By Ghanim al-Sulaiti
People love animals all over the world. They care for some as if they are members of the family, and humans can form life-long bonds with animals that they grew up with, especially those inside home.
Earlier this week, a friend from the gym told me a story about her recent trip to Portugal. During her holidays, on one of the afternoons, her children were excited to play with the pet rabbits in their garden. As the children hurriedly attempted to pick up the rabbits and play with their furry friends, my friend cautioned her children to be careful with handling them. She ensured that the children understood the right way of holding the rabbit and making sure it was comfortable. The children listened carefully and were extra gentle with them, handling them with love, affection and carefulness as if these rabbits were precious, sacred creatures.
My friend went on to explain that later on that evening, the family gathered for a traditional family dinner. Busy in the conversation, one of her child interrupted, visibly perplexed while staring at a plate of rabbit meat, skinned and prepared as a main dish. “Mom, we are eating rabbit for dinner?” he asked, understandably confused. My friend tells me that it was that point that she realised how her lessons contradicted her actions. Three hours before dinner, the children were told to ensure the utmost care of the rabbits, and to make sure the animal does not feel uncomfortable. Now the same animal was dead and cooked, served on a platter for human consumption.
As a vegan I am frequently frustrated by the ability of rational, caring, animal-respecting people to participate in the irrational, uncaring practice of eating animals. How is it possible for people to both love and eat animals?
This apparent disparity is known as ‘cognitive dissonance’ — having inconsistent thoughts and attitudes, especially relating to decision making, which can lead to discomfort and even irrational behaviour. If you accept that animals have rights; raising and killing animals for food is morally wrong.
The reality is people who participate in a system that treats animals cruelly, and that kills animals to provide unnecessary food to human beings, are behaving selfishly — contradictory to any ‘love’ they may show to the pets. Simply because you are not witnessing the brutal killing of animals in front of your own eyes shouldn’t justify you purchasing their remains, meat, from a supermarket.
We are taught the Golden Rule as young children, and all major religions teach principles of nonviolence and kindness. The Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Ethical treatment — the Golden Rule — must be extended to all living beings: reptiles, mammals, fish, insects, birds, amphibians, and crustaceans.
More than a century ago, Charles Darwin showed that all beings had the same common ancestor. All beings share the desire to live. We all feel pain, joy, grief, and pleasure. We all have worth.
No living being deserves to be abused. We believe that it’s wrong to torture infant and disabled human beings who don’t have the same abilities as adults. In the same way, all beings deserve liberty and respect not because they share the characteristics we admire in ourselves but because they are living beings. We share the same evolutionary origins, we inhabit the same Earth, and we are ruled by the same laws of nature. We are all the same.
The author is an expert in vegan wellbeing and health. Instagram handle: @Ghanim92
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