Columbine, Virginia Tech and similar events occur with increasing frquency throughout the USA.
It seems that almost every week there is a story of one of the following: alienated students opening fire on their class mates, disgruntled individuals hunt down strangers in a mall or co-workers who have 'wronged' them, an angry family member kills his wife and children, the shooting of a doctor in a church, bullying which drives young vulnerable individuals to commit suicide and increasing abuse of animals by young people sheerly for their enjoyment .
And we wonder why.
Often mention is made of the proliferation of guns. It is not the availability of weapons, but of a mind-set fostered by religious beliefs which do not honor the sanctity of life, that has created such violence. When religions piously promote the dominion of man over the animals and with it the right to abuse and slaughter them for human need, they set in place a mechanism for trivializing violence, whether it is carried out on animals, on those humans one deems as 'less than' or in retaliation for a perceived wrong. It is time to consider whether the Christian concept of dominion has outlived it's usefulness in a world so filled with violence.
The United Poultry Concerns alert detailing the story of how Chicklett came to be saved is a case in point of how the violence, which is so common place in our society today, is reinforced. The courage and compassion of Whitney Hillman is remarkable in one so young. Unfortunately for the vast majority of her peers, compassion has already been squelched long before they reach their teen years, both by religious teachings which allow for the slaughter of animals and the fervor with which this violence is endorsed by mainstream secular institutions, such as the media. Information in the alert indicates sadism and cruelty both to the chickens and to the young people Nate Hamilton is entrusted to teach. Even if he had been serene, calm, detached, the act of teaching children to kill is wrong. It is a form of child abuse, as noted by the reaction of the students. Some cover their horror with bravado, others are more open about their feelings and are sickened. The message delivered by the callous attitude of Nate Hamilton is that it is 'fun' to kill and we can kill with impunity those who are weaker than us. Is this the message we should be sending to our children in a culture of ever escalating violence? The true teacher in this story is Whitney Hillman. Would that those who had doubts about participating will take their cue from this brave and compassionate young woman.
The greater issue is not the delight of the teacher in slaughtering harmless living beings, but rather that the school was inflicting a perception of reality endorsed by the judeo.christian.islamic religious tradition: man has the god given right to ab(use) and slaughter animals for human benefit. The only reality being taught by this exercise is that violence is 'fun' and that the taking of a life is inconsequential. In the words of anthropologist Margaret Mead:
"No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded" Margaret Mead
Exercises which force students to take the lives of animals as a lesson in reality fail to question the nature of the reality they are enforcing. A reality that encourages violence towards others, serves only to reinforce and escalate more of the same. A reality based on compassion and non-violence is beneficial to both animals and young people who are forming a moral foundation for their adult lives. There is much to be learned from a view of 'reality' which honors and respects the lives of ALL beings.
There was a similar case in Great Britain. Marcus, a young lamb, was slaughtered as a lesson in 'reality'. Marcus had only young school children, to defend him, whose sense of compassion was more highly evolved than that of their head mistress, Andrea Charman. Their hearts were broken as they had hand raised Marcus and cared for him. They will learn with time that the views of a predominantly Christian nation do not allow for compassion to animals. They will also assimilate the message that despite the love and affection one may have for another living being, it is appropriate to kill this being for your own gratification. They did not learn, what the head mistress, termed 'reality'. Instead they learned the Christian view of reality, that there is nothing wrong with killing a cherished friend for your own benefit.
When we teach children to kill a living being, viewed as lesser, we are sowing the seeds of future acts of violence both to humans and animals. We are teaching them a view of 'reality' that often leads to future acts of gratuitous violence. We are in effect teaching them that life is NOT sacred and that one may kill for any number of reasons, from anger, to gratification, to revenge.
In India, where the jain/hindu religious tradition grants unconditional compassion to ALL living beings, dissection is banned for high school students in every state, so that they do not become traumatized by and acclimated to violence.
It is irresponsible and cruel to teach children to kill.
Eventually, Andrea Charman was forced to resign her position as head mistress, because her actions were deemed brutally inappropriate. One hopes that Nate Hamilton will also lose his position, as he has shown that he is not morally fit to teach young people the lessons needed to be responsible and caring adults.