The Fellowship of Life
What is the common link between atrocities in our society’s past? Shameful chapters of history – such as the African slave trade, the massacre and displacement of civilians during war, the oppression of women and forced child labour – are all examples of the abuse of power. Whether it’s for profit, ease, convenience or plain amusement, this might-makes-right attitude has caused societies to tolerate, perpetuate and indignantly defend outrageously cruel acts.
Hindsight is 20/20. Most people today view slavery, child labour and the oppression of women as wrong, but changes only came about because thoughtful people demanded justice and fought against oppression.
Will future generations look back at ours with the same shame and horror we feel when we read about ships loaded with slaves or child labour in Lancashire’s cotton mills? Our generation operates in the same manner. The only difference is that today’s victims – used and abused because they are "different" and powerless – belong to different species.
Cruel actions that would cause a public outcry today – such as the use of servicepeople, many of whom died, in nerve-gas tests at Porton Down research centre in the 1950s after the study participants were told they were helping to find a cure for the “common cold” – are no longer tolerated because we accept that harming other humans simply because they are defenceless is reprehensible. Travelling circuses no longer display physically disabled men and women as “sideshow freaks” to be gawked at and ridiculed. Yet intelligent, social animals are still used in experiments, circus acts and other abominations.
For further information and access to an on-line exhibition visit: www.peta.org.uk
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