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Vegetable Soup for the Soul

 - A Vegan Way of Life -
Article #4 - Complexities of Compassion
By: Billie Touchstone Signer billiesigner@alltel.net

“Animals and humans suffer and die alike. Violence causes the same pain, the same spilling of blood, the same stench of death, the same arrogant, cruel, and brutal taking of life.”

------Dick Gregory, Civil Rights Activist

When a baby is born, its mind is like a blank sheet of paper.  From day one, everything the child sees, hears, smells, feels and touches is “written” on the sheet, which fills quickly.  By the time the child reaches school age, there are many “pages” of material absorbed into the subconscious mind.  Very much like a computer, but more complex.

A child learns about compassion quite early; He learns from those closest to him -- teachers, parents, grandparents, babysitters or daycare center employees.  They “program” the child's mind computer.  If, however, some of these “programmers” are inconsistent in showing pity or compassion, or have none themselves, the child receives mixed messages.

Real compassion, like real love, must be unconditional.  There should never be any ifs, ands or buts involved.  One is either compassionate or they are not.  Straddling the fence won’t do.  Showing compassion just for “looks” or when the mood strikes tells me that person is a hypocrite.

I’ve heard some say they are animal lovers while chomping down on a ham and cheese sandwich with a glass of milk.  Perhaps they should be more explicit and say they love some animals like dogs, cats, birds, goldfish and hamsters, for example.  One cannot love something or someone while choosing to subsidize their pain and suffering and ultimate death.

I heard a teenager say once while trying to showoff, “Oh, I love animals -- with salt and pepper.” Crude and cruel, but at least he was honest.

In my lifetime, I’ve learned the simplest way to have and show compassion is to live by the Golden Rule--Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  No guesswork there. Would I like to be crammed into a cage with five other people and live there until I am slaughtered?  Would I like someone to force me to give him or her my eggs, milk, wool, leather or honey?  Would I like to watch in horror as my family and friends are slaughtered without mercy or feeling?  Of course not!  Then I would not commit such barbaric acts against animals with whom I share the planet.

I use the same Rule when dealing with people.  Would I want someone to steal from me, lie about me, hit me?  Then I will not do those things to others.  Unless we teach our young this Golden Rule, there will continue to be school shootings, and hate and intolerance of each other

I love the book, All I Ever Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.

Some things the author said he learned were: Say good morning to each other; respect other people’s things; don’t push or shove and if you run into someone, say you’re sorry and ask their forgiveness; sit up straight; wash your hands before eating; hang up your coat in the cloakroom; if you make a mess, clean it up; hold hands when crossing the street; do not run in the hall, etc.  Then the teacher explains why these rules are necessary: Breaking them affects you and/or others when they are not followed.  A do-unto-others type of teaching.

The same rules should apply after kindergarten, but unfortunately, they have either been forgotten or replaced by self-indulgence.

When I decided to title this article, Complexities of Compassion, I remembered that my daughter had once said I was a very complex person.  Hmmm.  I really like one definition of the word, “complex” which is: puzzling.  It is puzzling how one person has compassion for the homeless, and yet is totally apathetic about abortion.  Then another shows compassion for child abuse, but is totally apathetic about animal abuse.  Children and animals are both helpless and deserve our compassion.

Further, it’s difficult to understand how one person passes a feedlot holding-pen and doesn’t even see the thousands of cattle standing in mud and their own excrement for days waiting for shipment to a slaughterhouse.  Nor does he see them struggling against each other trying to get to the trough to get a drink of scummy water. Oh, he might wrinkle his nose at the awful stench, but goes on down the road and stops at McDonald’s for a Big Mac and fries.

Why is that, I wonder?  I think it goes back to that “programming,” mentioned earlier.  The person received mixed messages about when to pity and when to just shrug one’s shoulders.

That’s why it’s so important to teach compassion long before kindergarten.  Compassion and empathy are synonymous in many ways.  Empathy means to try and get inside another human or nonhuman and feel what they feel: A mother sees her small child step on an ant.  She walks over to the child and stoops beside him and says gently: “How would you like it if someone stepped on you if you were an ant?  That little ant was going about his business and you took his life that God gave him.  For shame!  We must never hurt anything or anyone ever!”  By now, the child is almost drowning in tears of regret and that is good!

Movies like Bambi, The Yearling, Babe and Charlotte’s Web were all good movies teaching a lesson, but the lesson didn’t go far enough since it showed people characters exploiting animals, eating their flesh, killing needlessly and many other negatives.  Oh, the Complexities of Compassion!

That’s one of many reasons I’m excited that so many intelligent young couples and college students are becoming vegans.  It’s a sure thing their offspring will be compassionate and loving toward all forms of life.  And their children of the next generation will have that same compassion, reverence and respect for life, ALL life and the environment.

Sad but true, a large majority don’t care about life other than their own and their family members and maybe some close friends.  They have not been taught (or do not care to learn) that all life is sacred, nor how the population is suffering numerous forms of terminal illness as a result of eating a diet of flesh, dairy and eggs.  Nor have they noticed how all that waste from so many billions of animals is dominating many areas of the planet.  I wonder where they think it goes?  A clear thinking person knows there is no place for it to go but into our streams, lakes, rivers and reservoirs; millions and millions of tons of waste every day going into our precious water supplies, causing diseases and death to so many.  But with education and right example shown the younger generation, only good things can happen.

Statistics report that each person in America eats an average of 37-40 land animals per year. How about this: If in the year 2002, I can help convince just five people to convert to a plant based diet, I will be helping save the suffering and slaughter of some two hundred animals in one year.  And many more if fish and seafood are included, which they definitely should be. (More on this in another article)

Then if those five people each convince five more the next year, that’s some TWO THOUSAND lives, saved. And the numbers go up and up each year.

Here are some good things that will happen:

1. Saving billions of animals from suffering and death.

2. A vast reduction in toxic wastes polluting our streams and lands.

3. Our nation’s health will enormously improve.

4. We will have peace of mind and a lift in spirit for doing the right thing.

5. We will be helping to save the planet, along with the precious rain forest.

6. More nutritious food will be available.  Instead of raising cattle feed, grains, beans, potatoes, corn, fruits and nuts will be grown to feed a hungry world.

And guess what?  The above absolutely can happen!  Begin with five people, that’s all it will take to realize those astounding figures in ten short years.

There are the hard core meat eaters who will never stop eating their sisters and brothers, the animals, birds and fish.  Then other hard core meat eaters will never stop the war on wildlife and give up their hunting “pleasure” and “sport” fishing. To derive pleasure by hurting innocent, sentient creatures who belong to God just as you and I do, seems not only sacrilegious, but pure savagery.

In 1863 the slaves were emancipated and became people rather than commodities.  But many white Americans could not bring themselves to respect black Americans simply for themselves.  And even today, there still are racists galore.

But thank God, that’s gradually changing.  Today’s young people seem to respect each other more than some of their elders did and do, as they know we are all equal in the eyes of God and the government.

Future generations will one day look back in history and be shocked and ashamed that their ancestors actually raised, murdered and ate the flesh of God’s innocent creatures.  They will also be astounded that it was legal to murder a baby in the mother’s womb.  They’ll shake their heads in disbelief that billions and billions of innocent creatures were destroyed needlessly and without mercy.

We too are ashamed (if not, we should be), as we look back to the brutality of slavery in this “land of the free”, and read about the ruthlessness with which we took this land from the Native Americans; and there were many more uncivilized atrocities.  One particularly horrible act I remember so well is when the decision was made to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima to kill and burn alive over one hundred thousand innocent men, women and children, and said it was “necessary.”  May God have mercy on us!

But some day, there will be enough caring Americans to challenge our “culture of death” society into arousing their sleeping consciences; then compassion will step in and they will realize it’s both morally and ethically wrong to raise and kill animals for food and to brutally exploit them in numerous ways.

Ever heard, “Bad things happen when good people do nothing?”

It takes courage to do the right thing.  Compassion can go a long way in building courage.  Try it -- you’ll like yourself for having the courage to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.  GO VEGAN!  It’s the right thing to do!  Wrong shall fail; but right will prevail!

Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.
-----GEORGE WASHINGTON

Article #5 -- THE HUMANNESS OF NON-HUMANS

Copyrighted as a collection

To respond to the series: billiesigner@alltel.net or P. O. Box 365, Jasper, AR 72641-0365

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