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Wednesday, 05 October 2016 00:24

World Animal Day 2016: Let's Celebrate Animals Every Day

Growing interest in World Animal Day is wonderful news for other animals but there’s still a lot of work to be done

World Animal Day 2016 is October 4. The mission of World Animal Day reads:

To raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe. Building the celebration of World Animal Day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilizing it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals. It’s celebrated in different ways in every country, irrespective of nationality, religion, faith or political ideology. Through increased awareness and education we can create a world where animals are always recognized as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.

WADlogo2colorRGBThere’s lots information about this most important day, including events around the world and news. And, there is growing interest and involvement in World Animal Day. In 2003 there were 44 events in 13 countries and now there are about 1000 events in 100 countries. This is wonderful news for other animals. Types of events include:

  • awareness & educational events;
  • shelter open days & pet adoption events;
  • increased awareness, combined with better education for both adults and children, is slowly swaying the attitudes of people towards treating animals in a humane and compassionate way, conferences & workshops;
  • animal blessing services;
  • fundraising events such as concerts and sponsored walks through to gala balls;
  • school events to educate the younger generation such as animal-related competitions, concerts & film shows;
  • workshops to educate the owners of working animals;
  • spay & neuter marathons and veterinary treatment camps;
  • rabies prevention awareness and vaccination;
  • radio & TV interviews to raise awareness of animal issues & World Animal Day and its mission;
  • peaceful protest marches to either raise awareness of a specific animal welfare issue or to encourage governments to introduce animal protection legislation.

Abusing animals is “business as usual” for far too many humans and far too many animals

There’s no shortage of examples in which billions of nonhuman animals (animals) are abused by humans (you can also keep up with what’s happening in the world of animals here and here). It’s sickening to read about this but those are the facts. As I’m writing this essay Wildlife Services continues to kill millions of animals using a host of horrific methods, all in “the name of coexistence,” there’s a war on wolves in Washington state, a new book mandates that free-ranging cats should be removed from landscapes “by any means necessary,” the Animal Welfare Act in the United States does not consider fully sentient rats, mice, and other animals to be animals and researchers are just fine with this sham and haven’t spoken out about this idiocy (however, please see Dr. John Gluck’s “Second Thoughts of an Animal Researcher“ and his forthcoming book Voracious Science and Vulnerable Animals: A Primate Scientist’s Ethical Journey), there’s a move to delist grizzly bears in the United States despite scientists showing this would be a bad decision, zoos are still breeding animals who will spend their entire lives in cages, zoos are killing — "zoothanizing," not euthanizing — otherwise, and often young individuals, who do not fit into their breeding programs, the illegal trade of great apes is blossoming, and billions upon billions of animals are used and abused in laboratories around the world.

Billions upon billions of animals also suffer deeply and are killed for food. If we remember it’s who we eat, not what we eat, perhaps this will make a difference because it stresses that the the food industry is responsible for the horrific pain, suffering, and death of countless sentient beings (please also see). People all too easily “unmind” other animals to overcome the cognitive dissonance they experience when they choose to eat them (please see, for example, “When Meat Gets Personal, Animals’ Minds Matter Less” and “Oh, I know animals suffer, but I love my steak”: The self-serving resolution of the “meat paradox“).

This week I also learned that it’s been suggested that youngsters in New Zealand kill rats to celebrate conservation week (this essay is accompanied by a youngster holding a rat in a neck breaking trap). What a horrific lesson. New Zealand has also called for an all out war on predators to save native animals. Given that many people will have been imprinted on this sanctioned killing during early inhumane education, it’s easy to see why it just might be possible, despite many people, including New Zealanders, who are strongly opposed to this bloody crusade. Fortunately, there are numerous organizations throughout the world that are strongly supporting programs in humane education.

Paying attention to the growing international field of compassionate conservation would be a good exercise for those who support these and other onslaughts on animals. By paying careful attention to the ways in which many different human-animal conflicts have been solved without harming and killing the animals, humane and non-lethal solutions will emerge to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. An excellent place to begin to look for such examples is on the homepage for The Centre for Compassionate Conservation.

The list goes on and on, and I’m sure you know of many examples of animal abuse in your local community, your country, and elsewhere. It’s time to right these and numerous other wrongs because we are the very oxygen and lifelines for other animals.

If you can do something for other animals you must: Please do

Of course, there also are a lot of people around the world doing wonderful things for animals. Many people who are keenly interested in the use and abuse of animals are new to the animal protection movement and need information about how to help the billions of beings who are harmed and killed by humans in a wide variety of venues. The information on the above websites is invaluable for giving them ideas, and talking with others who share the same values and ideals also is a wonderful way to begin.

Homo denialus. People helping other animals are in the minority and that’s why I offer if you can do something for other animals you must. We are living in an increasingly human-dominated world and billions of people still think it’s just fine to use and horrifically abuse animals in many different ways. This is an undeniable fact, although humans are very good at denying what is happening right in front of their eyes or other senses. And, many are quite able to deny what is happening in their hearts. In Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence I refer to humans as Homo denialus. Unminding food animals and research animals, for example, are blatant forms of denialism about whom these fascinating and sentient beings truly are.

A rewilding manifesto: Compassion, biophilia, and hope: It is too late to be pessimistic

In Rewilding our Hearts I call for everyone working on behalf of animals to work together. Of course there are differences among people and organizations sharing common goals, however, we need to talk with one another and present a common front against those who think and feel animals are here for us to use however we choose to do so. In this book I also offer what I call the 8 p's of rewilding, a list that has grown to the 10 p's. These include being proactive, positive, persistent, patient, peaceful, practical, powerful, passionate, playful and present. They are all part of a rewilding manifesto that can help us all reconnect with other animals and nature in deep and personal ways so that we will get out and do something to make the lives of other animals better so they can live in peace and safety (for more on this topic please see Lybi Ma’s “Take a Walk on the Rewild Side”).

Rewilding is a personal and transformative process in which we learn to act from the inside out — we, the see-er, become the seen — and being kind and compassionate to other humans is as important as being kind and compassionate to other animals. While I feel that our connection to other animals and to landscapes is innate — we are biophiliacs — it also takes a good deal of energy to retain and to strengthen these connections.

There are too many of us. One fact about which some people don’t like to talk is that we simply can’t continue making more of us big-brained, big-footed, and over-consuming mammals because over population and over consumption are killing us, other animals, and their homes. We need to step out of our comfort zones because as time goes on there will be an increasing need to deal with problems that arise because there are too many of us on our planet and individuals in some cultures, like the U.S., are far too self-centered and selfishly consumptive.

Despite it all, I feel there really still is hope for the future, and personal rewilding, as a form of direct action, however one chooses to do it, can help us overcome the gloom and doom to which we’re constantly exposed, for this negativity gets us absolutely nowhere because we can easily get trapped in a vortex of despair and hopelessness. As Matthieu Ricard noted in an interview I did with him about his wonderful and inspirational new book called A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion, “It is too late to be pessimistic” (please see “Matthieu Ricard's 'A Plea for the Animals' Is a Must Read”).

A Plea For the Animals is a gem and a most welcomed gift on World Animal Day. Matthieu Ricard writes, “Benevolence is not a commodity that needs to be distributed sparingly like cake or chocolate. It is a way of being, an attitude, an intention to do good for those who enter our sphere of attention and the wish to alleviate their suffering. Loving animals also does not mean loving humans less.” I couldn’t agree more because compassion and love should know no bounds, and so many people who work for nonhumans also are deeply concerned about humans. Other inspiring quotes from A Plea For the Animals can be found here, but I strongly suggest that you read this book and share it widely with people of all ages. Reading it to youngsters would be a great way to begin humanely educating them for the challenging world that faces them.

In my essay calling for a rewilding manifesto I wrote:

All humans who can do something must do something positive for current and future generations. We surely can do no less for our children and theirs. And what’s so wonderful is that being compassionate to one another and also to other beings is totally natural and is in our genes. So, let’s tap into that powerful and positive biophilic impulse and exploit it for all it’s worth, and then some. What a shame and disaster it will be if we don’t do this right now.

And, while we’re at it, let’s be sure that youngsters know just what we are doing so they will model their behavior on ours and then, they too, can continue to do the good work that is necessary for our magnificent planet and for all beings to thrive and to look forward to, and joyously welcome in, many new days.

Let’s celebrate World Animal Day every day: Find something about which you’re deeply passionate and go for it.

Let’s celebrate World Animal Day every single day, and let’s celebrate all of the wonderful people who work on behalf of other animals. The animals need all the help they can get. And, while we’re at it, let’s celebrate that we are animals too.

Stay positive. Let’s also focus on successes and stay positive, so that we can stay focused on our mission and attract new people to “the animal movement.” Youngsters, new activists, and people who are working for animals and who also have other demands on their time (who doesn’t?) really need to see that we can indeed make a difference. Time again I’ve had people say that with all the negativity and focus on what’s not working, they’re teetering on giving up or they’ve already given up hope because “it’s all too much.”

And, it’s important to remember to take care of yourself to prevent burnout. This is not at all selfish, for working for animals takes a lot of time, energy, and heart. I work hard, rest hard, and play hard, and to avoid burnout I walk away from my cortex. I do this by watching movies and reading books that don’t require a lot of deep thinking, and by being addicted to watching tennis matches and bicycle races over and over again. A shot of good single malt scotch stirred with Twizzlers also works to reduce the stress from working on animal and environmental abuse. I don’t at all mean this lightly. Far too many people who work for our planet and/or other humans and animals suffer from what’s called secondary trauma that causes them to stop what they’re doing because it gets to be too much. They often suffer from PTSD. They need to take care of themselves as they care for others, so that they can rekindle and keep on going. I also do this by taking long bicycle rides, often alone. Among my mother’s last words to me were, “Be sure to play a lot,” and my father always stressed that it’s important to be able to look in the mirror and laugh at yourself. My mother’s compassion and father’s unbelievable optimism fuel me each and every day.

Matthieu Ricard is right, it really is too late to be pessimistic; we must work hard to achieve the goals of peace, safety, and coexistence. By taking care of other animals we also take care of ourselves. It’s a win-win for all. And, while we’re celebrating World Animal Day, let’s also celebrate that we are animals too.

Let’s make World Animal Day and protecting animals “business as usual.” As I wrote above, let’s celebrate World Animal Day every single day, and let’s celebrate all of the wonderful people who work on behalf of other animals. The animals need all the help they can get. And, who could be against adding more compassion and love to the world?

Thank you and blessings to all the people who are working to protect other animals. My humble and simple suggestion is to find something about which you’re deeply passionate and go for it. And, what could be a better time to begin this most needed and heartfelt journey but on World Animal Day?

This post originally appeared on Psychology Today and is republished here with the explicit consent of Marc Bekoff.
Marc Bekoff’s latest books are Jasper’s Story: Saving Moon Bears (with Jill Robinson), Ignoring Nature No More: The Case for Compassionate Conservation, Why Dogs Hump and Bees Get Depressed: The Fascinating Science of Animal Intelligence, Emotions, Friendship, and Conservation, Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence, and The Jane Effect: Celebrating Jane Goodall (edited with Dale Peterson). The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Age (with Jessica Pierce) will be published in early 2017.

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