Sunday, January 2, 2011


......the ways human animals look at the other living beings around them.

For the most part, we have chosen to strip the "beingness" away from all other living ones on this planet except those identified as human animals. Once they lose whatever status accompanies being identified as a being worthy of consideration or respect....pretty much anything goes.

Then a living being can be reduced to "commodity",  "product",  "food",  "resource", "livestock", "property", "pet",  "game", "pest", "wildlife" and on and on.

They can then be enslaved, exploited, imprisoned, abused, killed, dismembered, hunted, ridden, chased, hurt, skinned, trained, made into "art", bred, stuffed, farmed, bought, petted, sold and on and on.

In essence we give ourselves license to do any damn thing we want to.....with those beings, with their bodies, with their lives, with their children, with their feelings. We give ourselves the kinds of powers over the other living beings that we human animals attribute to things we call gods.

What kind of god are you?

I would suggest that, were you some other kind of animal besides human, you would want to live on a planet where the human animals (the self-appointed gods) are vegan. Where the code of conduct for the gods includes the notion that other living beings are not to be "used" for any purpose.

You would likely want to live in a world where those more powerful than you did not hunt (for "sport"), kill, skin, chase, exploit, imprison, dismember, ride, train, breed, farm, buy, sell, etc. you.

It is likely that you would not want to be a pet....but maybe you would. Remember though, if you are a "pet" then you are "property". Your life is not your own, you have no freedom....except what your "owner" allows. If your owner gets tired of you, or becomes ill, or moves or can't "afford" you then you face the prospect of being dumped, killed, relinquished or taken to a "shelter" where you may be "euthanized".  If you have a benevolent and thoughtful owner, well, then that's great as long as nothing happens to your owner....and your owner stays benevolent and thoughtful.

What kind of world would you want to live in, if you were some kind of animal other than human?

Or, what kind of world would you want to live in if there were some other kind of animal besides human who were the most powerful.

Would you want those "all-powerful" animals to be ethical vegans? Or would you want them to be "normal" (believe that other animals besides themselves were theirs to "use"). Would you want those "all-powerful" animals to believe that you had no right to your own life....except what they allowed? Would you like it that those animals believed they owned the whole world and everything in it and they could do anything they wanted to do with all of the world?

Would you want these all-powerful beings to use human skin for "art" or wallets? (this link takes you to a place where you can purchase human-skin belts, etc...however unlike most products made from skin, the donors of the human skin are paid and are voluntary).

"Be the change you want to see in the world" is a quote attributed to Mahatma Gandhi.

To determine the change you want to see in the world, I would suggest you consider what kind of world you would want if you were some other sort of animal than human. If you come up with some way of living that surpasses veganism in terms of fairness and compassion and practicality, let me know....we need to talk.  :-)


Krissa said...

Wow! Really great post. A lot to consider and reflect on. ... When you wrote about what happens to 'pets' once their person dies..... that is my biggest fear right now in life that I will pass away before Spike (our cat boy). He likes my husband, but I am his world. He came from an abusive home and I met him at the shelter. I was the only person he accepted, which is a huge privilege and honor. But yeah, it's so scary. None of our friends would be willing or able to take him and frankly, it wouldn't work out anyway. Yikes, I'm rambling. I just wanted to add that it is good and comforting for me to know that there are other humans in the world who see the truth and who see ALL living beings as equal to us. Because they are. No living creature is worth more than another. And although my concept of "God" is not traditional, at least not in the Western world, I am 100% sure that every living thing "God" created is equal in that god's eyes.

veganelder said...

Thanks Krissa for your comment. You touched on one of the consequences (generally bad for the animals) of human animals causing certain types of sentient beings to be dependent on humans....what happens to those dependent beings when their guardian is no longer able to care for them. They don't have the option of making their own way in the world (for the most part) they are screwed. Yuck on us.

It is a hell of a responsibility to take on a "pet"...but often doing so is the best choice out of a bunch of bad options available (for the "pet"). Were we wise and compassionate we would quit allowing the breeding of any animals that are dependent on humans. Please don't hold your breath until then though.

Harry said...

Your words remind me of Matthew Scully's plea for Mercy in Dominion. If we are to act like gods, surely we could live up to that status and be merciful? Veganism would have to be the start of that - I'd be surprised if you get alternatives flooding your comments.

Your thoughts on breeding animals dependent on us brings up a dilemma - while I abhor the concept of breeding animals for our use (and 'pets' most often are there for the 'owner' and not the animal), I see living with animals - as true members of one's family - as a rewarding, enriching, beautiful life for both parties. But, and I stress this, they must be regarded as one would children, parents, siblings. As dependents they should have 'godparents' should something happen to those they're dependent on, access to healthcare (health insurance if necessary), be looked after in one's will. Under such circumstances, and with certain non-human animals, I believe all lives may be the better for it.

While Avondale started as a family of 'purchased' animals ('pets'), that practice stopped some time ago with most of the Avondale family now having been rescued. And the more you rescue, the more you speak out against breeding. But here's the dilemma: while for the forseeable future there will be no shortage of animals in need of rescuing, in the world we wish for that will be no more - would it then be wrong to have a cat sleep by my side every night, at hip height, waiting for his morning belly rub? A once-feral cat that chooses to sleep inside? Should we then allow non-human animals that choose to be with us the freedom of 'breeding' (remembering in the ideal world non-human animal family would be looked after as are human animal family ie there should never be animals in need of rescuing)? In so doing we would be complicit in that 'breeding'. Or should we interfere and desex these animals recognising that, if well fed and protected, their breeding will almost certainly lead to higher numbers of surviving offspring? (Avondale's 3 once-feral cats were specifically 'tamed' so that we could catch them and desex them. We never thought they'd choose a life inside with us.) Should we shun the animals so that such relationships, and the responsibility inherent in them, does not occur?

We humans have caused so much damage already, if (let's be hopeful .. when) we achieve that vegan world how will we conduct our relationship with non-human animals?

veganelder said...

Thank you Harry, for your excellent comment.

I hope this addresses your question...I see problems whenever a non-human animal is dependent (unable to effectively survive on their own) on human animals (because of interference by human animals).

If there is a voluntary bonding when a choice of ways of living is available....that to me is optimum.

I love my companions Gracie Ray and Bobby Ray....but I am aware they did not "choose" to live with me.

My notion of a good world would be where any instances of different kinds of animals living together...was voluntary and desired by all parties involved.

If animals that chose to live with humans were also able to live good lives without humans....then their reproducing is their business (taking into account environmental issues) objection is to continued reproducing of artificially (human-caused) human-dependent animals.

I hope this addressed a little of what you were touching on...lots more could be written.

Bea Elliott said...

Great post! I've often thought that each of us is a "gOd" of our own making. In truth - don't each of us whether we follow a conventional "religion" or not, pick and choose which parts of what teachings to believe in? We are so brilliant everything is re-defined and interpreted the way we want it to be. So yeah! You're definitely right in asking the question "what kind of god do you wish to be?".

I certainly wouldn't want to be a deity that was feared or vengeful... Or one that created innocent, sentient life to be manipulated, enslaved or made into coin purses for the frivolous wants of another (less) innocent group. I would have left very strict instructions on how we all should care for each other... There would be no mistake on what was acceptable. I'd state loudly on a holy mountain top in very simple language: No Killing! That's what kind of "gOd" I'd be... And honestly, I don't know that it departs that much from the essence of what any just God would be.

The point about "pets" is a valid one. Even though I have a hard time envisioning a world without my fur and feather family... If it meant that all the rest of their kin could avoid needless suffering if we could do "without" - I know it would be the right thing to do. In the meantime having systems in place that required responsible care for "pets" as guardians, not owners... Provisions for them should they loose their human caregivers, and so forth - I think this might be the (eventual) way we finally square up our relationship with nonhumans. In my world view if there was ever a "purpose" to our relationship with nonhumans --- It is to teach us how we shall live... With kindness and justice. They, (nonhumans) will be the lamb that leads the lion, (us). Tall order for the pig that is now tattooed "#3985-7" I know... But even a taller order for us who must, who will, eventually see him as the free, autonomous and unique being that he is. I really believe this is our greatest challenge - It is the key task that will enlighten us to the "god-like" status we so arrogantly think we now possess.

In the meantime it's so shameful to relegate Others bodies to become flasks. Pity our ignorance - We've such a long way to go.

veganelder said...

Thank you Bea for your thoughtful comment. The sort of "gOd" you envision sounds pretty good to me.

While it is likely not possible because of the incredible complexity involved, I would like to think (at least in part) one of the reasons freely and mutually agreed upon relations with nonhuman animals are desirable is that such relations offer the opportunity to experience the world more fully and richly.

The elephant people and the cat people and the rabbit people each see, hear, smell, understand, etc aspects of the world that I am oblivious to...learning about and apprehending (and appreciating) their "worldview" enriches immeasurably my experience of life and the world.

What amazing treasures are there....and how often we ignore or discount them.

Indeed, we've such a long way to go.

Krissa said...

I might be wrong about this, I could swear that I've read that dogs started hanging around humans to get meat scraps and then humans started keeping them around for protection/warning them about 'danger' coming, etc. And as each of our species were evolving, clearly one changed way more than the other. We started using them instead of living peacefully with them each in our own worlds, but together. And I think that cats started hanging around human groups in Egypt because they were catching rodents that got in the grain that humans kept - and of course the humans loved that so they tried to please the cats and keep them around too. I actually like the way Egyptians looked at cats (as Gods - they even had the death penalty for killing a cat even if you accidentally killed him/her, but that's a side note). And we know how that went...Egyptians are human too and so changed just like we all did. And now we have this situation. I am sure that there would be Natural animals that would choose to be with human animals of their own free will even if we hadn't tampered with the natural order of things. But it would have been few and far between and they still would have had to do most of their own hunting, etc.. The problem is WE changed too much. We got so far away from Nature that we have actually become an enemy of Nature - and all things natural. Even when we don't want to be and don't intend to be. It's very sad. But that's like calling Mt. Everest a big hill.

Harry said...

Hi VE, Krissa, Bea

Thanks for your further comments on pets.

It is a difficult one. I agree that it would be best to just observe them in their natural habitat and not have them become part of one's immediate family but, as Krissa eluded to, for various reasons non-human animals will choose to be with us. I take our feral cats as an example: our 'taming' them was getting close enough to them to catch them so they could be desexed. Following release back at Avondale, two have chosen to be with us: Thomas who hardly leaves my side, and Tobi (who now knows that she would die without her subcutaneous fluid every 3 days). Jerry hangs around but does not come inside.

Here's the really interesting thing though - it's NOT simply about food, or shelter. Over the years I've observed the incredible interspecies bonds that occur between the different animals on Avondale. I've observed two goats nursing a severely injured 'I think I want to die' horse back to life, I've watched a peacock protect wild rabbit kits and ducklings, and every morning Jerry comes to the kitchen door for a rub up against the leg followed by a scratching of her back and a firm rub of her belly (loud purr) ... but often does not touch any food we give her. Pure and simply she comes for what she knows feels good - the affection. And Thomas spends every night by my side not for warmth or shelter (it's the middle of summer and sheds abound on Avondale) but for company and affection.

So we get the voluntary bonding which we all agree is the only way it should be. Then the question: now what? With food and shelter abundant comes increased fertility. We've changed the balance through the simple act of loving. Do we then change it again by desexing them?

While in a global sense a hypothetical question (with humans' current treatment of animals) on a local level on large property we frequently have to answer it. Peacocks flew in to join the Avondale family. Every year the peahens go off somewhere hard-to-find to sit, and return with one to 5 peachicks. Every year! Avondale (and it's neighbours!) cannot sustain so many. So, do we 1) try harder to find their eggs and destroy them, 2) allow the numbers to increase to the level that some will leave Avondale and start a feral colony elsewhere, 3) move them onto good homes (never a guarantee)? At Avondale, depending on the year, all 3 occur with the first option being our no 1 choice.

But we do have to choose.

veganelder said...

Thank you Krissa for your follow-up comment. One of the things I keep in mind about the stories of the beginnings of human animal and dog animal or cat animal interactions is that they are speculations or guesses. Until time travel becomes available we won't know for certain how it began...certainly however we know that now it has ended up where our species does lots of exploiting of other species. I am not much in favor of exploiting, freely entered into situations of reciprocity are much more appealing to me.

veganelder said...

Thanks Harry for you follow-up comment. Jeez, you want to make me think. :-)

You offer a great example of the fact that issues will always arise and decisions will always have to be made when living beings interact with one another. The operative principles of non-exploitation and compassion can be useful when having to make such decisions and it sounds as if you folks are doing a great job. Thank you.

So I'm Thinking Of Going Vegan said...

Powerful post! And excellent contributing comments. I don't have anything to add as such, but very much enjoyed reading this. Thank you all!