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'THEY'RE SYNTHETIC, JACKASS!'
by Asananda X
I stand on the corner by Carnegie Hall
with four other demonstrators. As a newbie to the PETA (People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals) gang, I am given a poster of three cute raccoons to hold
with a saying probably inspired by Henney Youngman like,
'Don't take my life, please!' I
learned more about humans that day than twenty years of meditative work has
taught me and frankly animals came off looking more humane.
I am left unsure as to who is the
most responsible for the abuse in the fur industry. Is it the ones who choose
to remain ignorant to the abuse by burying their heads in the sand and doing
nothing about it? Is it the ones who care more for their wallet than they do
the suffering of another living creature? Is it the people that will treat
another person with disrespect because they are offering information which these
people don't value? Or is it the person who actually swings the club to kill
the animal for profit? Aren't all these behaviors a contribution to violence?
Is there a hierarchy of responsibility, or does complicity in the violence make
all the players equally culpable?
No one with a full functioning brain
can argue that we need fur to help us in anyway other than to look like
someone desperate for attention. I heard about family values starting with the
smarter Bush, but seeing how we justify causing harm to other creatures leaves
me shaking my head and listening for a rattle. So, where there's ignorance, I
try to educate.
I observed only three different
categories of people in my first short week on the anti-fur campaign. The
sand heads are unaware of the
treatment animals receive to remove their fur. They don't realize that
claw-like bear traps slam down on animals legs or necks in the wild, including
unknowing dogs and cats that were just out for an evening stroll, and how these
animals are left there, often for days and sometimes weeks, suffering the pain
and agony of this torture. Some even chew their own legs off to escape the
When a man cut his own arm off to
escape being stuck on a mountain climb, all the studios were banging down his
door for the television rights. If an animal does this it wouldn't even make
page 16 of the local Pennysaver. Don't these acts symbolize the same
desperation and heroism?
Every ideological stance is up for
debate, be it 'Jesus Saves,' 'Pro-Life,' or 'The Aliens Are Coming,' but
sometimes the practices of an industry speak for themselves. Whether the
sand heads are aware of it or not, the fur industry
electrocutes an animal by sticking a metal rod up either her anus or vagina, in
order to avoid harming the pelt. These animals will often go into cardiac
arrest as they spasm to a painful death. Other animals are gassed to death, but
because this method is inefficient at producing death, they can wake up while
being skinned alive or in the case of chickens, boiled.
Farm-raised animals often go insane,
circling themselves continuously and sometimes eating their own kind due to the
mental anguish of being trapped in tiny cages under such poor conditions. If
they die prematurely, they will become part of the feed for the remaining
animals. They are often led past carcasses of dead animals to get to where they
are going to be killed. Now as stupid as some people claim animals to be, it
doesn't take a rocket scientist - or a birdseed scientist for that matter - to know
that the sounds of screaming compadres and dead animals strewn in heaps on the
floor around you is not a formula for nirvana. Maybe they don't know how
chinchillas have their necks snapped while they are still fully conscious and
that it can take fifty of them to make one fur coat. Can I blame these people?
Hell, I don't even know what a chinchilla is! Or perhaps they don't know
how baby seals are killed by being clubbed over the head with what looks like a
baseball bat, letting them bleed to death in the snow. I applaud their
ignorance. If only I were so in the dark I would turn on one of the three dozen
new cutting-edge reality shows on television, instead of standing on street
corners in the cold peddling information.
The second group,
wallet lovers, are those who
know about the abuse but couldn't care less if it doesn't affect the size of
their billfold. They would kick a dog as fast as they would kick a rock.
Chickens, pigs, cows, raccoons, foxes, seals, or whatever the heck a chinchilla
Albert Einstein said, 'Great spirits
have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds,' and this is the
third group, the mediocre minds.
It's funny, but this week I can't recall any opposition we received during our
educational campaign from an 'above average' mind. I am as immature as they
come, so I can recognize a childish argument when I see one.
'He's wearing leather shoes!' shouts
the lady snidely to her friends. 'They're synthetic leather,' I respond to
her. She and her husband respond, 'Yeah, right!' and keep walking. Class has
nothing to do with the clothes you wear, the money you have, or the fact that
you have front row seats to Yo-Yo Ma at Carnegie Hall. My family values taught
me it is how you treat other people that is important. I guess if you treat
other human beings with disdain I am living in Wonderland if I think you will
treat a non-human being with compassion.
'There are people homeless, hungry,
dying in our country and you are talking about animals?!' I agree with this
person that human suffering is an important issue. It is one issue among 698
issues, including protect the environment, save the whales, nuke the whales,
feed the homeless, nuke the homeless, and a host of other issues people find
important. Animal rights is one that I find important. I am doing something
to make people more aware of it, giving them the benefit of the doubt that
perhaps they are just uninformed and not devoid of a heart. Albert Einstein
also said, 'The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people
who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.' WHAT
ARE YOU DOING?
Or how about the security guard
outside of the Time-Warner building, telling us that despite the three of us
standing two feet from the street's curb on the sidewalk that we were on private
property and had to leave. I hope the day doesn't come when Time-Warner decides
that they don't want gays or Jews, or the dreaded gay Jew, to walk on their
private New York City sidewalk. We didn't leave because we knew our rights;
disseminating information is not yet illegal in this country.
Occasionally the 'tough' young punk
will come by and say, 'Kill the animals!' While I don't consider it tough to
harm a defenseless animal, since I'm part of the over-30 crowd I am probably so
unhip in his mind that even if I said, 'Wearing pants that are so loose they
hang down to the street and leave your underwear hanging out is totally cool!'
he would respond by buying a belt.
chose to I could easily respond physically to these punks. I competed for
almost seven years in Chinese kickboxing. I even won a couple of national
titles and a bunch of regional competitions around the country. I blame all my
yogic practices and my cessation of eating animal products into turning me into
such a non-violent pussy. But this has also helped elevate my compassion for
all animals, even if they're human.
It's remarkable how many brilliant
people have talked of non-violence towards animals. Thomas Edison said,
'Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution.
Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages.' Others on
the list include Albert Einstein, Mohandas Gandhi, Leonardo Da Vinci, Leo
Tolstoy, Pythagoras (who was the original pioneer of the single name - way before
Cher), George Bernard Shaw, Margaret Meade, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ralph Waldo
Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, to
name a few. I can guarantee you that if every one of these men and women spent
a day sitting behind a PETA table they would be lambasted as being ridiculous,
impractical and unintelligent morons.
Though far more ridiculous,
impractical and unintelligent than these men and women, I will happily stand on
any street corner and discuss with you what I believe in and why it is that you
believe I am wrong. Perhaps you will even convince me to reanalyze my thinking
on certain points. But to toss at me something derogatory and then to continue
a fast pace in the other direction, ignoring my challenge to your insulting
statement, is not intelligence, is not class, is not someone expressing ethical
values. It is cowardice.
Telling me I have leather shoes on
when I don't is thoughtless. Telling me I'm lying, even after I offer to show
you the label, is just not right. Asking me what our model of a skinned fox is
representing with a preformed negative attitude is thoughtless. Hearing my
explanation which has both video and photographic footage to back it up and then
storming off angrily telling me that I am making this up is not right. Shouting
that the same skinned fox model 'Shouldn't be fuckin' out on the fuckin'
sidewalk!' is thoughtless. Shouting at me using such 'charm school' language in
front of your two little children is not right. Wearing fur because you don't
know about the abuse, suffering and cruelty inflicted on animals to make that
fur is thoughtless. Wearing fur when knowing the abuse, suffering and
cruelty inflicted on animals is not just wrong, but heartless. And that is
where I want to take this rant, blurb, 'blog,' or whatever the politically
correct term of the day is.
It is not what we can do; it
is not what we have the power to do; it is not what we have the desire
to do; nor is it what puts the most money in our pockets that makes us
human. It is our compassion, our heart, and our ability to choose. The
renowned humanitarian Albert Schweitzer said, 'A man is really ethical only when
he obeys the constraint laid on him to aid all life which he is able to help' He
does not ask how far this or that life deserves sympathy 'nor how far it is
capable of feeling.'
When did we turn into a race of
people who can turn the channel when we see 'yet another' showing of horrible
violence in Iraq or the Middle-East? How can we turn away from pictures or
video of animals being tortured in order to adorn the collars of our winter
jackets with some fur, especially when there are alternatives? Would your clear
conscience remain unmuddied if you dared to take the ten seconds to stop and
look? When did we become heartless, plastic, scientificists who argue that when
pulling out the legs of a daddy long-legs spider that the spider doesn't feel it
because it has a simplistic nervous system, in lieu of questioning why the hell
we're pulling out the legs of a spider minding his own business in the first
I was dumbfounded when I heard one man speak in disgust, defending the fur
industries abusive actions with,
"It's a business!" WHY IS IT A BUSINESS? Because we care about money and
efficiency over what is truly right or wrong.
When did our hearts become cauterized? Proclaiming the phrase,
"I don't care" should not be something one says with pride, but with
embarrassment. But why don't we care?
Mohandas Gandhi, who shared with us
some real values, said, 'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be
judged by the way its animals are treated.' How can we be cruel to another
person, another being, another anything for some type of gain, be it
monetary, ego, or otherwise and actually enjoy the spoils of our conquest?
Maybe it's time we as a nation seek to value something other than having the
strongest military and the fattest people.
So what did I learn that I seemingly
slept through during twenty years of meditation practice? I learned that many
people, like the sand heads,
are not bad people they just don't have all the facts from which to base their
actions. I learned that there are times when I behave like
wallet lovers and place my
petty concerns over concern for what is of true value. I learned from the
mediocre minds that while it is
easy to try and tear an individual or a group down for being hypocritical, it is
harder to face the real issue which they are discussing. I learned that being
'spiritual' has nothing to do with how much meditation, how many yoga classes,
who's your guru, or even how adamantly you speak up against animal cruelty. I
learned that values have nothing to do with religion, churches, temples, wealth,
or using a derivation of the word value nine times in a writing piece, but is
more about how we treat our fellow beings on our journey, be they human or
animal. If we need to kill an animal to wear its fur or skin in order to feel
beautiful or special, then God help us, I say join me in my next campaign:
Nuke The Humans, and let's leave
the world to the cockroaches.
The video we have playing goes to a
close-up of a baby seal that was hit over the head with a club and lies there
gasping and bleeding in the snow. I imagine this seal asking the humans, 'What
did I do wrong?' I feel sickened by the humans' response, 'No offense, Mac,
it's just business,' and I keep wondering if watching in silence is any less
violent than swinging the club.
Asananda X is a yogi of truth. He leaves advocating for compassion or violence to others, instead seeking to inspire truth with humor. He can be contacted at
AsanandaX@yahoo.com. He dedicates all his work to his blessed spiritual guru, Sri Baba Ganesh.