Saturday, March 20, 2010

The nuances of nonhuman animal slavery

The victim feels the suffering in his own mind and body, whereas the victimizer...can be quite unaware of that suffering. The sword does not feel the pain that it inflicts.
--Philip Hallie

Oftentimes people make false comparisons due to familiarity with rampant speciesism present in society. Usually, people are so shocked that they begin exclaiming that the differing perspective is extreme without question. It's understandable considering the obscene amount indoctrination we faced as children and are still facing. Unfortunately we have been successfully indoctrinated that we scoff at the idea that our actions and mentality are speciesist. What is speciesism? Simply put, it is the discrimination against nonhuman animals. Our nonhuman animal consumption via food and clothing is one of millions of symptoms of speciesism. Our precise selection of one species over another is speciesist. Our enjoyment of saving one type of species because of their intelligence and/or beauty is speciesist. The list goes on and on. Today's blog is focused on nonhuman animal slavery (which, of course, is speciesism). I mention veganism because it is the antidote to speciesism. It is the compassion for all species--human or nonhuman. It is the principle of nonviolence and the rejection of all nonhuman animal commodification. In this blog, I mention the subtleties of nonhuman exploitation that are often overlooked. When we think of "pain and suffering" of nonhuman animals, we generally associate these with the physical abuse of them. However, one need not pet and coo over a cow moments prior to her death (murder) to exempt it from the exploitation category.

Here are some examples of these nuances:

It's like a religion.
I had to start the blog off with this first because people usually view nonhuman animal slavery as something that is necessary and harmless (neither are true). Usually, people treat the commodification of nonhuman animals as if it were a convenience in their lives. In a way it is, but oftentimes we forget that we are the oppressor who comes away from the situation untouched.

Going back to the topic, a religion or system of beliefs is personal. They shall not be imposed upon others. There is no concrete evidence that there is one deity, higher power or lack of. We shall never really know the truth whenever or if ever that time will come. Veganism, on the other hand, cannot even be likened to a religion because it is part of a very real social justice issue. An issue backed with facts, statistics and studies. To excuse such violations against facts is simply willful ignorance. When it is done through the use of religion, spirituality or atheism is also willful ignorance. It is a desperate attempt to validate something that is unjustified but that you want to continue doing. Simply put, it does not matter whether you see or not because it is still happening and it can always be accompanied by countless documented evidence. A system of beliefs does not have that.

It's art. It's entertainment.
It can be tricky when trying to define art. However, animals never consent to being used. We human animals, are their oppressors, assume that consent for our own ends. We also do not compensate them for their "work." Humans, on the other hand, can consent and are usually compensated for their time, energy and effort. For instance, I'll take myself as an example because I have recently taken part in a film that would be probably come off as controversial to some. If my character in a film is to be raped, I acknowledge that this is a work of fiction (or based on a true story) but I also consented to that. In addition, I am being compensated for this work because it is a story that is being told and nothing else. Although it may be offensive, it does not necessarily mean that it is condoned by the director and by the cast. Say, if I were to do Hustler Magazine (god forbid!), this is no longer representing a character. It is representing myself. I have consented to it and I was compensated. However, the lines of art are now blurred and have the potential to invite harm for myself and others.

Now let's go back to the nonhuman animals. Nonhuman animals are placed in movies, commercials, tv shows and just about anything involving entertainment (circuses, rodeos, bullfighting, swimming with the dolphins, zoos, etc etc). They may be given the basics but are not given the freedom to live their lives the way they want. It does not matter what their treatment was like or whether they were killed or not. What matters is that they were forced against their will to take part in something that they did not consent to, which is slavery. Slavery is still cruelty whether you "compensate" them with food, water and housing or not. When we take "artistic" depictions of speciesism (i.e. meat dresses, a video of a cat being skinned alive, romanticized images of horse drawn carriages, etc), it is not art. It is the equivalent to a snuff film--a porn film that ends with the murder of the actress(es). In fact, even worse. Actresses initially consented not knowing that their death was awaiting them. No nonhuman animal ever did say yes and depictions like these inevitably ended their lives. If not, at the very least, forced them to partake in slavery. Another form of "art" involving animals is by taking their remains and constructing something (i.e. high heeled hoof shoes, feather headbands, bearskin rugs, etc). This is fetishizing the oppression and cruelty towards them, thus causing the demand for their bodies much like my invitation for misogyny if I were to do Hustler Magazine. The difference is that I am a human being who can still consent to something but can put myself and possibly others in danger by perpetuating the objectification of women. I had a choice although it was a poor one. Nonhuman animals never have a say whether it was fiction or nonfiction.

Please do not take my words out of context.

The unnecessary dependancy on "working" animals--for the police, the blind, etc
This is not my being disrespectful towards individuals who suffer from certain circumstances. This is not my being insensitive. I do understand that the following is provocative but please read this part in its entirety.

First of all, if we take the dogs who are utilized for the blind, it is problematic from the start. For one, these dogs are specifically bred which means that this contributes to the overpopulation (more on that later). This automatically reinforces speciesism. Dogs like any other nonhumans and humans are sentient beings who have different personalities depending on where they grew up and who raised them.

Any "working" animal is an animal who is forced to do something against their will. How many humans hate their jobs? My point exactly. So what makes it any different? Most--not all--humans had the choice to partake in a job they hate. Nonhuman animals don't. If they were asked and had the ability to communicate in english, they would all say that they would want to be doing other things like chewing a bone or sleeping. Humans also saying "oh, they love it" is an assumption that acknowledges what's in our best interest not theirs. Food, water and housing is not adequate compensation and will never be as long as we dictate their lives. They are capable of boredom and probably do not want to be sniffing for drugs or weapons or accompanying a blind individual 24/7. Why not hire human beings to do the job? You want people to be employed? Well, there's a market waiting to flourish. If you want to know if someone is in possession of drugs or weapons, doctors (who can spot the physicalities) and psychologists can be hired for this. In addition, the technology we have is extremely sophisticated (don't forget, we are in 2010!), why not make good use of it instead of relying on free labour?

Body modifications: what's cruel, what's not
Tail docking, ear clipping and declawing are all cruel and done for aesthetic reasons. This in itself is a poor, poor reason to go ahead with the operations.

Spaying and neutering are NOT cruel. Given the circumstances of animal overpopulation and how humans have deemed themselves superior enough to have a say on who stays and who goes (in other words, routinely murdering thousands of healthy, adoptable animals on a daily basis), spaying and neutering are necessary to avoid this from happening. Spaying is equivalent to a hysterectomy and neutering is the equivalent to a vasectomy. Yes, it sucks that we're putting a halt on their reproductive lives but given their circumstances, it would be best. Until humans relinquish their urges to play god, we will be spaying and neutering them so that they do not multiply and add to the thousands of other animals who die because shelters need space (yet another poor reason). I don't know if they can survive in the wild but stray and/or outdoor dogs and cats are the subject of slavery also. Sometimes they are sold into dog fighting, laboratories and other exploitative institutions and practices. This is yet another reason why not adding to the overpopulation is a good idea.

Breeders are all the same whether they are reputable, puppy mill, or backyard
Reputable breeders and their supporters have a tendency to condemn puppy mills and backyard breeders but completely wash their hands of the problems they are causing. The grand one being overpopulation. There are enough animals in a shelter waiting to be adopted and one purchase from a breeder (reputable, backyard or puppy mill) subjects a shelter animal to death. They are all the same and they have created a business off of enslaving and mercilessly impregnating a nonhuman animal for monetary gain--or hobby. Let's put things into perspective. Would you have a 13 year old kid who you decided to make a business out of by making her fall pregnant so that you can make money off selling her babies? That's extremely unethical and not to mention, absurd.

Having them be a part of your family is not slavery...or maybe
What we do to cows, pigs, chickens and other animals who are not normally a part of our family, are slaves and are demanded that they be slaves. Unless you are breeding your dog or cat, you are not enslaving them. Unless you are putting them to work and dictating how their lives should be spent benefitting someone else, you are not enslaving them. Unless you submit them to a form of entertainment (from a movie to the circus), you are not enslaving them. Unless you are not caring for them properly (i.e. hoarding them or tying them to a fence for their entire lives), you are not enslaving them. If you have decided to adopt them and to care for them like most of us do with our fellow dogs and cats, where is the slavery aspect?

Dogs and cats are slightly different. Sure, they're confined to a decent sized space. Often, people will say that having a dog or cat family member is enslavement but what about fish, rabbits, birds, snakes, lizards, etc? Fish are from large bodies of water. No matter what size aquarium or garden pond you have, it will never be enough for fish. Rabbits also have no need to be confined to a cage for the duration of their lives when they have an entire forest to hop around in. Birds are meant to fly but they are imprisoned in cages and denied their very right to fly. Even if you keep their cage door open? Your house will never be vast enough for a bird. Snakes, lizards and other exotic animals deserve to be where they came from. They have no business hanging out in a restricted area nor should they be confined to a foreign place that their bodies may not adapt to. I'm not trying to be speciesist but dogs and cats adapt the best to a home environment in comparison to other domestic animals so there can be no slavery if you are not expecting anything in return from dogs and cats and are treating them with genuine respect. However, because Eleven Eleven is open to other nonhuman animals who may not be generally accepted in other rescues, it is best that we care for them until a better alternative arrives (for instance, if one were to have tropical fish from a certain region and then miraculously somehow visit that region and release the fish there). Sometimes there is no better alternative than caring for them (with the proper equipment and space) until they are ready to leave our lives.

No comments:

Post a Comment