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Are We Loving Animals To Death?

Photo Courtesy World Animal Protection USA

Earlier this year, in an attempt to unleash my inner “metaphysical hippie”, I decided to pick up a book on modern shamanism. For those of you who may not know, a “shaman” is loosely defined as someone who has access to the spiritual world. Often shamans connect with spirits and energies through the natural world including various animals.

The book I chose followed the journey of a rather typical suburban, working mom and her years long pathway to becoming a full-blown professional shaman. It was well written and interesting and, until the very last chapter, I was enjoying it.

What, you ask, was in the last chapter that blew my enjoyment of the book and a large chunk of my respect for the author out of the water?

Simple, the Author rode an elephant.

What the living what?

It’s a sad fact that some of the worst animal abuse is supported by and even celebrated by people who “love” animals.

Even the most well-meaning people I know run afoul of slick marketing when it comes to animal cruelty. A very darling lady I know worked for years and paid a substantial sum of money to visit a fairly well known lion “sanctuary” in South Africa. It was, for her, the trip of a lifetime, volunteering with “orphaned” lion cubs. Imagine her horror when it was revealed, several years after her visit, that the “sanctuary” was no more than a front for a large scale breeding operation supplying lions for game hunting.

Years before their grotesque cruelty was made known to the public, I visited the notorious “tiger temple” in Thailand. I was, what is known in sales as an “easy mark”. I love all animals and who wouldn’t want the opportunity to see real, live tigers up close and personal? Besides it was run by monks, how bad could it be?

Pretty bad, it turns out.

The notorious tiger temple, since shut down.

People who LOVE animals dream their entire lives of swimming with dolphins, of having their photo taken with apex predator cubs like lions and tigers, getting up close and see with their naked eyes wild and exotic species like elephants.

And, just like I did, it’s all too easy to convince yourself that what you are doing is somehow humane, because we so very much want to think so.

We buy the marketing, hook, line and sinker.

Even beloved “Golden Girls” actress and dog and cat advocate Betty White has fallen prey to this craving for inappropriate connection. Hers is one of the loudest (and most effective) voices against removing, suffering, stressed and miserable Billy the LA Zoo’s lone male elephant to a healing sanctuary.

We, self proclaimed animal people need to take a cold, hard look at ourselves and genuinely ask if our need to “connect” justifies what is being done to that animal.

Do we, as humans, have the “right” to intimate connection with these species and individuals?

Are our selfies, our education, our children’s education, our convenience, even our life dreams, worth the forced breeding, inappropriate captivity, pain and suffering of animals?

We also, and this is even more important, must have the courage to ask hard questions, demand and tolerate unpleasant answers. I hate to put it this way, but we have to stop being suckers.

This applies to what we eat, where we shop, how we treat and get our companion animals, where we travel and what we do. It applies to how we raise our children and what we have the courage to tell our friends, families, co-workers and even ourselves.

Its not always easy- your dream of holding a baby panda bear may never materialize- but in the end, doesn’t it make you feel good to know that in the grand scheme of life, you had the courage to walk the difficult path of kindness.

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