Talk Back: Food for Thought

By on August 22, 2007 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Many readers contemplated two recent blog entries—a spotlight of Rabbi Marc Gellman’s essay regarding the ethics of keeping animals in zoos and our responsibilities to animals, and an update on the increased focus on factory farming abuses.

Among the reactions to Gellman’s essay:

I’m always torn about zoos… they offer a great opportunity to teach our children about the various animals; when else will my son see a tiger just a few feet away? But at the same time my heart breaks for the animals’ loss of freedom. I’ve been deeply depressed after trips to zoos seeing animals that clearly look bored, frustrated and anguished. What is the right thing to do? I’m at a loss… I can’t even answer these questions for myself. —Lisa

I understand Rabbi Marc Gellman’s essay, and I agree with him if this was a perfect world, but it is not. If we had no zoos, there would be no animals at all. Because of the human ego, s/he has decided that s/he is the only one that counts and that animals are subject to us, and if we just allow animals to be in the wild then we subject them to certain extinction. Humans don’t know how to give them space to just be. Already, many of our magnificent animals are close to extinction and it is not because of natural selection; it’s because man is greedy and heartless. Zoos allow humans to see that these animals exist, and they also allow us to learn about animals; otherwise humans wouldn’t relate to them and would dismiss animals even more. One last thought; I don’t think that humans have a right to destroy another species and I wouldn’t want to be the person to tell God that his creation is gone because humans decided that they needed a rug or a fur coat, would you? The Bible says multiply and be prosperous, but it didn’t say destroy everything on the way and it never said to overpopulate the Earth either. —Regina Mastrogiacomo

I have been thinking all day about your blog posting “A Calling to Care” since I had similar reactions as yours while visiting the old-style zoo at my birth town of Maracay, Venezuela. (That is the same town where the late Pope John Paul II nominated our friend Nun Mother Maria de San Jose to become Saint.) I also believe I watched the same "Planet Earth" show as reported by Rabbi Marc Gellman in his essay, and for exactly the same reasons. That said, I am convinced that people have lost all compassion when it comes to food choices. I am completely outraged by what certain chefs cook on TV shows, or what I read on menus at local non-vegan restaurants. I also have an ongoing debate with people I deal with regularly about rights and wrongs concerning our food intake. Thus, it is imperative to have peace and compassion at the table. Perhaps the only way to accomplish this difficult task is just to spread the word as you suggest. Thank you for taking action with the Animals and Religion program. —Maru Angarita

Readers also responded with their thoughts on improved welfare for farm animals, and steps they have taken toward the well-being of these animals. Among the comments we received: 

On the growing welfare changes, all I can say is “It’s about time.” As much as I applaud all that’s going on to reform how farm animals live, I simply can’t square with the fact that I believe slaughtering a sentient animal just for the taste of its flesh is a terrible wrong. To help the cause: the most important change I made was becoming vegetarian myself. I could not deal with what I considered hypocrisy when I stated that I wanted to defend animals and yet continued to eat them. I think that is an important change for anyone to make because you are reminded of your sacrifice every time you sit down to a meal and reflect on your own dietary choices. I also took over the animal rights club in my college my senior year. We collected signatures and tried to institute only cage-free eggs in the school. The most important goal I achieved was to bring in fresh, inspired activists and teach them about the major animal issues facing this nation today. They are dutifully carrying on the club. —Sara N

I am very happy to see this be brought front and center in public attention. I’ll begin by saying I am not a vegan or a vegetarian, but choose to eat a very limited amount of animal products that are treated as humanely as possibly. When I eat out, I only order vegetarian or, if available, vegan items in order to increase the demand at public venues. It also ensures that I am not eating animals raised unethically. When I purchase animal products, I pay a premium for organic-fed, free-range and local. Because of the financial restrictions I put in place, I put great value on animal product-containing meals. I feel a great amount of guilt for not doing more, but I believe if we all did a little bit the overall effect would be enormous. —Austin, Texas


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