The subject that is never far away from my thoughts and one that I’m sure many people will also have given some serious consideration is the notion that we in our privileged society are putting the welfare of animals above those of people.
It’s a question that is positively bursting with zealous responses.
Now just to put the brakes on here a bit, I’m not suggesting that I’m apologising for the abhorrent practices meted out on the poor animals we have deemed fit for human consumption. Nor am I arguing that dollars must come before animal welfare but I do eat meat and I take full responsibility for consuming it.
Recently watching the news I was moved by the images coming out of Somalia where the population is facing starvation on an unprecedented scale. It was one of those moments where the message really hit home. I pulled my gaze away from the tellie and visited it on my own children who looked on, their faces awash with the cathode-ray staccato images of famine. For a moment I tried to imagine my kids similarly exposed to this devastating reality but the thought of it was just too unbearable to contemplate. I retreated from this realism back into my cosy middle class living room, with our mugs of half-drunk tea and the gold wrappers of some chocolate on the coffee table. It hit me again that perhaps; just perhaps we’re putting the cart before the horse.
Its old news that we, in our fortunate society, are immune to the realities of how many people in the developing world are living. Perhaps this is such an insurmountable problem and one that we have been exposed to for so long that we have become insulated to its cries. In fact, due to this, are we seeking problems that we think we can tackle and have a positive outcome maybe even in our lifetimes? That would be great wouldn’t it? Imagine the comfort of being able to choose what problem we decide to take on board as our cause celebre? Well I don’t think it’s a comfort, in fact I think it’s a bit of a cop out. Now before you think I’m being more sanctimonious than usual, I put myself in this camp as well. I’ve copped out too.
“Well Steve, who are the arbiters of what cause we should get behind and what causes should take priority?”
I don’t know and I’m not sure.
It might make us all feel good for a while to know that we are buying ethical meat, that the mouse on Animal Rescue made a speedy recovery and ‘Mr Bigglesworth’ the kitten, was rescued from being stuck in a tree by the fireman. These are quick fixes, a Band-Aid on a gaping wound and one that will never heal just as long as we have inequality between people on our planet.
Now I’ve reconciled that this has been the way since the year dot and will probably be thus forevermore but I also reckon that in the scheme of things surely putting humans first should be a priority?
You could argue that by being human and being humane might mean we do not put ourselves first. That’s an argument that I would have trouble reconciling as the logic makes sense.
However if I were to boil this down to its essence I would say that the furthest thing on the minds of those poor people suffering in Somalia would be tussling in the supermarket aisle deliberating between choosing a free-range chook and a conventional bird.
It’s this ‘choice’ that I grapple with and because we are lucky, maybe this blindsides us to what the real issues are.