Monday, June 4, 2012

Animal Advocacy, article

 *Today's article comes to us from: Jill Jepson - author of over seventy articles and three books, including Writing as a Sacred Path: A Practical Guide to Writing with Passion and Purpose. She edits The Whirlwind Review, an online literary journal focusing on writing and spirituality ( Her Writing as a Sacred Path Blog can be read at

Animal Advocacy as a Writer

What does being a vegetarian and an animal advocate this have to do with writing? My answer: Everything. 

I’m not saying that every writer needs to start writing about animal rights, or that they should all become vegetarians. I’m just saying that, to be writers, we must have an awareness of animal suffering in the way that we must have an awareness of human suffering. It comes with the job, if you’re going to do the job right.

Why do animals matter? And, more to the point of this blog, why do animals matter to writers? There are probably dozens of answers to these questions, but here are the three that come up the most for me:

Because they are aware. Humans have spent centuries convincing themselves that animals are mindless machines because it makes it a lot easier to justify our treatment of them. If you’ve ever lived with a cat or dog, you’ll probably have a hard time swallowing it. But if you need a scientific basis, all you have to do is take a look the mountain of evidence being accumulated in studies of animal cognition and emotion.

Those studies are utterly convincing. Animals have feelings. They experience suffering and pleasure. They form bonds with others. They remember. In other words, if you ignore animals, you blind yourself to a an entire world of thinking, feeling beings. As a writer, do you really want to wear those blinders?

Because writers have a moral obligation not to ignore suffering. “I know about the torture of animals on factory farms. I just choose not to think about it.” A writing teacher of mine said this to me one day over lunch, when I was explaining why I wasn’t eating the meat entrée. It’s what a lot of people do, but when you think about it, this ability to just screen out what we don’t want to know is horrifying.  

I don’t believe it’s moral for anyone to ignore suffering, but I also think writers have a special obligation. We’re society’s record-keepers, its witnesses, its whistle-blowers. We’re the ones who have to keep a lookout for evil and for injustice, and to bring it to the world’s attention. In other words, if you want to be a writer, you can’t just not think about suffering. As inconvenient and unpleasant as it may be, we have to make ourselves aware.

Because animal abuse comes from the same source as the abuse of humans. Animal advocates are often accused of focusing on a trivial issue at the expense of more important ones. But when people make this argument, they’re ignoring a fundamental reality. At the root of all injustices lies the same willingness to promote ourselves at the expense of others. To accept the abuse of those who are unable to defend themselves. To be complacent in the face of wrongdoing. Justice for animals doesn’t take away from justice for humans. The two are one and the same.

In the meantime try this: 

Write about why animals matter to you. What have they given you? What debt do you owe them? If you wish, post your responses here.

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