Headlines abound with horrific tales of animal cruelty. There is the dog who got his head sliced off by a chainsaw, the starved dog thrown down a garbage chute, the cat that was dipped in tar whose nose and mouth were burned off. These stories seem unreal, straight out of a horror movie, but the unfortunate truth is that they are real, and these kinds of things happen every day in every part of the world. If you have enough animal activists and rescues on your Facebook page, you’re sure to see a steady stream of nightmarish headlines all day every day, right there alongside the “urgent” animals found in shelters across America whose hours are numbered if they’re not pulled in time. We sit hopelessly at our computer screens wondering what more we can do besides spread the news, donate funds and supplies, and, if possible, rescue animals ourselves. How can we influence politicians to make and enforce laws that are there for the protection of animals? How can we make sure that the abusers are put to justice; that someday animal abusers will be punished the same way “people abusers” are? How can we wake up more people to the fact that all animals are sentient beings?
One scary element of the animal rights movement is the various factions within it. For a movement that is working toward establishing rights for all animals and ending speciesism across the globe, we sure do know how to fight with one another.
Recently, Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL came under fire when news hit that they were feeding live domesticated rabbits to the big cats. Videos on YouTube showed the big cats, including lions, tigers, and bobcats, eating dead rabbits or chasing after live ones, and Carole Baskin, the founder of BCR, went on the news to state that they do indeed breed rodents such as rats and rabbits to be used for food and training purposes prior to releasing some of the cats. Apparently, BCR has a shady past (read what Baskin admitted herself here). As someone who donated to and visited the sanctuary, I was very interested in finding out some information on Baskin and the creation of her sanctuary. What I found was information that led me to believe she created the sanctuary after having had the land for her own personal collection of exotics. Whether she had a change of heart or she had a change in her business plan, it is news that makes you question who these people really are and what their true intentions were and still are. Plenty of non-profits, large and small, have been exposed for their lies and secrets, and they don’t always prove themselves as genuine as they would like to seem. Nevertheless, I digress, as my personal opinion of BCR is not relevant to the argument I’m trying to make here.
As soon as word spread that docile, tame rabbits were being fed to the cats, “rabbit groups” started attacking BCR and anyone who supports the organization at this point. Vegans started calling the rabbit rescuers crazy, negating any claims they made and immediately assuming incorrectly that they wanted the cats to be fed a vegetarian or vegan diet. Of course, there was the argument that these meat-eaters were only fighting for the rights of the cuddly rabbits, ignoring the needs of the big cats.
The big cat vs. rabbits debate is just one example of clashes that occur regularly within the AR movement. While real abuse is going on, we fight each other from within, wasting precious time. While we debate one another, we should be debating non-vegans or people working in industries that exploit animals. While we sit on Facebook watching the newsfeed for updates on our last comment, we should be educating ourselves on ways to make a difference for animals. In the end, we’re all in this together; we’re all working towards the same goal. It’s necessary to call out an organization that is unjustly profiting (read: exploiting the animals in its supposed care) from trusting donors, and it’s important to really research an organization to make sure it really does have integrity, but where do we draw the line and reach a compromise? At what point will BCR understand that perhaps it isn’t right to feed live rabbits that are domesticated as pets to big cats when there are alternatives? At what point will people who fight for domesticated animals recognize the need to go vegan and fight for all animals, not just the ones you can keep at home? And at what point will they understand that animal rescue, when it comes to wild animals and obligate carnivores, is not easy and certainly a double-edged sword when it comes to vegans doing the rescuing? We sometimes have to put our own needs aside to make sure the animals are receiving the diet, lifestyle, and care they need.
I don’t have the answers to these problems. All I know is that, many times, the problem with the AR movement is that it involves people, and until we truly come together and stop fighting with each other, no progress will be made. Whether it is a rat, a lion, a seal, a cow, or a dog, every animal deserves to have rights that protect it from abuse and bring the abusers to justice. That is the ultimate goal and we should stay focused on that. I’m sure we can all name organizations whose practices we don’t agree with. Again, while it’s important to call them out on their hypocrisy or poor decision-making as we educate others about these issues, if they are doing something positive in the grand scheme of things, we should be trying to get them to change their ways by approaching them in a kind and mature fashion, not by attacking them with insults and creating disharmony.Because while we bicker amongst one another, another animal is beaten to death, another is sent to slaughter within days of its birth, and another is skinned alive. And all the arguing was for naught. It’s time the AR movement got its priorities straight and focused on getting out there and doing something positive rather than sitting behind a computer screen arguing for days over a social networking site. In the end, it’s all for the animals and it’s up to us, measly humans, to save them.
- Lisa Selvaggio
(Originally Posted 3/21/11)