The article about Albert Schweitzer in this issue of Humane Religion tells the story of a man who escaped the conditioning of a world that usually succeeds in eroding the compassion and concern for all creatures which characterizes so many young children.
The conditioning that desensitizes a child to the suffering of other creatures is carried out in a thousand subtle, and not-so-subtle, ways. It goes on in the home, at play, and in school. It comes about from peer pressure and from parental pressure.
The lies begin the first time children question the suffering of another creature. They are told it doesn't hurt the cow when its flesh is seared with a branding iron. That the pig does not feel the thick, iron ring forced through its tender snout. That the neighbor's dog who lies chained outside all day does not suffer from the heat, the cold, or the loneliness. That the bird who was formed to soar through the sky does not mind having its wings crippled and being forced to live in a cage.
And after children have been assured that it is "natural" to eat the flesh of other creatures hat God created them to be killed and eaten by men—they can be coaxed into the next phase of desensitization. They can begin to take an active part in the cruelty and violence that characterizes a fallen world.
They are taught that killing other creatures is a recreational activity. They are taken to the woods to maim or kill the small animals who live there and told it is a way of communing with nature—or with God.
They are taken fishing and told that it is a relaxing pastime. And when the "catch" thrashes about, frantically trying to stay alive, they are told that fish cannot feel anything, although their suffering is obvious.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
[The] compassion in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind.
Ancient ethics had not his depth, this strength of conviction, but beside it there now stands a new ethic—that of respect for all life, whose validity is more and more widely acknowledged. .
In the face of all evidence to the contrary, the child is taught to believe a lie. This childhood conditioning produces adults who accept the abuse and slaughter of other creatures as an inescapable fact of life. It is an acceptance built on a lie and it is the foundation on which desensitized men and women build a world of cruelty and violence that spares neither human nor animal beings.
It is a world that has "exchanged the truth of God for a lie."