Tiger King: Widen Your Circle of Compassion

Tiger King 2' isn't grr-reat - CNN

The new season of Tiger King is out on Netflix and once again it’s all everyone can talk about. But the part that no one is talking about is the unbearable hypocrisy it exposes. There are so many layers of hypocrisy in fact, that I don’t even know where to begin. I suppose I’ll start with the mind-blowing disconnect that Jeff Lowe demonstrates when, in reference to Joe Exotic, he says: Two years is an awful long time to spend in a cage. My jaw dropped at this. He did not even flinch at this comment as dozens of big cats pace back and forth in cages he put them in just off camera.

Clearly the men and women working at these zoos don’t comprehend the immorality and cruelty of what they are doing by keeping and breeding these animals. One woman even went as far as to say: How could this be wrong when it makes so many people happy? With complete disregard for the happiness and wellbeing of the animals providing that happiness to humans. Even Joe Exotic himself, who on multiple occasions seems to acknowledge the suffering he has inflicted on these animals by keeping them on his property, still insists that the government is “out to get them” and wants to shut down all of these little zoos.

Now I’ve come to expect comments and mindsets like these. Humans are the only beings that matter and we can use and abuse every other living thing as we please because we’re the best. I see this written on the face of most people I meet in this world. They wear this opinion almost like a badge of honor, despite how disgusting it truly is. But what surprises me more is the people that go out of their way to fight for the rights of these big cats, spout all of these noble flowery ideals, then go home and eat a steak. I just don’t know what to do with that.

I cannot comprehend where these people draw the line. Why does a tiger deserve freedom and happiness, but a cow does not? Why should a lion’s suffering matter if the suffering of a pig even being mentioned causes scoffs and eye rolls? Do these people even think about this? The longer I am vegan, the less I understand this painfully obvious hypocrisy. What is the distinction being made between farmed animals and exotic animals, between exotic animals and pets? Why is cow meat an acceptable, “healthy” meal, but horse meat is an abomination? IT MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE!

The only difference between these animals is what humans think about them. I don’t think anyone would actually say this, but it seems like the only animals people deem worthy of protection and compassion are animals that we like, animals that bring us some kind of pleasure (non-gustatory pleasure that is.) But what a fucked up distinction to make. The selfishness, the narcissism of human beings knows no bounds. It makes me want to grab the entire world by the shoulders and shake them.

I want so desperately to have a real genuine conversation with my meat-eating friends about this, but by now I know better than to even try. It has always just turned into a big joke when I’ve attempted to have this discussion in the past. Well pigs are so tasty though. *laughter* Cows are too stupid to suffer. *chuckle* What other purpose do those animals even have besides being food? *snicker* The cognitive dissonance is so thick that no one is able to be serious on these topics. All my past attempts to talk about this have ended in mockery (by others) and fury (on my part).

People have been so conditioned to disregard farmed animals that even comparing them to other protected groups is taken as an egregious insult. Since the black lives matter movement began, I’ve been tempted to co-opt the idiotic “all lives matter” counter argument by making a shirt with those words alongside the image of a pig, cow, or chicken. It’s as if these people don’t even consider other beings as lives at all. The thought would never even enter their heads. However, I don’t act on this impulse because I know it will only cause people to hate me and think I’m a bigot. Oh my god, she is equating black people with animals! They’ll say with disgust. The point I’m trying to make with these arguments only results in people doubling down on their disregard for animal rights.

Since I’ve stopped my SSRI and am able to feel my emotions deeply again, these topics are almost too much to bear. It brings me to tears whenever I see veganism as the butt of so many well-received jokes. How can you laugh?! How on fucking earth can the suffering of these beautiful, innocent, sentient beings be funny to you!? The sheer weight of the knowledge of the billions of animals in unbearable, unimaginable conditions right now is enough to crush me entirely. I am ashamed to be part of the species that has created and perpetuates such atrocities. My mind flashes with images from documentaries like Earthlings as the world laughs at me. I feel so worthless, so useless that I can’t save them. I want to beg the God I no longer believe in to please help them. I want to throw myself at the feet of these animals and ask them for forgiveness that I know I don’t deserve. I would sacrifice my own life to end their pain. I would do it happily. But I guess that’s just another joke, isn’t it?

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On Animal Abuse

I’m currently reading Neither Man Nor Beast by Carol J. Adams, a feminist and animal rights activist. She is best known for her ability to tie significant social justice issues together to show the intersectionality of all who remain oppressed in our society. I have also read one of her earlier, and perhaps more famous books, The Sexual Politics of Meat. Both of these books work to bring the animal and women’s rights movements together to see the similarities between the types of oppression they are fighting.

Among the many new things I’ve learned from reading Adams’ books, I learned the other day that hunters are more likely to be domestic abusers. While, this was no surprise to me, I was surprised that I hadn’t heard about this data before. I was also surprised when, upon telling people this somewhat obvious fact, there was a lot of hesitancy and discomfort in response. People are quick to say: Well, not every hunter hits their spouse and/or children. That’s true, but that wasn’t what I was asserting. The fact remains that it is a risk factor and a red-flag for women to look out for when finding a partner.

This new information and the reactions I got regarding it, led me to think more deeply about the ways in which our society categorizes animal abuse. I can’t think of anyone who would openly claim to support animal abuse, yet the vast majority of human beings take part in it every day. You might find yourself disagreeing at this point, and if so, I’d like to ask you how you define animal abuse. Wikipedia defines animal abuse as: the infliction by omission (neglect) or by commission by humans of suffering or harm upon any non-human animal. The Humane Society’s definition says animal abuse, “encompasses a range of behaviors harmful to animals, from neglect to malicious killing.” It goes on to clarify: Intentional cruelty can run the gamut from knowingly depriving an animal of food, water, shelter, socialization or veterinary care to maliciously torturing, maiming, mutilating or killing an animal.

You’ll notice that these definitions are broad and include the majority of interactions that the human race has with our animal brethren. (I am including the eating of animal flesh as interaction, although most people would not consciously consider eating a hamburger to be interacting with an animal.) Hunting certainly falls into the category of animal abuse by these definitions, does it not? Animal abuse definitions are not offering exceptions based on “intention” or “purpose” of the abuse. You’ll notice that there is no footnote indicating that these things are okay if we consume or display the carcass of the animal afterwards.

It never ceases to amaze me when the internet goes wild about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, while in the same day, the same people will sit down to several meals of meat. How is a dog different than a pig or a cow? It’s not intelligence. It’s not friendliness. It’s not inherent value as a living being. It’s simply a difference in cultural brainwashing. Realizing this makes the opposition to another culture’s meat eating practices, while excluding our own, problematic if not outright racist.

However, getting back to the issue of animal abuse as a warning sign for violence towards other humans, I’d like to know how psychologists would explain this connection, given our culture’s general acceptance and inclusion of daily practices that cause harm and death to animals. It seems like most people know about the early warning signs of future serial killers, pychopaths, sociopaths, etc. One of the main ones is torturing or killing animals.

If the psychological issues that these warning signs reflect are lack of empathy, violence, aggression, lack of impulse control, and the like, I don’t know how we would be able to make distinctions between these random acts of animal abuse and culturally acceptable forms such as hunting and meat eating. If, on the other hand, the psychological problem that animal abuse in childhood reflects a disregard for socially unacceptable acts, then I can see that distinction making more sense. Although, I don’t believe that is the case.

Whether we realize it or not, I believe there is evidence for negative social outcomes in regard to all forms of animal abuse, even if it is condoned by our society. There is more and more data coming out every day about the detrimental mental health effects of working in a slaughterhouse. Many workers have even developed PTSD from these jobs. Slaughterhouse employees are also, unsurprisingly, more likely to commit acts of domestic violence. One researcher even discovered that towns with slaughterhouses have higher crime rates in general:

Amy Fitzgerald, a criminology professor at the University of Winsor in Canada, has found a strong correlation between the presence of a slaughterhouse and high crime rates in U.S. communities. One might object that a slaughterhouse town’s disproportionate population of poor, working-class males might be the real cause. But Fitzgerald controlled for that possibility by comparing her data to countries with comparable populations employed in factory-like operations. In her study from 2007, the abattoir stood out as the factory most likely to spike crime statistics. Slaughterhouse workers, in essence, were ‘desensitized,’ and their behavior outside of work reflected it.

The Green Star Project

Ultimately, the age old saying, “violence begets violence,” holds true. There is no way to escape this simple fact. Whether you choose to identify it as such, hunting animals, as well as purchasing their bodies from the grocery store, is violence. It will negatively affect you and our society regardless of how hard we try to blind ourselves to that truth. Karma has never appeared to me so clearly as with the results of eating animals. The human races’ mass scale animal abuse has and continues to contribute to all of humanity’s ailments whether they be illness such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, global warming, racism, misogyny, domestic violence, or crime overall.

We will never be able to accomplish world peace if we continue to sit down to dinners of corpses each night. Humanity supports itself through suffering, domination, and death. How then can we still wonder why there is so much hatred and violence in the world? It is there because we perpetuate it every day, because we have already closed our hearts to those most vulnerable.

Truth! #govegan #vegansofinstagram #mercyforanimals #loveanimals #repost  @pauline.dagonneau ・・・ For the animals ❤️

Conflicting Ideals

My office is somewhat out in the countryside. Most of the road there is lined with rolling fields with cows grazing. This morning as I was driving to work, I saw one of the cows wading chest deep into this little pond. It made me so happy. What a little goof, I thought to myself. I really enjoy watching them everyday when I’m commuting to and from the office or when we take walks during our lunch break. Sometimes there are even curious babies that approach the fence to watch us as we pass by.

Knowing that my friends at work also enjoy our cow neighbors, I was excited to talk about what I saw this morning. I was quite shocked and caught off guard by the reply I received though. Instead of smiling and laughing at what a silly cow I saw earlier, my friend sadly commented on how he thought the cows were starving. I asked him what he meant, since I hadn’t noticed them looking particularly unhealthy or anything. He told me that he could see their ribs. While this made me very sad, it also made me confused and curious. He seemed awfully upset and sad about it. I almost asked him why he cared.

Obviously I care, and I think it’s right and natural to care about other living beings. That’s why I’m a vegan and don’t include these sentient beings in my diet. But my friend at work is not a vegan or even a vegetarian. Therefore this strange disconnect always intrigues me. It’s amazing how rarely human beings follow their thoughts and beliefs to their logical conclusion. Clearly he cares for these cows and doesn’t want to see them suffer. Yet the suffering that he pays for and ingests at each and every meal is far more gruesome than merely going hungry. If underfed cows could cause him so much sadness, why does he perpetuate far greater abuses?

I’m not trying to blame him or even shame him for the way he lives his life. I am just fascinated by the psychology behind this common hypocrisy. Even though I was once a part of the exact same mindset (animal lover/animal eater) it still doesn’t make any sense to me. But I want to understand how I overcame that mental block. I want to find a way to get other people to make the same connection that I finally made nearly a decade ago.

People often look at others in small religious sects, cults, political parties, or those who subscribe to other ideologies in general and wonder how on earth they could believe the things they do. We tend to think there is just something wrong with those people. Unfortunately we are all susceptible to these oversights in judgement. I would even go so far as to say we all participate in actions that conflict with our personal beliefs. A lot of the time we can recognize these inconsistencies, but feel unable to reconcile them. But there are probably still quite a few that each of us have that we don’t even acknowledge. I, for one, am very concerned about the ones that may exist within my own mind.

I’d like to think I would be grateful if someone were to point these hypocritical behaviors to me so that I could work towards becoming a more consistent and principled person. Yet I don’t know how I would actually feel were I confronted in this way. Most people tend to just get angry and think you are a jerk. This is why, despite my feelings, I don’t bring these types of things up to people anymore. It never seems to help the situation, only hurt our relationship. The mind is truly a fascinating thing. I hope to someday understand it better so that I may use that understanding to help myself, my fellow humans, and the other beings that we brutalize every day.

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