Thursday, 9 September 2010

Intolerable Acts Of Cruelty

Not a day goes by without a fresh story of animal abuse making the headlines. The sudden media interest and public backlash has perplexed me. Animal cruelty is not new, although the media are certainly portraying it as such. If humans are capable of harming one another, why are we shocked when humans harm animals too? Is it because the animals concerned are domesticated pets and bred for human companionship? Slaughtering cattle doesn't provoke quite the same response. There's no public outcry or hate mail, or if there is we don't hear of it. Why is it easier to divorce the meat on our plates from the cute, fluffy pets at our side? For many this is indeed the case, but I fail to see the logic. The argument I put to them is this: if we don't condone human torture, how can we justify the torturing of animals? Surely any form of cruelty, neglect and abuse is an act of violence, regardless of the being it is performed on.

In contrast to public reaction, BBC1's Sunday Morning Live posed the question: “Are We Too Obsessed With Animals?” as a serious topic for debate. In light of current feeling, it was a foolish question equally matched by an unintelligent, flimsy discussion. My response to the question would be that we're not obsessed enough. Britain,a nation of animal lovers? Hardly! Recent stories emphasise my point. When does it become a good idea to put a cat in a bin, violently abuse a 7 month puppy, or brutalise foxes with cricket bats? The perpetrators under interrogation proclaim their actions were a moment of madness, but is this a good enough explanation? Does it justify the crime? The public voted and in a cruel twist of irony the perpetrators are now the preyed upon. Two wrongs however don't make a right. Inciting violence against another is never justifiable whatever their past actions might have been. Should we take pity on these snivelling, now defenceless creatures? In a word yes. They're more deserving of our pity than our anger. I doubt I will ever fully understand what drives people to such acts of cruelty, but I believe you should try. Our lack of empathy for one another has bred this culture of violence, and its effects, as we are witnessing, are spreading.

Humans, it is said, are the master of animals, but where we would be I wonder if they had dominion over us? That said, as a veggie I feel duty-bound to expose myself to the inhumane and violent acts against all animals – fluffy and wild. Abusive treatment, neglect, intensive farming practices, illicit slaughter etc. etc. I want to understand the actions of others, gain knowledge, and form an opinion. I don't want to assert my authority over animals, assume they're dumb, or treat them in undignified ways, but it helps if I'm able to understand others that do. Are veggies therefore overly sensitive to the plight of all creatures great and small? Possibly, but I think we'd rather be known for our compassion, than have none at all.