photo credit: jefgodesky

Our modern, hedonistic society has developed a disregard for life in general. Sure, we value our own life, and the lives of those whom we know; our extension of compassion and concern often ends there.

This doesn’t just apply to people. Indeed, the extent to which such a disregard exists is most easily observable in the animal kingdom. Individuals have, through an increasingly industrialized system of large-scale food production, become divorced from their food. Children grow up not understanding the similarities between a chicken they see on Sesame Street, and what exists on their dinner plate. Factory Farms around the world, and especially in the United States, employ a variety of inhumane techniques to produce the highest output at the lowest cost.

The desire for cheap food has enticed businessmen to turn food production into a mysterious, systematized process whereby consumers are presented with boneless, skinless, bigger, better, and cheaper food in return. This is what people want, and it’s what they get.

But the myopic goal of inexpensive food sacrifices a number of other worthy goals in wholesome food production, including and especially the way in which the animal’s life is treated throughout the process. Think about the pork you recently enjoyed for dinner. From what pig (or pigs, as the case may be) was this meat derived? Where did it live? With what hormones and antibiotics was it repeatedly fed? How confined was it throughout its life? How was it handled by its owners?

I have often said that if animals were known and named by the people who want to eat them, and their butchering was witnessed by the same, that there would be a tidal wave of vegetarianism sweeping the nation. Despite how mechanized the food production process becomes, animals will never be a mere component or commodity of that system. Treating them as if they are nothing more than that does more than just deprive the animal of the enjoyment of its own life—it dehumanizes us.

That dehumanization bleeds outward to our fellow human beings. Apathy towards the life of another person we do not know nor see is rife within our society. Whether it’s supporting sanctions on and bombing of a nation half a world away (killing hundreds and thousands of innocent individuals, including women and children), or caring little about people detained on trumped up charges, placed in solitary confinement, and tortured for information they do not have, this indifference permeates our political system.

It’s especially evident in regards to people who we feel are, like animals, inferior for some reason. Some feel that the impoverished masses in Africa suffer as a result of their own laziness and corruption. Some feel that the countless victims of sexual abuse have somehow invited that oppression upon themselves. Others feel that corruption in certain countries should be “fixed” by carpet bombing the entire countryside, effectively reseting the area and rooting out the existing problem—while making no mention of the innocent men, women, and children who would suffer and die as a result.

Simply put, we do not care about he whom we do not know.

This applies also to the unborn child—over one million being aborted each month.

Such a profound disregard for life we do not see and connect with is unhealthy, inhumane, and immoral. Each life is precious—whether it’s the young Afghani girl who tomorrow will die as a result of an unmanned drone strike, piloted by a man ten thousand miles away, or the cow confined in a tight space for its entire life, fed a diet of corn and drugs, or the seagull choking to death on an empty chip bag left stranded on the beach. If we dismiss any life, we sow a seed that will sprout into the pervasive disregard here being observed—a selfish focus that has no time nor concern for any living being not within its immediate gaze.

Albert Einstein once wrote:

The most important human endeavor is the striving for morality in our actions. Our inner balance and even our very existence depend on it. Only morality in our actions can give beauty and dignity to life.

Though we may, at times, try and place blinders upon our view of morality, we cannot change its definition. The God who gave life to every living thing on this planet surely regards each as valuable and of great worth. We should be no different.


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