At the Hands of Man: The Continuing Mistreatment of Animals
In my heart I am convinced that there are far more of us than there are of them. Who are they? Those human beings whose callous and inhumane indifference and lack of remorse enables many to perpetrate cruelty and neglect upon living creatures that often cannot fight back. Who are we? We are those who articulate in many different forms our compassion and viewpoint to put an end to this cruelty, prophetization and egregious abuse of animals.
The dichotomy between human beings who adore animals and those who have complete apathy towards them is something I will never be able to comprehend. The gap between those dog owners who buy their pet a five thousand dollar dog bed to lie on and those who leave a helpless animal outside in the cold, chained to a backyard fence is beyond my comprehension. Those owners who indulge themselves by buying unnecessary expensive baubles for their pets could better spend their money by contributing to the numerous animal charities in desperate need.
Blatant cruelty towards animals should be completely and totally unacceptable to anyone who professes to have a conscience. I cannot see how anyone, anywhere, from any station in life, rich or poor, well-educated or not, young or old can sit by and allow the mistreatment of creatures great and small to continue. Perhaps they just don’t know the extent to which some animals are being mistreated. Thankfully there are many good people who do care and take an interest in involving themselves in making things better. And those who show concern and kindness are surely honoring God when they do so. Even if you do not believe in God, one must consider the sanctity of life. But it's not enough. Many good people are hands on participants in acts of rescuing and saving animals. Sometimes they go over and above and use their own life’s savings to do it. Others who are famous or influential express publicly with their actions and practices their feelings of compassion; many more contribute what they can monetarily; others volunteer their time and materials to assist in the effort. And of course there are those who bring into their lives and homes the domesticated animals who would otherwise be destroyed because they were deemed as ‘unwanted' by others. But there are still some people who can only be deterred from perpetrating cruel acts by government legislation, law enforcement or financial penalty and that so many egregious scenarios continue all over the world to varying degrees, tells me it’s still not enough.
All I have here is a paper and pen, or in this case a keyboard and a screen to express my heart and mind on this subject. And part of the basic problem is that the very people who need to be reached, who need to pay attention, who need to be stopped - would not care to hear any pleas regarding animal cruelty or neglect and probably do not even consider themselves as abusers. What is it in the human mind that is not in the heart that can allow anyone to deliberately harm an animal or even worse, to find a perverse pleasure in it?
Of course we use animals as a source of revenue; to put on display; to guard and protect us; to gamble on; to wear as clothing; as a source for food; medicine; or to hunt them down and kill them just to mount their head on a wall. There are those who seek their tusks and horns as trophies. Some foolishly give animals as a seasonal gift for a child who has no idea how to care for it and may quickly lose interest. Some countries (even here in the United States) still use animals as sacrifices in some bizarre religious or arcane ceremonies. Animals are used as workers; or as living targets whose lives are somehow lesser than ours because we cannot understand their speech, their emotion and of course they carrying no political affiliation or financial clout. Poachers in many countries will seek out and destroy animals to the point of extinction to fulfill their insatiable need for profit. In the Far East, a street performer pulls a tamed bear around by its nose ring for public amusement and profit oblivious to the pain and suffering of that animal. A pig, a chicken or a cow farmer in this country processes animals for our dinner table but many mistreat and beat them in the process. Why, when processing farm animals for food can’t they be handled and euthanized in a humane manner? An international meat trader herds and slaughters horses for their meat and byproducts. In America they are tearing young foals away from their mothers; mothers who are constantly kept pregnant and attached to a urine collection bag in a tiny horse stall with no room to move for their entire lives. This is to produce a drug some still speculate as being worthless. Dogs likewise in other countries are rounded up and butchered for their meat for human consumption. And everywhere there is the confining of animals to inadequate size cages. There is the abominable process of force feeding ducks to make a supposedly gourmet food that people can do without. Additionally the out and out cruel behavior inflicted by some sinister people on animals for no possibly good reason goes on. Perhaps these miscreants think that animals do not feel pain or don’t have souls as we do? In truth, no one has a right to inflict suffering upon them. In industry, some like a Nazi solider during the Second World War, are just following orders. They have abandoned any sense of ethics or the animal's rights in pursuit of the mighty dollar. Is this truly the only way they can make a living? Does it have to be at the extreme suffering of living beings? No one should be placed in a position like that. And those high and mighty companies that manufacture products like Premarin, Foi Gras or veal should be outlawed entirely. Strangely as human beings, we often afford even the worst of individuals like serial killers, rapists, even convicted terrorists more concern than we show for helpless animals who often have not harmed anyone. Additionally in my opinion, no penalty is severe or sufficient enough for those deviants who harm animals for the sick thrill or fun they derive from it. And the apathy one might have as they step over a homeless person on their fervent way to work, is just as objectionable to me as ignoring the suffering of stray dogs and cats left shivering out in the cold to fend for themselves without any food, medical care or protection. Respect for life should include all living beings. Likewise the neglectful treatment and lack of common sense of unfeeling pet owners should not be tolerated. Abuses should be reported on and exposed immediately and their 'pets' taken away. Domesticated animals are not their property. Dogs and cats and other small animals share in our lives. Many are our loving friends, protectors and companions. They should be looked upon with respect and care. Tragically in some cases, these very same abused and mistreated animals eventually become predators and a threat to others; young children or the unsuspecting adult because they have known nothing else but mistreatment at the hands of their owners.
The other side of that coin are those who bite off more than they can chew by hoarding. They try to help animals but usually end up in impossibly crowded situations where they cannot properly care for them. They place themselves and these animals in jeopardy rather than protecting them. Or what about those who take in as domesticated pets' exotic animals who can become dangerous in the hands of someone unaware of their basic needs and incapable of handling them safely?
If you love animals you must find it as painful as I do to think about all these things and there are so many more I haven’t even mentioned. America is considered a civilized country and yet in many places, we still experiment on animals. In seven remaining states, we still euthanize ‘unwanted’ canines and felines by putting them in gas chambers. The animals that sometimes survive that are in for an even worse fate. This while at the same time puppy mills often supplying to irresponsible pet shop owners are allowed to produce and traffic even more. These creatures basically come from horrendous conditions where there is no care at all. Many puppies are sold that are already desperately ill and often die a short time after they are purchased, devastating an unsuspecting buyer. Why can’t a pet shop dealer make his money selling supplies and food and educational materials regarding animal care or even conduct educational programs in animal care instead of encouraging the production of more living creatures? There are enough already desperately in need of homes. And literally millions of unwanted pets continue to be destroyed every year. And beyond evil to me are those who simply dump unwanted pets, often those who have been abused and starved and left to die on the street, or tossed from a moving car. How can anyone actually do that? If you can no longer care for an animal, at least turn it over to a shelter where it might have a second chance. But of course in this modern world we've come to, human babies are also left outside to die, the elderly are attacked for a gold chain or a few dollars or sucker punched for no reason and people are scammed and lied to constantly. That's why I never use the term 'act like a human being' anymore because humans can be capable of the worst behavior imaginable.
As a child, and frankly even now, I could never abide at seeing an animal harmed in any way in a movie scenario. And up until 1940 when the Humane Society intervened and placed restrictions on filmmakers, many animals actually were abused during the production of films. Thank goodness that is no longer permitted. But the need still continues to put a stop to crimes against animals. Many cases of neglect, cruelty and evil practices continue, everywhere from backyards, in poor excuses for shelters, on the ocean, on farms and in industry and especially in the third world. Many countries are overrun with unwanted and uncared for stray dogs and cats and often require outside intervention with spay or neuter programs and animal care. There are both American as well as international organizations that intervene and step in to save hundreds of innocent lives.
Every single person who has a conscience needs to stop and ask themselves what can I do to help? There are dozens and dozens of ways to effect change that can make the world a better place for all living creatures. Not everyone can give money. The financial needs of numerous animal organizations are admittedly overwhelming and many of their campaigns and pleas for funds are very difficult to read. The pictures of ailing animals that come with these appeals are unjustifiable but display the ugly truth and are very painful to look at. But volunteering one’s time, or supplying the materials needed in shelters, rescue farms and sanctuaries; even the donation of unwanted clothing, jewelry and other personal items to raise money for animal welfare, can help. Just being aware of where change is needed and writing to local politicians expressing concern can be useful. At least I’d like to think so.
Most importantly children need to be taught at an early age that animals should be treated with respect. There are some humane organizations who educate both children and adults but this caring also should begin at home, by practice and example. Giving a young child the responsibility to care for a living thing, even a tiny garden snail, is a good way to start them on the road to becoming a kind and caring adult. To teach any child that all life is precious cannot help but become a valuable, practical part of building their character. But just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes the responsibility of many to make a positive change. Many organizations entice you with unwanted gifts – mailing labels, greeting cards, tote bags and the like. But I’ve often responded with a donation and the proviso that any monies raised should go directly to the animals. This brings up another facet of this enormous problem. For every reputable organization working towards positive solutions for animals, there are undoubtedly unscrupulous ones that are simply pocketing whatever proceeds they collect. There are in every state however government agencies that regulate these charitable groups. If you are not certain of who is reliable, you can easily inquire into these organizations. In fact, it is recommended that you do so. No animal can receive the help they desperately need if someone is making themselves a profit at their expense. Many will give you the information to inquire about their integrity when asking for a donation.
There are those famous, familiar names who have taken the time to express their personal feelings of caring, money and physical efforts to assist animals. Perhaps you are familiar with some. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to people like Betty White, Bob Barker, Doris Day, Ellen DeGeneres, Rachel Ray, Torrey DeVitto, Tippi Hedrin, David Soul, Ricky Gervais and other high profile individuals who involve themselves in this cause. Of course there are those unsung, private persons who go above and beyond to assist in any way that they can to help. One need only to look on the web to find them.
As a frequent but small contributor to several animal groups over the years, I have often received literature expressing ideas and suggestions one can take to participate. I’ve listed some of those below. One or two are my ideas. Perhaps some of you have not thought about them before. Please consider doing the following:
• If you see cruelty in your community, report it to your local police department, animal control agency or humane society.
• Consider adopting a pet from your local animal shelter to save their life.
• Shop with compassion. Do not buy products made from animal fur or other parts or cosmetics that are tested on animals.
• Volunteer at your local pet shelter or sanctuary.
• Sign petitions and pledges on sites like Facebook, or at animal organization websites adding your voice to their cause.
• Keep your own pets safe. Don’t allow your dog or cat to roam the neighborhood where they are exposed to a multitude of dangerous things like speeding cars, anti-freeze spills, harsh conditions, other animals or uncaring humans. Make certain your animal has a collar or better yet also a microchip.
• Don’t support the puppy mill industry - avoid buying animals in pet shops. Think of a local shelter or private pet breeder first. Buy your pet supplies only from retailers who sell animal supplies or better yet, run adoption programs.
• Don’t give animals as gifts.
• Use your power as a constituent to elect candidates who will protect animals. Write letters to the editor of your local newspaper urging readers to support animal protection legislation or to the heads of companies that continue to abuse animals expressing your distain. And by all means contact your local government representatives and express your views.
• Spay or neuter your own pets.
• Just feeding homeless animals is not solving the problem. Try to catch, spay and release these creatures. You can enlist the help of local community organizations who participate in this practice at reasonable fees.
• Prepare for disasters by making sure you include your pet in your plans.
• Take your pet for regular checkups and vaccinations and consider adding nutritional supplements to their daily diet.
• Always provide fresh water outside in very hot weather for homeless or wild animals.
• Consider a vegan lifestyle or if you do eat meat, cut back your servings to two or three times a week. A new trend for many young people is becoming a vegetarian simply because they care about animal welfare.
• Do not eat veal or Foi Gras, or any other product produced by the blatant mistreatment of an animal. Support humane farming practices both in your community and globally.
• Create a safe habitat for animals in your own backyard. Use natural and organic fertilizers.
• If you receive and have read animal magazines pass them on to others for their own awareness.
• Don’t allow hunting or trapping on your property.
• Familiarize yourself with the many animal websites from upstanding organizations both large and small as to their efforts and needs. Tell others about them.
One of my favorite quotes about animals comes from the eminent Mahatma Gandhi who wrote, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.
When it comes down to us versus them, we as individuals need to do everything in our power to make it a better world for living things. I want to believe that we can make this positive difference to make the abuse of animals a thing of the past.