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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two words that inspire rage (with footnote added)

In today's Toronto Star, section D12, the column's feature writer, Bill Taylor, wrote about the ongoing situation of a seal-hunting boat trapped in ice off the cost of Newfoundland. Well not so much about them, but about the responses people have been sending to the paper with regards to seal-hunting and the hunters themselves. To give you a taste of the mind-set, here is a sampling of what some readers are hoping will ensue for the hunters: "...we hope for a huge, sudden squall to take these barbaric savages to a watery grave..."; "There is a place in Hell for...these monsters...to revel in torturing infant seals is beyond wicked." "A heartless psychopath who enjoys inflicting maximum pain and suffering on...helpless creatures."; "...serial killers start out their killing sprees by torturing animals...". I'm sure you get the gist.

I was reading this column, and thinking 'ok, these are probably animal rights activists' and I can understand some of this sentiment. I am against factory farming for it's abhorrent cruelty and lack of even the least shred of compassion for animals. People who know me (or don't know me at all) might lump me in with this group. But I would have a couple of objections with that blanket judgment.

The first thing that came to mind, when reading the article and the "violent, vituperative" responses (in Bill Taylor's words), was 'what about the consumer that drives this business; aren't they responsible, and, in no small way?' As it is for meat, eggs and milk, all huge corporate industries are driven by the endless consumer lust for the product at the cheapest price possible. We want it now, we want it for the least amount of money - and the corporations deliver. I can hardly condemn the people who work in these industries - they are cogs in the wheel. As a matter of fact, I have read reports of unthinkable cruelties inflicted on animals (chickens, cows, etc.) by workers on the kill floor. Yes, it sickened me to read and think that people could do these things, but then I wondered: if I had to work in these conditions, would I not want to be completely numbed out of my mind? How could any person do these jobs, without turning off a part of their brain? Turning off a part of the brain, where we feel compassion and pity for suffering, frightened creatures who are just as afraid to die as we all are.

I don't know what goes through a seal hunter's mind when he is clubbing a pup. But wishing that hunter dead or to suffer in an equal manner, no...I don't feel that way. Instead, I feel grateful, that I have never had to walk in their shoes...to do a job like this in order to pay my bills, make my mortgage payments, feed my kids.

I feel fortunate that I am not de-sensitized to the painful images I see in the world (maybe that means I can be moved to do something about it).

I feel fortunate that I saw images that bolted me out of my seat. As a result, the further away I am from the meat-eating culture, the stranger it seems to me. Very strange (and yet I have to admit the cravings do still come and go, but this is recognized as just conditioning and past experience and I let it go).

That this industry continues today in my country does not make me proud. However, as long as there is a need for the end-product, the means to the end will continue. I don't know what the answer is either. But people need to work to provide for themselves and their families. In an area that is already economically depressed, maybe there is blessed little choice.

Footnote: check out this site http://georgeframpton.blogspot.com
This gentleman experienced first hand seal hunting. He certainly does not come across as a "barbaric hunter" but maybe just a man who found himself in this position once and made a decision not to repeat it. His grand-daughter is my teacher.

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