Thursday, November 5, 2009

There's always enough time to help the animals

Talking to some people, I get the impression that if they only had more time, they’d be a lot nicer to animals. People generally think it’s great that I speak out against animal exploitation, and when they ask me what they can do to help the animals, I usually start off by saying, "Don’t eat them."

A brief pause (oh, he’s that kind of animal person) is usually followed by, "Yeah, but isn’t it hard giving up meat?" Once I explain that it isn’t, and that there are plenty of delicious and nutritious vegan foods available practically everywhere, some will infer that eating vegan must be so time-consuming.

Learning what to eat, looking for vegan food, preparing vegan meals, finding vegan recipes to their liking and cooking two different meals (for those family members who won’t give up their animal products), all require more time than most people have, considering their hectic lifestyles. There just aren’t enough hours in a day, right?

But I think people have more time than they realize. Just look at what we do have time for: shopping, watching television, eating out, getting in a round of golf, going to the movies, playing video games, talking on the phone, losing money at the casino, checking out yard sales, sitting around the coffee shop, surfing the web and going for a Sunday drive.

So for those of you who are serious about helping the animals but just can’t seem to find the time, consider this…

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was arguably the most diversely talented person that ever walked the face of the earth. Not only was he a great artist (painting the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and drawing the Vitruvian Man), he was also a scientist, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, botanist, musician, writer, sculptor and inventor.

He invented or conceptualized numerous flying machines, including the helicopter and hang glider, an armoured car, the submarine, concentrated solar power, the calculator, the compass, contact lenses, scissors, a giant crossbow, rapid fire guns, ball bearings and the centrifugal pump, for draining wet areas such as marshes, as well as designing canals, bridges, cathedrals, and other buildings.

Da Vinci was also a hardcore animal rights activist, publicly criticizing the killing of animals for food and promoting a plant-based diet in its place. He also regularly purchased birds at the marketplaces only to open their cages and allow them to fly away.

Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910) was an essayist, dramatist, educational reformer and social anarchist. He is also considered one of the greatest writers of all time and in 2007, two of his novels made Time magazine’s ten greatest novels of all time (Anna Karenina was #1 and War and Peace was #3). Tolstoy's collected works consist of some 90 volumes.

Although born into nobility, Tolstoy preferred to lavish his wealth on transients, beggars and the working poor. His pacifism was influenced by the horrors he witnessed during the Crimean War and his Christian beliefs, particularly Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, which inspired him to give up meat, tobacco and alcohol.

After the war, Tolstoy opened several schools for peasant children, believing that education was the secret to changing the world, and published many magazines and textbooks on the subject. His ideas on non-violent resistance had a profound impact on Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Tolstoy was also very critical about the way animals are treated, and longed for the day when we no longer ate them. "That movement has during the last ten years advanced more and more rapidly. More and more books and periodicals on this subject appear every year; one meets more and more people who have given up meat; and abroad, especially Germany, England, and America, the number of vegetarian hotels and restaurants increases year by year. One cannot fail to rejoice at this."

Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) is revered as the "father of the nation" in India and considered the embodiment of peace and non-violent political resistance worldwide.

After studying law in England, Gandhi spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa. He returned to India in 1914 and became the leader of the Indian National Congress. With India under British control, Gandhi used non-violence and civil disobedience to gain his country’s freedom, which quite often landed him in jail.

When public demonstrations and protests turned violent, Gandhi staged hunger strikes until the rioting stopped. In 1947, he participated in negotiations that led to Indian independence the following year.

An advocate of simple, peaceful living, Gandhi had few possessions, made his own clothes and refused to eat animals. According to Gandhi, "You can judge a nation, and its moral progress, by the way it treats its animals."

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was an Irish playwright, critic and political activist. He wrote more than 60 plays including The Devil’s Disciple, Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Pygmalion, Candida, Doctor’s Dilemma, and Caesar and Cleopatra.

A passionate socialist, he also used his writing skills to criticize the exploitation of the working class, and spoke out in favour of equal rights for men and women, as well as promoting healthy lifestyles.

Shaw gave up meat-eating, what he called cannibalism, when he was 25 years old and often wrote about the immorality of eating animals in his plays and prefaces. He also despised the killing of animals for sport and vivisection. He is best known however, among vegetarians and vegans anyways, for his simple maxim: "Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends."

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was a German-French pastor, theologian, writer, musicologist, physician, philosopher and acclaimed organist. He based his personal philosophy on a "reverence for life" and a deep commitment to serve others, so in 1913, after receiving his medical degree, he moved to Lambarene in French Equatorial Africa and founded The Albert Schweitzer Hospital.

In 1917, Schweitzer and his wife were sent to a French internment camp as prisoners of war. After their release, he spent 6 years in Europe preaching, giving lectures and concerts and increasing his medical knowledge. He also wrote numerous books, including Civilization and Ethics, and Christianity and the Religions of the World.

Schweitzer returned to Lambarene in 1924 where he served as doctor, surgeon, pastor, village administrator and superintendent. Except for brief periods of time, he spent the remainder of his life there. For his many years of humanitarian efforts, Schweitzer received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

With the prize money, along with donations and funds received from royalties and personal appearances, he expanded the hospital to 70 buildings (which could take care of over 500 patients at any given time) and started a leprosarium. Schweitzer also spoke out against atmospheric nuclear test explosions and the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Because his reverence for life included the animals, he would not eat them, and reminded people to, "Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight."

So what’s my point? It’s that these people, who had the same hours in a day as the rest of us, were able to accomplish incredible feats, speak out on behalf of the oppressed, tend to the sick and injured, advocate against violence, even liberate an entire nation and still help the animals (mostly by not eating them).

If they could find the time, can’t you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great history lesson and point well taken.