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Compassion on a Plate

The compassion so many feel for animals shouldn’t come to a halt when it’s time to eat.

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Like most people, I’ve always been a compassionate person. I could never stand to see someone suffer, regardless of who that someone was.

I have typical childhood stories of saving injured birds or taking in stray animals. Of staying up whole nights with my dog when she was a scared puppy or a sick adult. I volunteered at animal shelters. And when I learned how animals were treated and killed for human consumption, I stopped eating their bodies and the reproductive products of female animals, such as milk and eggs.

This did not happen until I was an adult, despite the fact that my childhood kindness towards animals was supported and encouraged by my parents. Kindness towards CERTAIN animals, I should say.

Like most Americans, I was raised on hamburgers and ice cream and didn’t realize that my parents created and society reinforced in me what I call “selective compassion.”
When I started to make the connection, it became very clear to me that a split had been created in my mind – and in my spirit.

I know I’m not unique. This society-supported psychic split enables us to love certain animals as “pets” and others as “dinner” – a purely cultural phenomenon illustrated by our disgust at the fact that dogs, cats, and horses are eaten in other countries. This split is all-too apparent in the meat served at fundraisers for some (not all) SPCAs, implying that the suffering felt by pigs and cows is somehow different in quality than that felt by dogs and cats. And we know this simply isn’t true.

After all, S-P-C-A stands for “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.” It doesn’t say that some species should be favored and others disregarded. In fact, Henry Bergh founded the ASPCA to protect farm animals and “work horses” as well as dogs and cats. The goal of a humane society should be to help create just that: a Humane Society – one based on consistent values and “unselective compassion.”

Albert Einstein, a vegetarian, envisioned a world where our circle of compassion includes all creatures – for our peace as well as theirs. Until all animals are embraced and respected, efforts to create a nonviolent and compassionate world will be thwarted.

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