This story about a Spanish bullfighter who was recently gored in the face started me thinking about cruelty and animal rights. A couple of years ago I tried to become a vegetarian, along with my wife Karen. Karen has stuck with vegetarianism, and I was for a while successful. But in the end I found that I missed eating meat and gave in. I still eat much less meat than I used to, which is something that I think most people could benefit from.
Karen and I also joined PETA for a short time. We are both concerned about cruelty and mistreatment toward animals. We oppose factory farming, the exploitation of animals for amusement by circuses, Sea World, and other entertainment businesses, the use of animals for experimentation, and other pointlessly cruel practices.
However, I ultimately found that I could not make myself fit in with PETA's extremist and confrontational methods and philosophy. I think the organisation has done a lot of good in raising awareness of animal cruelty, in exposing much of the torture and abuse that goes on in laboratories, on factory farms, in circuses, on fur farms, and elsewhere. And I applaud PETA for their work.
But I could never feel comfortable being a part of PETA because, as Karen and I learned, the group has no room for moderates. As far as their membership is concerned, if you eat a burger, or even if you spread some butter on your toast, then you are a brutal animal torturer. We had signed up to lead a demonstration at a local McDonalds to protest against the treatment of the chickens used to make McNuggets, but the signage we received was so over-the-top disturbing that we were concerned about it being seen by young children who make up so many of the restaurant's customers. Here is an example of one of the images:
I understand extreme devotion to a cause. There are issues, such as the need to end capital punishment, in which my views could be considered extremist. But I think to be successful in the long run, an organisation that is committed to a cause should make some room for those who are not extreme in their views but who are happy to go halfway, or three-quarters of the way. A person like me, who thinks eating meat is ok, but who wants to see considerable reform in how farm animals are treated, the conditions that they live in, and who wants to see an end to pointless cruelty and suffering, is not welcome in PETA. And I think that is a shame.
Oh, and that bullfighter in the story that I linked to at the beginning of this post... he has likely lost the sight in one eye and will suffer partial facial paralysis, not to mention the horrific scar that he will surely bear. Part of me wants to say that he got what he deserved, that I feel no sympathy for a man who had devoted his life to torturing animals. And yes, there is a certain poetic justice in his injuries. And yet, I can't quite bring myself to feel this way. Maybe some good will come from the injury, if by ending his career it saves the lives of a few bulls (although I'm sure that this torreador will be replaced by another, so that is probably unlikely), or if it makes a few bullfighting fans aware of the utter folly of this "sport." But suffering is suffering, whether it is a bull or a man. I don't believe that the suffering of one living being can relieve or atone for the suffering of another.