The Mary T. and
Frank L. Hoffman
Letters and Responses
Letter from Jennifer Bohrman about Human Beings' Treatment of Animals - 2 Jan 2006
Hello. I have much to say, and I trust that you at all-creatures.org, in your poised progressiveness and respect for the opinions of your web site’s visitors, will publish this letter and address the issues that I herein discuss. It is long, but I assure you it is thought-out, civil, and deeply heartfelt.
I would first like to make it clear that ever since I can remember, I have had a passion for nature and wildlife, and a lifelong love for animals. Presently, I am a sophomore Animal Behavior major/Environmental Studies minor at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA. In my spare time, I conduct noninvasive research on lion-tailed macaques at BU’s Animal Behavior Lab and volunteer two days a week at a nonprofit exotic animal refuge (which shelters numerous abused, neglected, and otherwise mistreated wild animals.) I am very much aware of the inhumane treatment suffered by countless animals, and this awareness arouses great empathy in me just as it does in you. But I have no doubt that you would find this same empathy in almost every person you should meet, including those individuals who hunt animals, wear fur & leather, and eat meat.
As animals ourselves, and undeniably similar (genetically, physically, emotionally) to other species, we humans cannot help but imagine the agony felt by fellow creatures when we see them in excruciating pain and discomfort. Psychologically speaking, to remain unaffected by animal cruelty reflects the deliberate resistance of one's natural emotions in the case of any normal person. Moreover, as responsible animals, we humans cannot help but feel guilt for any such suffering over which we have some power to control. In my opinion, much of the reason that mistreatment of animals endures is that people either forcefully deny their own natural feelings and become insentient, or (most often) are never exposed firsthand to the horrors that take place every day, and are simply too far removed from these gruesome realities to be motivated to protest. If we view livestock and experimental test subjects as objects, rather than beings, then many of today's unthinkable practices become acceptable, practical, commonplace.
I have had strong bonds with many of the animals that are most frequently mistreated as a result of society's commercial industry. As the owner of several wonderful pet chickens, it truly pains me to hear of fowl being kept in ridiculously tiny cages, never once granted the freedom to walk, scratch in the dirt for insects, or stretch their wings, injected with debilitating hormones, tortured and treated with unimaginable cruelty--as if they possessed no nerves, senses, or cognitive thought--throughout their short, miserable, and meaningless lives. As only a young girl, I made a personal commitment to devote my career and entire life to bettering the lives of animals and at the same time promoting the conservation of our planet's limited resources, natural habitat, and wildlife.
Like you, I recognized injustice, but not only that—I perceived an inadvertent tragedy playing out. The ultimate problem, as I saw it years ago and as I continue to see it, spawns from the vain efforts of man to separate himself from nature. Since recorded history, it seems—since that first moment when we humans began to admire our own intellect and skill—we have been seeking (or fabricating) any and all evidence that would distinguish our species from the rest of the natural world. Why but for our own complacency would we strive so ridiculously to rid ourselves of nature, to abandon our intimate connection with the earth? To me, our reluctance to acknowledge our origins and dependence on the earth, our labors to sever any tie between our species and nature—is our greatest and direst mistake as a species. We must accept that we are just as much a part of nature, a product of evolution, a link in the food chain, as any mammal, reptile, insect, plant, or fungus on this planet.
I realize and appreciate that you at all-creatures.org have set up your organization out of the goodness of your hearts, and know that your intentions are both honorable and admirable. You have acknowledged the need for change, and you have volunteered to help make a difference. We need more people like you in this world. However, I sense that you, like most people, are still viewing humans as something singular from nonhuman animals. To me, it is self-glorifying and downright primitive to assert that humans are some special creation of God, molded in His image, deliberately placed in some divine hierarchy between God, Jesus and all the holy, and the other mortal "beasts" that inhabit the earth. Judging from your web site, though I say so out of sincerity and with the greatest respect, you at all-creatures.org seem to be presenting viewpoints and arguments that are far too radical for your own good. I fear you will never be appreciated by the general public if you do not alter this exacting mind-set somewhat. I fear that you will deter those who might otherwise join in your efforts to reform.
For instance, you clearly condemn meat eating and legal hunting, and imply that Christianity is the “proper” faith. As I mentioned earlier, I am one of the biggest animal champions you might ever run into. But I eat meat with relish and without remorse, I respect and appreciate game hunters, and I belong proudly to no organized religion.
To me, a tolerance for humane slaughter and predation is fitting; as the wildlife enthusiast that I am, I see no absurdity in this stance. Why should consuming meat be considered anything other than perfectly natural and completely acceptable among people? And why should acting as the predators we are be viewed as so immoral? Humans are omnivorous by nature. We kill, and we eat our quarry. For us, hunting is simply evolution's product. Our species has become what it is because we hunted. We would not be social creatures, would not live together in societies, would not have developed the complex system of morals innate within us from our births—that is, the very inclination to classify right from wrong—had we not begun to hunt together and share our kills. Death has always been as vital a part of Earth’s natural cycles as life, and predators are as indisputably necessary as prey. We should not deny that we are predators, nor that we were destined and meant to be such.
As humans, our notions of right and wrong, good and bad, evil and sanctity, may simply be an adaptive mental device adopted by our hominid forefathers as we became the highly social creatures that we are today. When it became necessary for Homo sapiens to live together, to cooperate, to share in each other’s lives, we developed an inborn moral code. It probably is as simple as that. But, I think, in acknowledging who we are, we must listen to our instincts—as features of our nature and products of that precise and miraculous evolution programmed by our Creator, whomever or whatever that may be.
When we sense that something is meaninglessly cruel, we should respond to the emotion sparked within us. It exists in us for a reason. It is there to guide us, to better our lives, to better our species, to better the complex relationships we have with our fellow animals and with the earth itself. Of course, there is and always will be variation in the instincts of individuals. But by nature’s own mechanisms, drastically abnormal individuals are largely eliminated from society so that in general, we humans share the same basic emotions and inclinations. This being so, I strongly believe that we should abide by our given instincts, these subtle signs spoken from within, and when we do, we will be following our destined paths. And all my life, I have strived to do just that: to listen to my own guiding force and succumb to no theory that contradicts my deepest feelings.
And thus I will state again that to me, hunting is admirable. Meat-eating is right and good. Hunting is admirable because it reestablishes, for our predating species, an intimate connection with our prey. Meat-eating is right and good for the same reason. He who kills and eats (or wears) an animal learns respect for that animal. He values its importance, recognizes his dependence on his prey, feels his connection to the earth, knows his place in nature. In my life, I have never known people who possess a greater understanding and reverence for wildlife than hunters, and that is the absolute truth. To me, you at all-creatures.org are too quick to criticize that which may be natural, wholesome, and, I would go as far as to classify as, divine.
My position: what needs to be stopped is not meat-eating, nor fur-wearing, nor legal hunting. What needs to be stopped is, quite simply, avoidance. Neglect. Evasion. Denial. However you might refer to it. Hunters who confront their prey face to face, who kill, even if not perfectly cleanly, do not hide from reality. They accept and appreciate nature’s way. They value both life and death, they see the necessity even in some suffering. Contrarily, those that turn their backs to abuse, who look away as creatures are tortured and wronged, they seek consolation in avoidance. They are denying their most intimate sentiments, and this cannot be right. This cannot lead them down their destined paths.
Many situations in society today demand reform; this is unmistakable. And as I have stated before, I have devoted my life to changing that which arouses the greatest urge in me. I want to improve the lives of stock animals, eliminate unnecessary torture, refine our methods of slaughter, and most of all, promote awareness. I may not be able to accomplish much, but I will most definitely try. I do not expect too much. I have accepted that there will always be some pain and suffering; there will always be sadness and misery. But some will always be essential, for how else could we recognize pleasure and happiness? We sense the “ups” because we have known the “downs”. We must do what we can, but radical notions will be impossible to achieve.
And here now is my closing thought: I was raised Christian, but I have left that path, the one I was forced into, because it was not right for me. I have returned to my own path; the one destined for me. It is closer to nature, closer to my fellow species than Christianity would allow. I feel my own calling; it is strong and true and as long as I listen to it, I will have all the faith I need.
I thank you, at all-creatures.org, for allowing me the opportunity to openly express my sincerest viewpoints. I am not trying to declare that my opinions are right; I hope only that they will be considered. I can assure you that I have carefully considered your opinions, and, though I may not agree with them, highly value your beliefs.
Reply from Frank and Mary Hoffman
Thank you very much for in-depth letter.
From our surveys, more than 80% of our web site visitors eat and wear animal products, and since our web traffic is continuously increasing, we believe that our message of love and compassion for the whole of creation is reaching millions of people every year who have not heard it before. We are not, so to speak, speaking to the choir, as your visit testifies.
The reason that we mention this, is that true love and compassion must be unlimited. When we limit our love, it is something else. You say that you love animals and don't want them to suffer. You acknowledge that they have the same feeling as we humans do. You agree, as we do, that we're not superior to animals. And, you agree that humans do have the power to dominate the other animal of this world and rape the environment, and you say that you deplore this abuse, as we do. You also seem to be very well educated and understand how much animals in this world suffer.
Since more than 95% of all animal products sold in this country come from factory farmed animals, who suffer every day of their lives and then die a horrible and terrifying death, how is it that you can say that it's ok to eat and wear these animals. People lull themselves into believing that there is human slaughter, which there isn't, and unfortunately you seem to be falling into this trap. We just don't understand how you can hold these two diametrically opposed positions.
We could address these conditions surrounding laboratory animals, the fur trade, and hunting, but our question to you remains the same. How can you condone this when you know about all the suffering.
We really would like to hear back from you about this, because you're not alone in your beliefs, but you are definitely more knowledgeable about the suffering of animals than most of those people with whom we discuss this issue.
In the Love of the Lord,
Frank and Mary
We welcome your comments
Thank you for visiting all-creatures.org.