Dominion: Comments and Discussion


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Dominion: Comments and Discussion
Comments by Ruth Eisenbud - 10 Mar 2010

Professor Schwartz,

Thank you for your thought provoking comments. Some of my thoughts on these comments follow:

You cite the care some followers of the judeo.christian tradition show to their companion animals as an example of ahimsa:

"I believe that to a large extent Judaism teaches Ahimsa. In some ways it goes beyond it in the following sense. First, it teaches that if a person has a pet, he or she must see that the pet is fed before sitting down to his or her own meal."

The reasoning in this example of compassion also refers to one's live stock and is both cruel and self-serving, for if you provide good care to the animals that will eventually be consumed, it will result in a better meal. The slaughter of an animal is not an act of compassion as it takes the life force of a living being, that was not freely given.

Ahimsa includes all living beings in its circle of compassion. To state that the concept of dominion contains examplwa that are an indicator of ahimsa implies a lack understanding of the latter concept. Though some of those who follow the judeo.christian tradition, keep dogs as companion animals, 4-5 million healthy young dogs are killed every year in the USA simply because they are homeless. This act of violence is condoned as it is labeled as compassionate. It would not be considered an act of compassion to euthanize homeless humans. Once again the contradiction of dominion has taken its toll on animals: care for some dogs, kill others. The millions of dogs killed ever so compassionately when they become an inconvenience are victims of the dominion model. This is not ahimsa. The use of animals as scientific subjects does not prohibit the use of dogs and they are in fact used as experimental subjects. Ahimsa does not allow for the harming or killing of animals to benefit humans. Taking the life of a living being is always considered an act of gratuitous violence.

Such is the nature of dominion. Its dispensation of compassion is conditional always revolving around human need, rather than respect for the intinsic worth of an animals life. So that under some circumstances it is possible to care for a dog and in others kill, harm and maim them for human benefit.

You also state: " is better to try to get Jews to apply their religious teachings rather than changing them, especially when there are many Jewish tteaching that are very applicable."

As noted above with regard to dogs, the teachings are so piecemeal as to be ineffective, some dogs are protected and cherished others are used as scientific subjects and euthanized with mind numbing facility...

The following statement seems to imply that speaking about unconditional compassion for animals in some way threatens the jewish people with changing to another reiligion.

"As you know, there is a long history of attempts to get Jews to change their religions, and this is one reason that it is better to try to get Jews to apply their religious teachings rather than changing them.."

Though Jews have had an unfortunate history of forced conversion, speaking about compassion in terms of ahimsa is not an attempt to convert jews to any other religion and ought not be viewed as such.

You state: "Since I am trying to make changes in the Jewish community (others as well, but at least initially the Jewish community), I have to, in effect, play by the rules."

Playing by rules that have consistently resulted in the harming and slaughter of animals will lead to more of the same. If we do not start to speak of rules that truly embrace compassion, then we will be preacing the half-hearted compassion of dominion for another 5000 years with the same devasting results.

It is a question of priorities: not stating that conditional compassion is cruel as it sanctions the harm and slaughter of animals, for fear that the message may offend the sensibilities of those who endorse this exploitation, puts the concerns of those who allow for abuse over the right of an animal to remain free from harm. Once again human benefit is valued over the worth of animal lives, despite the fact that no harm would come from a message of unconditional compassion to those who accept and endorse animal abuse as a necessary evil.

The following is a small sample of the positive results for animals when a model of ahimsa is followed as compared to dominion:

India: 400 million religious vegetarians//USA:4-5 million vegetarians.

India: Dissection banned for all high school students in every state//USA:obligatory in every state difficult to get an exemption

India: Illegal to kill a dog for any reason other than extreme illness or trauma//USA dogs used as research subjects and millions of healthy young homeless dogs killed every year

India: All circus and zoo elephants freed and sent to sanctuaries//USA: freeing not an issue. bull hooks approved approved for disciplining captive elephants

India: monkeys tolerated by population, export of free roaming monkeys for research banned as it would result in harm to them//Israel:Monkeys bred throughout the world and in Israel for gruesome neuroscience experiments in Israeli Universities.

India: pigeons are fed daily at jain temples by visitors, endorsed by the religion// USA: woman assaulted for feeding pigeons in NYC and 'pigeon shoots'

Feeding The Pigeons at a Jain Temple in Kerala, India:

I would be interested in your response to the evidence that animals do indeed fare better in ahimsa based cultures and communities.

Rather than respond to the abysmal track record of dominion, you try to justify its use because people will not understand or will be threatened by ahimsa. If we do not present a message of unconditional compassion now, then we are catering to the needs of those who chose to harm animals and eliminating the possiblity of establishing a broader-based compassion. This stance will not lead to progress. Putting human needs first is in essence the meaning of dominion.

Using a model with such devastaing results for animals in an effort to remain sensitive to the needs of those who sanction their harm is to follow the dominion model, as human need is once again placed above the value of the right of an animal to simply live free from harm and slaughter.

When the Jains introduced ahimsa thousands of years ago it was an alien concept and animal abuse was rampant, yet they had the courage to speak honestly about the cruelty of harming animals to benefit humans. This integrity has reaped substantial positive results for animals.

Finally, you state: "So, once again I urge you to challenge Jews to live up to their highest teachings, rather than seeking to have them adopt something they might think is alien to their religion...."

Compassion is not alien to the human soul, but it needs to be nurtured and encouraged, not supressed. All I am saying is that a model of unconditional compassion for animals has shown to encourage compassion, while dominion, with allowable harm and slaughter suppresses it. I believe unconditional compassion would resonate with many if given half a chance, but this will not happen as long as allowable harm and slaughter remain unchallenged.

I am not sure why you are urging me to challenge jews to use a model of compassion which falls short, as it is you who have a voice in that community and I would hope the responsibility to use that voice to disavow allowable harm and slaughter. It is not possible to pretend that dominion is compassionate, when in effect the negative teachings so outweigh the positive as to trivialize any gesture of compassion...

"Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good." Gandhi


Ruth Eisenbud