A guest post by Gart van Gennip
Recently, I have made some waves on the Internet, voicing my strong opinions about the treatment of animals and about those who choose to mistreat them. I would like to clarify why I am such a fierce defender of animal rights.
It’s not just that I think that animals are beautiful and fascinating, or that I feel sorry for animals when they are made to suffer. It may seem strange, coming from an atheist, but to me, it is a spiritual thing.
As the dominant species on this planet, I believe that humans don’t have the right to use, abuse and exploit it any ol’ way they see fit. I believe that we are supposed to be caretakers, stewards of this planet and that it is our responsibility to take care of it, not exploit it.
If you believe in a Creator, what better way than to thank and honor him (or her, if you insist) for this marvelous place, than by taking care of it in the best way we can? If you believe in this Creator, how do you think he feels about the way we treat his creation? I suspect he isn’t too impressed.
I personally don’t believe in a Creator, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel we can be thankful. I think we owe it to ourselves to do all we can to maintain this world we live in. And that includes treating animals with respect. Not exploit them in the most cruel and cynical ways, for pleasure, for entertainment, or for profit. Or for science, as Japan would have you believe. I read somewhere –and I don’t know who said it- that one can judge a society by the way it treats its animals. That’s not saying much about our neck of the rainforest.
If you have ever owned a dog, or if you have ever watched two birds, two butterflies, or even two dragon flies chase after each other, playing, then you will agree with me that animals, fish and even insects are able to enjoy themselves; to have fun. I was told by an expert just this week, that even snakes have personalities.
Well, if animals are capable of having fun, then they are capable of other emotions too. It is no secret that animals can miss someone, that they can be jealous, impatient, frustrated, bored, stressed, or scared.
Animals are not things. They can feel pain. Just because some of them aren’t fitted with facial expressions to show their agony, or with vocal chords to express that pain, doesn’t mean they don’t feel it. Giraffes don’t have vocal chords. Neither do the horses used during bull fights, because their ‘caretakers’ cut those vocal chords out with a knife. Nobody wants to hear a horse scream in mortal fear and pain, when it is pinned down by a raging bull. Apparently the fans of bull fights are too sensitive to expose them to such a sound.
Animals are sentient beings. They have intelligence, personality, ego, a sense of self. And as such, they should have rights. As humans, as the dominant species on this planet, we have a responsibility to take care of them. Animals depend on us for their well-being. We may be capable of exploiting nature, and the earth’s resources, but just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.
I am not talking about feeding ourselves, or defending ourselves against animals that can hurt us. I am talking about abuse, about exploitation. As many of you know, I recently got involved in a fierce debate about cock fights. I called it, among other things, one of the lowest forms of human behavior.
Other people defend cock fights as part of a culture, as a tradition. Well, it used to be part of a culture to have gladiators fight to the death, and Christians thrown before the lions. Just because something is a tradition, doesn’t mean it automatically merits defending it. The tradition of cock fighting is not just cruel to the animals; it is demeaning to us. The list of traditions that have been abandoned because they have become socially unacceptable is long. There! I just killed a mosquito. I may be a veggie, but I’m not stupid.
Meanwhile, I will not kill any living creature if I don’t see a clear reason for it. You can kill rats and cockroaches, but in this town, there will always be more. Likewise, I don’t kill the ants in my kitchen, because it doesn’t solve the ‘problem’ and they are harmless. In fact –call me crazy- I go out of my way to shoo-shoo them off, before I start cooking or run water in the sink. I find ants fascinating creatures and I believe them to have a collective intelligence that is mind-boggling. Who am I to wipe out countless of those creatures for no reason at all?
Recently, I went on a trip up the Itaya river. I travelled by peque-peque with a group of local people. When we returned, someone spotted a snake, swimming in the river. We all looked to see it and it quickly got closer to the boat. All of a sudden, a man got up, took a machete, and slashed that snake in two. The girls screamed and everybody laughed.
I was furious! I just can’t get my head around that mentality of senselessly killing a living creature for no reason at all. That snake posed no threat to us. We could just have watched it and let it pass. It was a beautiful sight. But no, someone felt the urge to kill that creature, killed it, and then laughed about it. The snake was no threat and it wasn’t food. So why kill it? My day was ruined because of that incident, and all I could do was think about all the things I wanted to say to that man.
I am a vegetarian. I haven’t eaten meat, fish, poultry or any other kind of living, breathing creature in over 25 years. I believe that humans are vegetarians by nature, which makes us excellent stewards of the planet. We have both the teeth and the digestive system of vegetarian mammals. But somehow, we got used to eating meat, probably out of necessity. I suppose that’s why we have to cook most meat and fish, because it really doesn’t belong in our diet.
Even as a veggie, I respect everybody’s right to eat what they want, as long as it doesn’t include products that require cruelty to animals, like foie gras, or that are made of, or with, endangered species. Fortunately, people become more aware of the well-being of the animals they eat and more people decide to cut back on meat, or even completely stop eating it. I wish everybody would become a vegetarian, but I don’t go on a crusade about it. Why not, you ask?
One has to pick one’s battles, and I don’t like fighting a losing one. And with some 95% of the world’s population being carnivores, I don’t believe I will live to see V-day. So I choose to stand up for animals whose rights are threatened or attacked. Why? Because I am human. If humans don’t stand up for animal rights, who will?
Why I stand up for animal rights.
A guest post by Gart van Gennip
Gart is the publisher of Ikitos.com; If you appreciate Gart’s writing skill as much as I do be sure to click the links below to read more…
I wrote this review of Gart van Gennip’s unique web site back in December 2008. Since those times it has grown up into a force in our virtual Iquitos community.
The views expressed by this author are not necessarily the views of Bill Grimes, Dawn on the Amazon Tours and Cruises or the Captain’s Blog.