The animal compassion test.

Dog meat trade, dogs

Be honest: which of these two photographs arouses more or all of your compassion.

Both photographs are of overcrowded animals heading for slaughter to be eaten for their meat. As genuine ‘animal lovers’ we should have an equal reaction to both photographs, but most of us will be more concerned at the plight of the dogs because we are more familiar with them. The general rule is that our conscience is more aroused when we see images of companion pets, but accept cruelty to many other animals, particularly livestock as less of a concern or even inconsequential. We are guilty of having preferences when it involves animal suffering and unconsciously grade our level of empathy and compassion towards an animal’s well-being depending on the type of animal and the circumstances involved.

We manage to compartmentalise our compassion.

Our behaviours are rather perverse and hypocritical in the way we view animal suffering and cruelty.We have this peculiar in-built capacity to group certain sections of the animal world into being less worthy of our compassion. This makes it easy for us to use them without being racked with guilt at the way we treat them.

This ranking goes along the lines of dogs and cute baby animals first, followed by cats and horses and then spirals down to those we have little consideration for such a fish and insects, and those we hate like spiders and rats.

We see no problem in confining intelligent free flying birds in small cages.

Battery farm battery chickens, cruelty to chickens, hens
Many of us get upset about chickens and hens being confined…………………..
but see no problem in confining intelligent free flying birds in small cages for our entertainment.

For instance, there are no campaigns against  keeping intelligent, social, free flying birds like parrots and macaws in solitary confinement in small cages, but we consistently argue against battery farmed birds which are unable to fly.

We make it worse in the case of parrots by often taking away their ability to fly by clipping their wings and ignoring their mental suffering. Such is our bizarre attitude of feeling sorry for certain animals in one situation but not in others.

Many children adore keeping rats and mice as pets and they become part of the family, but if a wild one should have the cheek to invade our home we exterminate it by any means possible, whether humane or not. Our lives are full of these contradictory attitudes.

“we have this capacity to unconsciously distance ourselves from any mental discomfort or anxiety certain animals might suffer”

Farm animals are another case in point as we appear unconcerned about the conditions they are kept under but make a great display of emotion when a dog is treated in the same way.

mouse, human hand
Pet or a pest?

Worse still we label farmed food animals with the unflattering title of livestock, ‘stock’ being defined as a ‘commodity for use or sale’ which when combined with ‘live’ becomes ‘farm animals regarded as assets’. This further distances ourselves from looking upon them as animals with personality or individuality. It re-enforces the conditioning that we receive during childhood that they are just meat producing machines, voraciously eating in the fields to fatten up for us to consume.

Scientific research uses huge numbers of animals and yet again we have this capacity to unconsciously distance ourselves from any mental discomfort or anxiety about the way we use them. This is because most animals used are mice, rats and fish which we have little interest in, but what about dogs and cats?

dog, cage

Our irrational attitude kicks in once again because we even view their suffering as essential to our well-being and so we allow ourselves to condone the use of our beloved dogs, cats and horses, which under other circumstances we would never contemplate and vehemently protest against even though 1,079 of the dogs used in the UK in 2016 suffered moderate to severe pain.

Number of Dogs and Cats used for experiments in 2016
2016               U.K            U.S.A     AUSTRALIA
DOGS             4,607           60,979             7,698
CATS                143           18,898             2,015

What makes these poor dogs and cats any different?

The answer is that we may not want them tortured and sacrificed on our behalf, but we cannot contemplate putting their welfare before ours. We believe that the research might help or even save our lives at some stage and so they become beyond our capacity to feel any sympathy towards. They are out of sight and mind and their use doesn’t impact on our lives.

We are all guilty of viewing and treating animals in a different way dependent on the type of animal involved, what we intend to use them for, the circumstances we meet them under and the many influences of our lifestyles, upbringing and attitudes. For all these reasons animal abuse continues unabated and must be inevitable.

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Updated February 2020

Tourists abroad risking life and limb.

We seem to lose all common sense and concern for our own health and safety

With mass tourism spreading round the world it doesn’t take long for local entrepreneurs to realise the strong lure of displaying local wildlife to tourists in unregulated collections, animal rides and shows, particularly when it concerns young animals or up close encounters. And they are quick to entertain the hordes and grab the foreign exchange.

As tourists abroad we seem unable to stop ourselves from taking part in these pursuits just to while away a few hours. Often visits to these places are part of excursions and day trips advertised on boards outside every tourist information stand.  Many of those who book these trips see no wrong in it, and become fed up with ‘do-gooders’ or ‘animal lovers’ telling them it is wrong.

We seem to lose all common sense and concern for our own health and safety and visit certain attractions which we would never consider supporting at home, usually as part of our holiday itinerary, such as riding elephants, posing with baby monkeys, tigers or snakes or watching crocodile wrestling, performing bears and elephants, cock-fighting and bull-fighting, the list is endless.

Asian elephants forced to perform for tourists

The promise of close contact with animals entices us and for some absurd reason we are eager to accept assurances from total strangers in charge, or tour guides, that the baby monkey or tiger cub we are about to hold, the pen we are about to walk into containing adult tigers, lions or leopards or the animal we are about to ride on are perfectly safe to be in close contact with and have our photograph taken with. We have no idea of the unpredictability or danger posed by ‘tame’ or semi-tame wild animals.

We also, for some inexplicable reason,  cannot associate the same cruelty and suffering involved, with that of circus animals which most people are supposedly against.   Globally, incalculable numbers are trained by methods which normally involve fear and pain and they face torment and neglect living in unnatural environments. Trainers force them to do demeaning and unnatural tricks and although there is plenty of advice and publicity available on the issues, most tourists abroad lap it up, particularly the burgeoning tourist trade from countries which see little value in animal rights.

No consideration is given to what kind of life the animals experience and what happens to them once they outgrow their usefulness. The poor things are only brought into the world to make a lot of foreign currency for the owners, which is only made possible by the clueless tourists who support such ventures.

For me it is impossible to understand why watching some local idiot wrestling with a snake or a crocodile or a poor monkey riding a kids bicycle is a pleasurable experience. Honestly what do we get from experiencing these or riding on an elephant’s back for twenty minutes or so when the poor creature spends most of its life chained up.

Such behaviour is not just restricted to ‘exotic’ countries with different values, as such activities are common in the USA, Canada and Australia where you can pay to meet and stroke tigers at petting zoos or watch alligator wrestling. Tiger petting attractions are very popular throughout South East Asian countries such as Thailand where tour companies promote the experiences, such as Tripadvisor and ‘animal loving’ reviewers laughably give them the thumbs up.

When the animals are too old to perform or are no longer ‘cute’ and particularly if they rebel, the owners discard or kill them. Baby monkeys are taken from their mothers, attached to rope leashes and paraded around all day. Once their cuteness wanes with age and they become aggressive through frustration, they are either killed or discarded. They are rarely able to fend for themselves or safely join a troop.

History is littered with highly publicised tragic incidents of so-called rogue animals attacking, mauling or killing innocent tourists, but usually it is the tourist who is mainly culpable. Despite these regular incidents we never seem to learn.

Tourists have short memories and still put their lives at risk to go elephant trekking as it is a thing to do on their bucket list.

In 2000, at an elephant ‘show’ in Pattaya, Thailand a man and his two daughters were crushed by a frustrated elephant that ran amok into the seated audience. One of his daughters was tragically killed and after the incident the naive father criticised the lack of medical facilities at the park and lack of an ambulance. Attacks by exasperated and cruelly treated elephants in countries like Thailand occur every year and are widely publicised, but tourists have short memories and still put their lives at risk to go elephant trekking as it is a thing to do on the tick list.

In 2016, a Scottish tourist named Gareth Crowe was trampled and gored to death by an elephant in Koh Samui in front of his 16-year-old daughter having allegedly tormented the animal with a banana and when attacked by his handler wielding a speared hook, gored him as well.

No matter how well-trained and socialized with humans an animal is, we fail to understand that wild animals never lose their wild instincts and can rebel at any time when they become frustrated and their natural wild urges come to the surface.

The message is not getting across that posing with captive wild animals with no thought to how the poor creatures was obtained, housed and cared for, and ultimately disposed of is a crass behaviour just to get meaningless photograph posting on social media and forgotten in no time.

By attending these events you are not only playing a part in continuing the cruelty and suffering involved behind the scenes, but RISKING YOUR LIVES!