I have always thought of myself as compassionate, maybe more than the average person. I have always been one of those people who experience terrible pangs of guilt at the thought that I may have hurt someone's feelings and I find myself always having to do "the right thing." Because of this, some may call me a "bleeding heart" and write off my opinions on animal cruelty to just that. "She's a typical California hippie who is out to save the world," some might say. Not so! First off, I'm from New York, and second I grew up on spaghetti and meatballs, linguini bolognese and chicken parmesan. Not only did I grow up on those foods, but I LOVED those foods! What else could matter when something tastes so good! I didn't grow up with any animals in my home and I was generally unexposed to and unaware of any animal rights issues in my youth.
Instinctually I'd always known that I would love an animal and cherish the experience, should I ever decide to adopt one. My maternal instincts have been in overdrive since I was eighteen or so, and still being single, I decided to adopt a dog in the fall of 2004. I spent weeks and weeks researching different dog breeds online and looking up breeders all over the country. I even attempted to rescue a dog from the city pound, but due to the long waiting list, it didn't pan out for me. One morning in October 2004, I sprung out of bed with only one thought on my mind, "Today is the day I get a dog." I went to a place called American Kennel, on the Upper Eastside of New York City, and I saw some absolutely beautiful puppies. I stopped in front of one particular cage where I saw a tiny fluffy white puppy, and I asked to hold him. The man who was tending to the puppies took the little white fluff out of his cage and placed him in my arms. He was so tiny that I was afraid he would slip right through my fingers if I didn't hold on to him for dear life. I pressed him against my chest and looked at him. He looked up at me and licked my right cheek from bottom to top, then rested his head on my chest. As quickly as you could say "Awww" I was handing over my credit card. I said to the little white fluff, "you're name is Frank" and he seemed fine with it. I was loaded down with food, toys, baby vitamins, wee wee training pads, healthcare supplies and my new baby boy. We crammed everything into a cab and Frankie and I were on our way home.
The first month was exhausting. Sleep? What's that? I couldn't remember. A newborn dog can be every bit as challenging as a baby. He cried and whimpered throughout the night the first week, he had potty accidents, and he would zip around my apartment so fast that I would be out of breath trying to catch him. I got a veterinarian right away, and must have called them 20 times the first week to ask about everything. I was new at this and had a delicate life in my hands. The first time I bathed Frankie, he was so petrified of the water that he shook and cried in my arms as I cleaned him. I began to tear up at the thought of him being so scared. As I held his little shaking body, I became keenly aware of something... he had feelings, thoughts, fears, joy, just like humans. I never quite grasped that before, not firsthand anyway. ALL animals are capable of experiencing discomfort, pain, happiness, sadness, and fear. We all need love, food, water, shelter, and companionship: humans and other animals alike. I then realized something else. Depending on the societal norms of your country, certain animals are considered sacred, and others are considered ok to kill and use for food. But who is to say which of God's creatures are sacred and which are not, and which are "ok" to eat, and which are not? Do we have the right to even make those decisions? Who do we think we are??
We place importance on life depending on what is convenient for us and what is profitable for us as a society. Fur coats are profitable. Leather shoes are profitable. Meat is profitable. As evolved beings, we do not have to skin another living creature to keep ourselves warm. Nor do we have to brutally murder another living creature to keep ourselves nourished. We have other means by which to survive. In fact, our consumption of meat and other animal products are a profound detriment to our health and well being. We get our bad cholesterol from animals, period. When we eat an animal, we are inheriting their cholesterol, antibiotics, hormones, adrenaline and even fecal matter. Yes, I know it sounds revolting. That's probably because it is! So, we are not only being cruel to the animals, but we are being cruel to ourselves. Foods such as organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes and soy protein can sustain us just fine and provide all of the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, iron, calcium and other properties that we need, without all the poisons that we ingest from animal products.
And don't blame animals for the nasty substances that can be found in their remains that WE eat. Blame the meat and dairy industry. In order to maximize profits animals are force fed to get them nice and plump, kept in torturously confined spaces so that they don't develop muscle, are given growth hormones (larger product equals more money), injected with antibiotics, and are forced to eliminate waste on themselves and on each other due to their inhumane confinement, with no place else to go to the bathroom. To add insult to injury, when any creature senses that they are in danger, adrenaline shoots through their bloodstream and gets absorbed by the body's tissues (our meat). Adrenaline is helpful in a dangerous situation, as it gets us in fight or flight mode, but is also a hormone that taxes and stresses the body and creates feelings of anger and aggression. This adrenaline stays in the animal's tissue that we consume, so we are ingesting their adrenaline hormone. Certainly not all food manufacturers implement such horrifying techniques, but organizations such as PETA and ASPCA exhibit evidence that the majority do. Studies have shown that frequent meat eaters are more aggressive and quicker on the anger trigger then people who eat less meat or no meat at all.
Today I was at "Malibu Feed Bin," a pet supply store and farm in Malibu, CA. As I was there picking up Frankie's food, I saw a bin of infant chickens in the back of the store. They were chirping and playing and eating and enjoying the day. Some of them were about to be sold for the purpose of egg production. When they were picked up by a prospective buyer, they were loving and joyful. They exhibited emotion and they were playful. Case in point: they are not food. They are living creatures, real beings. I can tell you that it is awkward to look at an animal that you have eaten in your past. It doesn't feel right. It feels wrong.
I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to the knowledge of where our food comes from, what good and bad properties exist therein, and what is done to animals in the name of profit for the fur, leather, dairy and meat industries. This article is just a small excerpt on the topic. There are many resources out there that provide a wealth of information on the subject. The ultimate decision is up to the individual, but if that individual does not have access to the proper information, then it isn't really a decision at all.