Rabbit Advocacy Animal Matters
Dr. Michael W. Fox,
well-known veterinarian, former vice president of The Humane Society of the
United States, and former vice president of Humane Society International, is the
author of more than 40 books on animal care and behavior.
I worked with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for 25 years, and I visited factory farms, biomedical research laboratories, and puppy mills in a time when people were not suspicious about visitors to the facilities of their animal industries that we find totally unacceptable.
I’m addressing the companion animal issues from this background, plus what I’ve learned from the millions of letters I’ve received over the years from my syndicated newspaper column, “Animal Doctor.” It’s in 42 newspapers across the country, and I have about 16 million readers a week. I learned a lot about the problems and issues that we face when we’re discussing companion animals.
The American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association 2003-2004 National Pet Owners’ Survey for the $31 billion pet product industry includes some basic and disturbing information. 64.2 million US households report owning an animal, up over 10% from a decade ago. There are 77.7 million cats, 65 million dogs. This is a huge constituency that we need to reach because of what they are feeding their companion animals. Remember, the pet food industry is a subsidiary of the factory farming intensive agriculture that is the major animal health and welfare issue now going global and making us sick and destroying the environment.
U.S. households now have some 16.8 million small animals,(like mice, rabbits and ferrets), 17.3 million birds, 8.8 million reptiles, 7 million saltwater fish, and 185 million freshwater fish. The survey finds that only 1% or nearly 200,000 caged birds suffer from malnutrition. We see parrots self-mutilating; we need more parrot and caged bird rescue/rehab facilities. The most popular reptiles—turtles and tortoises—come directly from the wild, supplied by collectors. So probably are most newts, toads and frogs. Fewer birds are taken to the veterinarian (17% as against 24% a decade ago). It’s cheaper to just let them die and replace them. Dry food is the most widely used cat food, which can have serious health consequences; notably, diabetes, cystitis, feline urologic syndrome, obesity, etc. Two out of 10 dogs are kept outdoors—day and night. More dogs are obese, overweight (16%, up from 12% since the 2000 survey).
Some of the good news from this survey: The number of small animals owned per household is down from 18.7 million in 2000, and some reptile species are also declining in numbers. Fewer birds are being kept as caged pets, an 8% decline over the past two years. And I hammer this home every time I have a pocket pet or caged bird question: Consider never replacing it, unless you want to improve a life and go out and adopt a companion. The solitary life that these animals endure is one of the worst forms of suffering. More cats and dogs are receiving better nutrition, i.e. higher quality commercial pet food, according to this study. More people are feeding their animals home-prepared diets, which I regard as a significant improvement. More cat owners keep their cats indoors constantly. Six in 10 cats now live this way; one in 10 cats remain exclusively outdoors; the remainder are outdoor-indoor cats. More than 8 in 10cats are spayed/neutered. Fewer than 10% are obese/overweight, a decrease from the 2000 survey, which found 16% overweight.
Both common and statutory laws are now increasingly acknowledging the loss of an animal companion as a basis for recovery of damages above and beyond the fair market value of the animal. Over 30 states now have laws making animal abuse a felony, and more judges, prosecutors, and social workers are aware of the linkages between family, animal, and spousal abuse, and childhood cruelty toward animals and later violent criminal behavior.
Nearly 30 states have laws mandating that animals adopted from shelters are spayed/neutered. Six states have laws granting immunity from civil or criminal liability to veterinarians who report suspected animal cruelty. 45 states have made dog fighting a felony offense, and several have enacted the posting of bonds to ease the financial burden on shelters holding animals for the courts.
Animal shelters are euthanizing fewer animals: an estimated 4.6 million (4.5%) of the 120 million dogs and cats, according to the HSUS, down from 5.6 million (5.5%) of the 110 million dogs and cats owned in 1992. Animal shelter extension programs and hotlines, to promote proper care and understanding and to provide counseling when behavioral problems arise, are increasingly recognized preventives to animals being returned by owners. A high percentage of my letters concerning cats and dogs deal with behavior problems, most of them related to people having the wrong expectations and simply not knowing about animals.
As of 2000, only three states mandated pound seizure. More than a dozen prohibit it in most municipalities and dropped the practice because of public concern.
I was concerned that the HSUS State of the Animals 2001 report said that kidney transplants for cats was noted as an advance in veterinary care, with no consideration for the source and fate of donor cats. There is a big hue and cry in the veterinary journals about this in England, a very hot debate. The consensus in the UK is that it is not acceptable to perform kidney transplants on cats. The attitude here is, if these animals are going to die anyway, what’s wrong with taking their kidneys? But as Professor Regan says, a life is a life.
The insistence of many cat owners and some animal rights advocates that cats be allowed to roam free, killing wildlife and putting their own lives at risk from infectious diseases, some of which are spread to wild mammals and feral cats, needs to be confronted. Some European countries are very pro letting cats run free, that it’s their right to live naturally. But they do have an impact.
The outlawing of free-roaming cats to roam free is a very different issue from finding humane solutions for feral cat problems. Where spay/neuter, vaccination, and release, with daily provision of food may be acceptable, I would say where there are no wildlife at risk from feral cat predation and disease.
The deliberate mutilation of dogs’ ears and tails, routine in the US for certain breeds, should be abolished. We’ve all got to get together on that, in line with the legal and cultural situation in the UK and several other European countries. Deforming dogs’ ears and removing their tails, regardless of the pain, are unconscionable practices that deprive dogs for their entire lives of body parts that are important to dogs’ body language communication. To remove cats’ claws—the operation often resulting in chronic pain and infection—is to cut out what makes a cat. A declawed cat is more vulnerable, less dexterous, and far less agile—unable to climb up trees and leap on your shoulders when it’s time to play and go crazy at night.
Surgical and other cosmetic alterations of show breeds should be prohibited, and veterinarians should be professionally disciplined for engaging in cosmetic alterations to cover up superficial genetic and developmental defects.
The high regard for certain animal species in the West—notably cats and dogs—as companion animals and family members that in other cultures are still variously regarded as food or vermin, has helped promote the social acceptance of animals having rights and of being worthy of moral consideration. This is seen as a significant threat to various animal-based industries in the US; notably, the factory farming, fishing, animal research, and wildlife trade and fur industries. And they erroneously dismiss pet lovers as misguided sentimentalists who anthropomorphize their animals—turn them into little people—and suffer from urban zoophilia and have no real understanding of what really goes on down on the farm.
These exploiters of animals do not wish to accept that animals have feelings and emotion-mediating neurochemical pathways virtually identical to ours. We’ve got the science base for that now. We’re talking now about a metanoia,, a turning around, of realizing that we are part of the earth and the earth is part of us. When we harm the earth, we harm ourselves. When we demean animals, we get on this moral roller coaster slide down where ultimately we erode human rights as well.
I hate to think of the future if we don’t succeed; but we’re going to, because it’s an evolutionary imperative, the work that we’re all trying to accomplish here. The alternative is a totalitarian view that I call “biological fascism.” Of human superiority, anthropocentrism—“I am the center of the universe”—me, me, me. Whether one or a few species, humans and their devoted dogs or genetically similar great apes, they’re valued over lesser species whose contribution to the greater good is far more significant than any of us in this room. Microorganisms in the soil, for example, do far more good to the planet than us in this room. That’s their extrinsic, or utilitarian, value. We have a lot to learn from the least of these.
Back to the companion animals, and some of these cultural views toward animals. Joseph Wood Krutch was a writer in the 1950s and 1960s who said that wildlife are superior to domestic animals that are little more than degenerate parasites. We must change these views that erode the dignity of our animal companions.
One of my classmates, the late Derek Pout, a British veterinarian, wrote to me, “Animal lovers seem to love animals for their own personal needs, rather than for the animal and all its qualities.” While the good veterinarian tries to balance the interests and needs of the client and the animal, market research by the pet industry is first and foremost focused on selling ever more products and services, from drugs and snacks to toys, training collars, and invisible fences, that cater more to owner/caretaker/guardian needs, fears, and phobias than to the animals’ needs and interests.
A prime example recently that just shocked me was in the Spay/USA magazine Paws to Think. They had a whole section on the Companion Animal Council, a group of expert veterinarians who said that cats and dogs should be given insecticides to control fleas and ticks from birth onwards, and routinely wormed. In this same publication, they were promoting Neutersol, which is a chemosterilant for male dogs. If you inject this into the testicle and it doesn’t go quite right, you’ll have a terrible reaction. I was involved with some of the earlier tests of this drug. If it’s going to be used in a difficult field situation, especially in the Third World, where it is being particularly promoted, you don’t keep these male dogs in cages for several days to see how they’re doing; you inject them and put them back into the street. All I can say is, God help them.
We have to be very careful in this movement about how we start promoting various products, like these new pesticides, like Frontline and Advantage, which are being given to dogs and cats. I have a volume of mail about animals going into seizures, their immune systems being jammed, their thyroid glands being knocked out. And they’re being given to these animals from kitten and puppyhood on, just in case they might get fleas or ticks. It is nuts. We don’t take antibiotics just in case we might get pneumonia. So what is this? It’s push, push, push by the pharmaceutical industry, and we should not be part of it.
All these insecticides being injected, fed to, and put on companion animals finish up in the environment, especially via their stools. That affects insects, the whole ecosystem. The government needs to look at this.
Many people enjoy a deep sense of communion with their animal companions. This has led to a plethora of books celebrating the bond, the spirituality of the animal connection, and its healing and transformative powers and even companion animals being regarded as angelic beings. But there is a dark side that love and reverential respect alone will never eliminate. Education, legislation, investigation, and prosecution are called for when addressing the suffering from cruelty to companion animals in a dysfunctional society and in dysfunctional closed-door institutions like the pet food industry that contracts out to test animals to, say, develop a new diet for cats with kidney disease. They cut out most of the cats’ kidneys. Is this the way to proceed to sell market commodities? Yes, at animals’ expense.
In the family situation, ignorance about animals’ basic needs and of how animals communicate, coupled with selfish, conditional love, results in much animal suffering. A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about their companion animals, just as they often have about their children. Companion animals might go through some form of adolescent rebellion, and they finish up being euthanized. I believe that this problem of lack of communication and lack of understanding is more of a welfare issue than actual psychopathic cases of deliberate cruelty toward companion animals.
The boundless ethic of compassion calls for all animals to be treated with equal consideration in recognition of their intrinsic natures and right to be provided those conditions that are conducive to their overall health and psychological and physical well- being. But situational ethics, values, and beliefs tend to override these things, especially on the commercial factory farm and the biomedical research laboratory and the puppy mill. But we need to keep pushing, keep pushing, keep pushing: And emphasizing that animals are sentient beings, and that they are also sapient too---
Animals are intelligent; they don’t just have feelings, they are intelligent beings. I was asked in one TV interview not so long ago, “What’s the most highly developed ability of dogs, Dr. Fox?” I said, “Their ability to empathize.” So we have to very careful what we’re putting out emotionally to these highly evolved empathic beings. They have emotional intelligence.
Categorically, animal rightists believe that animals should not become a means to human ends because they have their own lives, interests, and ends in and for themselves. But first we must address the contention of some animal liberation extremists that keeping animals as companions is morally wrong because the animal then becomes the means to human ends. There are mutually enhancing, symbiotic relations between humans and other animals. We should really celebrate that bond, but we have to develop it with understanding and education.
A healthy human/nonhuman animal bond is, by its nature, mutually enhancing, and each being meets in part the other’s interests and ultimate well-being. Some pro-animal-exploitation critics of this kind of relationship see the dog particularly as a manipulative parasite. Stephen Budiansky, who wrote the book The Truth About Dogs, (and in an earlier publication in US News and World Report in 1986 linked me philosophically with the Unabomber!) He criticizes dog owners as being anthropomorphic, but when he calls them [dogs] manipulative con-artist parasites, isn’t he being anthropomorphic? Enough said.
The dark side of human/animal relationships. That a scientist, lab technician, or student can do experiments on cats and dogs that outside of the institutional setting would be a violation of anti-cruelty laws points to the power of situational ethics over the ideal boundless ethic of compassion. It is a major problem. I have advocated for years that sound science can demonstrate that animal experimentation is not necessary. It is ethically wrong to deliberately make healthy animals sick or to injure them. We have a whole lot of sick and injured animals already out there being attended to by veterinarians. With good liaison and collaboration with state veterinary schools, we can learn a lot by trying out new surgical procedures (with the owners’ consent) on animals who need help. And new medical procedures and diagnostic devices and new drugs. This is the way to progress. This would get rid of a lot of unnecessary laboratory animal research and ultimately would greatly help companion animals.
The US government has provided researchers with $50 million out of your pockets, to sequence the canine genome, to identify genetic abnormalities (of which there are close to 400) that are analogous to what we see in Homo sapiens. Specifically bred laboratory animals with various diseases will soon be developed for new drug testing and screening for genetic disorders. And the genetic engineers are now saying that the next laboratory rat is going to be the specifically selected, genetically abnormal purebred dog. So look out; you’re going to have your work cut out. You’ve heard from two speakers today who’ve pointed out the development of transgenic research and all its emphasis on genetic pharmacology and so on. We’re seeing an explosion of biomedical research, especially on rodents. The dogs will be next.
Corporate alliances. We need to have within our nexus of organization some type of corporate accountability and corporate conscience. The controversial inhumane alliance between HSUS and Iams pet food company, which was a primary sponsor of the HSUS’s multi-city “Pet Fest America,” was seen by many outraged members and other animal protection organizations as a money-driven liaison inconsistent with the HSUS’s purported position on animal testing.
Now, under new HSUS leadership, I think things will begin to change; I’m very optimistic. But we must be leery of the old guard. The ASPCA had on its web site a fully fleshed-out defense of Iams’ testing commercial pet food diets. When you know what’s in commercial pet food, you wouldn’t even use it as fertilizer in your garden. Condemned parts of factory-farmed animals. There is a niche market that is expanding now for organically certified food; there are several books out written by other veterinarians on home cooking, cooking from scratch for your dogs and cats; this is the way to go.
The HSUS, when I was there, had an “Eating With Conscience” campaign to enlighten its constituents to eat with conscience, even including a vegan/vegetarian message. But under that administration, a roadblock was put up when I said, “Let’s be ethically consistent and also have an eating with conscience campaign for people feeding their dogs and cats, too.” But the pet food industry was in the wings being courted to provide funds, and my proposed campaign was nixed because it would have meant no funds from the pet food industry for the HSUS. But we should have been ethically consistent here.
The mainstream pet food industry is a subsidiary of agribusiness. They’re now going international, as factory farms spread in India and the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. Purebred dogs are being exported now, from puppy mills here and in Canada and in Europe. In India I have seen what happens to purebred dogs; they are not genetically climatically adapted. It’s a great tragedy. (For more details see www.doctormwfox.org).
Keep the connection in mind: the cats and dogs, the purebreeds with genetic problems, the commercial pet food industry, etc. Follow the money trail.
Another very serious concern for me is the American Kennel Club, which is also promotionally tied to big pet food manufacturers at all their dog shows. The AKC should be roasted alive for not doing anything to change the standards on ear cropping and tail docking. They rake in hundreds of millions of dollars selling pedigree registration papers.. They now have a DNA testing program because the degree of falsified breeding records has allegedly put their pedigree records in absolute chaos. Of particular concern for me is that the AKC continues to register dogs from commercial breeders (puppy mills), and there are some mega, mega breeders. Through my column, I advise people not to get purebred dogs, and I get a lot of hate mail coming back for it.
The other big scam to look out for is PetSmart and Petco charity divisions, which are closely linked with several animal protection organizations and pet food companies; and their stores where animals for sale are not consistently provided appropriate care. Wrapping this all up is the pet health insurance schemes that push over-vaccination and putting chemicals on puppies and kittens to stop fleas and ticks, etc. A well-nourished animal will hardly ever have a flea.
Fortunately, a lot of my close colleagues are holistic vets, and they are pushing the paradigm for basic health:
1 First, right breeding. Get a mixed-breed dog or cat; go to the shelter and adopt one. The in-breeds and purebreds generally come with a host of genetic defects.
2 Second, right environment, including right understanding.
3 Third, right nutrition. Get away from these highly processed foods with all kinds of additives and condemned animal parts.
4 Fourth, right veterinary treatment. It’s coming, but right now the American Veterinary Medical Association is caught in the quagmire of vested interest politics. Hence its reticence to advocate for animals’ interests and well-being that may harm business interests or be perceived as a threat to the status quo of animal exploitation.
But all is not wrong with the movement, not by a long shot. The improved animal shelter facilities, greater professionalism, trained and dedicated staff, behavioral counseling, spay/neuter and adoption programs, and improved anti-cruelty law enforcement and investigations, coupled with more humane education out-reach programs in schools across the country are to be applauded, serving the needs, rights and interests of animals in society.
The social environment and relationships of dogs, cats and other companion animals is of continuing concern to me. We need more open green spaces for dogs to run and play with each other, and a more liberal attitude and appreciation by landlords and property owners toward renters and retirees who wish to live responsibly with one or more animal companions. People with companion animals need to know that it is wrong to keep a dog crated all day to "protect" the house, and that having two animals---two cats, guineapigs, parakeets or goldfish, is more humane than simply having one animal who is left alone many hours during work days, and lives a life of extreme social deprivation.
The federal government and every state—for environmental, public health, agricultural, ecological, and humane reasons—should prohibit the importation of all wild-caught and captive-bred exotic animal species, from snails and snakes to reptiles and rodents, as pets. This is a matter of national biosecurity. One of the best models is New Zealand and its Ministry for Biosecurity. Look out for the genetically engineered “Frankenpets,” for example, genetically engineered fish that glow. Next, cats will be cloned . There is the repugnance factor; people have a gut feeling about this. Play on this repugnance; you don’t need to get into complex moral and scientific arguments.
Before we can hope to move government to enact animal protection legislation, we must educate the legislators, as well as the larger public, to see the connections, the big picture, where the plight of the animals mirrors the human condition with its lack of compassion and respect for life, human and nonhuman. Evil flourishes where good men do nothing. The greatness of a nation can indeed be measured by the status it has accorded to every life, human, nonhuman, plant, and animal. Just as the security of a nation is tied to the fate of the earth and to the future of civilization, by effective law enforcement to protect the natural environment and the last of the wild. But so long as other animals—from puppies to parrots to pot-bellied pigs—are regarded primarily as commodities, and there are no laws to prohibit lawmakers from winning elections with the big bucks from those vested interests responsible for the holocaust of the animal kingdom and the ethical and spiritual corruption of society will continue unabated.
Companion animals benefit millions of people by the deep affection given and received, many animals helping their human guardians and caregivers cope with grief, death, loneliness—emotional needs that other animals have in common with us.
Companion animals are popular because they can and do have great empathy; they can mirror our emotional state. They link us to those deeper, more ancient, instinctual and atavistic states that in the wild heart’s core pulse with the needs, appetites, impulses, and imperatives that mean survival, health, joy and fulfillment.
Companion animals in this light are clearly part of our healing and, some would say, salvation and redemption. But only if they are respected and loved in and for themselves and not for how good they may make us feel. The joy they give us is in their communion, as kindred spirits, sentient and sapient beings; and the deeper that communion, the more we suffer with them, and love and understand.
But let’s move this focus, so that the deep affection that millions of people in this country have for their companion animals becomes boundless compassion. Then we have an army to march and stop the holocaust against the life and beauty of this planet.
I’ll close with the words of Meister Eckhart: “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God.”
RESPONSIBILITIES, CARE, AND
Many illnesses and behavioral problems in dogs, cats and other companion animals can be prevented, and others cured by their caretakers/guardians adhering to five basic principles. These principles combine to make a simple formula to help insure animals health and overall well being:
Right Understanding and Relationship + Right Breeding/Genetics + Right Nutrition + Right Environment + Right Holistic Veterinary Care. = Animal Health and Well-being.
It is every person's responsibility as an animal lover and care-provider to recognize the importance of these principles as basic animal rights for several reasons. These include the prevention and alleviation of much animal suffering; and reduced veterinary and other related costs associated with many animal health and behavioral problems, if not most, and even having to euthanize the animal or put her/him up for adoption.
These principles bring out the best qualities in people as caregivers by enhancing the human-non-human animal bond, and in those animals under their care in terms of quality of life and relational/emotional experience. They also provide an ethical compass of responsibility and compassion to advance the moral/character development of children, who, in learning by example how to respect and care for other animals, enhance their self-esteem and self-worth through loving service, and in the process refine their ability to empathize with other sentient beings.
animals have served and benefited us for millennia and continue to do so in
myriad ways, so we benefit the more we serve and help them as our wards,
companions, healers, teachers, patients and friends---all of whom are related to
us, but are more ancient, if not wiser than we. The bond that people have with
the animals in their lives must become a boundless circle of compassion,
expanding to encompass all living beings, domestic and wild, captive and free,
if we are to justify keeping any animal as a as domesticated companion beyond
our selfish needs.
How Animals Suffer Around the World
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
I am often asked what are the worst kinds of animal suffering in the world today. With some 30 years experience as a veterinarian and animal care advocate working in the US and in poor third world countries, I offer the following review. This will, I hope, encourage international efforts focusing on improving the human condition to also address animal concerns because Human Wellbeing means Health Care+People Care+ AnimalCare+EarthCare. In other words, a healthy population of domestic animals improves public health and livestock-based economics, and a healthy population of domestic animals means fewer diseases being spread to wildlife, an aspect of conservation that is too often neglected.
This review will also help encourage donors, from both private and corporate and government sectors, to give more support to animal care and protection worldwide, and dispel the erroneous view that people must come first and that human well-being has no connection with animal care and protection.
Animal suffering is a worldwide problem. Most of their suffering is associated
with human poverty - insufficient resources to care for animals - as well as
human ignorance, indifference, need and greed. Progress in animal welfare and
protection, and ultimately liberation of animals from cruel domination and
exploitation, entails greater public recognition of the worldwide plight of
animals wild and domestic.
In the wild, animal suffering is minimized by predation where carnivores kill and consume sick, aged and injured animals and help regulate herbivore numbers and prevent habitat destruction from overpopulation /overgrazing. But wildlife suffer from a host of human influences, from habitat encroachment and destruction, and fall victim to trapping, hunting, poisoning, and diseases spread from infected domestic animals who compete with wild herbivores for food and with wild carnivores for prey.
While the extinction process is being accelerated for wildlife by these and other anthropogenic factors, including global warming, agrichemical poisons and industrial pollution, the plight of domestic animals is no less pervasive around the world; and their suffering is more severe because their lives are not mercifully and swiftly ended by natural predators. Instead, their existence and suffering continue because of various human influences, be it the garbage that keep third world dogs and much livestock alive; and the antibiotics and vaccines that keep factory farmed livestock alive to grow quickly for slaughter.
First, I would rank third world street dogs, in terms of the sheer duration and degree of agony that the animals suffer, and in view of the numbers of animals so suffering. Millions are slowly eaten alive by mange, maggots, and internal parasites, and endure only so long as they can find enough food so that they do not die from starvation first, or before rabies or distemper puts an end to their lives.
Some of these common diseases that are easily prevented are frequently transmitted to humans, especially children. Consequently, dogs who are sick are often shunned, stoned, and clubbed. In order to control such zoonotic diseases, both sick and healthy free-roaming dogs are often poisoned by local authorities with strychnine, or are caught and killed with an injection of Epsom salts, or are electrocuted, drowned, or killed with engine exhaust fumes. Periodic dog roundups and the killing of dogs, many of whom are owned and valued by the community, cause much anguish especially to children who witness the mass dog massacres. In the absence of spay, neuter and vaccination programs, these mass dog killings must be repeated at regular intervals as the dog population increases.
Second, I would rank especially the plight of the beasts of burden in the third world - the goaded and overburdened donkeys and bullocks (oxen), ponies and water buffalo. Veterinary services are either too costly, or not available when needed for most of these poor creatures, who, if too ill or crippled and malnourished to work any more, are simply abandoned to fend for themselves.
Third, I would rank all the billions of livestock in the third world who suffer seasonal starvation, die from thirst, and from the many diseases that they too often spread to wildlife with devastating consequences. The suffering of cattle, buffalo, goats and sheep is aggravated by chronic overgrazing and lack of adequate feed and veterinary care in most developing countries, and especially for the sacred cows of India where the religious taboo against slaughter means slow death from malnutrition and disease for millions of discarded, nonproductive cattle.
Fourth, I would place the billions of intensively raised, commercially exploited creatures raised on factory farms for their eggs, flesh, fur, and for their offsprings' own milk, and for various medical products (like pregnant mare urine and bile from bears in China). In this fourth rank are all creatures who spend their lives incarcerated in small zoo and circus enclosures and cages, or spend a life in chains like the working and temple elephants, who have been beaten until their spirits are broken into obedience. Also in fourth place I put the millions of animals - mice, monkeys, cats and dogs -- who live their entire lives in small cages and are bred and used in often unnecessary and painful medical and military research experiments, and in product safety tests.
Fifth, the short-term suffering of various wild animals that humans kill, like those who are trapped for their fur, shot by non-subsistence sports and trophy hunters, and predators like panthers and coyotes who are poisoned or killed by other cruel means by government and private agents, fill the fifth category of animal suffering in the global holocaust of the animals.
Sixth, the confined, often overfed pets of the affluent sectors of first and third world countries, from guinea pigs and parrots to poodles and parakeets, who are too often deprived of any contact with their own kind, are being forced to live in small cages for most, if not all, of their lives.
There are many other human uses and abuses of animals, from horse and greyhound racing and bull fighting and dog and cock fighting, to animal circuses and canned trophy hunting, that can be added to the above holocaust list and categorization in terms of severity of suffering. The justification/rationalization of human need, be it economic, scientific-medical, or emotional and social/traditional, for the continued exploitation and suffering of animals, be it long- or short-term, must be examined from a bioethical perspective. From this perspective, we ask is it necessary, is it avoidable, and are there alternatives to satisfy our needs and wants that will eliminate or minimize the suffering of animals?
The fatalistic acceptance of animal suffering in poor countries is linked with the hopelessness of people, often oppressed, living in abject poverty. The politics of animal welfare and liberation, and wildlife conservation, are closely tied to the human condition. Human overpopulation and poverty are only part of the problem. Corruption and misappropriation of funds and other resources to help people and animals are major factors that many governments and non-government organizations continue to deny or discount, and blame all on human poverty and overpopulation, which is used as a scapegoat.
Our perception of animals determines how we treat them and whether they suffer under our dominion or not. Behind our perception and treatment of animals lie our needs, wants, values, and cultural and religious traditions. Until these are addressed, and our perception changed so that there is empathy, respect and communion, the holocaust of the animal kingdom will continue: And those qualities or virtues that makes us human - humility, compassion and selfless benevolence - will continue to be crushed by the arrogance, ignorance and selfishness of our species.
My Rabbit and the Light:
Some Personal Reflections Dr. Michael W. Fox
I had a pet rabbit when I was about three years old. Thumper was a dwarf Dutch bunny, gentle, warm, and quick. He was housed in a fine wooden hutch my father had crafted, with a warm nest box and a wire enclosed porch and walkway.
I would go and see him every morning before breakfast, and always had something to tell or a question to ask of him. One morning I went to greet him, I found him lying flat on one side, as though he were asleep. Yet, I had never seen him behave like that before. I called his name, but he did not move an ear or open his eyes. I was scared. I opened his hutch, and found a stick to gently touch him with. He didn't move. I felt him with a shaking hand. His body was cold and no longer moved when I pressed his thigh gently.
I was bewildered, rather than sad and tearful. Those feelings came later. The evening before he was so alive and well, but now he was gone. But what was gone, I wondered, since his body was still there, as though simply asleep. Perhaps if he could be warmed in the sun…
I ran to tell my mother that Thumper was dead and she must come and help. His death was confirmed, and we buried him after a little ceremony in the garden later that morning. From then on, cold and death were linked in my mind and the mystery of where the life of Thumper, that once so animated his body, had gone, leaving his body behind.
I had heard about ‘heaven’ and someone told me that Thumper would be there waiting for me when I died. But I wondered how could he, or in what form he would appear, since his body was buried in the garden. I knew that the skin and flesh would be taken into the soil by a host of insects, leaving only his bones, for I had often found the bones of little creatures while playing in the grass and bushes, and maggot filled, cat-killed voles and song bird carcasses. His body returned to the earth, so where did the rest of him go?
A few days later, with Thumper still alive in my mind, I went into the back garden early one summer morning. The flowers were head high and the mist was thick with their perfume and the buzz of myriad insects. As I breathed in this fragrant light and looked up through the mist into the heart of the hazy sun, I had a frightening but exhilarating experience and one that remained with me forever. Suddenly I became a mere particle in that misty light. I felt connected with every particle that light embraced, and its embrace was infinite. I didn't see Thumper in the light. I didn't need to. The warmth of the morning sun reminded me of the warmth that my parents had always given me. But it was so much more intense. I felt it enter into the very core of my being.
It was all-knowing and all-loving, and made me feel infinitely secure in its embrace. I no longer missed my friend Thumper because he was part of the light. I saw and felt how every living being in the garden, every flower, herb, shrub, insect and bird was part of this light. It was within them and around them all. In that moment of realization, I had no sense of my own self-being separate from anything else. From that time on I never feared death or dying. Even during some of the most difficult, often heartbreaking events in my life, I would find strength and trust in life by thinking about Thumper and how his light and warmth had returned to the source of all being from which all things arise.
Many years later I thought of Thumper as I mercifully stomped dozens of diseased rabbits to death:
It was one of those perfect Saturdays in early June, ideal for a walk over the moors and through the limestone dales of Derbyshire. I let the wind take me wherever it would, feeling it pushing me up the hills as I kept my back to it all the time. I felt as though I was flying, my body, thanks to the wind, keeping up with my soaring spirits. I was elated because I had the letter in my pocket that I had been waiting for. It notified me that I had been accepted for the 1956 first academic year at the Royal Veterinary College London. My childhood dream was coming true. I had always wanted to be an animal doctor, and if I passed all the examinations, I would be qualified in five years time.
Five years. I was thinking I had already been seeing practice for the past five years helping local veterinarians on their farm and house calls. How much more to learn, to really know how to treat sick animals, diagnose their ailments, perform surgery, deliver calves. Five years seemed like a long time, and even longer if I failed some of the exams I groaned to myself as I scaled an old limestone wall, startling a ewe and her young lamb who were napping in the sunlight on the other side. I apologized to them and they trotted off, bleating briefly before stopping and turning to give me a look of curious disdain.
The wind pushed me up the hill and at the top I breathed in deeply, enjoying the day and the boundless promise of exhilarated, youthful spirits. I readied to race down into the dale below, noting the sheep trail between the limestone rocks and boggy reed beds that I should have to skirt to avoid a bad tumble. Then I saw a rabbit moving beside an outcrop of limestone. She was not moving normally and appeared drunk and dazed. Perhaps she had been poisoned, I thought, as I moved slowly and cautiously toward her. She disappeared behind the rocks and I followed her into an open glade that was pocked with rabbit holes. It was a large warren, but the eerie thing was that she just kept wandering around and didn't bolt down one of the holes. She seemed oblivious to my presence.
Then I saw rabbits wandering aimlessly and dying slowly by the score in the bright sun of this warm summer's day. The innocence and verdant beauty of this limestone dale was shattered. There was no breeze, and the buzz of carrion flies filled the heavy air. I walked slowly and quietly, so as not to frighten any of the less sick rabbits who seemed vaguely aware of my presence, but made no effort to escape. One so blindly sick, hobbled toward me, without seeming to be aware of my presence, or was she asking me to kill her?
I picked her up. Bloody mucous from her mouth and gasping nostrils splattered my face and parka jacket as the pathetic creature struggled weakly in my hands. Her eyes were so swollen I felt they might bust. I could not save her, nor any of her other dozens of warren relatives, who were circling, crouching, and convulsing, as far as my eyes could see. I quickly dispatched the poor creature with a ‘rabbit punch’ at the base of her skull. I went on killing automatically until my hand hurt too much from striking and dislocating their necks. So I used the sharp heel of my boot, placing each rabbit on a rock so that the skull would implode instantly rather than sink, possibly uncrushed into the soft ground.
Eventually there were no more rabbits alive and I was surrounded by the carnage of my own compassion. Perhaps the rabbits stayed above ground to save others in the warren from becoming infected. I doubted, however, that there were any survivors. I sat down in their midst as my senses slowly returned. I heard a skylark's spiral song rising above some distant meadow as the breeze returned and rustled in the reeds close by.
Needing to vent my rage at the plight of the rabbits, I walked and walked until I could walk no more and collapsed on the wide upland moor, lying with my back on the soft, warm earth. I let my mind lift into the clear sky, following the cadence of motion and sound so perfectly balanced in the spiraling and trilling of the larks. I was able to weep then for the tragedy behind and below me: so many slow dying rabbits with heads swollen and protruding eyes from a disease that I had read about -- myxoematosis, or rabbit plague. This disease had been deliberately introduced by government agents to reduce the rabbit population. It ensured long suffering before death, leaving behind a resistant population, that gradually increased in numbers. But unaccounted numbers of foxes, owls, and hawks had died from starvation when the rabbit warrens were decimated by this disease. A few years after this mass extermination of rabbits, they became even more of a problem because these natural predators had died of starvation and were not around to help keep their numbers in check.
Such a cruel, futile and perverse attempt at biological warfare by man had made the valley and dozens more a festering trench of blind, starving, disoriented and dying rabbits. What right had I to end their suffering--better perhaps to let the disease take its course and leave the valley. But their suffering was mine, and I would have been a coward to have left them alive.
On my way home, the evening breeze brought its cool sweetness from across the distant moors and my sadness turned again to the rage and humiliation (for being human) that I had felt as my hand and boot snapped and crushed life out of rabbit after rabbit. I remembered then that none of the rabbits had screamed: their death was perhaps a merciful release from their silent suffering. The scream of a rabbit in pain or fear I know was a penetrating and distressing emotional tone, at least to my ears. I caused them neither pain nor fear when I assumed responsibility for their suffering that day. Perhaps it was my first real examination, to test if I really had the right qualities and potential to become a veterinarian, first and foremost to be able to put compassion into action.
A Vision: The Kingdom of Universal Compassion
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
I believe that we are on the evolutionary threshold of another kingdom: the kingdom of universal compassion and loving kindness toward all beings. This includes our enemies and other sentient beings whom we fear or hate, despise or revile. Charity, humility, equanimity, and devotion enable us to cross this threshold, but above all it is our passion for truth, justice, and others’ well-being (which is our enlightened own) that are the keys to this kingdom. It is not nirvana or bliss. It is simply reality, pure and purely Being, with all its beauty and suffering; and the moments of joy we experience when we participate in helping protect and nurture the life and beauty of the natural world, and work to prevent and alleviate the suffering of other sentient beings.
Life without service is like ethics without empathy, and justice without mercy. Reason alone does not make us human. René Descartes said, "I think therefore I am." But it is what we feel and for whom we feel that defines our humanity, because it is our feeling, our passion, that influences both reason and action, and what we value and wish for others.
The major spiritual element of passion is enthusiasm, a word derived from en-theos, the god within, meaning divine or spiritual inspiration. Passion for human and animal liberation is spiritually inspired for many, whose life and work have become one. Such oneness is a source of joy, inspiration, and renewal. But for those whose lives and work do not enjoy the same degree of ethical consistency and unified sensibility, the kingdom of universal compassion may be an alien realm that appears to be imbued only with piety, suffering, and inconceivable self-sacrifice: Or else they see it as some utopian dream of anarchists, like those who fly the flags of the Animal Liberation Front and Earth First!. Many potentially caring people seek to insulate themselves from reality in a cocoon of "happiness," never able to experience pure joy in good works because they would rather not run the risk of suffering or experiencing any kind of discomfort or deprivation. But in the superficial, make-believe kingdom of consumerism and materialism, under the veneer of happiness, lies a terrible emptiness of never feeling satisfied or fulfilled. There is also a sense of purposelessness that can lead to despair, alienation, depression, self-destructive behaviors, suicide, and irrational acts of extreme violence, as in the Columbine and other recent school massacres.
There are also many people who care, but can only donate money and cannot work "in the field," because it is too painful for them to witness the suffering and bear the reality. But simply donating money and not also changing lifestyles to live more gently may have more to do with feelings of guilt than with real concern.
Dissociation – Feeling Good and Doing No Good
Some years ago, psychologist J. B. Calhoun built a "rat universe" at the National Institute of Mental Health to study the effect of population growth in a confined space, but with adequate food and water. The rat population eventually reached a point where overcrowding stress resulted in much aggression, and stress-related diseases, including infanticide and rapid aging. The most "successful" rats, in terms of remaining sleek and fat, were those who appeared to totally ignore their surroundings and other rats. They evidenced dissociation as a way of coping, much like we see in humans who continue to live the good life in a make-believe world far removed from the "real" world of bioindustrialized wastelands where our toxic food is produced and away from the less fortunate majority, who live in the slums.
While dissociation may be an almost enviable coping strategy, such disconnectedness raises a simple and fundamental question. What do people live for? By contemporary standards of materialism, consumerism, and competitive individualism, the partially and often totally dissociated, who live only for themselves and for and through their children and other possessions, may be seen as being better off, more successful than those who are community-associated, and who live for each other, especially the rural peasantry and tribal peoples. But by the egalitarian and democratic standards of a more compassionate and cooperative society, dissociation means spiritual death. The spiritual anarchy and voluntary simplicity that the animal and human liberation movements embody is the antithesis of materialist anarchy, economism, and consumerism. Renunciation of a hedonistic life that is based on the pleasure principle of conspicuous consumption is perhaps the only hope for a just and sustainable global economy, and world peace.
The Black Hole
In the name of progress and humanitarianism, society condones experimenting on baboons to find cures for society’s drug addiction problems and experimentation on other animals for society’s other problems, like obesity, cancer, birth defects, and alcoholism; and to design better car seat belts and air bags, household cleaners, new cosmetics, and biological weapons to kill our own kind.
Those who regulate and perpetrate these kinds of atrocities against other sentient beings enlarge the black hole of human selfishness under the delusion of human altruism and concern for a suffering humanity. But only the hows and whats of these kinds of human suffering are addressed by the life science establishment that condones animal experimentation, animal suffering, and genetic engineering. The whys of disease and ways of prevention are ignored. Over a billion people in the world live in abject poverty, not simply because there are too many people on Earth. Billions more are victims and perpetrators of environmental disease, as one industrial sector pollutes their food and water, bodies, babies, and minds, and other sectors profit from the calamitous health and human services’ costs and consequences.
Black holes are not something imaginary. So far as astrophysicists have ascertained, they are a natural cosmological phenomenon in the realm of matter. And in the realm of spirit, we find the analog in the human psyche. One is in the spectrum of anti-matter, the other in the spectrum of anti-life. The life science industrial complex is in this entropic spectrum, hoping for great profits, scientific and technological progress, and for the more ethically inclined, some good as well: but at what price indeed?
How profits, progress, and the social good are defined and the means by which these ends are achieved can be used to calibrate the degrees of good and evil in any culture. The more chaos that arises out of each black cultural hole, the more evil we find: wife beating and mutilation, child slavery and prostitution, violence and injustice, gross animal cruelties, all compounded by official indifference, public inertia, and spiritual corruption.
I do not believe that one can be a humanitarian – genuinely and effectively care for the well-being of people – if one does not genuinely and effectively care for animals and the environment, the well-being of which determines to a large measure, the health and prosperity of society. There are those who put free trade and material values before human rights. Others put farm animal productivity before animals’ well being, and "land development" and other forms of resource expropriation and exploitation before local, national, and global social stability, economic sustainability, and the overall public good. These examples of anti-humanitarian activities have a long history and as history informs, they have contributed to the collapse of one bioregional civilization after another.
Now our civilization is no longer bioregional. It is global and its collapse and transformation will be global. We are on the threshold of this transformation as we witness the accelerating collapse of once sustainable biocultural regions around the world under the terminator frenzy of unbridled capitalism, industrialism, consumerism, ethical illiteracy, and historical amnesia. What is to come may have no history to repeat: A new beginning and a new covenant for all of humanity with the Kingdom of Universal Compassion that is illumed by powers we barely comprehend that are all around us, within us, beneath us, and above us.
The Spiritual Whole
When we each and all can face the truth, put down our masks and accept the fact that we are all one, and that we humans are the only gateway for evil to enter and possess the world, black holes will cease to grow. To be truly human means to be a moral agent and to confront the reality of evil. Evil manifests itself in genocide, war, in the daily life of humans exploiting animals, and in the exploitation of one human by another, sexually, economically, or politically. Followers of Christ’s teachings believe that Christ-centered action is the truth that will prevent evil from spreading all over the world. In our heartfulness, there is less and less space for evil to flourish as we become part of the boundless circle of compassion’s light. But for this collective transformation to begin, we need the courage and mindfulness to live fully in the here and now. By trusting life and letting go of all our attachments to our fears and selfish desires and to our myriad expectations and preconceptions, we then become authentic and free, natural beings.
Letting go can be extremely difficult. It entails an attitude of assent and submission to the higher powers of compassionate love and understanding. It often involves great suffering through personal introspection, forgiveness and atonement, and openness to others, including their sufferings, limitations, malevolence and ignorance, as well as their wisdom and love.
Evil flourishes in the black hole of the collective human psyche so long as we remain closed to others, cutting ourselves off from being close because of some fear – of being hurt, rejected, abandoned; or fear of feeling others’ pain and distress, and not wanting to suffer empathically and care enough to help. Or perhaps we feel responsible for others’ plight, helpless maybe, and sometimes even guilty. Or we are afraid of being eccentric, radically separating ourselves from a sick society. Some over-react with violence.
People naturally don’t want to suffer, so they will avoid feeling another’s suffering. But this anti-empathy reaction severs the heart’s connection with others, which is the opposite of what all people yearn for and need in order to be well, to feel connected, secure, and loved. It seems as though the worse things get, the less people want to know. Because to know, calls for action. Also to know can evoke the intense discomforts of guilt, shame, helplessness, and despair.
Those who enjoy seeing and making others suffer are trying to obliterate their own suffering, which may be manifested in the evils of rape, murder, and of animal torture; in the lust for power and control; in the insatiable craving for status and recognition; and in possessiveness, jealousy, vanity, and various addictions and obsessions. In such states there is no heart connection with compassion, no empathic understanding, no presence of being in relationship, or of any sense of universal selfhood. Low self-esteem can lead to evil, just as evil often arises from excessive self-esteem. Love flows, and we are healed and made whole, when we esteem the sanctity of others equally with our own divinity.
Without love to give children a sense of self worth, the heart of conscience, their awareness, and their ability to consider the consequences of their actions and beliefs, cannot develop normally. Love as adoration awakens the divinity within us all, our sense that there is something sacred, not only in ourselves but in all selves. A community of conscience is a community of hope and of compassion that neither judges others nor moralizes, and is a community of benevolence whose members neither horde nor steal. Before we really love ourselves, we must first love our neighbors as ourselves, including all our neighbors from other kingdoms and domains. That is the true meaning of the Golden Rule, which seems to have been turned around in practice to mean "those with the gold, rule."
Mindfulness or self-discipline is a prerequisite of nonviolence and of not harming others inadvertently. The goal is not to suppress feelings of anger and hurt, but acknowledge the anger and not break out in anger to hurt others. To act in anger and harm others is contrary to the humanitarian ethics of humility, pity, mercy, and loving kindness. It is from the very will-to-live-core of our being -- where we suffer and rejoice in our being – that we connect through empathic understanding and compassionate action, with the same core in all other sentient beings, human and nonhuman. For the good of the entire Earth community, we must start making this heart-centered connection, because if we do not, the black hole of evil will consume the world.
As suffering in the world increases and the stresses of living take their toll on each of us, we tend to disconnect as a way of coping. Now is the time to reconnect, to rediscover and redefine what it means to be human, and to be true to our good and divine natures as we recognize the sanctity of all beings by treating them with reverence. The passion of animal, Earth, and human liberation is a call to humanity to reconnect and to be liberated from the Black Hole of human ignorance, arrogance, hatred, fear and greed.
Feeling for Animals and
The gulf between animal exploitation and animal kinship, and between animal abuse and animal liberation, is fundamentally a spiritual one.
The absence of the Sacred is a societal norm today. So long as this gulf persists between the 'two cultures' of those who see life as a commodity and a means to an end for human gain, and of those who would treat all life with reverence and speak for animal rights, we and the world will never be well. And no amount of experimentation on animals in biomedical research laboratories will come up with the right cure.
As we 'evolved' from being gatherer-hunters and started domesticating plants and animals, we became sedentary, agrarian, and increasingly urban and industrial. We also became increasingly disoriented and disconnected from the natural world. As a consequence, we began to devolve, as Charles Darwin implied in his book The Descent of Man. We lost some of our sympathetic abilities and empathic wisdom that once enabled us to engage in a degree of resonance or inter-subjective communication with other living beings, which to our diminished sensibilities and rational empiricism of today seems mystical or psychic. Sometimes while treating sick animals and in making a diagnosis, I have felt pain or discomfort in parts of my own body that correspond to an animal's illness or injury. Other veterinarians and animal healers have told me of similar experiences, sometimes even when the animal was many miles away.
Anthropologist Prof. M. Guenther describes such resonance in the African Bushman that I believe is an innate ability of our species. Considering the fact that for some 95-98 percent of our time on Earth as humans we were gatherer-hunters and our survival depended on a deep connection with animals, and not just for the killing, this ability may not be permanently lost and could be restored.
Anthropomorphizing and Rationalism
At veterinary college, and subsequently doing postgraduate work in ethology (the study of animal behavior), I was confronted by a majority of peers and teachers alike who were purely rationalists. They saw and treated other animals as mere objects, essentially devoid of emotion. This attitude or belief was evident in their behavior toward and treatment of the animals. Any sense of kinship that I felt toward the animals I discovered, to my surprise, to be confined to a small minority of my peer group and a few teachers who became my friends.
So I had few close friends, and felt alienated from the consensus of those rationalists who contended that it was unscientific and irrational to believe that animals have emotions, an inner subjective self, and that to believe so was to anthropomorphize them.
I could not comprehend this taboo in scientific circles of giving other animals the benefit of the doubt when it came to accepting the probability that their subjective, emotional world was more similar to ours than it was different. This taboo confirmed for me the limited worldview of the instrumental rationalist who, instead of empathically anthropomorphizing animals, actually 'mechanomorphized' them, regarding them as machines, unfeeling automatons.
Why would they choose to think this way? Perhaps it was their way to distance themselves so as not to empathize with the animals they exploited in the name of science and the pursuit of knowledge for knowledges sake and feel guilt or remorse, and seek atonement. I felt that the 'objective' scientific method was, as a consequence of this limited worldview, seriously flawed and its applications in human and veterinary medicine, and agriculture in particular, extremely harmful.
I was consoled somewhat at an international ethology conference when my friend and Nobel Laureate the late Dr. Konrad Lorenz in his keynote address advised, "'Before you can study an animal, you must first really love it." I was standing with a group of American scientists who laughed uncomfortably at Lorenz and whispered, "He’s gone soft." A few years later, Dr. Lorenz was quoted by philosopher Helmut F. Kaplan, in an essay entitled "Do Animals Have Souls?", saying, "A human who truly knows a higher mammal, perhaps a dog or a monkey, and will not be satisfied that these beings experience similarly to himself, is psychologically abnormal and belongs in a psychiatric clinic," and is a "public enemy."
That is why I continue to be outraged when I see dogs and monkeys in biomedical research laboratory cages, sows and veal calves kept in crates, tigers in cages and elephants in chains: And when I read articles and books that deny or seek to disprove how similar we are to other animals, especially to dogs, rats, and elephants. If we agree with Lorenz, then a society that condones such incarceration and extreme behavioral deprivation is psychologically deranged. To acknowledge this is a first step toward the recovery of our humanity and the liberation of animals.
Anthropocentrism in its extreme form is manifested as chauvinism and human superiority, as I detail in my book The Boundless Circle. Scientific anthropocentrism, coupled with the taboo against anthropomorphizing other animals, results in a knee-jerk reaction against the concept of animal rights. Rationalists reason that animals cant have rights because they cant be 'moral agents;' they can't have interests or inherent value because no inner subjective emotional and cognitive reference to a 'self' can be scientifically proved. So to the rationalist, they are unfeeling, irrational, instinct-driven automatons, and there’s no objective scientific evidence to prove to the contrary. What is subjective cannot be quantified, weighed and measured, therefore, there is no proof of the existence of emotion or soul in animals.
analyst James Hillman writes:
Hillman asserts that if we do not anthropomorphize, "we are doomed to read a horse's gambol not as joy but as our projection, a stray dog's whining not as desperation but as our sentimental identification with its plight, a 'coon's thrashing in a trap not as its fear but as our own claustrophobia and victimization." He concludes that anthropomorphism can free us from the prison of our subjectivity and also liberate animals from the arrogant philosophies that hold that consciousness is an exclusively human property and that animals are dumb.
Hillman points out that the term anthropomorphism was "coined during the heyday of materialist rationalism and is used to deny the inherent intelligibility that species afford to one another." Indeed to the rationalist, nonverbal communication and empathic communion with other species are in the realm of the irrational, delusional and mystical.
American psychologist William James in his studies of human nature was concerned about the detrimental psychological and spiritual consequences of rationalism. He sees mystical states and knowledge derived there from as being indispensable "stages in our approach to the final fullness of the truth," and debunks the "pretension of non-mystical states to be the sole and ultimate dictators of what we may believe."
James goes on to contend:
"Rationalism insists that all our beliefs ought ultimately to find for themselves articulate grounds. Such grounds, for rationalism, must consist of four things: (1) definitely statable abstract principles; (2) definite facts of sensation; (3) definite hypotheses based on such facts; and (4) definite inferences logically drawn. Vague impressions of something indefinable have no place in the rationalistic system, which on its positive side is surely a splendid intellectual tendency, for not only are all our philosophies fruits of it, but physical science (amongst other good things) is its result.
Nevertheless, if we look on mans whole mental life as it exists, on the life of men that lies in them apart from their learning and science, and that they inwardly and privately follow, we have to confess that the part of it of which rationalism can give an account is relatively superficial. It is the part that has the prestige undoubtedly, for it has the loquacity, it can challenge you for proofs, and chop logic, and put you down with words. But it will fail to convince or convert you all the same, if your dumb intuitions are opposed to its conclusions. If you have intuitions at all, they come from a deeper level of your nature than the loquacious level which rationalism inhabits. Your whole subconscious life, your impulses, your faiths, your needs, your divinations, have prepared the premises, of which your consciousness now feels the weight of the result; and something in you absolutely knows that that result must be true than any logic-chopping rationalistic talk, however clever, that may contradict it."
I absolutely know that chained, starved, and beaten elephants suffer, and I need as much scientific data to prove it to myself as I would need to determine that you would protest if I treated you, dear reader, so cruelly. A typical example of the fatal flaw of scientific rationalism is the response of world-renowned Indian elephant scientist Prof. Rama Sukumar. I asked Sukumar, since beating and chaining of elephants in captivity is the cultural norm in India, why, in the name of compassion, can he not facilitate the adoption of recently developed and mainly Western humane alternatives of elephant management. He answered that he would need more "scientific documentation" to prove that these alternatives are valid and preferable. Where in his thinking was there place and scope for humane and ethical, rather than purely scientific considerations?
Having heard the screams of chained elephants being trained by repeated beatings, and having seen their injuries and semi-starved and deliberately weakened condition (which Prof. Sukumar calls a natural, seasonal thing), I see rationalism as a kind of arrogant denial. Sukumar has seen and heard it all, although he also insists that he has no expertise in the care of captive elephants.
The kind of science that rational materialism gives birth to, what I call 'scientism', has no feeling for organisms or natural systems, as Nobel Laureate Barbara McClintock insisted every scientific investigator must have: "to have a feeling for the organism." So how can the scientism of Prof. Sukumar and others be of any use in improving the well-being of captive animals, wild and domestic, still incarcerated in chains, crates, pens, stalls, cages, tethers, and pits in this modern age? It cannot, because 'scientism' has no capacity for subjectivity, sympathy and for relationships, be they atomic, genetic or emotional. I once challenged U.S. Animal Science Professor Stanley Curtis in debate before an audience of pig producers by asking him, "Stanley, do you believe that pigs have feelings?" He wavered and then said, "We need to do more research before we can really be sure."
Every country and every nation-state bears witness to the consequences of rationalism - its own endemic cruelties and sufferings of humans and nonhumans. But until each confronts their neighbors animal abuses and environmental harms, they must at the same time see to their own. We must all make amends for the sins of omission and commission that our rationalism has so often sanctified.
We have relied too much on employing the physical and biological sciences - in a bioethical vacuum - for the betterment of society and the economy, and not on moral philosophy, vision, and compassion. Author J. Mortensen contends that, "There is a spiritual chasm between those people who regard mankind as superior and unique and those who think we are merely one of many animals." This is an important issue for religious leaders, educators, lawmakers, and all citizens to address today, and to put ethics, hope and love into our daily lives and all our relationships.
Toward a Unity of Spirit
You may have seen a flock of birds in fast flight, without an evident leader, all turning at once in unison, their behavior reflecting their oneness of body, mind, and spirit.
In my book The Soul of the Wolf, I describe this phenomenon as the one-mindedness of the pack. Having witnessed riotous mob-violence in my own species and also the ecstatic and transcendental consequences of group chanting and dancing, it is also evident that humans can also become one in body, mind, and spirit - for better or for worse.
Given the biological evidence in support of this phenomenon, we need to reflect on it significance and potential for our own kind to be collectively moved in body, mind, and spirit. While we live in a culture that sanctifies individualism and equates it with personal freedom, the power and potential of a humanity unified in spirit is something that many fear because they are led to believe they would lose their autonomy and self-identity. After all, any kind of collective consciousness or unity of spirit is demeaned as being primitive, tribal, or cultishly anti-social.
One of the last bastions of a collective unity of spirit has been religion, but the separation of Church and state, and the political and fundamentalist perversions of religious traditions have done much to destroy this unity. Little wonder, therefore, that what was once the collective conscious of tribe and community, culture and religion, has become what Jungian psychologists call the collective unconscious. In other words, through oppression, subversion and denial, the power and potential of a humanity consciously unified in spirit (and by that I mean a people linked by shared virtues, ethics, and a morality that is Earth- or Creation-centered and all encompassing rather than self-centered and self-serving) has been sublimated and rendered unconscious. But it is still there and must be recovered if humanity is to be redeemed and all that is sacred restored.
Anarchy has been turned into a negative principle by the dominant culture of today. This dominant culture, if we define evil as the absence of empathy, is the Evil Empire that is racist, sexist and speciesist, and yet incorporates, assimilates and exploits all races, both sexes and all species if marginalization and annihilation are less profitable and expedient. This dominant culture is the status quo of industrial consumer society, its values being the hallmark of normalcy, while any nonconformist view, community or movement is seen as an anarchistic threat.
Humanity unified in spirit is the essence of spiritual anarchy. This does not mean mayhem but rather calls for personal responsibility for one's own and other' freedom; a responsibility to be ethical, caring, and respectful of the rights and interests of others and their freedom to be. The 'others' includes all living beings, not just the human species or members of one's own family, class, race or other affinity-group. Anarchy (an-archy) means no hierarchy, no ruler, no tier of power, and thus no structure for oppression and chauvinism because the truth of anarchy is equalitarianism; giving equal and fair consideration to the rights and interests of all members of the Earth community. And as we become one in spirit, this sacred community will know peace and justice that only we can bring into the world if we have the courage and commitment, and the ethical compass of compassion.
Brooks has translated a relevant passage from the Tao Te Ching that was written
by the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu over 2,500 years ago:
compassion brings triumph in attack and strength in defense.
Do We Need Nature?
The Earth is rapidly changing from a natural into a humanized world. Optimists see this as progress, natural evolution. Pessimists see the death of Nature and the end of all that makes us human. So who is right? If we define Nature from a scientific perspective as all that constitutes the natural world--the diversity of co-evolved species, and plant and animal communities that make up the various ecosystems integral to the health of the biosphere, our spaceship Earth--then we must conclude that, like it or not, we do need Nature. The biosciences also show that Nature needs us. But how much of Nature must we save and how much planetary CPR (conservation, preservation and restoration) is needed in order to keep our planet spaceship home functioning? Dysfunction calls for sound science and the will of good people who care and are neither optimists nor pessimists---they are realists who care.
They care about the rights, health and wellbeing of all beings, human and non-human. An overview of our planetary responsibilities and examination of the ethic of care, reveal the wisdom of knowing that being altruistic is the most enlightened form of selfishness, for when we harm the Earth we harm ourselves, and when we take care for Nature, Nature will take care of us. This translates into the simple formula: Healthcare = Earthcare + Peoplecare + Animalcare, that is the new paradigm of holistic medicine, sustainable agriculture and a viable future.
The apocalyptic warning of the Lummi Indians of the American Northwest that "When the trees are gone the sky will fall and we and the salmon will be no more" is echoed around the world by other indigenous peoples whose sacred attitude toward forests, animals and Nature was seen, until recently, as primitive animistic superstition. But now the sciences of ecology, climatology and other biosciences are catching up with this ancient wisdom and beginning to guide public policy and human industry toward planetary conservation, preservation and restoration, (CPR). Floods, droughts, soil erosion, climate change, famine, poverty and disease can be averted in large measure by saving trees, restoring forests and saving watersheds. "In wilderness is the preservation of the world", wrote American writer Henry David Thoreau over a century ago.
Accomplishing the task of planetary CPR should not be too difficult since we have the science, and most people care. But there are many obstacles because no nation states and few communities embrace the Iroquois Confederacy's Law of Seven Generations, which was known but not adopted by the European "founding fathers" of the United States of America. This law meant thinking seven generations forward and seven generations back in order to determine the benefits and costly consequences of our individual and collective actions and decisions.
An ethical compass like this would surely facilitate the policy decision-making process that cannot be based simply on short-term economic and political gain, as they all too often are today.
Thoreau caught the essence of enlightened altruism in his statement "I make myself rich by making my wants few." Mahatma Gandhi, who embraced Thoreau's philosophy, advised us "to live simply so that others may simply live." He also observed "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
In modern parlance, Thoreau's statement that "In wilderness is the preservation of the world" might read: "In biodiversity is the integrity and health of the Earth." As ecosystems collapse, so do local and national economies and cultures. Tribal pastoralists in East Africa have been at war with village farming communities over water and land-use, while other nation-states are at war over oil and access to the world's other finite, and dwindling natural resources, from timber to tuna, and minerals to market monopoly and control. Indigenous farming communities around the world are being obliterated by industrial agriculture and other developments promoted, with no malicious intent, by the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, (WTO), and other transnational corporate entities and vested interests. This means further loss of biodiversity, including rare breeds and seeds, indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity as the industrial paradigm unfurls into a global monoculture. For some, this means utopia; but for most, it is dystopia, more hardship and suffering.
The Ethic of Care
Good farmers still 'husband' the land, crops and animals, adhering to the old teaching of conservation-agriculture: "Care for the land and the land will take care of you." This teaching, which is the bioethical basis for a just, sustainable community and for a sane society goes back to pre-agricultural times--to the long epoch of the gatherer-hunter, like the endangered jungle Kurumba tribals of the Nilgiris, South India. They tell me that they live by the dictum "Respect and care for the forest and the forest will respect and care for you". The environmental and holistic medical sciences affirm that what's good for the Earth is good for us because when we harm the Earth we harm ourselves, as we also do when we violate the Golden Rule by not treating other living beings as we would have them treat us.
I see this moral/spiritual imperative of Earthcare as a universal and absolute bioethical principle that is put in practice through sound science and public policy. This is the ethical and sensible way of organic and humane, sustainable farming. This same way made the hunt sacred, not out of guilt or shame, but out of thanksgiving and gratitude. Earthcare is therefore one of the beatitudes of a humane, caring and just society. It is also integral to achieving holistic health care because Earthcare + Peoplecare + Animalcare = Healthcare.
This formula offers a practical solution to many of the problems we face today, especially economic, social and medical, as I have found in my work in rural South India. I faced an endemic scourge of mange in village dogs that causes disfiguring and constantly irritating scabies in children and adults, and that spreads to peoples' livestock and to wildlife; and also outbreaks of rabies, that put people, as well as elephants, tigers and other endangered wildlife at risk in the surrounding jungle. We treated the dogs for mange and vaccinated them against rabies. But that was not the solution to the real problem. Peoplecare--working to improve the health and productivity of village and tribal community livestock, and Earthcare--reducing overgrazing, deforestation and other activities harmful to the health of wildlife,-- plus spaying and neutering the dogs, that proved to be the only viable, long-term solutions to these and other diseases related to poverty, population and malnutrition.
This in-field experience affirmed how the health and wealth of the people (Peoplecare) depend upon a healthy environment (Earthcare) and upon the health of wild and domestic animal populations (Animalcare). The essence of holistic healthcare, therefore, is to give equal and just consideration to human interests, animal rights and environmental ethics for the greater good.
All governments and major teaching institutions, respectively, should have ministries and departments of Holistic Healthcare and Bioethics that address and restore the linkages of animal, human and environmental health by bringing ethics to life so that compassion becomes an ethical compass and a call to action under the impetus of a United Environmental Nations global accord.
The global problems that we face today, as Albert Einstein insisted, cannot be solved by the same consciousness that caused them in the first place. A new holistic or ecological consciousness is called for, to begin what I call the Ethicozoic age; a more caring age of ethical sensibility and mutual aid. Then, to paraphrase Thomas Berry, the universe will cease to be seen as a collection of objects, but as a communion of subjects.
An anecdote that an ecology professor once shared with me is pertinent. He was with a group of Zimbabwean villagers in 1990 listening to a World Bank spokesperson describing how the people and wildlife would benefit from a new bankrolled project. A village elder shook his head and, smiling, turned to the professor and said that the man from the big bank "did not see what is between things." What lies "between things", as between people, their animals, natural resources and the sustainability of their culture and economy, are relationships, co-evolved dependencies and traditions that make up a complex whole of systems and processes. To ignore what lies "between things" means discounting the so-called 'externalities' or hidden costs and consequences of 'science-based' programs and policies. In other words, the worldview of this bank spokesperson precluded consideration of relationships that would be harmed as a consequence of the new project.
One can find countless examples of the harmful consequences of narrowly conceived 'science-based' projects that reveal how right this African village elder was when he observed how the man from the World Bank did not see between things. There are the cordon fences, thousands of miles long, in Botswana, put up (with the help of the World Bank) ostensibly to help prevent the spread of disease from wildlife to cattle. These fences blocked the seasonal migration of wildebeest and other wildlife, millions of whom died from thirst and starvation. Ironically, this massive and harmful project did not benefit the poor villagers and their livestock as intended, but only the rich cattle farmers.
The reductionist science-base behind the use of chemical fertilizers (potash, nitrogen and phosphates) is drawn from a simplistic analysis of the ash content of plants. As a consequence, our soils have become increasingly impoverished of life and essential trace minerals and other plant nutrients. This resulted in a domino effect, lowering the nutrient value of crops and increasing their susceptibility to insect pests and diseases. This led to ever greater use of pesticides, along with more herbicides because tilling to control weeds increased soil erosion and loss of vital topsoil. More veterinary and human medicines are now needed to treat a wide spectrum of health problems in animals and people because of these agrichemicals and nutrient deficient crops. These health problems range from increased incidence of infections and infestations due to immune system impairment (especially since soils are now widely deficient in selenium, copper, cobalt and zinc), to reproductive and other neuroendocrine and metabolic diseases, and various chronic degenerative diseases.
The adverse human health consequences of unbalanced and nutrient-deficient diets mean more animal research and suffering to develop and test new medicines, which are not without harmful side effects, and escalating public health and medical insurance costs.
When humans encroach upon wildlife habitat for various purposes, ranging from agriculture to real estate development, and cause ecological disturbances, Nature seems to fight back, sometimes with diseases like Ebola, Hanta virus and the plague. Now with the specter of human-caused global warming and ever more people traveling intercontinentally, new plagues are on the horizon (including those from captured and consumed wildlife, from ocean-polluted sea-foods and from factory-farmed animals) that will rival our own species efforts at biological warfare and bioterrorism.
Thanks to advances in the biological and physical sciences, appropriate, safe and cost-effective technologies can be developed for planetary CPR such as soil bioremediation, air purification, water desalinization and even hydroponic and analog (synthetic) food production. These innovations should not preclude, but rather complement parallel initiatives to restore natural ecosystems and processes that achieve the same desired ends--pure water, clean air and nutritious food.
I agree with Albert Einstein that "religion without science is lame and science without religion is blind." Yet, for this complementary unity to occur, there must be some kind of linkage. That is our enlightened altruistic self-interest, of shared ethical principles, and moral responsibilities. A bioethical linkage of corporate and personal responsibility, and between the biosciences and the life science bioindustrial complex, could make for a confluence, rather than a conflict, of interest, and a common ground of responsibility and opportunity that the World Bank, the UN, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization might advisedly facilitate.
But there are many obstacles to real progress and the adoption of this new, holistic paradigm. The thinking of many has become so tortured and morally inverted that those who advocate environmental protection and conservation are seen as anti-progress and anti-humanitarian, and those who seek to elevate the status of animals in society by advocating their moral consideration and intrinsic value are seen as attempting to degrade humans.
Every living being has rights by virtue of its existence, possessing intrinsic value that we need to respect, and also extrinsic value that the biological sciences can help us understand. The extrinsic value is the ecological contribution via the many different roles various life forms can play, from the forest-managing monkeys, deer, wolves and birds; the grasslands-managing antelope and prairie dog, to the life-sustaining role of soil and intestinal micro-organisms, and the plankton and great whales of the seas. Each species contributes to the maintenance and integrity of the biofield. As every ecosystem has intrinsic value to the life-community that it sustains, so every ecosystem has extrinsic value to the biosphere that it helps maintain. It is therefore enlightened self-interest for us to uphold the rights of natural modes of being to exist.
I do not believe that it is too late to achieve ecological, social and economic stability. But this will mean the commitment of many generations to come. It is a matter of global as well as national security for all nation-states to begin to adopt ideally organic and more sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and agriforestry practices; to protect and restore natural biosystems, from grasslands and wetlands to forests and watersheds, that maintain the health of the biosphere and the integrity of climatic and atmospheric processes; to recognize global warming as a symptom of a sickening planet whose metabolism is being disrupted by human activities, including global overpopulation, industrial pollution, and overproduction and overconsumption of nonbioedegradable, often toxic and nonrenewable natural resources and synthetic products. When we consider the health and welfare of indigenous human, animal and plant communities, and uphold the right of all life to equal and fair consideration and to a healthy environment we will be closer to restoring Earth and to a viable future for generations to come.
Compassion is our compass and the simple equation Healthcare = Earthcare + Animalcare + Peoplecare provides the bioethical foundation for planetary stewardship, corporate, government and community responsibility, and a viable future.
Copyright 2003 © Dr. Michael W. Fox
ANIMAL -INSENSITIVITY SYNDROME
A Cognitive and Affective Developmental Disorder
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
Several years ago in my lectures I would use the term ‘animal-deprivation syndrome’, to describe a condition of insensitivity and indifference toward animals that was acquired in early childhood. Today I regard this condition as an impaired sensitivity toward animals that may or may not be caused by a child being deprived of any meaningful contact with animals, since other factors are involved in the genesis of this animal-insensitivity syndrome. It is a cognitive and affective developmental disorder that I see as part of a larger problem of insensitivity and indifference to the Earth.
Ethical blindness that comes from a lack of empathy with other living systems and beings is linked with a lack of respect and understanding that when we harm animals and the Earth, we harm ourselves, especially in our production of food and fiber, and indirectly in our dietary choices, consumer habits and life styles.
We harm animals by destroying their natural habitats, and in making them suffer so that we may find new and profitable ways to cure our many diseases. The actual prevention of disease is in another domain based on an entirely different currency from what is still the norm in these sickening times. The currency of unbridled exploitation and destruction of natural resources and ecosystems, and the wholesale commercial exploitation of animals, cannot continue because it is not sustainable. One of the greatest sicknesses is the proliferation of factory livestock farms---the intensive confinement systems that are stressful to the animals, promote disease, are environmentally damaging and also put consumers at risk.
These animal concentration camps of the meat, dairy and poultry industries will only be phased out when there is greater consumer demand for organic, humane, and ecologically sustainable animal produce for human and companion animal consumption.
So I was heartened to see that author Richard Louv has written a book entitled "Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder" (Algonquin Books). This is the flip side of the coin that shows " Heads, Nature, and Tails, Animals." Both are in our hands, for better or for worse.
In the common currency of compassion and respect, our transactions and relationships with each other, with other animals, and the Earth or natural world, are framed within the Golden Rule*, where gold alone does not rule. This currency includes such ancient coins of wisdom as altruism, that is, enlightened selfishness; ahimsa, Sanskrit for not harming in any way, and karma, having prescience and understanding that what goes around, comes around: All our choices and actions have consequences.
Sustainable rates of exchange are based on mutual aid, a point emphasized by Russian Prince Peter Kropotkin, who envisioned the ideal human community like a functioning ecosystem of inter-dependent, democratically integrated individuals and species creating a mutually enhancing, symbiotic, micro and macro communities that he discovered in his studies of the co-evolved flora and fauna of the vast wild Steppes of his native land.
Nature Deficit Disorder leads ultimately to regarding and treating the living Earth as a non-living resource, just as the Animal-Insensitivity Syndrome can lead to animals being treated with out feeling, as mere objects. Insensitive, indifferent, and cruel contact and experiences with animals during the early years, probably a critical sensitization/desensitization developmental stage or period between 18-36 months of age, can mean a poorly developed and extremely self-limiting capacity to empathize with others, to be able to recognize, anticipate, experience and share other’s feelings, and to express and deeply consider one’s own. Adult denial, and ethical blindness are rooted in early childhood conditioning and desensitization.
In some countries where I have worked with my wife Deanna Krantz, like India, we have both witnessed how people simply turn a blind eye to the suffering animal and the polluted stream because they themselves are struggling to survive. Individuals who feel helpless become resigned fatalists, or are either too lazy, busy, desensitized, or blind to lift a finger to try to make a difference. In some contexts intervention to help a suffering animal, or to stop a stream from being poisoned by a tannery or a slaughterhouse, could mean death threats and violence.
Observing another’s suffering, and being unable to do anything to help, leads to learned helplessness. Seeing other’s suffering, and being indifferent about it, is the next step toward the total disconnect of empathy, termed bystander apathy. The next step is to observe and derive vicarious pleasure in witnessing another’s plight. This is but one small step away from deliberate torture and calculated cruelty either perpetrated alone or in participation with others, as in the name of entertainment, sport, quasi-religious or cult ritual, and as some see it, experimental vivisection. But when collectively, our hearts and minds are open to the tragedy of reality and we really see and feel all that is going on around us, empathizing fully with other’s suffering, times will begin to change for the better.
The antidotes are many. Those in Richard Louv’s book should be coupled with meaningful contact with companion and other animals, with parental supervision and humane instruction to foster respect, self-restraint, gentleness, patient observation, and understanding.
A child’s sense of wonder, if it is nurtured and is not crushed or left to wither, blossoms into the adult sense of the sacred; an ethical sensibility of respect for the sanctity of all life.
A child’s sense of curiosity leads to natural science and instrumental knowledge. Combined with a sense of wonder, curiosity leads to imagination and creativity, while the sense of the sacred is the foundation for an ethical and just society, and empathetic, caring and fulfilling relationships, human and non-human.
Like our physical health, our mental health and Earth health are deeply interconnected, and for us to be well and whole in body, mind and spirit, our connections with animals and the earth must be properly established in early childhood in order to prevent the harmful consequences of the Nature Deficit Disorder and Animal-Insensitivity Syndrome.
THE LIVESTOCK REVOLUTION:
By: Dr. Michael W. Fox, Chief
The various economically valuable ecological roles that livestock play in mixed farming systems, and their associated ethological/behavioral freedoms, along with their genetic diversity and local adaptability, are being eliminated by intensive confinement production systems. These systems depend on costly 'high-input' supplies of feed, vaccines, antibiotics, and other medicines, as well as being energy, rather than labor, intensive, supplies of which, along with high management skills, may be unreliable in most developing countries. Consumer demand and market incentives that encourage the adoption of these intensive systems of animal production need to be balanced by sound cost-benefit determinations, since all externalities or hidden costs cannot be internalized; and by the incorporation of bioethical principles that address such issues, like considering social justice, equity, sustainability, animal health and well-being, biodiversity, and the nutritional needs of the poor (whose land is too often taken to grow livestock feed for the rich).
Aid and development programs for developing countries that include a "Livestock Revolution" component of intensive animal production will need to promote optimal humane animal husbandry standards (also for transportation and slaughter). This will entail appropriate education, extension training and oversight, along with sanitation, disease prevention and related food safety and quality standards. Consumers and producers in importing countries are likely to demand international harmonization of environmental and animal health care standards, as well as food quality and safety. The feeding of genetically engineered (g.e.) crops to these animals and the use of growth hormones, rBGH and oxytocin to increase milk yield, may also lead to consumer boycotts.
What are the ethical limits and real-world economic constraints in the highly competitive global marketplace that the "Livestock Revolution" is drawing developing countries into? How many animal factories can be sustained by Natures economy? How much more biological and cultural diversity will be sacrificed to industrialism and consumerism? What precious and unique sustainable communities of wildlife and of aboriginal peoples, of gatherers and hunters, pastoralists and rural farmers, will be lost forever?
An enlightened global economy is the antithesis of economism with its concentration of power and monopoly. It means living equitably within the limits of Natures economy. This is the antithesis of our current industrial economy that can rationalize livestock concentration camps under the moral inversion of altruism and human progress.
Farmed Animal Wellbeing
From the egalitarian perspective of equalitarianism, we can better determine how animals should be used in agriculture and for human consumption. Equalitarianism is a key bioethical principle of giving equally fair consideration to the care, interests, and well-being of all members, plant and animal, and not just the human, of the biotic community. It provides a scientific and philosophical basis for establishing a socially just, sustainable and mutually-enhancing relationship between the human and nonhuman components of community. By so doing it helps overcome fundamental problems that arise from what philosopher F.S.C. Northrop sees as a dualistic view of the human-nature relationship that holds that the means of technological advance can be derived from Nature, but the ends that direct them cannot. But they must, for the good of all, because every human community is dependent upon a healthy environment and a healthy animal population. Hence, the relevance of bioethics in overcoming these fundamental problems in relationship, perception, policy, and action. A unity of policy and programs is urgently needed in this regard, especially with the World Banks promotion of intensive (factory) animal farming under the banner of the "Livestock Revolution."
needs of the Earths biotic communities are the needs of the people -- to clean
air, pure and plentiful water, and healthful food, which means good soils, a
diversity of healthy crops and livestock, primarily for consumption within the
bioregion, and access to natural resources on a sustainable and equitable basis.
Without linking the bioethical principles of Earthcare, Animalcare, and
Peoplecare, there can be no Healthcare.
The limits to growth for the "Livestock Revolution" are economic and ecological. How many animal factories should each developing country be allocated and arable land taken over to grow soy and corn and other feedstuffs for livestock in order to avoid a competitive down-spiral caused by overproduction that floods the commodity market? Or to avoid bankruptcy, food shortages, riots and food dependence? Are developing countries to sacrifice their own biological and cultural diversity on the altar of 'progress' to gain foreign exchange and to enrich so few in the global trade of animal feedstuffs; of drugs like antibiotics, hormones, growth stimulants and vaccines; and of animal products from dairy, eggs, and meat, to hides, wool, blood, bones and serum, ova and semen.
The success of the purportedly altruistic Livestock Revolution depends on more people being able to afford to purchase animal produce than they can today. What sustainable ways and equitable ways do people have to increase their income to enable them to purchase more meat, eggs and dairy products? If not, then at whose expense? As developing countries industrialize, people have more disposable income, which is fueling the demand for animal produce and the spread of what health experts call in the pejorative, the Western diet.
Increasing the world trade-traffic of livestock and livestock products, and
fodder/crop seeds will respectively escalate the spread of zoonotic diseases
(from pig and poultry bioconcentration camps) and diseases that are spread to
indigenous wild land domestic animals: And of noxious and invasive nonindigenous
'weeds' that have always come with large imports of foreign seeds. Both these
problems will be extremely difficult to control unless such traffic is better
regulated by agencies like the New Zealand Government's Biosafety Authority.
So what agricultural and livestock production alternatives are there that can better feed the rural and urban poor and not sacrifice more biodiversity and the last of the wild, like industrial agriculture and the Western diet? As Henry David Thoreau said, "In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World."
The science and practice of ecologically sustainable and economically viable agriculture (and ranching, pisciculture and forestry) are being adopted worldwide to prevent further loss of natural resources like top soil, soil nutrients, and water quality and quantity. Such conservation agriculture is the antithesis of industrial agriculture that calls processed municipal sewage 'organic fertilizer,' and promotes agricultural biotechnology as the answer to human hunger and malnutrition.
In the few regions left where there is some natural biodiversity remaining, the science and practice of conservation agriculture (including pastoralism, pisciculture and social forestry) incorporates sustainability with the goal of zero reliance on toxic agrichemicals and on production-enhancing animal drugs and also vaccines and various medicines that can be passed on to other species and can have adverse ecological consequences. This is especially problematic with intensive pisciculture, mariculture and crop and tree monocultures, as well as with intensive livestock factory farms. Conservation agriculture calls for a prohibition on genetically engineered crops and on the introduction of any transgenic species.
All agricultural and related aid and development programs should be linked with wildlife conservation and habitat recovery, as well as providing help to rural small-holders and other indigenous peoples. This is an ethical imperative because of the harms done to these sectors of unique bio-cultural regions that began in colonial times and is now intensifying under the pressures of a highly competitive world marketplace and the influence of multinational corporations and their allied government agencies.
Aid and development projects in agriculture, agroforestry, aquaculture, and rural development have long needed a wildlife and habitat conservation component to encourage recipient countries to target their biodiversity 'hot spots' to prevent further genetic erosion and extinction. A good initiative would be for institutions like the World Bank to include a conservation component in appropriate programs and focus especially on helping indigenous peoples who live in and around the 391 Biosphere Reserves that UNESCO has designated under its "Man and the Biosphere Programme".
There is a clear urgency to link more aid and development loans and projects in agriculture, aquaculture, and social forestry with UNESCOs worldwide network of Biosphere Reserves. Many of these reserves are threatened by human encroachment and by the consequences of nonsustainable agriculture and human and livestock population explosions.
There are many alternatives ranging from the traditional to the new innovations of organic, biodynamic and free-range farming and conservation-ranching (holistic range management). It is indeed ironic that while many developed countries are embracing these alternatives, their monoculture and livestock factory farming systems are being exported to developing countries. This should concern us all because the adverse consequences of global industrial agriculture will be felt by every nation, rich and poor.
The importation and planting of genetically engineered crop varieties to grow the feed for the incarcerated animals of the Livestock Revolution will be a major threat to organic farmers, traditional seed varieties and land races, and to the biodiversity of every 'developed' bioregion. This is because the transgenes can be spread via pollen and insects to other plants. Also some of the traits of g.e. crops, like Bt, can be harmful to essential soil micro-organisms, particularly to symbiotic mycorrhyza. Hence, the importance of considering the most overlooked consequences of the Green and Doubly Green Agricultural Revolutions and the Livestock Revolution: Public health, and the protection of biodiversity.
The scientific and ethical perspective of the United Nations World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has been, until recently, essentially anthropocentric. Because of this perspective, there has been insufficient focus on all the immediate causes and linked grass-roots solutions to rural and urban poverty and malnutrition; to land degradation, soil-life and nutrient loss; water quality and quantity; pollution and loss of bio-cultural diversity. Otherwise, how could the World Bank be promoting its "Livestock Revolution" by encouraging developing countries to adopt intensive systems of farmed animal production?
This anthropocentric perspective, with its science-based elements of altruism, progress, and market-driven economism, must become biocentric, or Earth-centered. Otherwise, solutions will continue to be offered and applied (like intensive animal 'factory' farming) that will further escalate the loss of biological and cultural diversity, bioregional integrity, indigenous knowledge, and community viability - human and biotic. With a biocentric perspective, the agendas of conservation and animal health and welfare will be consonant with the needs of the people.
Bioethics provides a scientific and philosophical basis for making moral decisions that considers environmental and animal protection concerns, as well as human needs. Hence, bioethics helps us overcome the anthropocentric limitations of conventional ethics and broadens the scope of scientific, social, and economic assessments. John Dewy cautioned: "A culture which permits science to destroy traditional values but which distrusts its power to create new ones is destroying itself."
I would qualify this statement by pointing out that the currency of new values like productivity and efficiency can be destructive when, for example, 'externalities' or hidden costs are not considered, as in the promotion and adoption of intensive methods of animal production that can be extremely harmful to the animals, the environment and to the nexus of family farms and the viability of rural communities, and their sustainable economies.
I envision biocultural World Heritage Sites being created out of those 391 bioregions of the world that the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Programme has identified as part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. This includes the newly identified "Nilgiri in the Western Ghats (India) with remnant forests with exceptionally high animal and plant diversity surrounded by intense human activity," according to UNESCO. (For further details, see Fox, 1984.)
From personal experience and on the basis of extensive documentation by India Project for Animals and Nature (see www.gcci.org and click on IPAN) concerning the protection and restoration of the Nilgiris, it is evident that the Green Revolution and the White Revolution (Operation Flood) (and the forthcoming Doubly Green Revolution of agricultural biotechnology) contribute to the economic and cultural demise of village and tribal peoples, like the Kurumbas and Todas in the Nilgiris. New aid and development projects to help such people and to protect biodiversity in such biosphere reserves need grass-roots wisdom and participation, coupled with effective oversight, because of endemic problems ranging from inadequate human and veterinary medical services, to high-level indifference, lack of accountability, and corruption.
We need to impartially recognize, from an 'eco-medical' perspective of planetary CPR (Conservation, Protection and Restoration) that the global problematique is an ethically challenging triage situation. We have finite resources and abilities to help save the last of the wild and those indigenous peoples who share the same bioregional resources and habitats as the elephant, the tiger, and other endangered species. So our best hope lies in helping indigenous peoples live sustainably as they work with interdisciplinary teams of agriculture, livestock, aquaculture, wildlife conservation and reafforestation experts, and rural economists, amongst others, to become the custodians of their Biosphere Reserves and of their traditional crops, livestock, intellectual property and future.
We will all lose ground if we do not give ground to these people and to the elephant, the tiger, and other endangered and threatened species, ecosystems, and cultures. Hence, the urgent need to link the initiatives of UNESCO with the World Bank, the WHO, and other international aid and development organizations and programs, and for humanitarian, conservation and animal protection organizations to focus some of their expertise and resources to help protect and restore such Biosphere Reserves.
Nature’s Retribution: Nemesis
By: Dr. Michael W. Fox
Nemesis, the goddess of retribution, was part of the pantheon of Greek mythology. This mythology was derived from an empirical understanding of natural law and of our place in the cosmos.
The retributive justice of Nemesis is evident almost daily in the news, yet it is rarely reported as such. The causal connections between various ecological, public health, and environmental calamities and human activities that violate natural law --- and simple common sense – are rarely examined. If they were, then we might eventually come to realize that Nature’s Nemesis is as much a teacher as a hanging judge, and that for our own good we had best not harm the Earth and fellow creatures.
A few examples of Nature’s Nemesis are in order to convince the skeptic that this mythical goddess has both scientific credibility, if not also ethical validity.
When farm animals are treated inhumanely, consumers are at risk. When laying hens are starved and deprived of water to force them to molt, and cattle are severely stressed in transit to slaughter, they excrete more bacteria than normal, some kinds of which cause food poisoning and can be fatal for immuno-compromised people.
Farm animals raised intensively under the cruel and stressful conditions of bioconcentration in farm factories and feedlots are fed antibiotics to prevent disease and promote growth. This puts consumers at further risk as bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. Raising livestock under such conditions means they become the incubators for zoonotic diseases that can reach epidemic proportions in the human population. The techno-fix for this problem that the US government has approved is to subject animal produce to irradiation, even though we know little of the health risks to consumers of radiolytic breakdown products present in such food.
When consumers choose to ignore how the animals whose parts and products they eat have been raised, transported and slaughtered, and make animal fat and protein a dietary staple, they are more prone to various forms of cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases. When farmers abuse the soil, applying chemical fertilizers and abandoning organic and ecological polyculture farming methods, their hybrid “hi-yield” crops are more susceptible to disease, pests, and drought, and have less nutritive value to livestock and people.
The adverse human health consequences of unbalanced and nutrient-deficient diets mean more animal research and suffering to develop and test new medicines, which are not without harmful side effects, and escalating public health and medical insurance costs.
Consider the latest techno-fix of biotechnology, putting human genes into pigs to turn them into organ donors. Recipients of such organs could become biological time bombs, harboring retroviruses and other pig viruses that could mutate and cause new epidemic diseases.
As apocalyptic as these examples are, a new sensibility seems to be surfacing from the ancient wisdom that advised when we harm the Earth, we harm ourselves. This new sensibility sees the connections between the construction of dams that silt up and come to harbor water-borne diseases, which harm the populace, and between the draining of swamps, deforestation, and channelization of rivers with floods and droughts that have devastating consequences. This new sensibility puts human progress and related “development” projects in a different light, moving us to embrace the precautionary principle and an ethic of humane and ecologically sound stewardship that seeks to maximize the good not just for our own species but for the life community. Humane, organic and sustainable agriculture, aquaculture and agriforestry and biodiversity enhancement through ecological restoration, are examples of this new sensibility being put into practice. Another new sensibility is the recent initiative of the World Health Organization to ban antibiotics in livestock feed.
From a broader perspective, planetary CPR – conservation, protection, and restoration of natural ecosystems and of biodiversity, and respect for the rights and wisdom of indigenous peoples, – is the best insurance against floods, droughts, famines, pestilence, and devastating climate change--- Nature’s Nemesis, coupled with reducing industrial and municipal pollution and also our needs, wants and numbers. The adversarial mentality and pioneer and conquistador attitude toward Nature, thanks to Nemesis, are changing. But our metamorphosis into a more responsible planetary citizenry will be delayed, Nature’s continuing retribution notwithstanding, if we collectively live in denial. We cannot continue to refuse to acknowledge the anthropogenic nature of climatic and other environmental, ecological and related economic and public health problems that assail us all today. We cannot blame Nature, or the gods, or some deficiency in our scientific understanding or lack of effective technological fixes.
When we accept that the main problem is not in Nature but in human nature – our collective attitude toward the natural world that has no regard for the sacred, and still finds reasons to justify causing harm to other life forms, communities, and the environment – we may be worthy of the title Homo sapiens.
Nature’s Nemesis is an evolutionary force on human consciousness and conscience, and could be our apotheosis if we choose not to harm ourselves by harming others, and decide not to destroy ourselves and all that makes us human, by not destroying what is left of the natural world.
Until our conversion from egotism and anthropocentrism, the sacred will never be secure. In order for the sacred to be secure, we must all honor and understand Nemesis of the Greek Pantheon, and Shiva the destroyer and purifier of Hindu Pantheism. These deified and mythologized forces of Nature should be understood and not rejected by the modern mind.
Nemesis teaches us through trial and tribulation to establish a mutually enhancing relationship with Earth and all who dwell therein. Nemesis is the judge advocate of Natural Law, in our obedience and understanding of which we begin to live in accord with a new, hallowing covenant that global bioethics articulates. If we are to become a co-creative presence integral to this Earth, bioethics must become integral to all our activities and institutions, especially in economics, politics, business, religion, science, medicine, education, and law.
The global problems that we face today, as Albert Einstein insisted, cannot be solved by the same consciousness that caused them in the first place. A new holistic or ecological consciousness is called for, to begin what I call the Ethicozoic age, an age of ethical sensibility and empathic sensitivity. As we begin the transition into this age and begin what Thomas Berry calls The Great Work, we take with us Nature’s wisdom and the teachings of Nemesis that we have acquired into our collective consciousness. As we begin to think and act in the knowledge that all things are connected, and noting arises or exists independent of anything else (be it a human community, a dioxin compound, or naked recombinant DNA), the second Copernican revolution will begin. Our collective consciousness, the evolution of which Nemesis has already initiated as we begin to address the problems of global devastation, will become with each generation more Earth- or Creation-centered and less human-centered, disconnected and harmful to the life community. Anthropocentrism will become extinct. Then, to paraphrase Thomas Berry, the universe will cease to be seen as a collection of objects but as a communion of subjects.
Nonhuman animals are not immune from Nature’s Nemesis, as when rabbits and deer overpopulate habitat and succumb to disease and starvation. Often these species imbalances are caused by human actions, such as by eliminating natural predators, by accidentally or deliberately introducing non-indigenous species; mismanaging ecosystems to favor some species over others, like deer for sport hunters; and encroaching on wildlife habitat and cutting off wildlife corridors so that island habitats are created that can become quickly overpopulated by certain species until the population “crashes” with a consequential net loss in overall biodiversity.
Most ecologists and evolutionary biologists would agree, I believe, that nonhuman animals are rarely victims of Nature’s Nemesis because they are biologically constrained. They are biologically constrained in many ways, notably by competition with other species for resources (that limit their numbers), as well as by inherent limitations in their adaptability to changing conditions, and ability to occupy and multiply in a wide variety of different habitat niches. There are a few species exceptions that are not thus biologically constrained, and we generally associate them with plagues and pestilence. Often these biological constraints have been weakened by human actions that create ideal conditions for harmless organisms to multiply and cause harm, harmful life forms to spread and cause plagues and pestilence, as in our overcrowded slums and cities, and via our transcontinental travels and exports and imports, and our uniform monocultures of crops and crowded livestock factories.
The major species exception to Nature’s biological constraint is the human species. As history informs, it takes the law unto itself, Nature’s Law that is, the Law from which many traditional virtues and moral principles were once derived. These include self-restraint and constraint of appetites, needs and wants, leading to voluntary simplicity. This is the primary way that we can show respect for all living beings, otherwise we inevitably displace them, destroy their habitats and doom them to extinction. An attitude of humility is also called for, compassion and benevolence toward the “lowliest” of creatures, like earthworms and insects, being coupled with the highest regard and the best of care and understanding, for those plants and animals whom we chose to domesticate in order to serve our needs and wants.
It is tragic that we find amongst those who speak for wildlife and conservation many voices who regard domesticated animals as being degenerate, inferior to their wild cousins, and therefore less worthy of humane consideration. Even the dog, whose legendary virtues of loyalty, forgiveness, devotion, and love are so often lacking in their “masters,” has been recently portrayed as an opportunistic human parasite by science writer Stephen Budiansky. But have we not as a species become global parasites?
If God is our witness, then Nature is our teacher. So if we want for a better life for generations to come, Nemesis, our most unforgiving teacher, can show us the way of self-realization: That in our obedience to Natural Law, we are not so much biologically constrained as we are spiritually liberated to serve and to celebrate and to affirm what it means to be human. All the old virtues and ancient totems and taboos lead us to this point of recognition and responsibility, as the contemporary language of bioethics affirms: To be human is to be humane. To be human is to be of the humus, the Earth, and therefore to live in humility, which means not to selfishly use and abuse our powers of dominion that enable us to violate natural law and temporarily live outside of Nature’s biological constraints before Nemesis strikes us down and puts us in our place to begin again to discover and to recover what it means to be human.
When we harm the Earth, we harm ourselves, just as when we condone animal cruely and the subjugation and exploitation of the weaker we condone cruelty and the corrupting, corrosive values of inhumanity.
This recovery includes renunciation of all modes of consciousness and being that make egotism, individualism, reductionism, separatism, rationalism and materialism normative. These modes of consciousness and being have become unified as the dominant force of global industrialism, capitalism and consumerism. They have contributed in many ways to human progress and evolution but are now outmoded, maladaptive and cause more harm than good.
Fifty and more years ago, according to village elders in S. India, where I have worked to help restore biological and cultural diversity and to promote humane and organic agriculture, they had no weed or pest problems. This was because they practiced low-input, labor-intensive “conservation” agriculture (conserving soil, water, and wildlife and wild plants), and they grew an incredible diversity of crops and medicinal herbs. They integrated crop production and soil management with livestock and aquaculture production and with social forestry (for fuel and lumber). The sustainable use of natural resources resulted in natural diversity conservation, which, when linked with agricultural diversity, meant there were no words for weeds and pests in their vocabulary.