Do I ever have the right to decide that it’s time for someone’s life to end?

Philippines has a big problem with stray dogs and cats. You can see them walking around pretty much anywhere you go, mostly malnourished and dirty, sometimes sick or wounded. My empathy for these animals is of course huge, all I wanted to do when seeing them was to take them all in, feed them, bathe them, give them medicine for their problems and somewhere safe to rest. All I wanted to was to give them a loving home, but I couldn’t.

One of the dogs we saw was in worse shape than all the others; I have never before seen an animal that look like it’s suffering that much. The fur was mostly gone and the skin filled with rashes and wounds, he stood for hours in the same spot without moving, and worst of all; someone had put a metal chain so tightly around his neck that it created an infected wound and most likely limited his breathing. Just watching him was painful, imagining the suffering he must go through every day, every moment.

R made a decision to have him euthanized to end his suffering. He called a veterinarian, who after some talking agreed to come for free if we would just pay for the medicine injection. It took some hours before they came, but the dog was still standing in the exact spot where we had left him.

Watching them catch him and give him the first injection to put him to sleep was painful. Already before they caught him, he knew that something was going on, so he got angry and started moving away from them. His scream when he was caught and given the first injection in his thigh was heartbreaking. I had expected a painless death to end his life full of suffering, but he was in such bad condition that this small injection tore his skin and caused him pain. I couldn’t watch, and I couldn’t help crying. I was wondering if this really was the right thing to do, did we really have the right to decide for this poor creature that his life was over and this was the way he was going to die?

In a little while, which felt like an eternity, everything grew quiet. Finally I dared to go closer and look at him. He was sleeping, his chest slowly raising and lowering; peace. The veterinary assistant prepared the injection that would go into the cardiac muscle (the heart), and once it was given the dog’s legs moved for the last time before everything was over.

Death had come. Was it better? I’ve thought about it so many times afterwards, praying that he is now in a better place. A place where he can run around without pain, a place where he never has to be hungry, a place where no one will deliberately cause him pain. Do I have the right to decide when it’s better for someone to die than to go on living, even though this someone is a dog? I don’t really know. I live after the premise that we don’t have the right to take someone’s life, or use someone, for our own purposes. But how about taking someone’s life to end their suffering? Do I have the right to take such a position of power, even if I use this power for what I believe is the best for that living being?

This dog, who lived his whole life without a name, without love, without anyone caring for him even the tiniest bit, has gotten a special place in my mind and in my heart. I don’t think I will ever forget him, and I don’t either think that I want to.



Showing compassion over the boundaries of opinion

At one point in time the animal activist group that I was in did demonstrations at individual fur farms. We had a banner and we sang songs and shouted rhymes about how horrible fur farming is and how cruel fur farmers are. I joined a couple of times, but it never felt right to me and I decided to not join these kind of demonstrations anymore. After this decision I had a conversation with one of the other group members (who, for the record, is an amazing person that has inspired me in many ways) about the issue. She said that she understands that it is uncomfortable/hard for me, but that I need to think of it as a way of ending fur farming, and that I should try to distance myself from the owners of the farms, because in fact they are animal abusers and not good people.

Now I do think fur farming is a form of animal abuse, I think it’s wrong and unneccessary and I hope to see an end to it while I’m still alive. However, I don’t feel comfortable with standing outside the farmers’ homes calling them names and telling them they are horrible people without compassion. Because they’re not. I don’t think what they do for a living is okay, and I will never give my blessing for it, but they themselves are not horrible, cruel people. They are human beings, just like us, and like so many of us they have been desensitized to the suffering of non-human animals. Just as I don’t want to be called names or have anyone stand outside my home telling me what they think I do wrong in my life, I don’t want to do that to others.

I don’t either believe these kind of demonstrations do much for the sake of animals. Yes, after much effort and verbal harassment, that one farmer might close his farm and turn to other means of making money, possibly saving the lives of some animals. However, the hatred against animal activists would grow larger, and the indifference between the activists and the farmers would continue to be there. This kind of animal activism will not change the minds of anyone believing the use of animals for our own purposes to be okay, it might just make their belief stronger.

I don’t mean that we should stop fighting for an end to fur farming (or other types of animal abuse), but I don’t believe in this particular way of doing it. Hatred doesn’t grow anything other than more hatred, and I believe animal activism should be about changing people’s attitudes towards non-human animals and the vegan lifestyle, not shouting in their face that what they do is wrong. Because it doesn’t work. If we don’t show compassion towards other people, if we don’t change our attitude towards them, how can we expect them to change their attitudes towards non-human animals?

Do we need veganism when there are ecologically raised animals?

A few days ago I ended up reading the comments of a random blog, through checking the reviews of a book. The comments (and the post) discussed the trustworthiness of the China Study, and some comments were made about vegans and veganism.

One person commented that there is no longer a need for the term “ethical veganism” because there are ecologically raised animals today. Other comments also mentioned “humane” meat and stated that if vegans really cared about ethics they would eat this and “stop complaining”.

These people have certainly not understood what ethical veganism is about (and possibly not either what the actual difference between ecologically and non-ecologically raised animals – mainly their feed, not so much the way they are treated), because the problem with animals raised for consumption does not go away because you change their feed or “treat them well”. They are still our slaves and they still suffer, because the situation and environment we put them in is not their natural one. Even if animals are raised ecologically, they are still kept in the same kind of places, their bodies are still abused, their children are still taken away from them and they are still not seen as the living beings they are but as ways to make money.

So yes, the term “ethical veganism” is very much needed. Possibly even more because of statements like the ones these people made, because a lot of people have a very wrong idea of how an animal is “treated well”. If you treat someone well it should be on this beings terms, not on yours. If it is on yours, the being is a slave. And being a slave is not to be treated well. It doesn’t matter if you are walking on two legs or four, if you have wings, fins or arms, it’s still wrong.