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'Charlotte's Web,' ensnares us in hypocrisy

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Film, 'Charlotte's Web,' ensnares us in hypocrisy

Animal activist Jim Harris (seen here) and Jake Michaels make up King Platypus, Philadelphia's premier Zen, world-beat, show tune, surf-folk fusion band. They play locally at the Mermaid Inn and elsewhere.

Humbly submitted as a possible op-ed piece (guaranteed to elicit a bloodthirsty response).

As a lifelong vegetarian in a meat-eating world, I have learned to avoid beating my head against brick walls. However, watching the ads for the new movie Charlotte's Web, I am once again reminded of the glaring inconsistency in the way people view animals, and it begs to be questioned.

In these kinds of films, a cute little animal is saved from an early death ' usually a trip to the slaughterhouse ' because of some exceptional innate talent or unusual stroke of luck. Everyone smiles, cries and heads to McDonalds for a McHam McSandwich.

Sure, they're anthropomorphized animals, but that doesn't change the fact that some basic truths are presented; we have empathy and compassion for animals, we feel good when we see one escape the butcher's knife, and yes, they really are sent to slaughter ' by the millions daily worldwide ' at a very young age.

The movie animal usually has to win the right to live by being unbelievably talented and thus ingratiating himself with some human master and the viewing audience. The movie humans, on the other hand, can be as unremarkable as mud and still automatically enjoy the full benefits of our modern rights-based society.

Many of the same moviegoers who get the warm fuzzies seeing a cute girl (Dakota Fanning) with an adorable animal have no problem leaving the movie theater and having a ham sandwich or an entrée of pork chops or steak.

It's not surprising that, even in this time of growing prosperity and advanced communication, large numbers of human beings are murdering each other without much hesitation or provocation. Civilizations that blindly support cruelty to animals and denial of their simple, basic rights can only foster a tunnel-vision that separates the world into endless groupings of "us and them."

Instead of giving them promotional talking-animal toys with their "Happy Meals," maybe we should teach our children to see themselves in others, and to realize that we are all part of and responsible for what goes on around us. As Gandhi (a real person) said, "You can judge the moral progress of a nation by the way they treat their animals."

The Catch 22 of all this is that, if people could see the horror of the slaughterhouse, most would stop enabling it, but they don't want to see it. They would rather watch movies about skateboarding pigs and dancing cows and come away feeling like they are somehow taking the moral high ground by supporting warm fuzzy fantasy. Real compassion is thus wasted in fruitless pursuit.

We could all stop eating meat tomorrow and prevent billions of unnecessary deaths. It would cost us nothing and would actually benefit humankind and the environment in the long run, but self-indulgence and force of habit keeps the whole ugly business going. That's reality, and for folks who care about such things, there's no escaping it.

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