Today I came across a couple of online petitions I was being exhorted to sign. Both seemed worthy, doubtless put together by well-intended people who wanted to make a difference. The first was launched in an attempt to prevent prolonged suffering of confined farm animals. The second was trying to influence large retailers to stop selling meat from abused lambs. On face value, there's nothing wrong with either petition. Both apparently have the power to do good. I can well imagine that many animal lovers rushed to append their signatures, feeling that they were contributing to making a difference in the lives of animals. I have myself advocated the power of signing petitions (see: 'Petitions - To Sign Or Not To Sign', Feb. 2015 on the Some Dogs Are Angels blog pages) and these certainly draw attention to the plight of the poor unfortunates that are due for slaughter. If it were a petition about the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, or stopping the monstrous Monsanto in their corrupt pursuit of total dominance of the agricultural industry, proximity, due process, or legality would pretty much prevent anything more than adding your name to a petition. Nonetheless, it would be your metaphorical way of shaking your fist and raising your voice in anger; a way of doing something when no other recourse was available, wouldn’t it? Now let’s explore the reality of these petitions: The first advocates killing the animals quicker; the second advocates only selling meat from animals killed without being abused first. Can you see the irony? Both petitions proceed from the standpoint that it's O.K. to kill animals in the first place. (The latter even seems to assume that being killed does not constitute suffering.) So, I found myself wondering how many of those who eagerly added their digital signatures did so to alleviate their guilt. Do they pretend to themselves that their actions will change the outcome in the hapless animal's lives? Do they imagine that their inevitable and unnecessary premature deaths can be made nicer? If the signatories really cared so much about animal welfare, have they stopped eating meat? Do they realise that only then would animals not need to be confined before their deaths, or face pre-murder abuse? If they really want to alleviate suffering, have these people already chosen not to be complicit in mass killing? Do they recognise that if they’re still eating meat of any kind, or indeed eating any product that comes from an animal, that they’re still part of the problem, and not the solution? For the majority, I suspect not. I understand and accept that maybe signing this kind of petition is a stepping stone on the way to a more enlightened approach to animal welfare; and I recognise that such moves may induce individuals who add their names to ultimately eschew allowing harm to be done to animals in their names. And I know that if the measures they advocate were to be adopted, the experience these poor creatures have to go through might be a modicum less ghastly. But their fate will still be cruel and unnecessary. So to those who have not yet come around to the realisation of their culpability, sign petitions to assuage your guilt by all means. But wake up to the fact that you literally have the power of life in your hands. The fate of scores of helpless animals rests upon choices you make personally, every year. How long before you wake up to the suffering you cause? Don’t deceive yourself that pressing a button on the computer is any kind of substitute for what you do personally, now, today, to bring about real meaningful change in their lives. All you have to do is decide.
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