Rationalizing Cruelty

“I know what it feels like to be hurt, and I don’t want to cause that pain to any other person or creature. But somehow, in society, we numb ourselves in order to make money or to feel better about ourselves, such as with cosmetics or food. We say to ourselves, I’m going to use this animal. I’m going to say it doesn’t have much worth so that I can allow myself to do these cruel things. And that just isn’t fair.” — Alicia Silverstone 

I couldn’t understand how humans could hurt and abuse animals so badly on farms, in slaughterhouses and in research labs until I looked further into human psychology and found that we need to somehow make creatures worthless in order to hurt, use and kill them so horribly for our benefit.

How else could a fur trapper leave an animal in his snare for days on end unless he thinks the animal doesn’t matter or feel pain the way that he does? How could the researcher in the lab perform countless cruel and unnecessary experiments on innocent animals? How could slaughterhouse workers jab innocent animals with electric prods and not care for sick or injured animals, or farm workers cut off an animal’s testicles without anesthesia?

For furs, cosmetics, food….the workers in these industries have to see these animals as unfeeling and worthless in order to be able to continue to do their otherwise horrifying work. And the huge numbers of animals involved just makes their job even harder to accept so they have to find a way that allows them to continue.  

Seeing the animal as worthless or undeserving of respect and care is a coping strategy for an otherwise unimaginable task.

Many slaughterhouse workers become so desensitized to protect themselves from the horror of their jobs that sadly, they become even crueller.

Much in the same way as we were able to rationalize slavery by viewing fellow humans as less than us or even like animals so that we could ‘use’ them for our benefit, or Hitler seeing Jews as ‘untermenschen’ or sub-human, historically, we have convinced ourselves that fellow humans were less than us so that we could continue onward with our own selfish goals.

In this way, we see animals. They are seen as undeserving of our care and understanding.

Just as Alicia says above, we convince ourselves that the animals don’t feel pain as we do and don’t matter as much. This way we continue to be blind to the realities of their lives and what they are forced to give us so that we can have what we want.

The Hunter and The Vegan

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My partner is considering getting a hunting license.

It may seem strange that he is thinking of hunting and killing animals for meat when I am now vegan but I can respect his choice. He chooses to remain a carnivore but is willing to consider doing something difficult – getting his own meat rather than simply buying the prepared and packaged meat ready for pick up at the supermarket.

Currently, he buys meat from local farmers he researches and visits – he gets to know the farmers and the animals that way.

He says that ultimately though, he would like to be part of the whole process – from seeing the live animal, to killing it and to preparing it for eating.  He also acknowledges that quite possibly at his first try at hunting, he may decide that he too wants to be vegan!  Looking into an animal’s eyes and killing it will be a tough challenge that he readily acknowledges.

Hunting and killing an animal in its natural habitat rather than have them live in the horrid conditions they must endure on farms and on route to slaughterhouses is definitely a step up from what most people do to get their meat.

It shows me that he is aware of the reality of eating meat or at least much more than most people who buy their meat cleaned, packaged and ready to eat. Buying it like that can remove the reality of the situation and can easily have you in denial — before it was in the package, it was an animal alive, with eyes that could look into yours and an instinct to survive  –  just like yours.

Don is also thinking of preparing his own meat as well – from the hunt to the table.  I think that if more people decided to do this themselves, there would definitely be more vegetarians and vegans!

Similarly if we saw what happens on farms and in slaughterhouses, many, if not most of us, would not be able to continue our blind meat-eating, animal using lifestyles.

Things have become far too removed from their realities  – too sterile and packaged – making it easy for us to remain in denial.

Animals have it pretty bad out there but we don’t see it. It’s too ugly to look at so we don’t look and it is hidden from us with ad-gag legislation such as is occurring in the U.S. Here is one of many online articles about this:

http://animalrights.about.com/od/animallaw/a/What-Are-Ag-Gag-Laws-And-Why-Are-They-Dangerous.htm

If we are brave and look closer at the realities of the meat and dairy industries, we will, as caring animals ourselves, choose to change our eating habits.

And although I wouldn’t personally choose to kill an animal for food in any way, I can respect others who choose to.

Vegan Caesar Salad

One of my all-time favorite summer meals is a fresh Caesar salad.

Now being vegan, I will have to find new ways of making it. I didn’t use anchovies before, but I did use eggs in my dressing recipe. And the fresh parmesan cheese is something I will miss!  But with the plethora of great recipes out there for vegan cheeses, it should work out well.

My sister, who also recently decided to try a vegan lifestyle and who also loves Caesar salads, found this recipe for vegan parmesan cheese:

http://www.veggieful.com/2012/08/vegan-parmesan-cheese-recipe.html

Here is the recipe I will be adapting for the dressing (from http://www.cooks.com):

CAESAR SALAD DRESSING
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. dry mustard
3 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. Parmesan cheese
4-6 cloves crushed garlic
6 tsp. wine vinegar
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. oil
6 drops Tabasco sauce
6 drops Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp. olive oil

Mix in blender and refrigerate.

I’ll try simply removing the eggs and adding an avocado instead for creaminess, then nutritional yeast instead of the parmesan cheese. My sister tried vegenaise and said it’s great instead of the eggs:

http://followyourheart.com/vegenaise-eggless-mayonnaise/

They say it only takes 2 weeks to get used to something new.  I can’t even imagine how milk would taste in my lattes anymore now that I use a soy/rice milk mixture instead.

Looking forward to the many more changes coming my way as I continue my journey into the vegan lifestyle!

“We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate for having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein do we err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendour and travail of the earth.” ~ Henry Beston

A Vegan Lifestyle

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Eating vegan is one thing about a vegan’s life, but to me, a vegan lifestyle also means making choices that do not hurt animals in any way.

My partner Don and I were on vacation last week on Lake Ontario – we rented a cabin on the shore.  We soon saw that just by the fire pit there was a small tree holding a robin’s nest.  We could see lots of activity by the parent robins but the baby birds were still too small to be seen.

To avoid smoking them out of the nest or making it too hot for them, we chose not to have any fires there.

Some people may think that silly or even have a ‘survival of the fittest’ attitude about the situation, but to Don and I, it seemed the right thing to do.

I believe that humans should, if they can, help, and even intervene to help, animals when they need us.

As we watched over the next days, the parent robins took turns getting food for their young and keeping them warm and safe.

During a windy thunderstorm one night, I watched out of our window to see how the nest would fare. I could see one of the parent robins holding out its’ wings widely covering up the nest as much as possible to protect it’s babies as the tree bent and swayed under the pressure of the storm.

As we watched them over the week we were there, the robin chicks grew and soon we could see their beaks coming up for the food their parents brought in. Soon they will be big enough to leave the nest and try out their own little wings.

I am glad that we were able to play a part in protecting them at least in that small way. We left a note for the people renting the cabin after us as well, pointing out the nest by the fire pit.

Let us all play a part, even a small one, in protecting the animals around us. Sometimes they need us to be watchful.