Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mistreatment Begets Mistreatment

This is the trailer for the movie that convinced Ellen DeGeneres to become a vegan. (Here's DeGeneres discussing why she went vegan.)

On his blog, James McWilliams talks about exploitation of animals. Here are 2 recent posts and a few clips from each:

“Vapid”: Animal Ethics And The Mainstream Media
Virtually every aspect of society is structured to prevent rational discussions about animal ethics.

“Speciesism is woven into our mental, social, and economic machinery.”

What’s conspicuously amiss in our contemporary media-saturated environment is an accessible discussion of speciesism and animal rights.

[An educated public discussion] is a necessary step in the long journey to end the exploitation of animals for human wants.

The Animal’s Almanac: “Cherish Them With Warmth”
Attention to the physical comfort of—and contact with—domestic animals was a constant theme in early American agricultural literature.

In a discourse on cows, the author of The Complete English Farmer, published in Boston in 1770, reminded readers that “ill treatment will only disgust them.”

[Animals] should “immediately become the objects of our kind regards.”

We began to treat [animals] like objects created by divine providence for our arbitrary use.

While reading his posts it occurred to me that the neglect and abuse animals experience is similar to that which other groups experience, notably, women, the elderly, certain racial and ethnic groups, and people of lower income. We objectify women, marginalize and ridicule older people, oppress minorities, and exploit the poor. You could replace "speciesism" in his remarks with "sexism," "ageism," or "racism" and they would still apply.

The lack of care we show for animals is a symptom of a larger problem in our culture.


Dr. Mel said...

Helluva trailer. Literally. You're so right about the objectification of different groups of beings and the development of "isms" around that objectification. There are two really good books I can recommend about this. One is Marjorie Spiegel's _The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery_. As one reviewer said, "This is an unforgettable and powerful book, by an author who has captured the essence of violence; and shows how violence towards non-human animals holds the key and ultimate solution to the creation of a violence-free society." The other is by the Yale prof, Yi-Fu Tuan, _Dominance and Affection, the Making of Pets_, which addresses the role of objectification in allowing us to treat badly not just animals but many kinds of beings. It also talks about our "domestication" of certain beings (e.g., our dogs & cats) in a manner that allows us to develop an affection for them, though that affection can be tainted with condescension. More stuff for the reading list!!!!!

Dr. Mel said...

Just got this email from Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, head of the DNC. It's an example of the kinds of attitudes and violence you're talking about, aimed at multiple groups of beings. Let's hope the act is reauthorized.

"This week, the Senate may not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

Since this bipartisan legislation first passed in 1994, it's been reauthorized twice without a hitch. And it's been tremendously successful in helping to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

So it should be a no-brainer, right? Not to the Senate GOP, not in an election year, apparently.

Republicans are willing to throw away the entire law now that it helps protect lesbians, gay men, undocumented immigrants, and Native Americans. Do they believe acts of violence committed against these groups don't matter as much?"

Bix said...

The us-against-them mentality in this country is so strong. I think people would align themselves with a belief just because it's not the belief of the other.