You may have noticed by now that I use the fodder of my own personal life as a jumping off point for many of my articles. After all, who knows better about my own experiences and life than I do? Truth be told, when I dreamed up this website two years ago I knew almost nothing about the plight of other species at the hands of humans, so I couldn’t really write about it with any accuracy. All I had was a feeling, a knowing that it was wrong and that I could no longer be a part of it. So if one doesn’t yet have the facts about that which one wants to write, then write through what one does have – personal experience.
So let me tell you about an enlightening experience I have been having for the last few days. It all started with a loving hug and a kiss from my little grandson who was just recovering from what appeared to be the stomach flu. He had all the usual side effects caused by his body trying to rid itself of the virus. This is never any fun for the little ones of course, but he was back in the pink within a couple of days and no worse for wear. I am sure you can see where I am going with this.
Sunday afternoon rolls around and I am just arriving back home from my weekend of family time – feeling kinda’ funny, feeling kinda’ off. I spend the rest of the day watching TV because I don’t really feel like I have enough energy to do much of anything else. My ten o’clock bedtime rolls around and I slide gingerly under the covers, knowing without a doubt that this is just indigestion and I will be FINE, just FINE tomorrow. After all it is Monday tomorrow and I have a lot I want to accomplish this week.
Fifteen minutes later the show begins and my best laid plans are shot to hell. I will spare you the details. You all have been there and know what it is like. As youngsters we would call out for our mothers (or fathers) who would help us through the worst of it. As adults, we usually must muddle through on our own, hoping for a reprieve, maybe wishing we still could call out to our mothers (or fathers) for care and understanding. Here I sit almost three days later, a little ragged around the edges, extremely crabby and feeling very self indulgent, asking anyone who might be listening:
Why me? why now?,
knowing really that the answer is “Why not?”
It is just the flu or a gastro or whatever the experts call it these days and not usually life threatening. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time – no malicious intention there. But no one would argue that it can be pretty intense and cause a lot of short term suffering over which one has absolutely no control. So, believe it or not, while I was having an intimate conversation with the “Porcelain God”, my thoughts turned to the pain and suffering of all the animals of other species for whom we advocate. Even though I am intensely aware of their pain, I have never really felt their pain, have never walked in their shoes, or hooves and paws and webbed feet, as it were. I imagined, in that moment, what it would be like to intentionally be caused to suffer day in and day out for every waking and sleeping moment. I imagined my pain as being the emotional pain of mothers deprived of their children, the fear of being transported in a truck or on a ship in deplorable conditions, the hopelessness of being hunted, captured, caged and gawked at by human onlookers who have nothing better to do and the terror of dying in a slaughterhouse.
These are just a few examples of the widespread and gross abject cruelty afforded our fellow nations on this earth, all because we feel we have a right to their skin, their flesh, their milk, their eggs, their fur, their reproductive systems, their bodies, their self respect, their very lives. We use them for food, clothing, furnishings, medicine, research, personal care and household products and in the name of entertainment, sport and tradition. We do this because we can and because we lack empathy for them. There is no question that we have selective empathy reserved for those we love, for other humans perhaps and maybe even for animals we call our “pets” but the buck stops there.
Empathy by definition is:
the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
I don’t know why our empathy is selective. It seems to me if one has the capacity to feel empathy that it would be an all encompassing emotion extended to all who suffer. Is it because we are brainwashed into believing that empathy is only for those of our own species, of our own ilk, of our own status, race, religion, creed and so on….? Or is this an emotional flaw in the basic character and moral fiber of we humans?
I would like to hope and to think that we are capable of extending our empathy and understanding to all those who, like us, are capable of suffering. The thought of living out the rest of my life in a world where empathy is merely a definition in the dictionary to be hauled out and practiced selectively and as a matter of convenience is abhorrent to me. This is why I am vegan.
Annie’s Vegan View
End the exploitation of other nations of animals for our wants not needs.
May all beings be happy and free.
11 thoughts on “Lack of Empathy in our exploitation of other Nations (species)”
Thanks for the post Grammie Annie. It’s so hard because I know this world is in terrible trouble and a lot of it has to do with our food choices. I’ve been vegan about a year now and it drives me crazy that I feel people just don’t care about this planet. At least care about the planet that we’re leaving for the future! My daughter is graduating from college this year and wants a taco truck at her party. I’m having a HUGE problem dealing with this, but she knows how I feel and if that’s still what she wants, I have to go with it. I’m not OK with paying the price with blood on my hands but I don’t know what else to do. I even asked her to take pork off the menu in exchange for veggies but she said no. Having a really hard time with this!! Thanks so much for caring and to those that follow your website. Such a sad planet that we don’t care where our food comes from. So much suffering.
Good to hear from you and thank you sharing your dilemma. I can understand how hard this must be for you. I have been in similar situations earlier on in my veganism and have not always made the right choice, firstly for the animals and secondly for me. I would buy and prepare animal based food for my husband, then I would only buy food, not prepare it, then I asked him to move his animal based food to the downstairs fridge, then I asked him not to bring any of it into the the house at all and then thankfully, he became vegan and the problem went away. I regret that I did not see sooner and draw my line in the sand. But, I do not get a redo, so I have to accept my decisions in this matter and hopefully learn from them.
My daughter helped me to understand that I needed to get over the notion that I was depriving people when I provided and paid for only plant based food. If the food was good, the food was good.
I think as humans we get so caught up in the right to personal choice. Yes, choosing to exploit animals as most of us have done for most our lives, is a personal choice, but not a right choice or an acceptable choice.
So, fast forward to today and I no longer knowingly buy anything for anybody that has been made from the exploitation of animals. Some things I cannot avoid like the stearic acid in the tires on my car and the ingredients in products that are hidden from view and not labelled.
The meals in my home are all plant based and when people come for dinner I ask them to bring only plant based wine if they wish to bring a gift. I will not treat people to a cup of coffee if it has cow’s milk in it and so on. This doesn’t make me perfect, Ellen, but it is where I am now.
It is always my hope to encourage people not to live by my example, that it is possible and necessary for the sake of the animals to draw our line in the sand much earlier than I did and that the consequences are never as dire as we think. I guess that it is about knowing in our hearts what is really the right thing to do and just doing it. This, in and of itself is very freeing.
I so respect your efforts Ellen, for being candid about your situation and what a hard time you are having with it. We can all learn and benefit from the experiences of others.
I will tell you a little story about my mom. I was never good at sports and outdoor games when I was a kid, so I was left out of the neighborhood and schoolyard games a lot. However, one thing I was really good at was Double Dutch – go figure. But I had the worst time getting in. The ropes would be slapping on the sidewalk and I would be swaying back and forth, back and forth unable to make that leap of faith. One day, outside our childhood home, I was in the same predicament, swaying back and forth. suddenly I heard my mom, in an encouraging but firm voice, call out, “Jump Anne, just jump”. And I did.
So, with much respect and vegan love, Ellen, I will offer you the same encouragement. “Jump Ellen, just jump.”
Thanks so much for your encouragement. I’m at that stage where I want to educate people and they don’t want to hear it so I cry. I really really just want people to care. I will jump and I will pay for this party and mourn in silence. I’m glad there are people out there that feel the same and will try to continue to educate the rest. Thanks so much, my friend.
I understand your sadness. I feel it too. But I believe in a vegan world and I believe that it will happen and I try not to get caught up in the fact that people do not seem to listen. The more I work at this, the more I try to hone my methods of reaching people, in hopes of meeting them in a place where they will not turn away when confronted with the guresome facts of animal agriculture and their unconscionable complicity.
I am not telling you what to do here Ellen, but is it not possible to stand firm and not pay for what you don’t support? I am sure that your daughter will understand in time and even respect you for standing firm in your knowledge of the truth – the truth that animals are not here for our own use and that we must not be complicit by paying for their enslavement, abuse and eventual murder, unless it is completely unavoidable. You could offer her some alternatives and tell her that this is too painful for you to pay for what you know is wrong.
Your well being and that of the animals is as important, if not more important than any celebratory event. Jumping into the unknown is scary, but realistically the only thing we can do, knowing what we now know.
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has a fantastic podcast entitled Food For Thought in which she talks about all of the difficult issues connected with being vegan and standing by one’s principles. She talks about many other things too and helped me a great deal when I was sorting things out. It may be of some help to you. One her notable quotes goes something like this. “If we present the truth in a kind and compassionate way, we are not responsible for how it is received, but the truth must be told.”
If you would like to talk to me privately at any time about any of this, even though I still have much to learn, please send me an e-mail. I am also happy to continue to communicate here.
I wanted to mention that I reviewed one of Colleen’s talks about veganism and it could be of some help to you. I believe it is in this talk that she mentions the above quote. If you go to the search bar on the right side of my Home Page and type in her name, you should come to my article, in which I include the Youtube video of her speech . If you decide to do so, please let me know what you think.
Thanks! I appreciate you listening to me and for your recommendations. I will check out Coleen’s talks. Unfortunately, the truth is life was easier for me before I became knowledgeable about our food and where it comes from. I do have a son that used to make a really good steak. It’s been a long time since he’s fired up the grill. He isn’t vegan, but has cut out a lot of animal products from his diet and uses vegan sausage. He, like a lot of people find it hard to give up cheese. Thanks for being there for me, I really appreciate it! Enjoy the weekend.
You are most welcome. We are here to support one another and to learn from one another, with a view to liberating species enslaved by human and our greed. Life as a vegan is not always easy, but I find it incredible rewarding and peaceful, even though I know much of the horror behind the curtain.
Interesting enough. cheese has an addictive property in it called casomorphin. Easy enough to get off of if one knows the reason behind the craving. I still like the taste of melted cheese, but I find the plant based alternatives good enough when I am craving that feel and taste.
You enjoy your weekend too and thanks so much for tuning in. It means a lot to me and to the animals for whom we advocate.
“We do this because we can and because we lack empathy for them.” … Your post is clearly so much more than this, but that one sentence sums it completely up. I’d even think that it can be summed up as “we do this because we can” only because I know that there are people out there who in spite of empathy, go on living the way they do even knowing that it causes suffering. And I do mean empathy and not sympathy. I sadly believe that it is even within human capacity to have empathy and shrug it off and just go on. It’s a wonderful and amazing thing when any of our species comes to the point that we actually put empathy into action. Also, your point about selective empathy is well taken. That’s another thing our species excels at.
We somehow got the power. I don’t think it was given to us as some do – and we darn sure didn’t earn it. But we somehow ended up with it.
I hope you’re feeling better by now – sorry I was late in seeing and replying to this. It was a good post!
It is good to hear from you. Once again, thanks for the support.
Yes, the issue of empathy is a tricky one. I think that I am an empathic person, but yet I tend to be less empathic to people who have done me wrong, as it were. I think that this is because we misunderstand the true meaning of empathy which comes from a place of humility. It is the ability to stand in someone’s shoes and to feel their emotions, pain, difficulties and so on without judgement. It is not really supposed to be about us.
Might does not make right. Whether we were given the power or wrested it from the hands of others, we do not have the right to wield it in cruel ways.
Stomach flu, eek! Glad you’re feeling better.
I had a 24-hour stomach flu once about a decade ago, and even though it was short in duration, I can almost physically remember how incredibly awful it felt. Wave upon wave upon wave, well, I guess I shouldn’t remind you, snort. But as bad as it was, I knew it would end and that I’d be feeling well again in no time. So I think as an exercise in empathy (as you indicated you did in your post) it’d be great if more of us could try to imagine a similar level of suffering but not knowing why it was happening, not knowing if it would ever end, and then sadly discovering that it wouldn’t end until our demise. A never-ending flu or something similar would be hell on earth, and yet that’s exactly what we nonchalantly inflict on so many.
That is the beauty of having grandchildren. They love to share, as one of my good friends says.
That is the kicker about all of this. The level of suffering with no hope of escape is unconscionable. I can only imagine the despair. And that is why we seek to end the exploitation. there but for fortune, my friend, there bu for fortune.