by Utopia Bold
What's the point of knitting a sweater-while unraveling it at the same time? Women fighting for reproductive and equal rights, social justice workers, gays and lesbians fighting homophobia, civil rights activists and even environmentalists "unravel" all their good work if they abuse their power over animals and Nature! What a bitter irony!
What is the source of racism, sexism, homophobia, exploitation of the poor by the rich, genocide, war and all the other ways humans oppress each other? Why are we arrogantly destroying Mother Earth who sustains all living beings-including humans and their global economy? Why do these insane practices from the age of barbarism continue?
Humans have used prejudice to justify exploiting each other for thousands of years. All prejudice is based on "otherness." Oppressors regard the oppressed as "different." Nuclear weapons make this primitive "us vs them" worldview as dangerous as it is outdated.
In "Animal Liberation," Peter Singer calls prejudice against animals and the Natural World "speciesism." Cruelty to animals, environmental destruction and human vs. human oppression are all interconnected abuses of power.
Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher centuries ahead of his time, opposed both slavery and cruelty to animals. He said, "The question is not 'Can they reason?' nor 'Can they talk?' The question is 'Can they suffer?' No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally."
Ranking the suffering of some beings as being more important than the suffering of others is an ethical slippery slope. Descartes, with heartless arrogance, said animals were just unfeeling mechanisms created for us to use and their cries of pain were merely the sounds of machinery!
Men with these views easily ignored the agonized cries coming from the filthy holds of their slave ships since they regarded their human cargo as animals without souls!
A secretly taped video showed slaughterhouse workers hacking the legs off cattle and skinning them while these suffering beings were still fully conscious! According to the Humane Farming Association, workers are forced to slaughter at blinding speed or get fired. This means they often don't have time to stun the cattle before cutting them to pieces!
Poultry slaughterers (mostly women of color) often get carpal tunnel syndrome from cutting chicken's throats at a brutal pace day after day. When their arms become exhausted, their blades often miss. Many of these pitiful birds are still fully conscious when dipped in scalding water to remove their feathers.
Karen Davis PhD. founded United Poultry Concerns (www.upc-online.org) to promote compassion for domestic fowl. She said, "The argument that a group of individuals is 'all alike' has been used throughout human history as an excuse to oppress that group and so, harming them seems less horrendous. Chickens, whether intelligent or stupid, individual or identical, are sensitive beings. They feel pleasure and pain and experience fear and well-being. This is enough to make it wrong to cause them pain and suffering."
Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple is a tireless activist who fights racism. She made the connection between animal abuse, sexism and racism when she visited a factory farm. When she saw thousands of suffering hens crammed into filthy cages her heart was filled with grief. At that moment, she realized these hens were her sisters! Women who fight sexism, domestic violence and exploitation must understand that they perpetuate their own abuse when they exploit animals-especially female animals-by eating their flesh.
In his book An Unnatural Order, Jim Mason traced the source of what he calls Dominionism (the abuse of animals, the environment-and humans). As gatherer-hunters, we saw ourselves as part of the natural world. At that time, most humans believed every being, including animals and plants, had a soul and was sacred. When hunters killed an animal, they apologized to its soul since they knew the animals were their relatives.
This worldview changed roughly 10,000 years ago when humans began to dominate nature with agriculture and animal husbandry. Domestication (enslaving) animals required blunting compassion since each animal was known as an individual. Thus, animals had to be regarded as "lower" beings without souls in order to kill them without remorse.
No longer relatives, animals and plants were now seen as merely "things" to be exploited. This was "justified" because animals and plants are "different" and thus "lower" than humans. In addition to legitimizing slavery, sexism, war, and all oppression against "different" people, Dominionism also legitimized the rape and plunder of the entire Natural World.
According to the bible (Genesis 1:2),"God blessed them and said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the wild beasts that move upon the earth."
Globally, modern human society is still based on primitive Dominionism (might makes right) as can be seen by the rising tide of war and violence against "other" people and Mother Earth Herself. Thanks to male-supremacist organized religion, Dominionism has had a long shelf-life. It's supported and enforced by all the father-god religions, including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Confucianism.
Some Buddhist sects teach that one must be born a human male to achieve enlightenment! The Dalai Lama eats meat! He believes this is OK since he didn't kill the animal! What about the "karma" of slaughterhouse workers?" (to learn more about "compassionate Buddhism, see Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth Michaelparenti.org)
Richard Lewinsohn, author of "Animals Men and Myths," said the corral was the first concentration camp and the rope around an animal's foot the first shackle. Many people eat meat and use animal products from animal concentration camps (factory farms) without even considering the feelings of the suffering beings they consume.
The misery of fellow humans (overworked slaughterhouse workers) is also not given a thought. The meat industry deliberately builds slaughterhouses in impoverished areas where workers endure horrible working conditions—and racism. Americans are pitted against immigrants. In the slaughterhouse, humans and animals alike are exploited and abused.
Manifestations of speciesism, such as factory farms, rodeos, circuses and bullfights are condoned by the dominant culture of Dominionism. Societies desensitized by Dominionism are unlikely to stop abusing humans, exterminating their fellow earthlings and destroying the natural world. Speciesism perpetuates Dominionism.
The wealthy ruling class treats everyone else like most humans treat animals and uses military force (murder and torture) to protect its economic interests. Under Dominionism, we are all the cattle of the rich whose corporate media promotes violence and "otherness." Divide and conquer makes us easier to control and exploit.
However, Mason and many psychologists believe violence is a learned behavior and that humans, especially men, are naturally kind and non-violent -when not abused.
For example, in the violent and impoverished Congo, brutalized soldiers have been killing and eating Pygmies! This is an extreme example of regarding people as "the other" since the soldiers regard Pygmies as animals. However in Iraq, another soldier, Sergeant David J. Borell, took the moral high road even in the horrible midst of war.
An Iraqi father asked him for medical aid for his three badly burned children, so Borell asked army doctors for help. He was outraged when they refused! When he saw the Iraqi children, he immediately visualized his own daughters instead of dehumanizing the Iraqi children as "the other," or "enemy children."
There is also ancient evidence that men are not naturally violent. In her book The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler cites archaeological evidence from peaceful Goddess societies in ancient Crete proving that it's not natural for men to wage war. Murals and artifacts indicate these men enjoyed 1,500 years of peace!
Men must no longer legitimize their violent acts using the excuse of "testosterone poisoning."
When we practice acts of compassion in our everyday lives by being kind to animals and avoiding animal products, we resensitize ourselves and lay the foundation for a new worldview based on empathy with the oppressed instead of "otherness."
Mason believes a compassionate world of peace is within our grasp. An Unnatural Order" can be ordered at your local bookstore.
None of us are free if one of us is caged!