August 6, 2012

A Good Life for Fellow Creatures

While our fellow creatures are put behind bars or held captive in the camouflaged cages of modern zoos, where they are stared at and poked by the young, the curious and the idle, our consciences should continue to disturb us. So long as animal hunting and fishing licenses are issued by the million, permitting the holders to trap or shoot our fellow creatures for sport or as a business, we cannot rest content. While our fellow creatures are bred and raised by tens of millions to be butchered in cold blood, their bodies hung up or laid out for sale in public markets and finally cooked and eaten, cannibal fashion, those of us who are radicals in our interpretation of the precept “thou shalt not kill” must continue to agitate and organize on behalf of these myriad victims of artificially stimulated and jaded human appetites.

Restraint does not cease to be imprisonment when it is applied to our fellow creatures. Nor is a form of sport tolerable which maims its victims or deprives them of their lives. Deliberate killing is murder whether the object of the attack is a human being or a fellow creature.

Violations of fellow creature rights take many forms: trapping and shooting wild life for food or sport; saturation spraying and dusting of poisons which destroy birds, mammals and insects; raising and slaughtering creatures for food; torturing and killing fellow creatures for educational, diversional or experimental purposes; the use of fellow creatures as “work animals”; shearing the wool from sheep, goats, camels, rabbits; using the fur of wild or domestic animals; the incarceration of fellow creatures in circus and zoo cages; the maintenance, in permanent servitude, of domestic pets who would not know how to care for themselves if released, who “enjoy their servitude,” “love their masters,” and who, if released, would return voluntarily to live parasitical lives.

There was a time, not too long ago, in the United States or elsewhere, when human beings were hunted and eaten, bred, bought and sold as chattels. For the most part, this form of slavery is a thing of the past. The enslavement, torturing, imprisonment and killing of animal, bird and insect fellow creatures to satisfy human fancy. whim, habit or assumed need is still practiced, on a larger scale than elsewhere, in highly industrialized and civilized communities, where mass slaughter, mass chemical poisoning, mass experimentation with fellow creatures, and mass incarceration behind barbed wire and other restraining means are matters of every day occurrence.

Restraints, incarceration, exploitation, torture and murder of fellow creatures attracts no more attention and arouses no more comment in the leading civilized countries of today than the like treatment of human slaves aroused in the leading civilized countries of previous centuries. Humanity has passed through periods of cannibalism and of chattel slavery. In the course of its evolution, it will surely reach a point at which the greatest good to the greatest number of living creatures will be accepted and applied with equal rigor to humanity’s fellows and neighbors.

If there is a “right” to the demand for security, for dignity and for life itself, that right must apply with equal force to all living things. We humans, as trustees for the planet and its inhabitants are duty bound to recognize and uphold such rights and to protest against their denial, no matter who or what the victims of the denial may be.

(from Chapter VI, The Conscience of a Radical, Scott Nearing, Harborside, Maine: Social Science Institute, 1965)

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environment, environmentalism, animal rights, vegetarianism, ecoanarchism