Deconstructing Dominion


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Deconstructing Dominion

"The West is founded on a Judeo-Christian moral ethic, which holds that human welfare is central and that humans and animals are not of equal worth. The animal rights movement tears at the heart of that. It’s a movement that is not based on rationality; there is a very strong anti-human element." Wesley J. Smith

This inaccurate representation of those working for compassion for animals is not based on rationality or reality. When George T Angell founded the first animal protection society in the United States he was soundly criticized for helping animals, when there is so much human suffering. His response: "I am working on the root of the problem."

In an effort to discredit the animal rights movement, those who subscribe to the dominion model of animal compassion, have wrongly interpreted it as an effort to undermine western civilization and devalue human life, by granting animals the right to remain free from harm and slaughter. This does not reflect the reality of the outcome. When animal lives are respected, the value of human life goes up as well. Those who criticize unconditional compassion for animals base their fears on the mistaken belief that human progress has been achieved because man is superior to the animals and may therefore dominate and subdue them. Western religion with its notion of dominion, indicates that animals may be, ab(used), exploited, and slaughtered for human need. The claim that this belief system has benefitted man is not borne out by the facts.

The notion that progress is a result of human superiority as constructed by hierarchy of dominion is easily discredited. Inquisitions, crusades, forced conversions, holocausts and jihads are all fueled with the belief that some lives have greater worth than others and taking these lives is justified to promote an agenda. When violence for animals is justified, it cannot be easily contained to animals and has increased potential to extend to harming one's fellow humans. It is a psychological reality that children who harm animals are more likely to harm humans as adults. So too for cultures, as those which endorse permissible harm to animals, are more likely to also justify harm to humans. Cultures with greater compassion for animals are less likely to engage in the violent extremes of the monotheistic religious tradition.

Compassion is not limited to one culture, religion or society, but resides deep within the human soul. If it is nurtured it will expand and flourish, if it is suppressed it will dampen the human spirit and result in harm to both animals and humans.

The sanctified slaughter of an animal acclimates the human spirit to tolerate violence. For example, in the Jewish faith, rabinical duties require viewing animal slaughter to insure that it is carried out according to tradition. During a discussion with a rabbi, he noted that, when he witnessed the slaughter, the screams of the animals were terrible. When he revealed that he was not a vegetarian, I understood how his heart was so numbed to the suffering he had witnessed, that he was still willing to consume the product of such pain and terror. When we close our hearts to the suffering of others it becomes easier to dismiss their lives as worth less than our own.

The family of Rachel Corrie is suing the Israeli government for the wrongful death of their daughter. She and other demonstrators stood in front of a Palestinian home to protest, as an Israeli soldier was about to bulldoze it into rubble. In her bright orange jacket she was highly visible. Perhaps the soldier did not realize she was an American citizen, as he ran over her and proceded to bulldoze the home. When some lives, animal or human are viewed as less worthy than others, those spiritually impoverished by these teachings are capable of crushing a peaceful young woman to death, as if she were nothing more than a table in a home to be demolished. When all life is not viewed as precious, than no lives are safe from harm.

The observation, just noted, of the damage to the human spirit by the allowable slaughter of animals is not unique to one religion or culture, but takes its toll on all those involved. Dominion with its endorsement of half-hearted compassion and benevolent abuse is instrumental in perpetuating violence, both to animals and humans. The devastating belief that some lives are worth more than others and may be taken to gratify a perceived need has led to untold suffering for animals and humans.

Though many children are born with an innate sense of compassion, when we teach them that it is appropriate to kill gentle animals such as cows, sheep and chickens, who have harmed no one, for our own gratification and pleasure, we send the message that our own selfish needs supercede a victims right to exist:

"No society that feeds its children on tales of
successful violence can expect them not to believe that
violence in the end is rewarded" Margaret Mead

There is an epidemic of gratuitous violence in the USA. Our youth are opening fire on their classmates, troubled individuals are opening fire on their colleagues in the work place, lone gunmen are opening fire on strangers in public spaces and the violence has even spread to churches where individuals have been shot to death. It is not coincidental that those who perpetrate this violence have been taught that it is appropriate to harm and kill another living being, if it is somehow beneficial. For troubled individuals this often translates into destroying those perceived as having wronged them.

The slaughter of an animal is an act of extreme violence and their pain and terror are clearly visible. Such violence undermines and erodes the very notion of compassion. The act of killing an animal, or benefitting from it has a harmful effect on those who participate, as it lowers inhibitions, potentially leading to more violence. In her book Slaughter, Gail Eisnitz documents a higher rate of domestic violence, homicide, suicide, self-destructive behavior and public violence by those who do the slaughter. Soldiers returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan also have a similar increased rate of acting out, as they are so brutalized by the violence they have witnessed and participated in. The act of killing depletes the human spirit.

The concept of dominion is not only destructive, it also is logically flawed as it does not take into account the cooperative nature, helpful skills and intelligence of some animals. It establishes a false, self-serving hierarchy where animal rights are automatically relinquished over human rights with no exceptions. Dogs come to mind as heroes and helpers, yet a dog can be tested on without consent and a violent human criminal cannot. Something is wrong with this hierarchy.

Claims that there are provisions to address the welfare of animals with the dominion model belie the reality. While certain animals appear to be spared from harm, even for these animals, the benefits are piecemiel and dispensed with human need in mind, not the intrinsic worth of the animal's life. Dogs are cherished members of many families, yet despite this privileged position, 5-6 million healthy, young dogs a year are killed when they become inconvenient or homeless. Despite their jovial, cooperative and generous nature dogs are used as experimental subjects. Even the labrador retriever is not exempt. They are bred to develope congenital eye conditions for research to cure human eye disease. We call the dog mans best friend. Is this anyway to treat a friend?

While it is true that a model of unconditional compassion for ALL living beings, known as ahimsa, is integral to the mainstream religious and cultural tradition of India, its inclusion in western culture is not a threat to western civilization. Rather, when ahimsa is practised, it is likely to result in greater benefits, as the major tenets of western civilization remain intact. Ahimsa holds that ALL life is sacred, both human and animal, and ought to be respected. It was first introduced into Indian culture thousands of years ago by followers of the Jain religion. It is older than Christianity and predates Judaism in the shamanistic tradition of southern India. The belief that all life is worthy of respect is expressed by the following sutra:

"For there is nothing inaccessible for death.
All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like pleasure,
shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life
is dear." Jain Acharanga Sutra.

There have been no Jain religious wars, holocausts, inquisitions, crusades, jihads or forced conversions.

In this belief system the taking of a life that is not freely given is considered an act of gratuitous violence: To witness the terrible fear and pain of an animal during slaughter is to understand that the life was not freely given. To witness a despondent animal mutilated and restrained in a gruesome neuroscience experiment is to understand that this suffering was not volunteered. To dismiss this pain and suffering as a necessary evil, is deny our own humanity.

Shambo's Story: A few years ago in Skanda Vale Wales, Shambo, a beautiful young bull, was living peacefully in a Hindu sanctuary. Though he showed no symptoms, he tested positive for bovine TB. The Welsh government, egged on by surrounding farmers decided that Shambo must be killed, as he was viewed as a threat to the value of their livestock. The Hindu monks waged an intelligent and non-violent campaign to save his life. Transport was arranged to a cow sanctuary in India, where Shambo could be treated for TB and live out his life. During a puja (religious ceremony), to celebrate the sanctity of ALL life, Welsh government officials broke through the peaceful protestors and dragged Shambo off to be killed. Those practising ahimsa made every effort to save a life. Those practising dominion destroyed that life and violated Hindu religious rights with their violence.

While claims that democracy itself is threatened by extending full compassion to animals, the evidence indicates this irrational fear is unfounded. India, the largest thriving democracy in the world, has not been threatened by granting unconditional compassion to animals, rather it has been enhanced. India's reputation for tolerance of its many religions and cultures is widely acknowledged. When the Dalai lama sought refuge from Chinese wrath he was given a home in exile in India to practice Tibetan Buddhism. Abdul Kalam, the former president of India is a practising Moslem, a vegetarian, a physicist, a poet and a man of peace. Respect for the lives of all beings has in no way undermines democracy in India, nor would it do so in the west.

Lord Macaulay: The following statement by Lord Macaulay, a proponent of dominion in the broadest sense, presents a strategy to subjugate India and pillage its wealth, while acknowledging the integrity of the spiritual values of traditional India:

"I have traveled across the length and breadth of
India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar,
who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country,
such high moral values, people of such caliber, that
I do not think we would ever conquer this country,
unless we break the very backbone of this nation,
which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and,
therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient
education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that
all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their
own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native culture
and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated
nation" Lord Macaulay

It would seem that it is 'dominion' that is the threat.

It is evident that the hysterical tone of those proclaiming the fall of western civilization if animals are granted full and meaningful compassion is provocative hyperbole.

Contrary to the contention that animal rights is a 'quasi-religion', respect for the lives of ALL beings is in effect an ancient religion and concept predating both Christianity and Judaism. The political expression of this time honored principle was used by Mahatma Gandhi to liberate India from dominion based tyranny and exploitation.

Clinging to the notion that man has the divine right to harm and kill other living beings, in an era where violence rocks the world daily, is irresponsible, unrealistic and a grave fallacy with potentially devastating results for humanity and animalkind.

Ruth Eisenbud