Practical Issues > Things To Do > Activism


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 suffering. 

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 is?  Fugetaboutit. 

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.

If I 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 place?

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 He dedicates all his work to his blessed spiritual guru, Sri Baba Ganesh.


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