Bear in Mind

Exploring the common minds and emotions of people and other animals and their lives together

Run Rabbit Run

Mixing pleasure with pain is a bad cultural idea.

Rabbit, white.
Marble. Photo Credit: Red Barn Rabbit Rescue
Red Barn Rabbit Rescue
And rudeboy a weep and a wail
A shanty town
And rudeboy a weep and a wail

Desmond Dekker [1,2]

Many family celebrations and activities involve being out of doors. Many also involve abusing or killing other animals. For example, the Holley Fire Department, New York, invites children and families to “spend a day in the woods and then enjoy the party” by killing squirrels. [3] This July, the Cottage Grove Riding Club Rodeo, Oregon, holds its annual Animal Scramble which involves letting scores of terrified rabbits and chickens loose in an open area while children madly “scramble” to catch one. [4] There are other equally violent events. With parental approval, children also participate in calf riding as well as “mutton busting” where they bronco-ride sheep writhing in fear and and pain. [5] Is this normal, healthful human ethics and behavior?

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Not according to neuroscientists. According to the pundits of the brain and mind, despite its prevalence in modern society, violence against animals is abnormal. Indeed, “[i]n comparison to our pre-agriculture foraging cousins we are far from virtuous and might even be considered to have lost our minds, if not our humanity.” [6] Animal abuse and indifference to their feelings and suffering are not the evolutionary norm.

The values and behavior of ancestral “small-band gatherer-hunters [that] encompassed 99 percent of human genus existence” did not embrace the values which are collectively cultivated today: [3]

  • Detachment from, and control and fear of nature
  • Expect cheating, abuse, aggression, selfishness
  • Expect selfishness and stubbornness
  • Vicious role models in the media
  • Competiveness

Until we "moderns" came along, humanity was empathetic, prosocial, cooperative, generous, censuring cheating, selfishness, abuse, and aggression. This pervading sense of connection and wellbeing was not limited to fellow humans, but extended to other animals and nature. [6] Contrary to myth, our ancestors were largely herbivorous and not the ruthless hunters conjured by defenders of carnivory. [7] Science reveals that our civilization is rude, crude, and decidedly uncivil.

Parents and institutions are teaching children unnatural acts. Terrorizing, mutilating, and killing beings who share the same capacity to feel, think, and experience consciousness is not healthy. [8,9] Statisticians refer to such eccentric behavior as non-normative. Psychologists call it pathology. But more simply, it is plain ugly abuse that ends up with everyone weeping and wailing.

More statistics: Similar to rodeo rabbits and chickens, human children also fall prey to collectively approved violence. 50% of schoolyard shooters have histories of animal cruelty; 70% of people charged with cruelty to animals were known by police for other violent behavior such as homicide; and 48% of rapists and 30% of child molesters committed animal abuse in childhood or adolescence. [3, 10]

Terrified rabbit.

Photo Credit: Red Barn Rabbit Rescue
Thankfully, protests by the Red Barn Rabbit Rescue and House Rabbit Society persuaded the Cottage Grove Riding Club to stop using rabbits in the Animal Scramble. [11,12] However, as noted by the avian wellbeing and rights organization, United Poultry Concerns. [13], chickens will not spared.

It’s well past time to wake up and smell the fair-trade coffee. [14] Make proud our non-violent herbivorous heritage and the other animals who tolerate us despite what we do to them. Break the cycle of violence by boycotting events and celebrations based on animal suffering and death. It’s time to celebrate all life.

Literature Cited

[1] Dekker, D. 1967. 007 (Shanty Town). Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www.streetdirectory.com/lyricadvisor/song/wcwoej/007_shanty_town

[2] Wikipedia. 2013. Desmond Dekker. “Dekker wrote the song after watching news coverage of a student demonstration against government plans to build an industrial complex on land close to the beach, which descended into violence. In Dekker's words: ‘The students had a demonstration and it went all the way around to Four Shore Road and down to Shanty Town. You got wildlife and thing like that because it down near the beach. And the higher ones wanted to bulldoze the whole thing down and do their own thing and the students said no way. And it just get out of control..... - Them a loot, them a shoot, them a wail.’” Retrieved July 9, 2013.

[3] Bradshaw, G.A. 2013. Bang Bang, We All Fall Down. Psychology Today. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/bear-in-mind/201301/bang-bang-we-all-fall-down.

[4] Red Barn Rabbit Rescue 2013. The Cottage Grove Rodeo "Animal Scramble". Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://redbarnrabbitrescue.org/2012rodeo.html

[5] Cottage Grove Riding Club. 2013. Club Forms. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://www.cottagegroveridingclub.com/Forms.html Retrieved July 9, 2013.

[6] Narvaez, D. 2013. The 99 Percent—Development and Socialization Within an Evolutionary Context: Growing Up to Become “A Good and Useful Human Being. In D. Fry (ed) War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views.  Oxford University.

[7] Lawlor, R. 1991. Voices of the First Day: Awakening in the Aboriginal dreamtime. Inner Traditions.

[8] Cambridge Declaration. 2012. The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

[9] Trans-species psychology. Wikipedia. Retrieved July 1, 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-species_psychology.

[10] Animals & Society Institute. 2013. Anicare.Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://www.animalsandsociety.org/pages/anicare

[11] Red Barn Rabbit Rescue. 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from  http://www.redbarnrabbitrescue.org/

[12] House Rabbit Society. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from www. http://rabbit.org

[13] United Poultry Concerns. 2013 Protest “Chicken Scramble,” - Animal Abuse Game for Children in Oregon. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://www.upc-online.org/entertainment/130709protest_chicken_scramble.html

[14] Food Empowerment Project. 2013. Retrieved July 9, 2013 from http://www.foodispower.org/

 

G.A. Bradshaw, Ph.D., Ph.D. is the author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity.

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