On Tuesday I delivered the following speech at Humane Advocacy Day in Annapolis. Animal welfare is a very important issue to me, so I thought I would share my speech with you. Here it is:
And thank all of you for being here. If there’s going to be change in Annapolis it has to start at gatherings like these. Thank you so much for taking the time to travel here on a weekday morning to talk to your representatives about what you care about. It really does matter. And it’s especially important because in our system animals don’t have a vote, so they need a voice. And all of you are that voice. Thank you so much. It’s truly important.
I’m so honored to have been asked to speak at this gathering, because animals are an issue that is really close to my heart. If you live with a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or a chicken, or a pig, as many of you do, and if you’ve looked into their eyes, as all of you have, then you know that animals are sentient beings. Animals are sentient, just like we are. It’s the truth. I don’t know what else to say about that because it’s self evident. An argument is not required, you just need to spend quality time with other animals, besides the human animal, to know that simple truth.
The problem is that we, as a society, don’t treat animals like the sentient beings that they are. Like the Earthlings that cohabitate this planet with us, that they are. Like the beings that share this ecosystem with us, that they are.
Instead, as a society, we treat them like tools. Like commodities. Like resources. To be used. Traded. Sold. Consumed. Viewed for our entertainment. Experimented on. Abused.
As a society, we objectify every other animal on this planet. And that needs to stop. As a society, we view animals as things whose only purpose is to serve our needs. Our desires. Our wants. And that needs to stop.
Animals are not here, on this Earth, to serve us. They are here for their own ends. They are here with us. Not for us.
The reality is that we are all connected. Plant. Animal. Humans included. And although I can feel that on a spiritual level, as I know that you can, science shows us that we are indeed all connected.
We all live together in the same giant ecosystem. An ecosystem that we have put out of balance, and endangered, because of our misunderstanding of where we, as human beings, fit into this whole equation.
Look at what we’ve become as a species. We just suck everything up. We consume. We even call ourselves consumers. Our modern-day economic system is based upon that consumption. And animals are just collateral damage. That needs to change.
Look at violence in society. Until we stop abusing animals, we won’t stop abusing each other, and we won’t find peace. In 2011 Maryland had over 300 million broiler chickens on the Eastern Shore. That’s about the population of the United States. They spent their short lives crammed into dark warehouses, with their beaks cut off, living in filth and being fed drugs before being “processed”. And that’s just the female chickens. The males, useless as broilers, were immediately killed after being sexed. Likely through high-speed grinders.
If as a society we allow for that to happen then we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in society. It’s all connected. We already know the connection between animal abuse and violence. And if factory farming isn’t animal abuse I don’t know what is.
Look: full disclosure. I’m a vegan, but I’m not saying that all of us shouldn’t ever eat meat. But we shouldn’t eat meat like that. Not from factory farms. Not from that kind of cruelty. That’s just wrong.
Chickens are social, they have needs, they have desires, they have self-awareness, and if you’ve ever been around chickens in some yard somewhere… my yard was in a rural village in Zambia while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer… then you know that chickens have opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes, and their own ideas about what they’d like to see in their life. At least that’s what it seems like to me.
What we’re doing to them in these warehouses in unconscionable, and if, as a society we’re able to look the other way, we’ll never find peace. And we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in our society because we’ve built it from the ground up. We literally eat that violence every day.
Chickens are one example. There are so many others. But I don’t want to talk about the negative anymore. Let’s talk about the positive.
Even though animals can’t vote. We can. We can change all of this. An we will. Choose your representatives wisely. Make sure they consider these issues and do the right thing. They will listen to you.
We have had successes. We’re lucky in Maryland to have organizations like the ones that organized this advocacy day. They’ve worked tirelessly for animals and deserve our support. Last year they ensured passage of the spay and neuter fund. Which was huge. And this year they’ll likely negotiate a fix for the pit bull issue.
Next year, in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we’ll continue working on a bill that will ensure basic welfare needs for all animals. Including the need for a suitable environment; the need for a suitable diet; the need to be able to exhibit normal behavior patterns; the need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease. Basically the beginning of an animal bill of rights. Are you with us? If so stay tuned for more about that as the year progresses.
But in the meantime, go out there and speak truth to power. For the animals. Those wonderful sentient beings that share our lives with us but have no say in our political system. Or what our broken society inflicts upon them. Be their voice because you are the only voice that they have. Be their voice to save them, because that is the only way that we will save ourselves. Thank you.