Newsletter - Animal Writes sm
30 August 2000 Issue

By [email protected] & Psych [email protected]

I was pleased to learn that a longtime subscriber to a little weekly newsletter that I publish, The Prayer Alliance For Animals, lives close to me and is a doctor of psychology. This revelation came about when I mentioned that I truly enjoy the pet therapy that I have been doing at Hospice with my canine partners, Woody & Katy. Dr. Weiss disclosed that we had a little something in common, as she is a psychologist who has a a general practice in West Palm Beach, and has many patients who are disabled and elderly. We moved our conversations from the internet to the telephone and found we had a lot more in common, like our aversion to meat. When Dr. Weiss sent a letter to the editor of Psychology Today, she was kind enough to send me a copy of the letter, which I enjoyed reading. I asked her permission to share it with Animal Writes readers as well, because I think there are so many of us who have had exactly this experience.

Dr. Weiss, Stephanie, has a philosophy regarding the consumption of meat, fish and fowl, as contributors to violence in our society. Carol Adams thought so too, particularly when it deals with violence towards women, and discussed that philosophy in detail in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat.

Speaking of her childhood, Stephanie said "I had a fierce aversion to the blood found floating under a steak, or soaking a hamburger bun. Although my parents told me it was "juice," I knew that animal juice was none other than blood. I could not help but imagine the killing of the poor animal on my plate, and the image of that pain and suffering made me sick inside. Thereby, a vegetarian was born. It has always struck me as strange that more people don't share my aversion, as most people wouldn't be able to kill an animal for meat.

Is the human ability to block out the unpleasant that powerful that someone who would rather die before clubbing a cow or lamb to death feels comfortable paying someone else to do that for them? Dr. Weiss puts this question to the editors of Psychology Today. I guess we all wonder about this from time to time too. I know I certainly have.

Dr. Weiss continues: As a psychologist, I am also reminded of a theory that I learned about in college, 'cognitive dissonance.' .....this theory illuminates people's blocking out one part of their reality when dissonance arises. In the case of meat eating, 'I could not kill. I love animals' and the conflicting reality that 'Everyone eats meat. It is on every menu. It is fed to me by nice, loving people,' creates dissonance. With the strong social pressure inherent in the latter message, is it no wonder that the former gets magically erased from consciousness?"

In this culture of violence where we concerned citizens are asking "why, why?" after such atrocities as Columbine, sadly, we must look at our own culture for answers. Our children are desensitized towards bloodshed at an early age. Our acceptance of the mass slaying of animals for our own desire, hand in hand with the violence depicted in movies, TV and video games, powerfully desensitize people early in life to the pain and suffering of others.

Dr. Weiss closed her letter to the editors by asking if perhaps they would assent to discussing this view in a future issue of Psychology Today; and proffered this quote:

"In my forty years of ministry it has become quite evident that
vegetarian families have far fewer problems than those who are not
vegetarian. If children are raised as vegetarians, every day they are
exposed to nonviolence as a principle of peace and compassion.
Every day they are growing up they are remembering and being
reminded to not kill. They won't even kill another creature to eat,
to feed themselves. And if they won't kill another creature to feed
themselves, they will be much less likely to do acts of violence
against people."
~Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami

I agreed with Stephanie and look forward to such an article because of the obvious dichotomy inherent in the idea of compassionate, civilized people thinking nothing of living in a constant state of denial. It would be lovely if a mainstream, conservative magazine would embrace an idea that, heretofore, has been only addressed in animal-rights magazines, such as Animals Agenda and pseudo animal-rights magazines such as Vegetarian Times.

As animal-rights activists we pay close attention to the local matters that we hear and see every day through our local media that involves animal cruelty and abuse. But as activists our energies are far more focused on the institutionalized, legalized, accepted animal abuses, such as those that occur in factory farming and slaughter. There is no such thing as humane slaughter, that is an oxymoron. To think otherwise is to be firmly rooted in denial. Denial. Perhaps that's the biggest social evil of all time, since our collective society suffers from it.

When we continue to kill animals for food, fur and research, or because they are homeless, pesky or surplus, we demoralize ourselves as a society. We bring ourselves down. Way, way down. We love Gandhi's quote The greatness of a society and its moral progress can be judged by the way it treats its animals, but have we really taken the time to think about what that means? What he is saying, essentially, is that the morals of the citizens of our country are judged by how we treat the sentient beings that live here with us. I guess thats no surprise given the popularity of the Jerry Springer show. If we didnt kill animals for such senseless reasons, I wonder if the final effect would be the cessation of those behaviors and our fascination with them.

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