaic and barbaric use of live subjects.

The fashion industry is a great example of how we have allowed vanity to trump compassion.  Animals have their skins torn from their bodies, often while they are still conscious. Snakes have their heads nailed to a tree, while their skin is peeled off.  Due to their slow metabolism, they can languish for several days in sheer agony before death gives them their final welcome release.  Animals on fur farms are subjected to anal electrocution (basically being fried from the inside out), or have their necks snapped, or are beaten.  Many of these hapless beings awake during skinning.  In China, one of the biggest manufacturers of “faux fur” products, they don’t even take the time to attempt to stun the animals, as there are no animal welfare laws protecting them.  Here, raccoon dogs are routinely beaten and then skinned while still alive in order to produce trinkets, dog toys and fur trim that is illegally labeled as “faux.”  I once watched a video of a raccoon dog after it had been skinned.  He was bloody, dazed, and still alive for several minutes after the skinning.  He lifted his head agonizingly, turning to look back upon his body in obvious shock and pain; and then, looked directly into the camera before finally expiring.  His eyes asked “why?”

Alligators and crocodiles don’t get a break.  They have tough hides; therefore, it takes a little more effort.  I’ve seen videos of men taking sharp knives and chisels to the back of their heads in order to paralyze or stun them so they can remove the skin.  If you are shocked and disgusted at this point, then perhaps you will think twice before making that next purchase of snakeskin boots, crocodile handbag or alligator pumps.

The entertainment industry is notorious for employing fear and pain in their training of animals.  Think about it.  A wild animal is not about to jump through a ring of fire just because you politely asked it to – or offered it a treat.  Research has led to case after case of trainers and owners who have been prosecuted for animal cruelty.  I’ve read of people who have beaten chimpanzees to an inch of their lives, denied tigers water in triple digit desert temperatures, sewn shut the mouth of snake with needle and thread, forced animals into tiny enclosures where they cannot even turn around, tied animals down for up to 20 hours a day. . .and the list of injustices goes on.  Patronizing circuses, zoos, marine exhibits such as Sea World, and other venues where animals are exhibited in a confined habitat that is not their natural world helps perpetuate this exploitation.

In the wonderful world of pets, supporting pet shops is supporting the underworld of puppy mills and other suppliers of animals that are mistreated.  Shoppers don’t often get to see this world until it is exposed in some form of cruelty case that has made it to the news.  Animals are treated like commodities.  Sick and injured birds and small creatures are routinely ignored and thrown away (while still alive and barely hanging on), since the bottom line is the dollar and paying a vet costs more than simply producing more animals.  Most of us know about the hellish conditions at many puppy mills, thanks to the media.

Society has shown increasing evidence of  desensitization towards others.  FBI data suggests that those who commit crimes against animals have a propensity to go on to commit crimes against people and property.  If we have children, nieces and nephews, or grandkids, then I believe we ought to be greatly concerned about what kind of world we are leaving behind for them.  It is our responsibility to teach the younger generation about their connection to other beings, both human and non.  It’s directly upon each of us to practice compassion for others and to promote responsibility for the voiceless – the animals who need protection and to be kept free from harm at the hands of humans.

One does not need to become an activist or animal advocate in order to help animals in need.  We just need to incorporate a philosophy of compassion into our daily lives.  We need to be more aware and alert to animal cruelty around us – and to do our part to report it, whether it be a dog chained to a tree all day, every day; or knowing about a pet or other animal that is the victim of cruelty.  Joining some of the great national animal welfare organizations, such as HSUS, PETA, In Defense of Animals, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Mercy for Animals, or Born Free USA allows us to receive action alerts and petitions about campaigns.  Foregoing a couple of beers or lattes a month and instead donating that money to one of these organizations or a local (reputable) animal organization is another great way to do our part.  Of course, donating a couple hours of our time to walk the dogs at the local shelter is an invaluable way of helping make life better for animals.

My blog offers information not only about the various issues and campaigns occurring globally, but also includes links to websites that provide detailed information and an opportunity to do something for those who feel compelled to take action, whether by contacting legislators and companies, signing petitions, making a contribution or volunteering their time.

At the end of the day, how we treat animals reveals who we really are.

– Annoula Wylderich