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2002-2003 Kris Rosenberg

My focus in this paper is inner peace; teaching children compassion; living with non-violence and empathy.

The ethics of human relationships with other creatures are considered, particularly as they apply to children, are influenced by our culture, and are linked to psychological integrity, in individual and collective peace. My background is in psychology, as a college teacher, psychotherapist, and school psychologist. Also I wrote the book Talk to Me: Tarcher--Putnam.

How can we become peaceful people? How do you, as an individual, develop a sense of inner peace in a world distorted by hate and violence? How could your own inner peace possibly affect world peace? How could something you choose to eat affect the well-being of the entire planet and its inhabitants? How can we teach our children to be peaceful people?

Here is a beginning: To illustrate the answers to those questions, I have a story. My baby brother was drafted well, he was no longer a baby! He had just received his university degree into the military and sent to Vietnam in 1968.

From boot camp he wrote to me that the inductees were taught to act without thinking. He struggled to maintain his own thoughts and to preserve his integrity in fact, it was this struggle that prompted him to run into an obvious trap, in an attempt to rescue wounded Americans, and to his death.

This appears to be an extreme story. Yet every day we live, there is great pressure to bring us into line as members of our culture who act without thinking. By society's shaping pressure we are taught not to make conscious choices, as in the military, which is particularly ironic given that humanity insists that that one characteristic, making conscious choices, makes us superior to other animals!

This happens everywhere and, yes, it does also happen in the U. S.! Regularly neglecting to make conscious choices, to act as thinking beings, fragments our psyches as well as our society.

We indoctrinate our children and ourselves in a scattered ethos its component elements including the pop psychology idea that one must ration her compassion so that we are not "co-dependent" with others whom we love. Actually we are too often "co-dependent" to a dangerous and destructive way of life, in both the physical and psychological sense.

In the matter of "co-dependency," pop psychology insists that compassion can be excessive, that when we are most empathetic, most interconnected, we are somehow less than whole persons. We are cautioned against giving too much of ourselves to others, letting ourselves be too attached. This idea probably came from a misunderstanding of the Buddhist teachings on non-attachment; actually Buddhist teaching is that we are an integral part of Other all Being; for Buddhists de-attaching has to do with letting go of ego, separate self-hood, not with lessening compassion or belonging.)

This Earth does not have such an overabundance of compassion as to compel us in the name of a fad in psychology to dampen that which exists. We are being asked to act in conflict with our evolved compelling need to belong and attach, a reflection of our total interconnection with all life. Our person-hood is born through interaction.

We are indeed in Reality co-dependent...with the living Earth. Our deepest empathy is actually a recognition of Reality, of the interconnection of all life. Quantum physics, to my everlasting amazement, has actually confirmed that interconnections exist that were never imagined. (Among others, the physicist Paul Davies writes clearly and vividly to the reader not versed in physics.) Through our realization of this truth, we find our own place in the universe.

When I am suffering your suffering (which is what empathy is), suffering Suffering itself, an authentic acceptance that I am inextricably part of all life, I become aware not of psychological failure but of Reality. I am neither saint for my compassion, nor psychologically impaired from surplus compassion.

Synchrony
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Giving people the opportunity to do good is good. When I stopped eating meat, I couldn't believe that I hadn't done it years before; where was I? I experienced a power and peace beyond any I had known when my behavior was in conflict with my mind and spirit. Then I saw that there is a synchrony when we do what is right for others and for ourselves simultaneously. This presents no conflict of compassion.

As soon as I recognized the big picture as soon as I allowed myself to do that I saw that there were areas other than food that called for consciousness and conscience. In finally allowing ourselves to see the reality before our faces, our conscious choices work for other purposes, such as, in this case, the environment (a word used so often that we are inclined to ignore it and forget its deep meaning), feeding starving children, our personal health, and the healing and enhancement of mind and spirit.

Being fully aware is almost impossible when we feel totally impotent to make change. Once we see a little space we can move into like what we buy and what we eat then we can courageously come to full awareness.

My empathy connects me with universal pain penetrates my soul with pain of all beings yet involves me in celebration of the eternal joy of all Being. Human efforts to separate from other creatures, to desensitize our compassion, produce a sense of being totally alone in a vast and silent space.

Alienated people wonder, "Isn't there more to living than this?" Yes, there is. The beauty of the Earth, the fascination of other creatures, is surely a major part of divine revelation. And the profound realization that we are indeed One with all Being fulfills needs that can be fulfilled in no other way. We are not alone.

Joseph Campbell, reflecting on Martin Buber's I-Thou philosophy, once said: "You can address anything as a 'thou,' and if you do, you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego (self) that sees a 'thou' is not the same ego that sees an 'it.'"

Spiritual and emotional Integrity, being a whole, undivided person, is psychological integration. That, too, is the something more we search for.

We too often come to doubt our own intuitivity and thus take our place among others conditioned as well by similar forces dancing to the music. Our experiences constantly play a tune for our dance; who can waltz when a march plays?

The instinctive need for belonging, to be like and to be with others, is the primary inborn motive of our behavior. Yet that same natural need for belonging too often is distorted by our shattered society's conditioning to conform to a different pattern, actually a disintegrated pattern too powerful for some to resist and, like water to a fish, too all-encompassing to even reach our conscious minds. (Extreme examples are cults, fanatics, suicide bombers, fundamentalists in our own country as well, drawing in those with desperate longings to belong to a group, to be relieved of the anxiety of making choices.)

Being different, standing out, sometimes standing alone, can be terrifying. Just look at the fate of those who do, our prophets, ancient and modern: a cup of hemlock, a cross, a bullet to the head.

Yet some of us manage to trust ourselves, to survive as integrated personalities, to live peacefully, with integrity, to be sensitive to other living beings, and to teach our children to trust their own perceptions, to think to make conscious choices.

What are we doing to give birth to the tremendous urge for violence in our own citizens and in our children at an earlier and earlier age? We are not teaching the children to deal gently with other people or with animals, which is vital to their becoming gentler people overall, safer people for others, healthier in mind and body, probably more joyful, and developing a higher moral level.

Normally, children sense a kinship with other breathing, pulsing creatures unless they are conditioned otherwise. Great numbers of us are taught early by word and deed to submerge our kinder, gentler feelings, not just in the matter of animals, but of all violence. Those who are taught not to feel the pain of others, or to close down on their own suffering, ("You're not afraid," boys are routinely admonished), can inflict suffering, without remorse, ignoring a basic instinct.

Violence promotes violence. A child's torture of animals is a potent danger signal, observed by all who are familiar with the early lives of violent adults. An absence of empathy, even a thrill in the presence of agonythe essence of the most severe psychopathy is expressed early on in cruelty to animals. Such aberrant and increasingly common behavior is a significant predictor of later generalized violence, and is the defining mark in the history of brutal murderers.

An individual's cruelty to animals and cultural patterns of disregard for other living beings are firmly related, each being a part of total insensitivity to life. Programs for behaviorally-disordered children commonly use gentle interaction with animals to teach empathy, to break the cycle of abuse (abuse of the children and by the children). (See also in this connection: Link Between Animal Abuse and Human Violence)

All facets of compassion, its connections with ecology, physical and mental health, and providing for world hunger all are synchronous. With different focuses, we enter the synchronicity of all empathy and compassion. Everything good works together for good to all.

Children are caught up in make-believe, animal cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse and Dumbo, absorbing the idea that animals are like people talk, wear clothes etc., as though any value they have depends upon superficial similarities to us. This introduction to the world seems healthy and natural. Then, perhaps still treasuring the delightful fantasies, the child realizes at some point that non-human animals are really different from us in those aspects. And what does the child have left when the fantasy world evaporates?

At this point the child especially needs emotional and ethical influence as a counter force to support whatever intuitivity about kinship with other creatures might remain.

However, what then commonly takes the place of these childhood fantasies is a culture that treats even companion animals as trash; millions are put to death each year in overcrowded shelters, mutilated in labs, "processed" as food, hunted for "sport," savagely killed for decoration. (In this regard, read Matthew Scully's stunning Dominion.)

Apart from the violence toward animals (which we might well call the tip of the iceberg), we have disintegrated into a violent culture overall: inadequate or/and unenforced gun laws and gangs treating the lives of others, including children, as just so much disposable property. Of course, we are a violent culture that's why we don't have gun control!

(It is generally thought that not having gun control is why we have violence, and certainly that is truethere would be no way to have so much killing if not for the ready availability of guns; we just need to ask why we don't, to see that the inherently violent trends in our society and the power of the gun lobby prevent such legislation and enforcement of such laws. I was sickened by reading that Mr. Ashcroft, in a supposed effort to prevent terrorism, will pry deeply into all our lives, including what we purchase, but not the purchase of guns, even in bulk! That is held to be the sacred right which is not to be infringed!! As though knowing the suspects buy guns is irrelevant!)

We have been programmed by 'experts' with an enormous investment in the status quo, particularly, in addition to the gun lobby, researchers and meat and dairy industries the folks who say we need milk mustaches to thrive. Thus we have come to believe that we must consume flesh and animal products, although we have neither the teeth and claws nor the intestines of carnivores. (If you doubt this, try catching a rabbit and killing it with your teeth.)

Entities with everything to gain by enticing us to consume their animal products and support their animal research, question the integrity of groups like PCRM's' (Physicians' Committee For Responsible Medicine) advice for healthy plant-based eating, because, they insist, PCRM's director Dr. Neal Barnard advocates for animals as though empathy alone calls into question his advice that non-animal food benefits our health!

Which, I ask, is more prejudicial, compassion for living creatures or an appetite for money which promotes the sale of animals for food with the dubious teaching that animal food is "necessary" for our health? (We seem to see a lot of the word "necessary" in the propaganda of the animal food and research industries.)

Which is more trustworthy, a bias toward compassion or a motive of greed? Who has more credibility, someone with a personal stake (money) in your choices or one who has nothing personal to gain? (The judges found for Oprah!)

Paul Irwin (of the Humane Society of the United States) points out: "Our humane interests coincide with other societal interests. Protecting the environment and maintaining a healthy population go to the heart of a moral imperative that demands the creation of a truly humane society."

There is a perfect illustration of the integration of purpose. You can start with any of the points below and see the same connections. If, for example, I have enough love for animals to stop devouring them which doesn't seem to require such very deep love when you really let yourself think about it that one step also serves to: 1) act as a healing force against unprecedented violence; 2) provide abundant food for all; 3) bring about and sustain ecological soundness; 4) enhance our own health and vitality. Here is how that synchrony works:

Healing Violence
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Acting as a healing force against unprecedented violence is just possibly the most important of the consequences of a compassionate life. We are saturated with domestic terror, child abuse, and homicide in the U.S., with much greater incidence than other developed countries. To provide for our children and ourselves the means to take peaceful, empathetic steps and to respect life (and our own body) enhances emotional health. Remember, violence promotes violence.

There is a common belief that we need to discharge violence to get rid of ita Freudian notion. More up-to-date thinking is that we have learned to express violence and can be taught instead to work through it without becoming aggressive.
Acting as a healing force against unprecedented violence is just possibly the most important of the consequences of a compassionate life

We need to pay attention to our natural anger and deal with it through non-aggressive ways such as talking about it. The best methods for educating and treating violence in children are the cognitive-behavioral strategies, in which children:

    a) are shown videotapes of themselves in the act of aggression. Often they do not recognize what they did to set off a fight, because these behaviors have become automatic;
    b) are taught more effective behaviors to defuse disputes;
    c) role-play these effective actions, better anger management. In schools and at home, in organizations for children, they must be taught alternatives to aggression;
    d) provided with role models, and
    e) reinforced for effective behaviors.


Although solid studies showing that there are indeed genes which may predispose us to violent behavior, we can be taught to attenuate those tendencies.

If we set about bathing our children in a kind of cultural water of empathy for example, "See, the little girl (on TV, in person, in a story book) is crying; what do you think she is feeling? Have you ever felt like that? What did you do?" We at least give them the understanding of options.

Children need to comprehend that oftentimes bad ideas that seem acceptable to others and to our government agencies, perhaps actions people at school just laugh about, have seeped into their brains and passed the barrier of awareness. That's how acculturation works. (Yes, these horrors happen in other countries as well; however, for example, in Great Britain strict gun laws have been observed for years and their rates of homicide have been accordingly low. And recently not only England but Germany and other nations have passed more extensive laws limiting cruelty to animals.)

Studies such as Albert Bandura's have shown that children more often copy television than real-life violence when they actually witness such acts. The "in person" violence is very frightening to them and, if they have adults in their lives who disapprove strongly, they see it as obviously wrong, whereas TV violence seems approved by society (which it is) and separated from their fears: the dead are resurrected on other shows.

In addition to our teachings about personal violence, in eating animal products, we absorb into our bodies literally incorporate in the root sense of the word hormones given to speed animal growth, pesticides/poisons, antibiotics, diseases of animalsall the results of atrocious modern factory farming. Add to that horror the terror and pain response in animals as they are slaughtered, stimulating adrenaline and other fear-induced hormones, which are then transmitted to the consumer.

These "additives" do influence our brains. Eating a plant-based diet is just another step in stopping to think, to make our choices free of the bonds of custom.

When I ate my last meat meal, I wondered why I had waited so long, through years of empathy with animals. There is no way to explain the power of acculturation until we become sharply aware of it!

In showing films of factory farming to groups of my college students, I heard responses such as, "Oh, I can't look at this," and even "How dare you show us this?" When they viewed children-and-youth agency pictures of children who had been burned and mutilated by their parents, they had the same reactions. "This is horrible." It becomes no less horrible by our refusing to look. Realization is devastating to the virgin ear and eye, yet knowledge is the first step to change. We shut out the message all the more when we feel impotent. We need to perceive that we are not helpless, that we can take steps, even leaps, to relieve pain and suffering.

The cultural angst about men being "real men," works against this gentling of boys. (See William Pollack: Real Boys) Frequently, fathers are adamantly opposed to teaching their sons how to settle conflict non-aggressively. Those fathers have learned the hard way what a boy has to put up with in this culture. Finding peaceful ground in an atmosphere of machismo is one of the most daunting tasks for parents of male children, and the children themselves.
Horror becomes no less horrible by our refusing to look.

Boys need not be bullies to survive male culture, neither do they need to be victims. As Dr. Pollack shows, we can teach our children to take care of themselves non-violently, even to be leaders. I know of no other methods better than those he describes at length in this booka must for parents. I have even used it as a textbook for Educational Psychology courses.

Food For Peace
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We can provide food in abundance for world hunger, by releasing resources: grains eaten by "food" animals, water, land, clean air, energy. Enough grain to feed 40 people is used in producing one steak.

I refer you to The Food Revolution by John Robbins, as well as to Frances Moore Lapp's Pulitzer winner Diet For a Small Planet, still in print after thirty years. I will never forget the opening paragraphs in which Lapp recognizes that we are all overwhelmed by the immense problems in the world and suggests that the entry point to solutions lies in food, our choices about what to eat.

More recently with her daughter Anna Lappshe produced a new book Hope's Edge. To bring the message that all is not hopeless, that we do have power as individuals and collectively, the two women traveled the globe in search of innovative strategies to teach people to fish, as the saying goes, to feed themselves and each other. ("Give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.") The Lapps found folks with new ways of seeing, of knowing, of behaving in Bangladesh, in Brazil, right here in our own country on a personal interactive level.

Diet For a Small Planet literally changed my life and the lives of countless others. So meaningful was it to me that I bought perhaps 200 copies over the years to give away. Lapp does not focus on animal advocacy (so cannot be accused like some of us of bias!); she long ago committed her life to ending world hunger, one major facet of the question at hand: global peace.

As a very young woman, Lapp realized, after extensive study, that this Earth can produce plenty of healthful food to nourish and sustain everyone, if only we comprehend the overall picture and make wise choices. "All good things work together"this is the synergy of nature.

Good things relate in the synergy that is nature.
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The Food Revolution is perhaps the most important book for dealing with these crucial questions in recent years. John Robbins is the man who, in his early years, backed away from his family business, Baskin-Robbins, discovering a larger cause for himself: making his lifework in ecological issues, particularly as empathy for animals fit into the total picture, another facet dealt with below. (He authored Diet For a New World in the same era as Lapp's DFSP.)

His recent work, being thoroughly documented, is not vulnerable to opponents' charges that he has anything to gain from his position. It always strikes me as a double bind when we have become aware and educated enough to see the path of compassion and then the opposition claims that everything we say comes out of our biases!

Robbins, focused on ecology, brings us an incredible perspective on current practices with impact upon our view of animals in factory farms, labs, and in genetically modified substances. He compels us to recognize that meat from modern farms and slaughterhouses is filthy! (Details such as feces splattered over animals in the process, and allowed in some amount as "necessary," are not easy to read, but if we cannot look or hear about them, how can we bring ourselves to eat them?!). After reading his book, we even started our dogs on a veggie diet because of the contamination of meat. If you are interested, being a vegetarian is not as complicated as we have been led to believe; just e-mail me for specifics. Kris@roadtopeace.org.

Robbins shows how our consumption of meat destroys the Earth so much our base as to be called Mother Earth destroying ourselves and our progeny in the process. He probably will not be sued for his ideas, as Oprah was, because he has apparently no riches to pay off! He advocates a very simple lifestyle and lives it.

(An interesting note: Oprah was sued by cattle growers in Texas because, following the presentation about meat of a guest on her show, she concluded: "I will never eat another hamburger." The clincher was when she left the courtroom a winner, and the press awaited her comments, she said, "I'll still never eat another burger!"

The very idea that there are state laws against our right to speak out about actual conditions in our country expressing an opinion about them! (Fortunately, Oprah was wealthy enough to fight back in court, but this case against her was in direct conflict with our freedom of speech and that conflict sooner or later will have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Healing Our Earth
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We must bring about and sustain ecological balance, without which none of these other consequences will even matter in the long run. Growth of "livestock" destroys rain forests, consumes gigantic supplies of water and energy, and contributes maximally to pollution. In our insistence on consuming meat and destroying habitat, we are raping the Earth.

We, especially in the U.S., have developed a no-limit attitude, which is clearly ecologically suicidal. Citizens persist in the idea that environmentalism is some kind of feminine sentiment about a white baby seal. On the contrary, the rescue of a wounded Earth is rationally, not just emotionally, based (and selfish, if you want to put it that way).

Some of the most apparently merciful people deny these issues, because they are afraid they cannot navigate on a plant-based plate (which, once you get the mindset, is much easier than we expect), and, what is more, thinking is so painful even more difficult for the truly compassionate person.

If the foundations and structure of our homes and workplaces and schools were crumbling and our walls cracking; if our furnaces ran with no regard for the thermostat, throwing out tremendous heat winter and summer, even melting our private little refrigerator "ice caps," just how long would it take for us to act, to move, to find out if our neighbors, our relatives in other places, our fellow-planetarians, were suffering this catastrophe as well? Then suppose we learned that everyone was having this same problem.

There is no time and no need for further studies, just a political tool. Too late may be here already. Reversals are absolutely demanded, and we need to be the ones making those demands on our government. A state of emergency?

We are in it!

Yet, some say we will just escape to Mars! Just think what people who ignore our Earth's death would do to that pristine planet! The truth is the Earth and all non-human creatures can flourish without us; we cannot survive without them.

How does this fit into what we eat and what we buy and how we interact with non-human others? Our total consumption, our attitude that we must have everything and must eat animals is a vital link in creating the current catastrophe with our Earth-home. While the earth and all its non-human creatures can flourish without us, we cannot survive without them.

Why aren't we preventing the death of our planet? Why would we burn down our own home? Because we feel so helpless in the face of politics, big business, advertising, even our own big government, which seems beyond our influence. There are just too many horrors to contemplate and we deliberately avoid thinking of them, because when we do, it is unbearable.

It is not possible for us to be certain about many particular issues, but this one thing we know: our planet is devastated and the only correct, compassionate, and self-preserving thing we can do is to alter our behaviors and influence others (particularly governing others) to do the same. Until our representatives act on our behalf on these issues, we can press them politically. Because turning off the water while we brush our teeth is just an infinitesimal drop in the ocean. At the moment of this writing (December 2002), our government has us in reverse!

Until that time, we can design new patterns for our lives. For example, on our very next grocery shopping or restaurant meal, in all of the products we purchase , we can just stop devouring our planet!

In speaking of conservation, I urge you to read Matthew Scully's Dominion. Until I read his book, the word conservation meant to me just that, preserving our habitat. However Scully points out another use of the word in hunting. He details such big game hunting organizations as the Safari Club, who are decimating the jungles and setting up "canned hunts" in the U. S. where people with money can kill a captive wild beast for the "glory." Not only are these people using doublespeak to call their adventures "spiritual" experiences, but they have non-profit status on tax breaks as "conservationists and educators! (They "teach" others, particularly in Africa, so-called conservation!)

It is appalling how much trash we generate just by our own purchases of products necessary to our lives in this age.

Healing Our Bodies
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Enhance your physical health by eating plant based foods. You see how all of these facets overlap? These multiple effects are too intertwined to be discrete.

While we are urged not to use antibiotics indiscriminately for our own and our children's illnesses, in order not to destroy their curative properties, the majority (estimates run from 55 to 70%) of antibiotics produced in the US are administered to factory farm animals!

And what is more, the animal flesh itself is identified as culprit in the physical health of consumers; you have probably read enough about the damaging properties of a meat-based diet in heart disease and other major killers to last you forever (or at least for as much forever as you have left!).

Conscious Choices
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Thinking before acting is a means not only of our individual inner peace, but also of the peace of the world.

To summarize: Since all creatures are vitally interconnected, all acts of compassion work in the same direction to the good for all things. Effective compassion is a major factor in accomplishing personal wholeness, and peace on a living planet.

One example of thinking: There is now a strong animal advocacy movement, because of

a- our deepening knowledge and awareness of what happens in laboratories and meat production;

b- our unwillingness to continually desensitize ourselves to our own behaviors and to those who commit abominations by proxy to satisfy our desires;

c- our beginning to think beyond cultural limits.
Cruelty changes the perpetrators as well as the victims.

Emotionally benumbed people are in no position to make ethical decisions. When people learn that I am a vegetarian, usually in observing my choices in restaurants, an incredible number will say, "But I think children are more important than animals."

They have somehow come to an either/or mentality: that there must be a choice between the two! Granted that, in their fanatical fervor, "animal people" can be pests or zealots (every movement has its number); regardless, we don't paint all the other eleven disciples with the color of Judas.

No good act is without effect
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Animal advocates are often asked, "How can you work toward compassion for animals when children are suffering?", with the mistaken implication that compassion for an animal precludes compassion for a child! That knee-jerk response seems to be established on the premise of finite compassion, that, by loving animals, we love children less.

Actually the reverse is true: Compassionate people must be compassionate across the board. Asked why he spent his energies protesting animal suffering, when there is so much cruelty to humans, Nathaniel Altman replied, "I am working at the roots." No good act is without effect, nor is an evil one; there is no contradiction among compassionate acts; there is only integration of compassionate behaviors inherent in being a compassionate person, for then we not only do something, we are something. To doubt this is to misapprehend the basic life of peacefulness. To live mercifully is to enhance the lives not only of our children but of all creatures and creation from which we are not separate.

Whatever our motivations, each one of us must choose a particular focus; you have to be selective to be effective. All of us must place limits upon our time, energy, finances, and mental stability. If we find this difficult, we should face the fact that, unless we take care of ourselves, we will be of no benefit to anyone or any cause. No spirited person can do everything we want to do. The bogus question animal researchers ask"Is your child more important than this dog?"calls us to what falsely appears to be an immediate gain for children and neglects the complex permanent effects of this throw-away mentality.

You have to be Selective to be effective.

Peacemaking Integrity
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Peacemaking is the particular focus of this article. In peaceful families, children, adults of whatever age, companion animals are treated kindly, but in the world at large animals are victims of our modern throw-away mentality, according to which the child comes to see the animals he calls "pets" (and which some of us call companion animals) as unlike the animals that are called food. This is basically a false perception.

An especially agonizing example of our cultural motif is 4H, which I have seen in the news, where children carefully nurture their "farm animals," and are then compelled to sell them for slaughter. As their tears fall onto their attached animals, they are told that this is the way things are and the "little farmers" (especially boys) are encouraged to toughen up in other words, suppress the compassion they naturally experience and respect the party-line, which is held out as truth: "This is what animals are for." There is an especially ghastly tone here, because what the children are being told is that to attach and love and then sacrifice for a dreadful death is not only permissible but commendable.

Children are taught to hunt; to dissect in school labs; to trash the earth; to repress their natural aversion to eating creatures who look at them with eyes much like their own. Children taught that animals are disposable test tubes or food necessary for health cannot be blamed if they treat their own puppies accordingly, and that abuse promotes their tendency to generalized violence. Even the majority of our children, who do not become violent to others, are still bathed in the culture of "disposability" of everything on earth except human species, and even the value of a human life has been discounted in our violent culture.

In our cities, we have come to expect drive-by shootings where children are killed as they play in their yards and even within their homes think how absolutely terrifying that is to live where drug-dealers are dominant entities.

We are accustomed to read of unspeakable tortures of children by their parents, which, if a stranger perpetrated these acts, s/he would be brought up on criminal charges. Just look at the difference in their sentences. (People often protest that prison will not change the abuser and, of course, they need to be "changed." However, this can be said of any criminal. The entire criminal "justice" system is unforgivably out of orderjust notice what the analysis of DNA has done for the wrongly convicted, even on death row.)

You may argue that we do not really accept those horrors. Yet we know the U.S., compared to other developed countries, has outstanding violent crime rates! Why aren't we in New York City studying the creative initiatives of their police department to apply to the American cities where crime has increased?

And why have we bought into the idea that battered children should be placed back with the abusive parent(s) because they are biologically related! Usually the philosophy of social work agencies is to unite the family no matter what. Where I live, our local child welfare people caseworkers and judges reportedly feel that they are failures if they don't place abused children back with their biological parents, and believe it to be a cause for honor that in a large majority of cases they do. Yet, how often, when we read of the death of a child at its parent's hands, the history of that family is one of having the children removed and placed back again and again, often with only superficial changes in the lives of those victims. This is a gift that keeps on giving, since we find abusive parents most frequently have themselves been abused children.

Dangerous Government-Approved Violence
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An irony is that, in the name of scientific necessity, or war, or capital punishment, government condones and financially supports that which is crime if committed by private citizens.

In war, we condition the military recruit to see people who are our "enemies" as not quite human in order to desensitize any inconvenient resistance to act without thinking!

Also, our culture accepts treating animals as "things" in the throw-away mentality which crowds animal shelters and leads to the destruction of millions of former companion animals each year. Even worse in terms of numbers, we accept factory farming because of the myth that people "have to" eat animals to be healthy and that producers "have to" operate more cheaply in order to produce "more meat" faster. When manufacturers plead that they must use animals to guarantee safety of cosmetics and household products, most people look away.

We cringe at the use of dogs as food in Asia, because culturally we have related to dogs in a different way from pigs, cows, and even lambs as symbolic as they are and appealing as well.

Thinking can be painful: most intelligent people know on some level that it is not necessary to drop lye in the eyes of rabbits to establish levels of toxins that can be tolerated by people! Not only do we already know that, we still get the caustic products that we must keep out of the way of children. We simply feel too impotent. Question: What can one person do? Answer: Just what Margaret Mead says; any significant change is always started by a few people.

Such has been the history of animal advocacy organizations. We can boycott businesses with unethical practices and shopping is the place to start. None of us has to buy cosmetics or household products that have been "proven safe" by tormenting animals. Because of the pressure of animal advocates with big budgets, many large corporations have changed their practices and there have been all along numerous small companies offering ecological and compassionate choices. You need not even research products any of the major animal welfare organizations can provide you with lists of brand names. See PETA for more.

Animal advocacy organizations and countless conscious individuals collectively have brought to light incredible facts too long ignored. Awareness comes, as in the movements for protection of people (none of whom choose these states of being) of color, of alternate sexual preference, and of women, in our heightened consciousness of what actually occurs.

There are always so many pulls on your, energies, your wallet and your clock! Sometimes we react by simply pulling out of the problem. I used to try to send small amounts of money to numerous very worthy organizations,

then discovered that you actually can give input if you have given a larger amount to one or two.

My personal choices in recent years have been three:

  • Local shelters, where we can see up close what is happening;
  • The Humane Society of the United States, a very old, well-established, and honorable group. While making every effort not to be extremists, they still, as Paul Irwin's quote above confirms, take solid stands on the issues; and
  • PCRM, whose representative Neal Barnard has, through his writings (numerous books and articles about the interface of compassion with our own health, and exposing cruelty in animal experimentation and in medical schools), his dignified personal appearances, and his presence on such programs as NPR, has made his name popularly recognizable and his organization prestigious.

These are only the tip of the bonfire. PETA, reportedly the largest animal advocacy group in the U.S., (is much in the press and so probably the most "famous"), is routinely excoriated, because they have dared to demonstrate in person and on paper far beyond mainstream advocacy spray-painting fur coats, for instance. Let me just say that PETA has rushed in where angels fear to tread, and in doing so has effected dramatic changes that angels never would have accomplished! I have mixed feelings about their tactics while applauding their results.

To their credit, they now give thousands of fur coats, donated by "converts" to the cause, to homeless women in the U.S. and Afghanistan. Segments of our culture have been totally transformed by these daring, passionate compassionat es, who sometimes seem to lose their heads.

We will, if we are so fortunate as to become generally enlightened, look back on this period of pervasive disregard for the pain of others, much as we do on slavery or burning of so-called "witches"with a horrified "how-could-we-have-done-that?" perspective.

The Matter of Experimentation
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In 1990, responding to the growing power of animal advocacy, U.S. health agencies launched a multi-million dollar effort to persuade the public actually starting with programs in public schools of the "necessity" for animal research a political, multi-billion dollar industry.

Addressing the legitimate controversy between scientists and animal advocates, a prominent federal official Frederick Goodwin, who was later fired for racist remarks (perhaps his attitudes toward minorities resembled his attitudes toward lab animals), said,

"This (controversy) is not an issue of what's right and where the truth is. ...It's an issue of how to convey the truth. The use of animals in biomedical research is indisputably part of the fundamental philosophy of the Public Health Service..."

(His remarks were quoted in the "American Psychological Association Monitor.")

A government official declares that there is to be no discussion of right and wrong! (In fact, we hear echoes of government assertion of what is moral or permissible to say, and what is not, in expressing our philosophies of peace.) Scientists do not work in a moral vacuum; they are not floating out in some limbo of logic. And Goodwin, representing our government, which continues to maintain that supposed "truth," was neither spiritual nor philosophical nor even scientific in his definition of "truth."

[We are blessed with a most basic Constitutional right to speak in opposition to government policy. Imperiled by terrorists, many have only recently recognized our increasing loss of personal rights (except the dubious right to buy guns); however, we have long relinquished a measure of our basic freedom with scant awareness of its certain erosion. (Read Ellen Alderman and Caroline Kennedy: The Right to Privacy.)]

Scientists do not work in a moral vacuum; they are not floating out in some limbo of logic.

By far the majority of animal experiments are not direct lines to vaccines, medications, and other treatments. A large proportion comprises meaningless psychological studies, cosmetic and household product tests, unnecessary and endlessly repetitive scientific work. As an example, and not an unusual one, researchers have sewed together the eyelids of a large group of kittens to study the responses; what could be done with that data I have no idea. If you are not familiar with this kind of government approved and funded research, much that is termed 'basic' (rather than 'applied') is done for no specific benefit, but rather just for dubious information, in opposition to 'applied' science. We know more already than we 'apply.' While we are spending big bucks of tax money on these kinds of research, we are under-funding services for children that we already are aware of.

I want to know if a piece of research is a direct line to healing or just another six-year-old in a thirty-year-old body taking everything apart to find out how it works.

According to experimenters, the fact that intelligent animals resemble humans (chimpanzees share 99% of our genes) makes animal experimentation worthwhile, or in their words 'necessary.' However, when dealing with ethical questions, they set aside the very similarity which motivates their work, seeing no problem with animal pain, insisting that animals are different enough from us to exempt them from moral concerns!

We have gone from Descartes's* declaration that mutilated animals were mere machines even when they were screaming in agony, to our current thinking that animals are enough like us to provide indispensable information about us, while being different enough that their suffering doesn't count! The irony is that both views condemn the animals. Our power over them allows us to make that choice.

* (Yes, that is correct punctuation, check the style manules)

To perpetuate researchers' "end justifies means" argument, we are desensitizedshaped to betray our own innate sensitivity to the agony of others. And then we wonder why increasing numbers of our children are becoming numb to cruelty!

I want to know if a piece of research is a direct line to healing or just another six-year-old in a thirty-year-old body taking everything apart to find out how it works.

In animal experimentation, an assumption is made that, regardless of pain, we are worth more than other creatures. Perhaps we arewho on Earth is to say? We are often referred to Genesis where, we are told, God intended us to have dominion over the animals. Even with those who take all of the Old Testament literally, there is the matter of just what dominion meansto use or to care for. We are not talking domination.

Again I recommend Dominion by Matthew Scully, which almost poetically gets to the religious basis of responsibility to care for rather than to dominate animals. Coming from the conservative Republican Catholic that Scully ishe was a campaigner and speech writer for current President Bushthe impact is greater and more surprising. If you aren't going to read the book, at least look up the November '02 issue of "The Atlantic Monthly" in which Christopher Hitchens writes a powerful and witty review of Dominion, which led me to buy the book and also books by Hitchens.

In view of this, upon what is the assumption of our superiority founded? Perhaps we are worth more, but there must be some reason to assume that. Worth more to whom? Worth more for what? Is an ape less valuable than Adolf Hitler or Ted Bundy? Scientists must be scientific and philosophers logical. Where is the logical, scientific basis for this egocentric perspectivethat anything we do to other beings, as long as we think it might benefit us, is moral? What are the criteria for worthiness?

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham said the question is not "Can they reason?" but rather "Can they suffer?" Jane Goodall, in an emotional plea against primate research, describes chimpanzees as like us in "physiology, psychology, biochemistry, behavior, and emotion." Mammals such as elephants, apes, wolvesand domesticated dogsform social bonds, are affectionate, grieve the loss of attachment, communicate.

And this is not the much-mocked anthropomorphism; who knows better than Jane Goodall who has spent her life among these creatures? Carl Sagan asked, "How smart does a chimpanzee have to be before killing one constitutes murder?"

If our higher intellect sets our value, then mentally retarded humansin many cases less intelligent than monkeys, dogs, and deerwould be fair game. Imagine! And, as philosopher Tom Regan tells us, loss of a young child {with immature mind} "is considered the paradigm of the tragic face of death." So, it is not our superior intelligence that exempts us and puts animals in our place.

Obviously, we are assuming human superiority based on something other than intellect. Then could it be our moral status? I am frightened to contemplate historical precedents, atrocities fired by some group's self-proclaimed moral stature: the Crusades, torturing of "witches," wars with "inferior" ethnic groups, dehumanizing treatment of mental patients, the holding of slaves. Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, speaking of our attitudes toward other animals, has said, "Our moral superiority ought to at least partly consist in not behaving like tormentors."

So, it must be something other than intelligence, other than moral rank, which leads to the conclusion that we are better than anything else in creation, that humans are incomparably precious. That something other is the concept of unique spirit, that humans alone are endowed with that essence, so that even the evil ones have souls!

Yet I doubt that many scientists would be willing to justify using animals to benefit humans on a religious/spiritual basis. That isn't very scientific! Again to quote Lewis, "If animals are without eternal substance, all the more reason to treat them justly, since their pain cannot possibly be justified on the basis of character formation."

How did we become a society that perceives deliberate torment and mutilation of animals as justifiable in the name of Spirit? Not all of us buy into Goodwin's proclamation on truth. Experimenters insist that we must use and abuse animals so that research will not collapse, that you must choose "between your dog and your child." Whenever someone poses a question as an either/or, the real alternatives have not been explored. (Are you old enough to remember the slogan, "Better dead than red," a rallying cry in years past when we feared Communism beyond all else, meaning that ceasing to exist was preferable to Communism, as though no other options were available?)

That some medical advances have been made using animals does not mean there are no preferable methods to achieve such breakthroughs. Neither do a few successes justify excesses. The fact that our ancestors crossed the continent in wagons doesn't mean there are no modern means of going that distance; experimenting on animals is at best a horse-and-buggy technique. It was the Church's problem with dissecting human bodies that led to animal experimentation. We need not choose between our children and our dogs! Alternatives exist. That some medical advances have been made using animals does not mean there are no preferable methods to achieve such breakthroughs

Those who say, "Look at the human lives we've saved with animal research" fail to consider that such results might have come sooner and been more valid with more sophisticated meanscomputer models, demographic studies, human tissue, for exampleand with greater accuracy. "Scientific American" (August 1989)certainly neither written nor published by animal advocatespoints out instances of human death and deformation from chemicals which tested "safe" on non-human animals: "New options in culture techniques and bioanalytical tools allow workers to monitor toxicity with unprecedented thoroughness and precision at the cellular level." In these thirteen years, such methods have only advanced in validity.

New options in culture techniques and bioanalytical tools allow workers to monitor toxicity with unprecedented thoroughness and precision at the cellular level.

"Scientific American"
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    August 1989

    Substances found safe for animals have damaged and killed human beings (cigarettes don't give dogs lung cancer, for example), and drugs such as aspirin, which kill certain animals, are relatively safe and even beneficial for human consumption. When Alexander Fleming first tested the effects of penicillin, a cat he dosed died, while a dying human patient had a positive response. Thalidomide, the drug that caused missing limbs in human babies, didn't cause birth defects in rats, leading to years of ignorance and resulting in babies born with deformities because of the "experts'" naive acceptance of rat research! So not only doesn't research always save lives; it can be the road to disaster and tragedy. (See Sacred Cows and Golden Geese by Greek and Greek.)


Still, regardless of the billions spent in medical research, the U. S. ranks below a substantial number of industrialized nations in life-expectancy, largely because of our failure to provide the poor with decent prenatal, neonatal, and basic health care, which again could be accomplished with the dollars now provided for animal research. It is a 'get grant' mentality. Applying for grant money has become like asking Hitler for a permit to pipe gas: they are all in this together.

Example: studying chemical addiction by dosing animals with cocaine; human addicts are readily available and often stand on waiting lists for lack of funding while animals are studied; we do not see addictions in felines or canines in 'real life'! So there goes the similarity argument. Yet we fail to provide currently available vaccines to all children, an issue of the priority of federal money, which is, after all, not infinite.

"Necessity" as Ethic
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Finally, having justified torment as morally acceptable ("We need it"), we mistake so-called necessity (expediency) for morality. In the words of philosopher Mary Warnock ("Scientific research must have a moral basis"; "New Science" 104, 36 '84.): "Morality is not a matter of judging present action against future gain. That is expediency..."

Necessity as the basis of ethic? In what other area do we find expediency being asserted as automatically ethical? When the poor rob the rich we don't excuse on the ground that the thief needed the goods, even if they were "necessary" to feed his family.
What we really must have, to escape the mongers of the false "necessity," is the salvation of this magnificent planet, the integration of compassion, and personal peacefulness.

We need to recognize the unyielding pressures on our minds and hearts and begin to let ourselves think. Expediency is not the measure of righteousness. We think we must have more and more. What we really must have, to escape the mongers of false "necessity," is the salvation of this magnificent planet, the integration of compassion, and personal peacefulness.

Like experimenters, I place a high value on knowledge/understanding. The difference is that knowledge is not limited to science, but is an issue which includes matters of psychological, philosophical, ethical and spiritual integrity. If we are to evolve in character as well as knowledge (and knowledge without character is absolutely terrifying), we must reconcile all ethical facets. An integrated and peaceful life is one in which our personal choices are consistent with our philosophical vision.

End Notes
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This paper considers, as a segment of its theme, the ethic of human relationships with other animals, particularly as influenced by our culture, and as linked to psychological integrity in each of us, in individual and collective peace.

I do not attempt to replicate the work of outstanding thinkerslegitimate philosophers who have examined the question of "animal rights" from multiple philosophical perspectives. I have not addressed here the idea of "rights" at all, rather our inter-relations with compassion and integrity. Neither do I buy into everything these authors write:

In addition to books recommended in the text, I further recommend:

Thich Nhat Hanh: Love In Action, Being Peace, The Sun My Heart; Parallax Press (anything this Buddhist monk has written has a focus on peace within and among all. Highly recommend.)

Chan Khong: Learning True LoveHow I Learned and Practiced Social Change in Vietnam. (Parallax Press)

Because the title did not appeal to me, I shrugged this book off for years. My daughter Bonnie repeatedly, literally, placed it into my hands. This account by a Buddhist nun describes the Vietnam War from the perspective of neutral peacefulness and caring in the school where Thich Nhat Hanh attempted to provide a place for others to heal in mind and body. However, they were attacked by both sides.

These two authors stand alone in teaching significant lessons of the courage of living peace.

Also of interest:

James Rachels: Elements of Moral Philosophy; McGraw Hill 1993;

Tom Regan: The Case For Animal Rights; UC Press Berkeley.



Vegetarian Dish Starter
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Mexican Casserole as I wrote it for granddaughter Marie away at college

Combine
2 small or 1 large can whole kernel yellow corn (drained)
15 oz. can black beans (drained and rinsed)
10 oz can chopped tomatoes NOT drained
8 oz sour cream (I use non-fat)
8 oz some kind of salsa or picante (I have to use mild for grandpa but my friend who gave me this recipe uses one with green chiles)
8 oz (2 cups) shredded cheese (any; she uses cheddar, I use shredded soy cheese) I was so happy when shredded came out in those little packs.
2 cups cooked rice (I use brown Minute Rice)
bunch green onions chopped

I usually add something, depending upon what I have: 1 can garbanza beans or chick peas (same thing), one red or one green bell pepper, a bit of cream cheese; you get the point.

Pour into two shallow baking dishes (I spray with butter spray or olive oil spray). Of course, you can put a little more cheese on top if you want to. Bake at 350-360 for nearly an hour. It should bubble and you should be able to put a fork in the center and have it hot. I add these details because I have no idea whether or not you are an experienced cook. You can make this ahead and just cover and refrigerate before baking in oven or bake in oven and then reheat in micro[wave].

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