Headlines abound with horrific tales of animal cruelty. There is the dog who got his head sliced off by a chainsaw, the starved dog thrown down a garbage chute, the cat that was dipped in tar whose nose and mouth were burned off. These stories seem unreal, straight out of a horror movie, but the unfortunate truth is that they are real, and these kinds of things happen every day in every part of the world. If you have enough animal activists and rescues on your Facebook page, you’re sure to see a steady stream of nightmarish headlines all day every day, right there alongside the “urgent” animals found in shelters across America whose hours are numbered if they’re not pulled in time. We sit hopelessly at our computer screens wondering what more we can do besides spread the news, donate funds and supplies, and, if possible, rescue animals ourselves. How can we influence politicians to make and enforce laws that are there for the protection of animals? How can we make sure that the abusers are put to justice; that someday animal abusers will be punished the same way “people abusers” are? How can we wake up more people to the fact that all animals are sentient beings?
One scary element of the animal rights movement is the various factions within it. For a movement that is working toward establishing rights for all animals and ending speciesism across the globe, we sure do know how to fight with one another.
Recently, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL came under fire when news hit that they were feeding live domesticated rabbits to the big cats. Videos on YouTube showed the big cats, including lions, tigers, and bobcats, eating dead rabbits or chasing after live ones, and Carole Baskin, the founder of BCR, went on the news to state that they do indeed breed rodents such as rats and rabbits to be used for food and training purposes prior to releasing some of the cats. Apparently, BCR has a shady past (read what Baskin admitted herself here). As someone who donated to and visited the sanctuary, I was very interested in finding out some information on Baskin and the creation of her sanctuary. What I found was information that led me to believe she created the sanctuary after having had the land for her own personal collection of exotics. Whether she had a change of heart or she had a change in her business plan, it is news that makes you question who these people really are and what their true intentions were and still are. Plenty of non-profits, large and small, have been exposed for their lies and secrets, and they don’t always prove themselves as genuine as they would like to seem. Nevertheless, I digress, as my personal opinion of BCR is not relevant to the argument I’m trying to make here.
As soon as word spread that docile, tame rabbits were being fed to the cats, “rabbit groups” started attacking BCR and anyone who supports the organization at this point. Vegans started calling the rabbit rescuers crazy, negating any claims they made and immediately assuming incorrectly that they wanted the cats to be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet. Of course, there was the argument that these meat-eaters were only fighting for the rights of the cuddly rabbits, ignoring the needs of the big cats.
The big cat vs. rabbits debate is just one example of clashes that occur regularly within the AR movement. While real abuse is going on, we fight each other from within, wasting precious time. While we debate one another, we should be debating non-vegans or people working in industries that exploit animals. While we sit on Facebook watching the newsfeed for updates on our last comment, we should be educating ourselves on ways to make a difference for animals. In the end, we’re all in this together; we’re all working towards the same goal. It’s necessary to call out an organization that is unjustly profiting (read: exploiting the animals in its supposed care) from trusting donors, and it’s important to really research an organization to make sure it really does have integrity, but where do we draw the line and reach a compromise? At what point will BCR understand that perhaps it isn’t right to feed live rabbits that are domesticated as pets to big cats when there are alternatives? At what point will people who fight for domesticated animals recognize the need to go vegan and fight for all animals, not just the ones you can keep at home? And at what point will they understand that animal rescue, when it comes to wild animals and obligate carnivores, is not easy and certainly a double-edged sword when it comes to vegans doing the rescuing? We sometimes have to put our own needs aside to make sure the animals are receiving the diet, lifestyle, and care they need.
I don’t have the answers to these problems. All I know is that, many times, the problem with the AR movement is that it involves people, and until we truly come together and stop fighting with each other, no progress will be made. Whether it is a rat, a lion, a seal, a cow, or a dog, every animal deserves to have rights that protect it from abuse and bring the abusers to justice. That is the ultimate goal and we should stay focused on that. I’m sure we can all name organizations whose practices we don’t agree with. Again, while it’s important to call them out on their hypocrisy or poor decision-making as we educate others about these issues, if they are doing something positive in the grand scheme of things, we should be trying to get them to change their ways by approaching them in a kind and mature fashion, not by attacking them with insults and creating disharmony.Because while we bicker amongst one another, another animal is beaten to death, another is sent to slaughter within days of its birth, and another is skinned alive. And all the arguing was for naught. It’s time the AR movement got its priorities straight and focused on getting out there and doing something positive rather than sitting behind a computer screen arguing for days over a social networking site. In the end, it’s all for the animals and it’s up to us, measly humans, to save them.
Winter on the mountains always seems to arrive more swiftly than below. The Autumn slinks away without a fight, taking with it the last remaining shreds of warmth, leaving behind the desolate trees against the gray-colored sky. I am at For the Animals Sanctuary in Blairstown, NJ, filming the animals enjoying the open space of their pasture for a documentary I am helping with that will give them a voice, tell their stories of horror and eventual rescue. Before long, my gloved fingers and my toes go numb from the frigid morning. Filming will have to stop now that the flurries have started to descend. The animals seem unaffected but I am clearly not built for this.
In the few visits I have made thus far to the sanctuary, it has become clear just how much work is involved in caring for farm animals. It’s an endless task that, once finished, has to be started over again. The barns need to be kept clean, food and water provided, the waste cleared away, and all the other obvious chores you would imagine. The animals are in need of constant care, including medication and maintenance, such as trimming of hooves. In addition, the cows are extremely powerful and could injure a human with ease if they chose to, so one must be aware and respectful towards these creatures by approaching with caution. As a vegan, the idea of owning an animal sanctuary is always appealing because the heart is in the matter and you want to do all you can to be a part of these animals’ lives. But reality certainly hits—a gut check, so to speak—when you see exactly what goes into running a place like this. Would I be cut out for this kind of work? Not at this point in my life, that’s for sure. And that kind of honesty is okay. I can help the animals in countless other ways. But in this honesty, I also find that I have an immeasurable level of respect for Debbie and Steve, the owners of the sanctuary, who have devoted their lives to these animals.
Although For the Animals is small and relatively new (having been founded in 2007) compared to other larger, more well known sanctuaries, with ten goats, three cows, one bull, four pigs, and four hens, it is a full-time job. Debbie and Steve run fundraisers throughout the year and host work parties, days on which volunteers can help clean out the stables and provide some much needed help, but other than that, all the work is done exclusively by themselves. There are no vacations in sight now that they share their home with rescued farm animals who cost thousands of dollars per month to maintain and who can only be properly cared for by this husband-and-wife team. They both work full-time jobs, even though Steve could easily retire, in order to have enough of their own money to fund the sanctuary aside from relying on donations.
Farms litter the landscape leading up to the sanctuary—farms that feature cows grazing that will be sent to slaughter. A group of Black Angus cattle are spotted as I ride past, and I note a baby, probably only a couple of weeks old, sitting in the grass. He or she won’t last long. Debbie and Steve can vouch for the uninterrupted rotation of animals as they are seen for a short period of time before never being seen again. In contrast, the constancy of the handful of animals at the sanctuary is comforting, especially as you get to know their unique personalities and quirks, whether it’s Amy sneaking up behind you and gently nudging you or Hope licking your hand with her thick pink tongue, and I do hope that Steve and Debbie will be able to rescue many more. Because I cannot forget the calf, resting in the grass, his lovely black coat, his small frame. I cannot ignore his fate.
The selfless work that Debbie and Steve do is beyond commendable. There are no words to show my appreciation for their dedication and ability to start this completely from scratch and learning along the way. That’s what it means, though, to be a true vegan: to take your lifestyle a giant leap forward, into hands-on care of the sick, the outcast, the nearly dead brought back to life. People on the frontline like Steve and Debbie are inspiring and deserve all the help they can get, because they are heroes, not only to the animals but to fellow vegans seeking justice for the voiceless.
- Lisa Selvaggio
*Please click here to learn more about the "For the Animals Sanctuary Documentary" and to donate to the project.
“The will to live will always outweigh the ability to die.” – Brent Smith
There's tranquility here, atop the rolling hills that give way to the mountains stretching across the horizon. It is Autumn, and the green grass is blanketed with fallen leaves of orange, brown, gold. The animals move along at a slow pace, feeding and basking in the warmth of the morning sun. Daylight is shorter now and grazing will become sparse soon. Herbie, white curls on his forehead, gallops down the hill, head swinging, legs kicking, into the open field. As a dog would, he goes after a ball or broken tree branches. With each hop and stride you can feel the earth beneath tremble, yet he bounces along unaffected, unhindered. His personality shines at moments like these. Like a child, he plays, knowing that he is free, with nothing to fear at For the Animals Sanctuary.
Herbie has a fire in his eyes that’s almost palpable; something that draws you in. He looks back at you while feasting on his hay, the playful calf inside subdued temporarily, and you know that he is sure of his salvation, because he created his salvation. When the slaughterhouse-bound truck he was on broke down and the workers were frantically transferring the animals to another truck, he knew to run. And he ran through the streets of Brooklyn, NY because he knew that he needed to get away, that that truck was not bringing him to a safe place. Did the other cows on the truck know it too? Did they try but fail to get away? Were they too afraid to attempt what Herbie did?
Public outcry helped save Herbie. After all, a bull that shows such zeal, that takes his own life “by the horns,” deserves to be placed on a sanctuary and not sent to the very slaughterhouse he avoided with his own instincts. But what about the others? Did the people who were in support of saving Herbie think about the others that would inevitably die? Did they consider that all of the animals on that truck were equals, and that all of them should be saved? Did they think about converting their lifestyles to a vegan one that would save more animals just like Herbie? Or did they think that only this daring bull was worth it?
Herbie is proof that these animals are conscious, aware beings. They know that there is something better for them outside of the factory farm. They know that they deserve better. And they’re willing to fight for it, to take risks for it. In the end, they are no different from any human being, whose intuition and instinct tells them when they are in danger, who run from a scary place to find safety, who want to live and are willing to risk everything for that one shot in hell that could get them to the other side that looks so much greener than here.
Herbie was a 4-month-old calf at the time he ran for his life. There are people who are so dissatisfied with their lives, long into adulthood, that never have the courage to change their situations, whether it’s for fear of failure, for financial reasons, or for sheer uncertainty as to what their purpose is. But Herbie knew he had to run. He knew he couldn’t trust those people. And now he knows that he is happy and has nothing to fear as he grazes in the open field among his companions. In a way, he epitomizes the “stubborn bull.” In the end, he found himself a wonderful life. When the sun sets, he rests in the warmth of tomorrow.
If only more individuals would be able to hear Herbie’s story or see him in person at For the Animals Sanctuary. Perhaps they would decide to cease consuming animal products and turn to a plant-based diet that promotes life instead of suffering and death. If only they would be inspired by his fearlessness and let go of their false convictions about diet and health and take that step toward helping others like Herbie live. If only everyone was brave enough to let go of everything they thought they knew and replace it with Truth so that farm animals would be recognized as the sentient beings they are.
Herbie saved himself. Now it’s up to us to save the rest.
- Lisa Selvaggio
There was no use for her; she would only be a financial burden. Her bond with her mother and her twin broken, her fate was to die on a veal farm, to become some human’s unnatural meal. At three weeks, still helpless, Amy was abandoned in isolation at the back of a dark, cold stall, denied food, water, safety, and comfort. She would never feel the gentle touch of her mother’s nose, nor be able to drink her mother’s milk, made for her and her alone. Everything that was her birthright had been robbed from her, and she, infertile and therefore unable to be forced into a life of artificial inseminations and successive heartbreaks to fulfill the selfish farmer’s desire for dairy, would be sent to slaughter. It didn’t matter if she starved, it didn’t matter that she was severely malnourished and dehydrated, dying slowly, because she would not be able to turn a large enough profit. She was a defective product that would be thrown away. Her needs and feelings were not a concern to the farmer, yet she was just a baby, all alone in a harsh, concrete world that showed no remorse.
Even though Amy is safe now, having been rescued just in time by For the Animals Sanctuary in New Jersey, and even though she now gets to smell the air as the seasons change and bask in the warmth of the sun while lying in the grass, the truth remains: that countless others like her have met and will meet the fate that she so narrowly avoided. And although she has found a companion to comfort her at her sanctuary, another cow named Hope who was saved from slaughter after she could no longer produce milk, the fact can never be forgotten: that she will never know her family even though she is a creature that thrives upon those bonds. We can question what happened to her mother and her twin, but we know the horrific answer.
Amy—all of Amy: her strong body, her gentle eyes, her endearing spirit—was thrown away as though she didn’t have a soul, as if she didn’t have a right to exist, and she was going to end up crowded into a truck where she would barely be able to move (if she would even have had the strength to stand), was going to be forced into a line that would lead her to a bullet through the head and a slashing open of her neck. Her skin would have been torn off and her limbs would have been sectioned off, and little by little, you would no longer be able to recognize her. Her flesh would be packaged, possibly mixed with the flesh of other cows, and treated to appear fresher to the unknowing and/or uncaring consumer who would find her on his dinner plate.
But Amy was one of the very few lucky ones, a tiny fraction of a percentage of all the ones who are slaughtered every minute of every day. You can visit Amy now, safe and sound at For the Animals. Almost one year old, she has grown and flourished, and will continue to do so. When you look at her, you can see the faces of all the cows just like her that are harmless, innocent, and simply crave to live their lives as Nature intends.
But what is most amazing is the fact that in her eyes there is no hatred for mankind, there is no fear as you approach her and stroke the softness of her black and white coat. Apparently, she has forgiven the whole of humanity and has chosen not to hold a grudge, choosing instead to focus on the caring saviors who brought her here and the visitors who come to connect with her. We find it extremely difficult to forgive our transgressors, but this cow, who, from the moment of her birth, knew nothing but hate and evil at the hands of humans, is gentle and welcoming. She has forgiven humanity for everything I cannot. Her concern now is to enjoy life, letting go of the past and focusing on the warm, safe future ahead of her. If only I could do as she has done. But I am not a cow, I am a human, and as such, I know nothing of unconditional love or true freedom or genuine forgiveness. Amy embodies all of these things, thanks to her rescuers, who unselfishly provide for her and the other lucky ones at their sanctuary. And until all animals are safe and free, Amy will be a reminder of what could and should be.
- Lisa Selvaggio
When you live in an area that is overpopulated, with houses one on top of the other, and the air is dirty, you have to savor each and every tree. Yet as I’ve gotten older, living in the same place my whole life, I’ve found that most people don’t care about the trees. They cut them down with no remorse; no concern for the air that will be that much more dirty without these natural filtration systems, and without regard to the beauty that is lost. At the very least, you would think people would miss the privacy that the branches provide when you would otherwise be able to see straight into your neighbors’ windows.
There has been a giant pine tree growing in my neighbor’s backyard since I was a child. There has not been a day in my life that, if I look out the back windows of my house, I wouldn’t see it towering above, with a Mockingbird singing from the tippy-top or squirrels running down its trunk. When the old woman living there died, I knew the tree’s time was up. But for about a year, it remained, although I feared still that the day would come when this magnificent tree would be cut down, and I’d be able to wave to my neighbors from the window because there would no longer be long green branches to cover the view.
The past few days, the new owners have gutted the house to its bare bones, and today, they began taking down the tree’s branches. Against my hopes that they were merely trimming it down, I watched them climb higher and higher, undressing the tree of its swaying pine branches until the trunk was bare. And I ached as I watched, knowing that soon, this symbol of my childhood, this tree that has watched me grow up and has inspired me with its beauty, would soon be gone. And this small town would look more like a city than a suburb, and the need to flee to the places that remain with trees would be stronger than before.
So this small space that I live in has gotten smaller, feels even tighter, and all the animals that called that evergreen home throughout the years and throughout the seasons will be displaced, making it that much harder for them to survive in this already sterile environment of buildings and streets and useless lawns. The concrete seems to be filling in around me, and I need to run before it covers me. The tree that seemed to touch the sky, that was so vibrant and alive, is now only in my memories, and I watched it die, empathizing that fear and dread that that being must have felt in its final moments as the ruthless blades cut through its limbs, one by one, until finally its core was sliced. I can see more of the sky, but there’s less beauty in that when there are no trees against it.
And the smell of pine fills the air as the branches are put through the grinder…
- Lisa Selvaggio
I haven’t really had much to say regarding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has been ongoing since April. I have simply been left speechless and outraged, and there seems no end in sight, so it seems that those feelings won’t be going away either anytime soon. Aside from posting headlines on our social networking sites for Paragon Earth to help keep people informed, my soul has been busy aching over the images of destruction, and the fire inside me has been burning higher and stronger every time another lie or selfish line comes spewing forth from BP’s mouth; never mind the lack of action by the U.S. government, its rejection of help offered by foreign nations (http://ow.ly/23i7d), and the blatant disregard by all at fault of the solutions set forth by everyone from non-profit organizations to celebrities to everyday citizens. While the people cry over lost profits due to the loss of oil or of fish stocks, I care only for our planet and for our future. The threat is one that could very well destroy our oceans, the oil even reaching the northeastern coast where I reside. It all seems unfathomable, so unreal, but it’s reality, and there seems nothing that we can do. While we all go about our days, going through our routines, living life, the animals in the Gulf try to do the same but find themselves poisoned and struggling to survive instead.
I have come to realize even more strongly that corporations control this country, as the EPA seems to have little authority over what BP does, and, as I stated already, the government has been largely absent in attempts to clean up the oil and provide funding to local governments trying to do it themselves. For example, why is it that, when the EPA told BP that the chemical dispersant they were using was too toxic compared to other alternatives, the corporation continued on? Why is it that Louisiana hasn’t yet received any of the funding it’s requested to start their own cleanup? Who is really running our country, and our world?
Our selfish dependency on oil is what led to this. There are alternative forms of energy out there. And while it will take years for those sources to become as reliable or efficient or abundant enough as oil, there hasn’t been enough action towards those goals in the meantime, so the deadline for alternative energy sources keeps getting pushed back. While other countries are so far ahead of the game, America drags its feet, because oil companies and corporations are too closely connected with the politicians in charge. We have all sold our souls to corporations like BP for the convenience, for the laziness they allow us to have. And the oil spill in the Gulf is one huge reminder of the cost: the death of our only home and of our kindred animal and plant spirits.
Because humanity on a whole has lost its connection with the planet--the Mother that brings forth all life--we allow such reckless actions as drilling 5,000 feet below sea level. Our desperate attempts at controlling oil stocks, at profiting off a natural resource that should remain within the core of the planet because it has its purpose there, have caused the worst environmental disaster in human history, and we will deal with the consequences for decades or even hundreds of years to come. This oil will not only affect the local animals and environment, it will affect the world. In turning our backs on the Source of Life we have turned our backs on ourselves and our future. And despite the devastation, you will see pro-oil lobbyists and politicians still drilling, still selling, still dealing this destructive drug we have become so addicted to.
And we are all at fault, myself included, but mostly because we have no choice. So many of us want to change our daily habits to become “greener” but are left with few options, especially if you’re of the lower and middle classes and find it difficult to afford more expensive forms of energy. Lack of oversight, lack of concern, the lust for money, the greed…the list goes on for the reasons that this tragedy occurred, like so many before it in the oil industry, and like so many to come. Yet no one ever learns, and the common populace is ignored and used and our votes fall on deaf ears, because no matter what, the corporations’ wishes are the only ones that are fulfilled. Our water and air are polluted all in the name of profit for the elite, and we suffer the consequences alongside the wildlife and the plant life.
So it’s about damn time we do something about it. Anyone with suggestions, comments, insights, etc. who wish to begin an intelligent, open-minded discussion here, please feel free to leave your comments below. We need to take back control, but we need strength in numbers and we all need to do our part to work towards the solutions. Let this be the last time an oil spill destroys our present and threatens our future.
- Lisa Selvaggio
*For headlines regarding the BP Oil Spill, visit www.paragonearth.org
I hear the tales of bombs exploding and people running for cover in the mountains or dying in their homes; of children shot for stealing a piece of bread in hungry desperation; of eating food with mold because there is nothing else; of soldiers, limbless, begging for water; of being drafted at 17 and surviving a sinking ship and seven years of imprisonment. This is the reality that my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins faced during the war that brought the world to its knees. Years passed during which they lived in extreme poverty, dirt, and fear. And what I can’t say I would have the strength to live through, these people survived.
In nightmares only can I envision the night lit up by bombs and guns blasting; the poster of the dictator telling you that you have no rights to speak out as a citizen or be out in the streets past 7pm. These are the stories they don’t teach you in history class. These are the stories that shed so much light upon the people in my life who I have at times taken for granted because I never fully understood just how hard they lived or how strong they were…and still are. These ordinary people are heroes to me; anyone that can survive through what they did has to be. They lived through what I fear happening here, and I realize ever more strongly that we must all work to maintain peace and freedom before it is taken away.
Be careful who you elect into power. It’s so easy to take things for granted. Crying about this economy seems somewhat ridiculous after being reminded of a time when humanity’s deepest fears manifested, and people were dying in attempts to bring freedom back. But at the same time, what we are going through now is a wake-up call to not let things get worse, to not hand over control to people who may end up abusing it in the end, and to stay educated and awake enough to see corruption coming, masked to look like a savior.
It was my family’s tenacity that brought me to life. And perhaps a part of them—that rebellious, freedom-craving part of me that doesn’t like being controlled—is in my bones and in my blood, reminding me, maybe in some form of cell memory, of what was and could be again if we’re not careful. That ancient part of me lived through it just as they did, and refuses to see it again. And a new appreciation is found for the comforts I have had, and for those people who worked so hard to make it possible because they never gave up even when it seemed completely hopeless and life wasn’t really life. I don’t even know how to repay them; I don’t know where to begin. After all, it is because of them that I can focus on achieving my dreams and act like a spoiled brat when things don’t go my way or I feel lost.
When I think on it, real-life heroes are flowing through me, though they never got famous, though their names will eventually be forgotten. Their courage and ability to see through one of the darkest times in human history and make a better life for themselves is super-human to me. These ordinary people aren’t so ordinary anymore, and I look to them for my strength, hoping that one day I can accomplish half of what they did, without fear and with the fortitude to take risks and the resolve to make things right.
- Lisa Selvaggio
In an effort to humanize animals to bring to the forefront their plight in varying situations, captive and free, beginning with animals on a fur farm, leading into those in vivisection labs, to those in factory farms, on to those in the wild, and finally to our beloved domestic companions. I relate to them, and I sympathize; do you?
He's slammed to the ground and stepped on, and from that moment, I feel a weight on my chest. He's hung by his feet and cut, his skin pulled off in one piece, and from that moment, I feel a hand reach in and rip my heart out. I see him look up, a bloody unrecognizable mess of flesh that has somehow lived through this ordeal, and I'm suffocating and slowly dying along with him. She's just had babies but she's stuck in a cage, and she knows their fate. Her mind left her a long time ago but a part of her reason remains, her instinct for survival is there, her instinct toward love is alive. In an act of mercy, she kills her young, sparing them a lifetime of suffering and torture in a cage. And I feel the being that's not even yet conceived inside me, and I can see the life ahead of it, and I decide, just like she did, to keep my child from the pain of this world, and so it never comes to be.
I watch them through the bars of their cages. They have sadness in their eyes, desperate for help, desperate for someone to come and save them. There are untreated bruises on their bodies and cuts in their flesh. They are bleeding but no one stops to clean their wounds and bandage them, no pain medication of any kind is administered. Chemicals are pumped into their veins, strange sci-fi contraptions are screwed into their bodies, and they are injected everywhere with god knows what. These are the only moments of freedom they get outside of their cells -- moments when you can hear them scream, moments when their eyes show nothing but fear, moments when these majestic, strong creatures are reduced to pleading for mercy that never comes. The torture is long, the physical pain never ends, the mind's strength wanes, and the body slowly dies, trying to take the spirit along with it. And all I can do is watch from the sidelines because I have no right to intervene. I can scream but my voice isn't strong enough, I can fight for them but the law's not on my side. So with every injection, I feel a sting, with every bleeding sore, I feel my own strength diminish, and with every one of those animals that dies only to be replaced by countless others, a part of me is taken too.
She's so gentle and calm, she doesn't ask for much. Her dream is to be free in the wide open air, fresh food always beneath her feet. She just wants to give birth and watch her babies grow, wants to interact rather than be alone. Instead she's forced to become pregnant when she's not ready, when her body doesn't have the strength it needs. She's hooked up to a machine that steals what should be her baby's food, and then her baby is stolen. She'll never see it again. He's been taken to another place where he will never know the warmth of the sun on his face, where he'll never drink his mother's milk, where he won't have the room to move or grow. His life will end soon, he doesn't have much time, but his mother's body will be used like a machine until it is exhausted and deemed useless. And the loss they feel, the emptiness of not knowing freedom and family, is one I know too well.
They're wild and free, they have families and they love the water, they love the mountains. But one by one they're caught in painful traps, one by one they're shot dead, one by one they're caged and used for entertainment, or their body parts are used in superstitious or superficial ritual. One by one their populations dwindle, one by one they become the last ones until there are none left. One by one they die of poison because their homes are being attacked and destroyed as well, and they have no place left to go. "Civilization" begins pushing itself in on them, and one by one they are crushed, run over, and forced away with no regard. One by one they die of starvation, of lack of shelter, of capture, of needless hunts on their kind, regarded as prizes or threats. One by one their dignity is torn away and they are left with nothing, dead or forgotten, abandoned when they're no longer needed. And when their space is taken, so is mine, and when their air and water are poisoned, so are mine, and when they're caged and forced into submission, so am I.
All she ever wanted to do was make her owner happy, and all he ever wanted to do was keep his owner safe. Instead, they're kept from food, clean water, and shelter. They're chased and hit, beaten down. They're left out on the streets to fend for themselves. But all they ever wanted was a warm hand to hold them and a smiling face to greet them. Instead they're set afire, or thrown out a window, or left on a highway, or drowned. In some places, their kind are captured and slaughtered for food, but not before being tortured. But she's so gentle and sweet, and he just wants to play, he promises to obey. They don't fight back, and when they do, it's of no use, they're not big enough to avoid being overtaken. And every time their trust is abused, every time they are taken in with greedy intentions, I lose my trust in others, I become afraid, and I can't believe what they say.
I feel their pain because they are me. They are a part of me and I'm a part of them. We are different, yet the same. We feel fear and pain, but we also feel love and security. We just want freedom and family, we want happiness, we want life. It's as simple as that. I know that, just as I feel them, they feel me, and all I can do is try to be a fraction of what they are, have a fraction of their strength, a fraction of their beauty, a fraction of their intelligence. So all I can do is try to help, make some changes in my own life to bring about positive change in theirs, and hope that someday we'll all feel their pain and realize what we've done.
- Lisa Selvaggio
*Appeared in Paragon Music Magazine March '08 issue, has been published in The Animals Voice March 2009 e-newsletter, and has been published in Starfish Story Magazine's Premiere issue for 2009
*Also available at http://www.paragonearth.org/articles/break_out_and_save_them.php and http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/ar-break.html
Wolves in the Rockies have been delisted from the Endangered Species List. It doesn’t matter what political party is in power, animals always finish last – not just in the U.S., but around the world. Now the wolves are being hunted, because humans think that two-legged animals have more rights than four-legged animals and they think that only humans can balance Nature, only humans can determine a healthy wolf population, and humans, not wolves, should be controlling the populations of prey species like elk. The mind reels.
Strip down a human to what a human really is, to what s/he really has: pathetic excuses for “claws,” the lack of fangs for killing prey and eating flesh, and no protection from the elements in the form of fur or thick hair. Humans are essentially weak and helpless creatures who have always used animals for their own advancement. We haven’t evolved as other species do, by adapting and slowly creating better, stronger physical features to survive. Instead, we have used donkeys to carry our loads, we have used horses to travel long distances with speed, we have used elements of the earth to create bows and arrows and blades for killing animals that we should be prey to (like the wolves). We have placed ourselves so proudly atop the food chain while at once detaching ourselves from the life intertwined in this universe and, more specifically, on this planet. Our exploitation of other animals has made us even lazier than we intrinsically are, and therefore even weaker, focusing instead upon development of industry, money, and technology. Those things evolve, while we do not. Even women have lost their connection to their own bodies, using, for example, birth control pills that pump hormones into their systems to make them have fewer menstrual cycles in a year, completely altering the body’s natural rhythms without a second thought.
And yet humans still think that they can decide, using their unreliable charts and graphs, how many animals of a given species have a right to life; that 600 wolves, for example, in a region covering three states, are sufficient. 600 humans surely wouldn’t be sufficient for survival, so why would it be enough for wolves? It is enough, according to those people’s standards, because it keeps the wolves from killing the pet dogs people leave outside unattended and from eating the cattle and sheep that are ranched. A solution, from a vegan like myself: If you understand that the farm animals shouldn’t be raised for food, then you wouldn’t have to keep them, and then you wouldn’t have the problem of them being attacked by wolves and you wouldn’t have to feel so self-important in keeping the wolf numbers down.
A few of us have raised our consciousness and recognized the connection we have to all life on this planet, from the tiny organisms living in the deepest, darkest depths of the vast oceans to the birds that migrate through our skies from one hemisphere to the other. If only all of us would evolve, mentally and spiritually, to that place, then we may once again begin evolving physically to better adapt to this changing planet. Until then we are doomed to an artificial existence, working against Nature until She shakes us off, as George Carlin stated, “like a bad case of fleas.”
Deepak Chopra once said: “The old paradigm was survival of the fittest. The new paradigm is survival of the wisest.” It’s time we all realize that Truth, for our own survival as well as the survival of other species that support our very existence on this aching Earth.
- Lisa Selvaggio