Tolerance & the use of animals

HELLO to all!

Today I am going to change the format of my previous blog posts in order to touch upon a topic that worries me, and in my opinion, is surrounded by a cloud of ignorance and misinformation. By this, I am referring to the use of animals, an umbrella term I will use when referring to the use of animals for entertainment or simply animal consumption. The purpose of this post is both to inform you and if possible, make you realize that what you so often criticize in one way you support in another. I hope that you will learn as much as I did while I was preparing this post for you!

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However, I would appreciate if you would keep from making any comments (good or bad) before reading this post until the very end.

My worries surrounding this topic arise out of the intolerance on behalf of us human beings regarding certain issues related to the use of animals. These issues include the use and production of furs, bullfighting, the running of the bulls, animal circuses and others. Such matters have wakened the animal rights activist within many of us and have paved the way for phrases such as “I hope the bull kills the bullfighter” or “don’t ever visit a circus with animals”.

While it is true that in these industries the life, or the quality of the life, of an animal is at stake, what actually surprises me is that nearly all those who criticize the use of animals for the aforementioned purposes, approve of it in a distinct manner. For example, if I were to wear a fox fur coat (the fur of an animal which is currently spreading diseases such as rabies throughout the Baltics and which its population must thus be controlled), I may be regarded by some as an assassin. However, if I were to wear a wool coat, nobody would bat an eye. Examples such as these are those which I believe are filled with ignorance, and thus I will try to present some different points in order to strike a balance between defending animal rights and reaching extremes carried with insults.

As you may well be aware of, I am passionate about animals. Both domestic and semi domestic animals have passed through the doors of my house – dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, ponies, rabbits, fish, parakeets, parrots, turtles, hamsters, chinchillas, iguanas, chickens and others which I am surely forgetting about. Each and every animal that I have had the luck of sharing my time with has in my eyes converted into a being that I have had to let go off in order for them to appreciate the liberty and freedom of other locales due to their growth in size. In other words, I have considered these animals to be family, as strange as that may be to some.

To begin with, I would like to address the use of animal furs, an issue that has become rather controversial and which many believe they have the right to openly offend others

Let’s begin by describing the “skin” of an animal. The skin can be referred to as the body cover and can essentially be divided into four groups: scales, hair, feathers and bare skin (dolphins, etc.). Presently, a large majority reserves their critique of animal skin coats to that of animal hair, or better termed as fur. Thus, they leave out the large category of animal skin coats including coats made out of leather, feathers, wool, silk and others, which also entail sacrificing an animal’s life. My intention is merely to engage each one of us to open our eyes and realize that in one manner or another, the majority of us use animal skin, be it in the form of an extravagant fox fur coat or a wool coat.

In the case of the use of feathers, you may choose to visit the Internet and watch videos of geese being plucked while alive in order to obtain the softest feathers for the pillows we each own and for the cozy winter downs we wish to own. There is a belief among many that the pillows that we use consist of “excess” feathers that were used after the animal had been consumed as meat. The reality, however, is starkly different. Our comfortable pillows at home represent the suffering and trauma that these animals faced for years, merely for the comfort of our necks. By plucking a goose alive, one can keep plucking the animal on repeated occasions rather than on a one-off. Of course, not all geese are treated in such a manner. Still, it raises the following question: are you truly aware of the process in which the feathers you routinely use were obtained?

On the same boat we find hen feathers, which are used in order to produce keratin and wax. These hair product industries also keep growing and often require the plucking methods previously mentioned.

As regards to leather, again we find our mutually shared ignorance which led us to believe that the leather we find on our sofas, chairs, bracelets, trash cans, watches, cars, belts, shoes, wallets, bags, hats, etc. came from the remains of an animal which was used for consumption. As before, we are mistaken. The reality is that the leather industry has grown immensely and many animals are being raised solely for the purpose of obtaining leather and not for consumption.

If we step foot into the world of wool, rarely criticized and often praised, we once again find such cruel practices. I recommend some informative googling, using the search term “mulesing”. This is a common practice, which consists of the removal of wool-bearing skin in order to prevent the deterioration of the wool caused by flystrike. This practice originated and is common in Australia, one of the world’s most important wool producers. Of course, not all sheep are treated in such a manner. Still, it raises the following question: are you truly aware of the process in which the wool you routinely use was obtained?

Surely no.

As for the wonderful silk from silkworms, we tend to look the other way as worms are “ugly and slimy”, regardless of whether this makes it less of an animal. The reality is that the worm is not exempt from pain. While science suggests that the worm is not an intelligent life as other animals in that it is not able to process the pain it feels, it nevertheless perceives such pain through reactions by its simple nervous system. Still, who are we to decide what animals deserve more rights than others?

Could you ever imagine the despicable image of a person deliberately drowning a dog? Spooky, is it? Well, this is exactly what happens when we take a fish out of the water, we asphyxiate it. However, as the fish does not cry, is not our favorite mascot nor fetches the ball when we throw it, the practice of fishing is seen as entertaining. I mean, who doesn’t have a childhood picture holding a fish with their mom or dad? Few.

Moving on to nutrition and food, I witness on a daily basis the ignorance on behalf of us all as to what our bodies need. Some justify an animal’s death for feeding purposes, but did you know that according to research we could perfectly live a healthy life as vegans? Surely you may have heard, but the Spanish jamón de bellota is quite delicious, not even to mention some crispy duck or a nice steak from a nice summer barbeque. Oh yeah, and also Foie Gras! Or better put, the ruptured liver of a goose or duck. In these cases, the killing of an animal does not matter, as if culinary pleasure was more important than visual pleasure. Currently, with societal advancements, meat consumption is often no longer about survival, but “pure delight”.

On the other hand, we cannot ask a person whose wage is low to purchase pricy vegan products and tofu hamburgers. Still, we have to admit that a great part of the population consumes animal products because they like it, rather than because they cannot access or afford vegan products. The effort is simply too great too make. Of course, these same people are quick to criticize zoos, bullfighting, the use of furs or circus shows. For those people who are guilty of this, I invite you to lead by example and read a book by the renowned Doctor José Luis Cidón Madrigal titled “La Dieta del Doctor Cidón Madrigal [The Diet of Doctor Cidón Madrigal]”, where he explains the spectacular life one can live without animal consumption.

Now, I would like to refer to the Toro de Lidia, or the Spanish Fighting Bull, an issue highly criticized nowadays. Again, I recommend that you to read about the lives of the bulls, which require around 10 hectares per head and live in complete freedom until they are 4-5 years old, and are moved to the bullrings. There, they fight for around 20 minutes and in the vast majority of times, die. This is undeniable, and I of course would be glad to see some minor adjustments in that regard. On the other hand, animals that are raised for consumption purposes are weaned at a very young age and are placed in a pen filled with mud where they cannot move so that the meat that is obtained maintains soft, a practice, which I have personally witnessed. Here, they live for a few months or years and are overfed until they are ready to be transferred in order to be sacrificed. Most often, these animals never ran freely. This is not the manner in which all the meat that we consume is produced, however, a great part of it is. Simply looking at these two options, I am quite sure that a steer would choose between living five years in freedom rather than two in a pen filled with mud.  At least, that’s what I’d prefer. With this, I do not want to impose my opinion as regards the bloody spectacle that bullfighting is. However, I would appreciate it if you (referring to a minority) abstain from making insulting comments and rude criticisms to those who partake in such practices, while you yourselves are guilty of other forms of animal use.

Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to engage each and every one of you to suggest a way in which we could eliminate bullfighting without risking the extinction of the Spanish bulls. I suppose that those of you, which actively criticize bullfighting, have come up with a way in which to maximize the benefits of bulls, considering that we cannot consume their meat.

Now for a change of scenery. I imagine that like me and my gorgeous picture at the beginning of this post, many of you have visited an aquarium in order to see dolphins jump and whales act in a manner worthy of laughs and applauses. But did you know that many dolphins commit suicide due to the trauma they suffer in those same aquatic parks? Well, yes. Dolphins actually have the capacity to delve deep down and stop breathing until they drown themselves. Voluntarily. To much surprise, this is actually something that occurs often in many aquariums around the world. Like me, many of you have also contributed to the deaths of dolphins merely for a laugh and a fun afternoon with the family. Now tell me, where do you see the difference between this and bullfighting? The mere fact that we witness death in one event as opposed to the other does not preclude it from occurring in both.

While submerged into the aquatic world, I recommend you all to watch the documentary titled “Tilikum”. It is about killer whales and how they suffer and become aggressive when removed from their homes and used as show animals. And once again, for the “on the other hand”, we must remember that aquariums serve as educational centers for the public and for investigations about certain marine species. As you can probably see, not everything is black or white… There are many shades of gray in the animal world and I believe that all opinions, which are not extreme, are valid and respectable.

As regards animal consumption, I only touched upon the tip of the iceberg. Still, I hope that you can now see that it is not necessary to wear a fur coat to form part of an industry in which animals are sacrificed for our comforts and likes. For this reason, I would appreciate it if we could all be a bit more tolerant and simply propose new and sustainable methods for the survival of all animal species.

What do I suggest? As nowadays it is becoming increasingly difficult to live without contributing in one way or another to the killing of an animal, I suggest attempting to strike a balance between consuming and contributing to the animal world. Below is a list of certain things we can all do to contribute in a positive way:

  • Reduce meat consumption with products such as tofu
  • Check the source of the feathers used in household items
  • For those of you which like fur coats, try to purchase rabbit or fox fur coats, and do not purchase coats of animals risking extinction
  • Check the source of wool items
  • Use artificial and synthetic fibers instead of silk (however, keep in mind that the production of synthetic fibers contribute to pollution and thus also have a negative side)
  • Stop visiting aquariums as often as you do – this industry should not grow anymore
  • Do not buy wild animals to simply have as mascots
  • If you are a fan of bullfighting, consume less beef
  • Adopt or raise an animal, whether it is a chinchilla, dog, cat, or horse (this way, we can contribute positively so that the species survives)
  • Form part of an NGO which fights for animal rights

In my opinion, options such as these are more beneficial and will contribute more positively to the animal population rather than making empty insults. If we were to adopt a radical approach and forbid all to purchase wool, silk, meat, cosmetic products, honey, milk, circus tickets, etc., most likely nobody would follow through. The best approach is to adopt reasonable measures in which we can all contribute in one way or another to the survival of all animal species.

Let’s be reasonable!

The purpose of my post was to contribute to the very interesting topic that is animal consumption and the use of animals in general for all purposes. In my opinion, there is no point in bragging that one does not wear fur coats when one eats meat on a daily basis. Also, no one should wish for the death of a bullfighter when we ourselves visit Disney World and other aquatic parks for our entertainment. For those of you who know me, I was never a fan of bullfighting and was very against the practice. Now that I have read about how the bulls are treated and about the tradition, my opinion has changed forever. I do not want to impose my opinion on you. I simply wish for all of you to inform yourselves before making rash comments.

The reality is, we all (or almost all) contribute to the use of animals in one way or another. The most prudent measure is thus to contribute in a manner in which we can still enjoy what life have to offer, but we also do not contribute radically to the extinction of a species.

I hope that this was some engaging reading!

See you all next week!

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