Wednesday, January 09, 2013

First Blog of 2013 - Speciesism

 This morning I saw lots of picture on my facebook profile of animal testing or animal manipulation to maximize their productivity. Thanks to my friend Richa Hingle for that. If you haven't seen, do see the pictures of cows whose guts have holes so that farmer can access it directly or dogs who are gassed to death or bunnies whose neck and eyelids are opened ala clockwork orange style so that lipsticks and masscaras are tested on them.

Now hardly any of my blog posts have been about animals so why suddenly this post.  Because something happened to me in 2012. If you havent been following me and my 1000 updates then let me state - "yes I got a dog!" This was my first brush with an animal. I never thought animals were worthy of my time. They do not help me any which way - professionally, evolution-wise, they die before me so they even cannot take care of me in my old age, or even materialistically.

But having a dog myself sensitized me towards animals and nature in a way that no documentary or article or experience or trek would ever do. So this article will sound farce to lots of people. But if you have experienced animals in day to day life, have tried to invest time in understanding them, then you will probably understand where I am coming from.
In any case, I suppose articles like these are worth a thought because knowledge never goes waste.

I can testify that animals exhibit the same feelings as humans. I am talking about emotional intelligence EQ. The way we measure EQ in humans, if we could measure in animals, they would probably surpass us. And I say it with my own experience, they demonstrate lot more patience, love, affection and recall than we humans do. If you feel I am saying this because of my undying love for my dog Juno (aka Juno Singh, aka junki aka goodie girl), then believe a person who has studied animals way more than all of us combined - Charles Darwin:

"The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is certainly one of degree and not of kind. We have seen that the senses and intuitions, the various emotions and faculties, such as love, memory, attention, curiosity, imitation, reason, etc., of which man boasts, may be found in an incipient, or even sometimes in a well-developed condition, in the lower animals." 

 I once had a friend and he was telling me that his sister married a Spanish - a language his family didnt know. So how did his sister's husband and his mother communicate? He said we underestimate sign and body language. And that's true, with my dog, both of us (being highly intelligent if we both say so ourselves) have developed a sign/body language which we both understand and for me living with her is like living with another human or say "a stream of consciousness". Animals can speak, its us who cannot listen (but we love shifting the blame to animals). These animals are equally emotionally rich. But any relationship requires time and patience which we lack. Forget about understanding animals, we do not have patience to understand our fellow human being.
Lots of my friends say that we are more evolved than animals, so we earn the right to rule over them. However, I have met lots of people who have very low IQ. In all brashness and immodesty, I can say they are really dumb. But then, should I round them up and gas them to death or puncture their guts or torture them, beat them, kill them eat them and feed it to our kids?  Why was there outrage against concentration camps then?

Somewhere I feel the core problem is identification. We cannot identify with animals and hence we feel its ok to torture them. Sensitizartion towards nature and animals should be part of school curriculum. Isn't that also knowledge and knowledge should first be imparted about our surrounding first. We can study and read up about Big Dipper and Ursa Major later, this is close home, this should be taught first.
This is the moral science we need - respecting other beings. We cannot justify horrible moral choices by saying "we are evolved" or "we are more intelligent" or we are "bystandars" not participants. When on one hand we believe we are peace loving, corruption or rape protesting individuals, on the other hand we cannot totally ignore what we do to animals. When we hold Nazis in disgust, we should be aware that we are being the same with someone else. And it's a moral choice we are making.

Someone once said that - "Knowledge is important. It helps us see what we are and what we might become." Knowledge is strength. I think in today's world we need to redefine "stronger". In my marathon practice, whenever I slowed down, the fastest runner ran back to give me company. That is strength - the ability to help- not ability to rape or ability to torture. That is succumbing to your weakness.


arati kadav said...

"Man is the only Slave. And he is the only animal who enslaves. He has always been a slave in one form or another, and has always held other slaves in bondage under him in one way or another. In our day he is always some man's slave for wages, and does that man's work; and this slave has other slaves under him for minor wages, and they do his work. The higher animals are the only ones who exclusively do their own work and provide their own living."
~Mark Twain - "The Lowest Animal"

“Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes and dingoes - by the million in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billion and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative and fatal health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year, sends out cards praying for Peace on Earth.” ~David Coats

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” ~Mahatma Gandhi

"The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo . . . We need a boundless ethic which will include the animals also" ~Dr. Albert Schweitzer

"Until we have the courage to recognize cruelty for what it is - whether it's victim is human or animal - we cannot expect things to be much better in this world" ~Rachel Carson

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.” ~Dr. Seuss

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~Margaret Mead

Richa said...

well written Arati. So many changes needed ..from school curriculum, to discussions and debates at school and home, so so much more. I am glad that Juno singh sparked up this thought process and lead to this write up:)

Richa said...

In part sensitization is one of the reasons. For eg, Vivek had no concept of a feeling of compassion towards animals before we got chewie. Specieism will always be there. But in all our discussions we tried to find what all was happening, whether all that abuse felt right, and if we could live with it. After a few thoughtful discussions he decided on his own about his path and choices.

There is a an inherent non action, non compassion, non caring kind of attitude too though. Not many people here are talking about the rape, or things that can be done or that they should learn and implement themselves wherever they are.
If humans cannot associate with similar fellow human pain and suffering and do not want to evaluate the morality of any issue until it is happens to them, what path do you take to get the support/action for a change?

arati kadav said...

My trajectory is same as Vivek's - getting a dog changed my perspective totally. Just a year back I was really on the other (wrong) side of the fence and never once thought that animals are part of my world inspite of consuming them and participating in their gory deaths everyday. Infact I was one of the people ignoring your posts or videos. However, I have to say that they did enter my subconscious and started building up.

I don't know what will change people. They are too busy working in artificial worlds chasing artificial goals to feel for the real world. Hence I feel schools are good place to start.

Richa said...

Schools are definitely a good start.

I know, my edgerank in fb sucks because of everyone ignoring my posts:)
but the good thing is tht sometimes things get through.. If it gets anyone thinking it will eventually become a change. my parents are also almost vegan now with just the milk in their tea some days. most other days they drink cashew milk tea.
All the best in your journey.

for vivek it was easier to just follow along at home, but the difficult part was choosing so at work. He would slip and eat cheese once in a while and complained about finding options so difficult and such. then one day we were talking bout the fur industry and he watched a video about it. it was n awful video. people pulling off the skin of dog(chewie) like animals in one thwack and leaving them to die slowly. he couldnt shake that off or sleep properly for a few days and that helped him decide. From then on he started asking for options, reading ingredient labels, declining things even if they were delicious pedas at baby showers, offered stealthily like chal kha le, biwi nahin hai yahan. Everyone takes their time and reasons. But the idea is surely changing, slowly and steadily around here.

arati kadav said...

Your fb post worked for me.

arati kadav said...

For me the tipping point was seeing pics of beagles tested. Same as vivek who saw something happening to chewie. I think it just shocks you that an animal with such evolved instincts and emotional landscape, and capable of so much love is treated so badly. It feels immoral. It makes us angry.