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Lions Roar : November 2016
other species of animals that inhabit this planet is neither unrealistic nor mis- guided, because most of the time there is no need to choose between the well-being of humans and the well-being of animals. We live in an essentially interdependent world where the fate of each being, of whatever kind, is intimately linked to that of all the others. So what I am suggesting here is not concern for animals only but concern for animals also. Such an approach does not involve humanizing animals or animalizing humans; rather, it is a matter of extend- ing benevolence and kindness to all. Reaching out in this way is more about taking a responsible attitude toward all that is around us than about making choices concerning what we should do with the limited resources we possess for action in the world. In spite of the sense of wonder the animal kingdom inspires in us, we are responsible for an ongoing massacre of animals on a scale unequaled in the his- tory of humankind. Every year, sixty bil- lion land animals and a thousand billion marine animals are killed for our con- sumption. Moreover, this mass killing and by training with the masters, I learned altruistic love, doing the best I could to open my mind and heart to the plights of others. I trained myself in compassion, and I reflected on the human condition and the condition of animals as well. It is far from my intention to rebuke people who in one way or another cause animals to suffer. They often do it with- out thinking, as I myself used to do. It truly is difficult to make the connec- tion between the latest consumer items, including food and medicines that some- times save our lives, and the suffering that is usually involved in their fabrica- tion. Cultural traditions also play a major role in our perceptions of animals, our companions on this planet. Some societ- ies have developed collective patterns of thought that encourage the view that ani- mals exist to serve humans, although the outlook of other traditions has long been that every being, human or nonhuman, must be respected. Certainly there is so much suffering among human beings that one could spend one’s whole life just alleviating a tiny fraction of it. Despite that, however, concern for the fate of the 7.7 million ©KADMY/ISTOCK its corollary—the excessive consumption of meat in the wealthy countries—is madness on a global scale. It perpetuates hunger in the world, increases the world’s ecological imbalances, and is even harm- ful to human health. We continue to live in ignorance con- cerning the harm we inflict on animals— very few of us have ever visited an indus- trial breeding site or a slaughterhouse. We maintain a kind of moral schizo- phrenia that has us lavishly pampering our pets and at the same time planting our forks in the pigs that have been sent to the slaughter by the mil- lions, even though they are in no way less conscious, less sensitive to pain, or less intelligent than our cats and dogs. Starting with the era of the ancestors we share with other animal species, little by little, by a long series of steps and minimal changes, we arrived at the stage of Homo sapiens. In the course of this slow evolu- tion, there was no “magi- cal moment” that would justify our conferring on ourselves a special nature that makes us fundamen- tally different from the many species of hominids that preceded us. Nothing occurred in the evolutionary process that would justify our claim to a right of total supremacy over the animals. The most striking quality that humans and animals have in common is the capacity to experience suffering. Why do we still blind ourselves, now at the begin- ning of the twenty-first century, to the immeasurable suffering that we inflict on animals, knowing that a great part of the pain that we cause them is neither necessary nor unavoidable? Certainly we should know that there is no moral jus- tification for inflicting needless pain and death on any being. ♦ LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 18 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE