What does it mean to love animals?

By guest blogger, Marianne Verigin
There sure has been quite the hullabaloo raised lately about fur-wearing people who are also vegetarian or say they love animals. I can almost hear the gasps. “What?! How can you possibly love animals and still wear fur?” Somehow that is a preposterous unfathomable concept to many animal lovers.

But it makes perfect sense to me, given our odd human nature. I’m fascinated with the rationale people choose to draw their boundaries, particularly when it comes to the use of other species.

This is a really complex grey issue to wrap our heads around. One I believe that each one of us really needs to take a good hard look at. Especially those of us who advocate for other species. It’s imperative in order to increase our effectiveness at taking a stand for them, as well as to evolve our own beliefs and move our own boundaries.

To me the crux and bottom line of all debates over every other-than-human animal use issue is our perception of the value of each and all other species. To a lot of people, loving animals means treating them nicely, but in the end, they believe animals to be of lesser value than humans and thus usable, expendable. To others, like me, every species is of equal value, human or otherwise. We all have equal right to live a free and peaceful fulfilling life. From this perspective loving other species means not utilizing them for human gain. The majority of people fall along a myriad of different points along the spectrum.

This explains why someone can hunt, or wear skin (with or without hair), or eat animal flesh, or wear cosmetics tested on animals, etc. etc., and still say they love animals. Ultimately, they believe at least in part that it is ok to use animals. Just harm them the least we can in the process.

(I’m bracing myself for the reaction of this one) That includes animal advocates. That includes those who are passionately against one use but perfectly fine with another. They can protest against fur and go home and eat a barbequed cow muscle, or promote a veg diet and continue wearing hairless skin, and think nothing of it. Or have not yet been willing to change behaviour to match their values.

So does that mean that you have to be the purest of the pure vegan to have the right to voice your stance on any issue to try to protect other species? No. Everyone is entitled to, and should, voice their opinion and concerns. That even goes for those who use animals.

What it does mean is that no matter what side of the line you stand, we all have to be honest with ourselves with what our belief is at the core. That’s a starting point, but should by no means be where we stop. We should continually evaluate our beliefs and behaviours and ask ourselves, “are they congruent?” As well as being open to shifting our beliefs when our instinct is niggling at us to listen.

That’s where the work begins, to make new choices, to shift our behaviours. We need to open up the discussion and really look at all the underlying ingrained beliefs at the core of our culture’s animal use traditions. That is when we have the best chance at saving and protecting lives. And have respect for each other as well.

I hope by speaking up, even perhaps with some uncomfortable points, I have stirred something inside that is willing to listen and more importantly question. Even though I am far over on the vegan side of the spectrum, I am not perfect. Nor have I maintained the same value and belief system all of my life. But I made the most dramatic shifts when I really started listening to that little battle within and had enough of living incongruently. That was nearly 15 years ago, and I am constantly questioning and making adjustments still to this day.

Compassionately yours,
Marianne Verigin

otters

Photo: River otters.

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