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Heart Attacks and Animal Rights: Some Thoughts

WARNING: This blog will be even more personal than usual, so if you’re uninterested in that whole personal-meets-political stuff, this one isn’t for you.

Last week, my Uncle Paul had a heart attack, followed by triple bypass surgery the following day. Apparently, there was only one artery they could get a balloon catheter into, and that one was almost entirely clogged shut as it was. It’s not surprising. He has spent most of his adult life owning and operating Italian restaurants and pizza shops; his diet consists primarily of calzones and antipasto (hold the lettuce, please). His whole family is riddled with heart disease and diabetes, so between that genetic heritage and his dietary habits, it’s amazing he didn’t have a heart attack earlier. But this is the man who, when asked when he would stop smoking, replied that “anyone can quit smoking, but it takes a real man to face cancer.”

(I have to admit I still think that’s really funny.)

My Uncle Paul, besides being an active animal consumer, is also a first-class asshole in other ways. He was so abusive to his first wife and their daughter that when she left him, she forbade any contact between her daughter and his mother (her grandmother). He sexually abused me when I hit puberty and continued to proposition me (and my then-girlfriend) when I was 19 years old and we were selling drugs for him out of his pizza store in Pittsburgh. The mob burned down another of his pizza stores when he started fencing stolen goods out of the place, which happened to be on their territory. Soon after that, he committed armed robbery and ended up in prison for about ten years. (Before his imprisonment, he’d fled to Canada and was safe for almost seven years when his new girlfriend persuaded him to return to the states; three weeks and one “America’s Most Wanted” appearance later, he was nabbed and sent to prison). So yeah, not a prince for sure.

My mother, Paul’s older sister, had her own special effects upon me. She raised her daughters in the wake of her enormous anger, which was itself extremely difficult to handle, and left its own particular scars. More problematic was her denial of the fact that she had married a pedophile, preferring to see me as a slut trying to entice her husband and my little sister as a drama queen who kept breaking bones and experiencing vaginal bleeding (just for the hell of it, of course). My dad’s abuse ended when I was an adolescent because by then I was too old for him, and then he died when I was 18 from lung cancer. (Apparently, he was enough of a man to face cancer.) For a couple of years after that, my sister and I were so disappointing to our mother that before every family event, we would have to sit in the car while she instructed us as to the current set of lies she had told everyone about our activities. Somewhere around my 20th year and for two decades after that, I spent more time refusing to speak to her than agreeing to do so, and in fact my sister still has no contact with her. About five years ago, I reinstated contact and we embarked upon a reasonable relationship – reasonable in the context of our family history.

The reason I got in touch with her again was a combination of two simple facts. First, I knew she could not hurt me any longer. I had worked very hard for a very long time to recover from the effects of abuse and was stable enough to not be rattled by anything she threw my way. Second, she had gone to therapy and disentangled some of the reasons why she’d acted the way she had toward her children. I guess there was a third reason, which was that she was getting older and I selfishly didn’t want to risk the guilt I might feel if she died while I was still not talking to her.

Over the years, our relationship has improved. She tells me she’s proud of me (something unheard of previously). She tells me she admires my strength of will in always “going my own way,” as she calls it, although she still tells me to be careful when I foolishly tell her I’m going to change a lightbulb or paint a wall. She respects my boundaries around my sister, who has asked me to not share information with her, and doesn’t ridicule my AR work as she used to do with other activities in which I’ve engaged over the years. (Interestingly, she eats almost no animals at this point, and very few of their products, but that has more to do with her trying to keep her weight under control than ethics.) She has also spent quite a bit of time working to understand how she ended up the way she did.

My mother grew up with a Lebanese father and an Italian mother, both of whom wanted nothing but sons. They got a lot of them – five in all (although one died when he was two years old) – but right smack in the middle, there was that pesky female. The combination of neglect and contempt thrown her way was intense, particularly because we are talking old-school female hatred here; old-school Arab-man contempt for women (who are invisible until they misbehave) combined with old-school Italian son-worship (girls are all sluts, don’t you know). My mother was the only one of their children who wanted to go to college – hell, probably the only one of them who voluntarily read a book – and she was also the only one who was not offered a free ride to college.

So, she got herself into college by doing data entry for Westinghouse. While she was at it, she discovered night life in the city. She went to cocktail lounges, she met interesting men, she chatted it up with girlfriends in the late hours of the night. My mother was ravishing as a young woman, an Arab-inflected Sophia Loren; she once had a marriage proposal from a prince. But one fateful night, she met my father-to-be in a bar. He told her he was an admiral in the navy (her brothers laughed up a storm when she told them that one), and – more importantly – he told her he was Jewish. You see, to my mother, Jews represented a world for which she longed; a world of education, of deep conversations, of scholarly arguments and meaningful engagement with the world. I don’t know how long they dated, but I suspect it wasn’t too long before she converted to Judaism and they got married.

Both sets of parents were crushed. Hers disowned her for a couple of years; his mother couldn’t bear to live without him (after all, he’d been taking care of them for decades – he was quite a bit older than my mother), but she and my dad’s sister made it clear how much they loathed my mother (as exemplified by their frequent use of the word “whore” in reference to her). But that wasn’t the final blow to my mother’s hopes for her life. What killed her dreams was learning that her fantasy of deep intellectual pursuits among cultural Jews was not to be. Part of the problem was that she was a convert. Jews don’t tend to like converts. What’s more, my father had no interest in book clubs or fancy dinner parties; his interests tended to run to the pursuit of children (I believe mostly little boys, although he didn’t seem to mind so much with me and my sister). By the time he tried to kill himself in our garage (I was six, my sister was four – we still aren’t sure which one of us discovered him in his carbon-monoxide-filled car), my mother had reached the inevitable conclusion: she would never attain the life she’d desired.

When people make horrible mistakes, particularly when they are unused to seeing themselves as empowered agents of change in their own lives, they tend to cast about for someone to blame for their troubles. Now, certainly, my father’s actions were no mistakes of my mother’s – by the time he tried to commit suicide, he’d already been spending quite a bit of time in my bed, and had been for years, and he had already pretty much put an end to any sexual doings with my mother (again, she was too old for him). Who knows what other mistakes he’d made. So that’s all on him. But my mother’s mistake was in refusing to see him as the source of our troubles and do something about it. She made a horrible mistake in marrying my father – an understandable mistake, but an error nonetheless – and instead of leaving his ass, she decided to immerse herself in rage and bitterness and target her children as the cause of her suffering.

That’s a typical response. It’s also extremely unfortunate – not just because it entangles innocent bystanders in the complex web that must be woven to accommodate the deception, but also because it kills any hope of solving the problem. You have to see the problem before you can solve it. But we do this all the time, don’t we, as humans. My sister and I, just this morning, were talking about global climate change, and how many ridiculous contortions people are going through in much of the world to avoid seeing the real problem for what it is. In fact, people tend to continue to go through such contortions for years, until they’re practically bludgeoned over the head with the consequences of their errors and forced to deal with them. In the case of global climate change, I have no illusions humans will get our shit together in time. Particularly because it’s already long past time. With my mother, well, it’s taken her about 70 years, but she has gained a huge amount of insight into her life – what went right and what went wrong, not just in terms of the actions of others, but also in terms of her reactions to them. She sees, now, what misogyny does to little girls and women – in general, and with her specifically. She sees, now, why it was a mistake to remain with my father, and what that did to her daughters. She sees why it’s important to look at one’s life and the people in it with a critical eye – not critical the way she interpreted that word for most of my life, but critical in the sense of appraising with the purpose of seeking insight. She’s no Carl Rogers, but she’s come a long way.

Why am I talking about all this crap? Well, I’ve been thinking about this stuff a lot because my uncle’s heart attack has the potential to affect my life deeply; my mother has no support system in Pittsburgh other than him, and if he can no longer help her out as she needs, then that leaves me. She’s already mentioned – twice – that she might like to move to Vermont some day. So there’s that. But that’s the stuff of diaries and conversations with loved ones, not animal rights blogs. So again – why am I talking about this stuff here?

Well, because I too had an insight. For my entire life, I’ve rejected the notion that people do the best they can. It has always sickened me, the very notion, because it’s primarily used to excuse or justify actions that, to me, should be given no justification. Domestic violence is an excellent example in my mind. Certainly, the perpetrator of the violence is the primary force of malevolence in any DV situation – that’s clear to me. And certainly, the wife or girlfriend (pretty much always it’s a female victim, so please don’t rush to remind me that sometimes males are abused too) is the one who is the primary victim in the situation – that’s also clear. And when considering why so many women seem to either not leave their abusers, or seek out abusive partner after abusive partner, we tend to offer them understanding and compassion; after all, there are very real psychological reasons why so many women believe we deserve partners who treat us like shit. So far, I’m with it.

But let’s introduce children or non-human animals into the situation. That’s where my understanding has always – always – cut off like a switch. I couldn’t care less what women wish to do (or not do) with their own lives, in the sense that it’s their call – hope they get help – we need to offer solutions if they do – and all that. But it is NOT their right to force vulnerable creatures to endure the violence they choose to endure (because for all that some women in some places, even in this country, have no real viable options to leave, the reality is that there always exists some sort of a choice in the matter). So fine, I say, you want to stay with some man who beats the crap out of you, that’s up to you. But your kid or your dog doesn’t want to live in a horror-show – they didn’t choose this kind of life – and you have no right to force them to do so. Don’t breed and don’t adopt an animal if you’re shacking up with a perp.

Sounds harsh, but that’s how I feel. But of course, that’s not how it works, is it.

The reality is that millions of children, dogs, cats, and others are forced to live in violent homes because there’s a violent individual living there and any other grown-up humans who might be non-violent were unwilling to do the right thing in the first place and refuse to bring vulnerable creatures into the situation, and unwilling to get them out of there once the violence started in the second place. (I am aware that many women refuse to leave violent situations because they don’t want to leave their “pets” with their abusers, but I’m not sure what possessed them to get a pet in the first place, and I also know there are plenty of women who COULD leave but do NOT leave, and that’s the dynamic I’m speaking to here.)

That’s how I’ve always felt. You take responsibility for your actions as much as possible, and that includes, first and foremost, protecting those in your care. However, at one point after I learned about my uncle’s heart attack, when thinking about my mother, I had a moment when I thought “you know, she did the best she could.” When I had that thought, it almost took me off my feet. I was shocked, and frankly also a bit disgusted with myself. Was I getting soft? Was I forgiving her for not protecting us against the monster she’d married? UGH – the very thought kind of made me sick.

But not for long. For the first time in my life, I had a different understanding of what “everyone does the best they can” means. Certainly, I’ve believed that on the macro scale for many years, in the sense that I believe humans, as the species we are today, are incapable of being any better than we are now – some of us get a clue, most of us don’t, and if any real change is to occur, on a big scale, it will have to involve some kind of actual biological/genetic evolution of our species. But on the individual level, I have always believed that everyone CAN do better, but REFUSES to do better because Gosh Golly It’s Just So Hard.

Well, after some reflection, I am finding that while I still believe that for the most part, I am also coming to believe that when some people do rotten things, it really IS the best they can do. We are all shaped by a mixture of nature and nurture, and being shaped doesn’t just mean our thoughts, emotions, and beliefs (themselves hard enough to shift), but also our neural pathways, our hormonal, electrical, and chemical impulses. Think about a tree who has to grow around a barrier; that trunk will be shaped, either for a very long time or forever (in the context of its own life) by that barrier. We are physical creatures. We are biological creatures. Yes, we are also cognitive creatures (whatever that means), but even our cognition is shaped by a mixture of internal and external forces.

I think back to all the people I’ve known in my life who exhibit certain behaviors, traits, and so forth – ones they themselves wish to kick, like addictions – who just can’t kick them. All the people I’ve known who want to change things about themselves that make them profoundly unhappy, but just can’t. So, if people can’t even change at will to make their own lives better, how much more difficult is it for them to change when it doesn’t directly benefit them?

I’m thinking about all of that, and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps this is true for humans who eat animals and their products. How many people, when you try to tell them the truth behind their dietary choices, tell you to stop talking because they will not change, and don’t want to know? How many people DO know, but do NOT change, even when they agree that what happens to animals is horrific? What if we look at these people as humans who are doing the best they can, even when they are doing a horrible thing? What if we see them as people on a journey – a journey we can facilitate if we know the proper strategies to do so?

After all, we were all these people at one point – most of us, anyway. Yes, it’s true, many vegans learned about animal abuse and the next day went vegan – but that’s not typical. There’s usually a trajectory, a path, that people follow. Denial followed by going vegetarian followed by setbacks followed by – well, you know the drill. Something kept us from changing immediately as soon as we learned the truth; and perhaps that something was nothing more complicated (and, conversely, every bit as complicated) as the fact that we could not do any better than we did at the time.

I don’t say these things to let anyone off the hook. Hell, my world is full of hooks, many of which I hang from myself, and I doubt I’ll ever mellow enough to feel any kind of generalized benevolent love toward the broad array of members of my own species. I say these things because just possibly they might be true. It might be the case that some approaches could be crafted that take this into account, that walk the line between enabling bad behaviors and applying angry retribution – approaches that are effective. For example, we could start asking people why they continue to do something they know is wrong (I’ve done this upon occasion and it’s very interesting, the answers I’ve gotten).

I’m thinking that perhaps, at this point, I’m able to see past my own rage to see something that might have been there all the time: the rock-bottom reality that humans are what they are, and instead of ranting and raving that we be different, it might be more effective if we try a different approach. As Pattrice mentioned to me the other day when we were talking about a similar issue, all that matters is that we save as many animals as we can, and if something offers the possibility of doing just that, it’s worth looking into. Who knows. Something to think about.

37 comments to Heart Attacks and Animal Rights: Some Thoughts

  • “But your kid or your dog doesn’t want to live in a horror-show – they didn’t choose this kind of life – and you have no right to force them to do so. Don’t breed and don’t adopt an animal if you’re shacking up with a perp.”

    In my book, people who try are doing the best they can but not people who avoid, deny and blame others. Before the year 2000 it was a trap but there has been a lot of education during the 90s and 20s. Now there are social services where once there was nothing. Women can report criminal behavior and cause abusers to have a criminal record. They can trick them. And that is important for family court custody issues. Women can get out with the kids and the animals but they do not because they think it is the best they can do financially. And sometimes, often that is true. I used to think BW were victims but now I see they are in a dance with the perp and only the chilren and animals are the victims.

    Your mother can live on Social Security, food stamps and energy assistance. She is eligible for her husband’s social security. Even if she comes closer to you she will need to use these services because you don’t have criminal enterprises to support her. Will she make the effort?

    You know we have the right to expect an effort rather than the SOS abuse over and over because someone is doing the best they can. Your rage will be tested if your mother comes – it is easy for the abused child in your subconscious who stll needs/wants love and validation to get confused by a little kindness. To blame herself for the rage that bursts forth unexpectedly and then to repress and swallow rage until the next time. You will need a guide if you actually have ongoing contact with your “reformed” abuser. Do you know where to go?

  • And in terms of giving abusers a record this New York politician, James Tediscois, is creating an animal abuse registry in New York like the sex offender’s registry. It will be called Buster’s Law. That animal abuse registry will be a great aid to women escaping abuse if they can document the abuse of their animals by their partners. Often when she tries to leave the batterer will fight for the animals and courts give them custody. If I had money, I would try to pass this law in every state in memory of my cousin’s cat who he beat until it urinated and defecated. He broke its bones but his wife just made excuses. I just found this out from the children, now adult survivors whom he also beat.

    Buster’s Law
    Good news friends. The Senate has passed my bill A.1506A/S.3804A to strengthen Buster’s Law to require that animal abusers be placed on a statewide registry of abusers and prohibit them from ever owning a companion animal again and require them to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. This is the first time this measure has passed one house of the Legislature. Every journey begins with a first step and now we need to pressure the leadership in the Assembly to bring this measure forward! Thanks to all who have signed petitions and lobbied their legislators for this measure. Let’s keep the advocacy going!!/Strengthening.BustersLaw.NYS.Animal.Advocacy

  • anitat
    It is the hardest thing in the world to leave an abuser and the easiest in the world to fall right back in with another. The single biggest group of women who lose custody are those who have been abused. Judges say there is “no link” between abusing one’s spouse, and abusing one’s children. Too often, they now turn the kids over to the abuser, completely ignoring the law. Social services is, honestly, not much better; some are good but some are awful. Some, even today, simply take the word of the abuser unless each child (cut out from the crowd so they will ‘speak up’) confirms the abuse, and few will; they see what happens to mom and their siblings are just flat-out scared. I don’t know what the solution is but i darn sure know we need to find it. Buster’s law is a very good first step to protecting the other vulnerable in a family.
  • Firstly. Piss on the members of our species and its cultures that dumped all that misery and crap and horror on you, an innocent child.

    Secondly. Hmmm…”the best they can”. I’m struggling with that one. I’m a bit unclear as to what you mean when you write: “I am also coming to believe that when some people do rotten things, it really IS the best they can do.” Some people? How do you sort out the some?

    The notion of responsibility or being held accountable seems to be tied in here. It’s been my notion for some time that once you get to the age/status where you have enough social/cultural power to change your own situation…right there at that point is when you begin to accumulate points for/against what you do…who you hurt or don’t hurt..etc. Up until then…you’re pretty much (not totally) but pretty much at the mercy of your circumstances. Once you have power though…then things start to count.

    Otherwise…would it not be then that no one is responsible…no one is accountable? We’re all just victims…doing the best we can. I don’t know.

    However…I fully concur with Pattrice…what matters is saving as many animals as possible.

    Thanks for your courage and efforts is writing this post. I salute you. :-)

  • You are so very correct anitat and that is why everything must be documented as much as possible and that documenting can be dangerous but children will tell — it is just that no one believes them and that abuse is called “discipline”.

    Pity the woman who married a cop abuser.

    Family Ct is mostly male judges identifying with male abusers –although I have seen women lying about abuse to gain financial advantage and to punish the male who does not want them anymore. I have seen survivors now adult who imagin abuse as they relive their trauma through their children. I have seen this with my own witness as I worked within the system so don’t tell me no. Women can be as screwed up and abusive as men if they are twisted enough in childhood.

    I have started to believe in Children’s Villages. Places where children are removed from the biological family while reality is sorted. Places where parents can visit and children can live with intense services until the parents can be resocialized. Group homes in a village of homes with long term caregivers on all three shifts and intense services. Kibbutz’s(sic) of a sort. Removal from the train wreck and preparation to be self sustaining. Battered women needed shelters but children need villages.

  • Sheryl
    I’m having difficulty processing your history of suffering and your utter betrayal by violent, colluding adults who should have protected and cherished you and your sister. I want to take you in my arms, yet I respect you as someone with purpose and strength and who, I hope, would ask for what she needs.

    So, this feels like where I’m at with others:
    “What if we see them as people on a journey – a journey we can facilitate if we know the proper strategies to do so?
    After all, we were all these people at one point – most of us, anyway.”

    I grieve for the suffering of nonhuman and human beings. I want to do whatever I can to stop humans from perpetrating suffering. And I won’t poison myself with loathing for those who contribute to suffering. I want joy in my life, I enjoy interacting with others, and my loathing and wouldn’t move things toward the good.

    Whereas regarding people as being on a journey I can affect (and in fact see myself as responsible for affecting) helps me understand my earnest love for humans, including those making choices that harm others. Others, such as family and friends I eat with, always know about veganism because I show it always. They see that their influence on me does not shake my veganism or silence me about the truth.

    And I influence them. I have contributed to the factors that turned some people vegan. People know I will be calm and friendly, offering information and support without vitriol. It’s a role I cherish. I was not always vegan, and people I enjoyed being with (or reading or watching) were the ones whose advocacy I was (am) receptive to.

  • bravebird
    Hey all,

    This is an excellent discussion! I’m grateful for all the thoughts and ideas. Thank you also for all the kind thoughts about abuse, etc. I really am fine, honestly doing better than many survivors, when it comes to that.

    When I said that I am coming to wonder if people are literally doing the best they can, I don’t mean it in a “honey, you’re doing just fine, just do the best you can” kind of way. I mean it in a literal, rock-bottom gut-level way, sort of another version of my belief that humans as a species are incapable of doing better than we are now.

    Going back to the example of the woman in a DV situation, I believe strongly that no woman raised in a healthy happy environment (which doesn’t really exist, but some are healthier than others) — brought up to respect the integrity of her body, with good models for love and sexual relationships, taught to love herself and believe she deserves a good partner if she chooses to have a partner — those women do not GO for men who abuse them. It just makes no sense, and statistically, of course, this is borne out by the disproportional numbers of women who enter into DV relationships who have histories of abuse of one kind or another (particularly — and this is perhaps most compelling — histories of living in a house where DV happened, which is another reason why having children when you’re in a DV situation is extremely problematic).

    It makes perfect sense to me that abuse shapes people — in fact, it’s not a matter of making sense, because it DOES shape people, this has been shown over and over and over again. And if we want, we can see abuse as not just an individual thing, but a societal thing, and see that humans are shaped by any number of abusive things, from poverty to being smacked around to being forced to wear a burka. Hell, just the very subordinate status of women over the past X thousand years is enough to say hey, we have been diminished by patriarchy. Period. We have.

    There’s no shame in saying that. I think most of us who have experienced abuse can make a laundry list of the ways in which we have been compromised by the abuse. And to OVERCOME abuse — again, of ANY kind, individual or societal — takes more strength than most people have.

    This is what leads to all sorts of interesting things, like the endless women who claim to be good mothers while preferencing violent man after violent man, bringing them into their homes, etc. This leads to endless protestations of “loving animals” while dragging dogs and cats home from the shelter to men who kick, smack, and otherwise abuse and sometimes kill them. I mean, surely the cognitive disconnect is glaring here? Because you are NOT a good mother if you subject your children to violence. That has to be some sort of no-brainer kind of thing.

    So, either no woman who has experienced DV is a good mother, OR these women CANNOT DO OTHERWISE. Given that I know some women who have been in DV situations — complete with children — and have gotten out of them eventually, I am more inclined to say that for some period of time, they could not do otherwise. They were WITH a violent man and they HAD KIDS. Eventually they acted right by those kids, but not for awhile, at least the women I know.

    So, what I am saying is, I wonder if literally, on a gut level, so many DV women cannot help what they do. They are not empowered agents of change in their lives. They are desperately seeking something they will never find because they continue to seek it in the arms of men who end up being abusive. And again I say — if that is the pattern they choose (“choice” being an interesting term in a context where, I believe, people have been shaped to the extent that it’s extraordinarily difficult for them to do anything else), that’s fine, but DO NOT BRING OTHER PEOPLE INTO IT. People of any species. Don’t reproduce and don’t adopt an animal. It’s plain and simple.

    Now, I do know plenty of women are threatened with death and other horrific consequences if they leave abusive men, and I’m well aware of the pitiful way the law “protects” women. It’s all one big fucking joke, like it is with rape, which is why, when I defined as a lesbian separatist, I got plenty sick of women begging the government for this right or that protection, and wanted to see groups of vigilante women busting up rapists with baseball bats. THAT would end rape. Better yet, rape would end tomorrow if women STOPPED ASSOCIATING WITH MEN until it did. But heaven forbid that should happen.

    I also know that occasionally, women really do have NO CLUE that the man they live with will turn violent. I think that usually the signs are there — I know that first-hand — but most people don’t listen to signs (again with the being shaped), and so they get pregnant and gee golly suddenly here’s mister monster. So OK, let’s understand it the first time. But the second? And the third? And how about the dog?

    There are only two choices here. Either these women are willfully dragging themselves and their dependents into one violent relationship after another, or they can’t help themselves. Really, if there is a third choice let me know, but I will say that I just don’t buy that time after time after time women have no idea whatsoever that violence will occur with particular men. They HOPE it doesn’t occur because they cannot give up the insane sort of cultural myth about love they’ve been handed — and that kind of hope seems pretty foolish when you’re involving others.

    I wonder again if they just can’t help doing what they are doing because they are acting out of being compromised, just like I’ve done, like my mother did, like almost all people who have experienced trauma have done. Because let’s face it — if women really did “run with wolves,” we wouldn’t have billions of us meekly chained to the shackles of patriarchy. But we do, don’t we. And we drag innocents into our own prison cell — often (I suspect) because we can’t stand the thought of being alone, we’ve bought the line that men must complete us, so on and so forth.

    All I am saying is that instead of seeing people as willfully being assholes, I am wondering if we perceive them as not being able to help the fact that they are being assholes because they have been shaped by other people and by society to act in those ways. THEY CANNOT HELP IT.

    That explains a lot. It lets no one off the hook, it just frankly levels the playing field and shows that humans are just like all other animals: shaped by our experiences, sometimes irrevocably. We have this myth we carry through our collective experience that we can Overcome Anything, we can do anything If We Put Our Mind To It — well, I am just suggesting that perhaps this is NOT TRUE. Only with extreme strength of will and determination can people change (and resources, yes I know, but again, those things are plenty available in many places and they don’t work because you can throw all the therapy and social work at someone you want, and unless they decide to make changes, changes ain’t going to be made).

    And the main reason I am thinking about this stuff, beyond my own personal interest in the subject, is that perhaps it’s useful to apply this concept to humans who eat animals and their products (which is most humans). What if we say they can’t help it? I don’t know how many people I’ve encountered who really do believe the way animals are treated is horrible but they don’t change their ways. Change is extremely hard for most people. But what if, instead of simply continuing to try to change their minds, we said you know what, they will not change, I will continue to throw education out there, but let’s try MAKING them change?

    How about we turn our attention to ending the extremely fucked-up subsidies around dairy and beef? What about getting that shit out of the schools? How about fighting to keep factory farming from encroaching any further into developing nations?

    The matter of subsidies was reintroduced to me not long ago, and I have continued to think about it, not just because it seems to make sense, but because I’m wondering, if humans en masse cannot change on their own (or will not, but I’m starting to think cannot), perhaps some OTHER avenues can be addressed that will essentially force a change.

    Whew. Sorry, I am pretty sure I rambled, but there’s lots to think about and this is a new thought pattern for me — giving up on change on an individual as well as societal level and seeking other avenues to end the abuse and murder of animals by taking that into account…..

  • I liked your rambling and especially your conclusion. As a survivor I have no interest in changing individuals. My whole organizing life has been about institutional change. However, in a democracy one does need to convince people the change is needed before the electoral process will make it happen. But if you turn on the light bulb, people who are doing bad will vote good.

    The farm subsidy bill is in the process of being passed now-maybe it happened — I read Food Politics by Marion Nestle but there are other blogs more on point — one thing you could do is list them on your side column blog roll — she once mentioned them but I forgot who they are.

    About doing the best they can. The ultimate shock for me was realizing there were adult victims of incest breeding children who they then gave to the grandfather to sexually abuse as they had been abused by him. I worked hard to get the children to the non abusing father who was as shocked as myself.

    I think there is a line somewhere when conditioning becomes a choice. At least that was true for me several times in my life. I saw I could go left or right and I saw where each would lead. The first time I was just a child and saw I was hurting a cat. It was like suddenly waking from just feeling into comprehension. I had been in some dark compulsion thrilling to my own power. Then I saw the cat – her eyes were looking into my soul — I chose never to hurt animals and remained conscious of that although I still disassociated in situations of my own abuse. I think there are crossroads where Hecate stands writing down our choices and assigning responsibility.

  • anitat
    I read today’s post with uneasiness. At one point in my life I had a judge tell me that I was responsible for everything that happened to me and my children because I chose their dad, and in the next breath telling me that she KNEW I was lying about not coming from a household with physical abuse because ALL abused women did. And if I lied about that, perhaps I lied about other things, as well…..through my struggle with my two daughters’ dad, which has gone on for years (since the day I said ‘this is it, I’ve had enough’), through three or four restraining orders with him, through him getting only supervised visitation with the child that became his primary target, and now that he is older and remarried, him losing his wife to social services (because she was an invalid and he got and kept her addicted to drugs and alcohol) I heard the same thread, from EVERYONE: he’s such a great guy, we never DREAMED you were telling the truth. As if the fingerprints on the skylight, the thousands of phone calls, and the constant footprints outside my windows what, didn’t exist??? I will say that even when counselors give the police and the courts Tarasoff warnings (the “this guy’s nuts and going to hurt her or the kids” warning) it can be damned hard to get the court to believe it (“But he has such a great job, when would he find TIME to do this stuff?”)

    There is a very fine line between assigning (or accepting) responsibility in the actions that end up with women being “victims” of domestic violence, and blaming the victim. I believe quite firmly that most men (and many of their mothers, sadly) have a mental image of a pecking order implanted firmly in their heads. Is it biological, is it social, or can we even tell? But that mental image of a pecking order drives them to want to keep the other partner firmly in their place. I’d go so far as to say that right now, there are more men like this, than NOT like this. And, not to be sexually prejudiced, most of the few studies that have been conducted have shown that this holds true in gay couples, too, both male and female…..about the same proportions of these spouses end up abused.

    I’m beginning to think that ‘dominant’ people seek what they perceive to be submissive spouses….and the poo hits the proverbial fan when it turns out that quiet does not always mean submissive. In my own case, I have found that (and yes, I’ve been in multiple dv relationships) the issue has always reared its ugly head right about the time I’ve said, “Well thank you, X, but I don’t want to” and the “to” can be anything from “arrange the kitchen the way your mother does” to “wear spike heels to the bar Saturday night and find a woman to have a threesome” to “wear pearl earrings”. I truly believe that when most people feel thwarted, this is when the problem starts. I’ve reached the conclusion that we do not need to look at whether the woman was abused in her childhood home, but whether the MAN was.

    Do I play well with others? Not really. I’m not interested in playing. In fact, if I were a chicken I’d be the one sitting on the nest and then scratching for bugs, not the one following around a strutting Big Daddy and fighting off the other hens.

    Maybe….maybe that is my problem. I think men are my equal, not objects of adoration, to be adored, fought over, and obeyed. I don’t seek out the alpha male, having no desire to be dominated by a various combination of food deprivation, sleep deprivation, money deprivation, stalking, chasing, and abuse. On the other hand….I’m wondering if every partnership (perhaps the term ‘coupleship’ would be a better choice) has the potential for violence, if one of the partners (or heaven forbid both) want to be the adored alpha and it’s not happening. Put in this perspective you can start to see that men who were abused as kids, either mentally or physically, might want to finally be the boss of their destinies. They seek out smart, active, assertive women because of what they represent….and then start knocking them down a notch, for exactly the same reason!

    The problem then becomes how to find someone who does not have that drive to be an alpha and who really is happy going along about their merry way, content to have someone wander more or less along with him (or her). I know that in my life, the next time I see a nice rooster come swaggering my way, I’m going to want to know whether he was abused as a kid, and asking that question isn’t enough: you have to find out if the parents did things that YOU realize to be abusive, not just what HE believes is abusive. And it doesn’t help to do a criminal records check — too many of these guys have abused in a previous relationship and she didn’t report it.

    I can honestly say that if I’d followed this rule that I’ve only recently developed…I would not have hooked up with the abusive men I’ve hooked up with. Whether they think abusiveness is normal, or whether they think it is okay, or whether they just think it is how it is….it’s not right. To that extent, I do hold myself responsible for my choices, but I also believe that it is quite possible to not see any hints of violence or emotional abuse until after the person is in a relationship that requires him or her to make that crucial decision to maintain the pecking order….or just enjoy the journey with that hen that wants to do things her own happy way.

    Like you, bravebird, I’m afraid I rambled but couldn’t think of any other way to say this…

  • “The problem then becomes how to find someone who does not have that drive to be an alpha and who really is happy going along about their merry way, content to have someone wander more or less along with him (or her).”

    Keep on rambling… For me your sentence above defining the problem is the problem. I think the person you are trying to find HAS to be you. That realization is what saved me from endless repetition. Because repetition is trying to teach you something. What is the problem with loving your self, nurturing that hurt child inside you, parenting your self? What is the need that prevents that? For survivors, I think partners are a distraction and a detour from healing. Just saying…


    At this link best review of what we cannot help and why especially in the comments – for all self hating survivors.

  • anitat
    I read that story — this is not a self-hating survivor, it is the story of a beautiful young girl/woman who never had the chance to grow up and is now doing so. IMHO, no more self-hating than most teens…
  • No no I meant it is a story for any self hating survivor because it shows the emotional consequences of abuse and rejection and how difficult is that hard wiring to overcome. Not Alesha but western survivor self hatred which comes from all the failures to be “normal” can be seen as the results of conditioning by reading this article I think. I thought it related to the original post’s premise about just how much change can we expect from survivors of this culture and abuse survivors.

    Survivors need to understand they were imprinted by the abuser and their behavior is often instinctive rather than conscious. Survivor behavior can be tied to events that occurred in their childhood not what is actually happening in real time. The blame and guilt survivors feel is not justified unless, as the author of this post states, they drag other vulnerable dependents into the maelstrom and pass on the dysfunction.

    The comments are really good and interesting also. Some therapists and fosters diagnose some of the emotional complexes that result from abuse and they are pretty right on.

    Phyllis Chesler is using this article in the new book she is writing.

    I don’t even know if i made my intent clear with this clarification but I will stop.

  • anitat
    heavens no, don’t stop, this is the most adult conversation I’ve had in four years! I found it interesting, though, that in the guise of helping, they brought Alesha into the organization and immediately started trying to “fix” her. I contrast this to Vine Sanctuary, which just tries to socialize the birds rather than “fixing” them. At Vine it is clear that they look at the family or farm of origin as the one with the issue, not the birds (or cows or whatever). It was clear to me reading this (as the mom of a teen with autism) that Alesha had never really been socialized. You can’t “re” socialize someone who has never developed that far. In doing what the organization felt was counterproductive — and running away — she found her own place, where she COULD be socialized. But.more importantly, where she felt safe. She doesn’t feel trapped or kidnapped by this family…..and maybe in a round about way that’s whai I’m saying about a lot of men: they feel trapped and haven’t really been socialized. It’s not my job to ‘fix’ them but its taken me a whole shitload of go-rounds to figure that out.
  • But in fairness, they tried to “fix her” so they could let her go — unlike Vine, the Afghan Orgs cannot care for one dependent for the rest of their lives — the money is not there to do it. They tried families. I think it was their “fixing” that made Alesha able to live in her final family. But we don’t know how that will turn out. Because she will always have the scars.

    Now is a critical time in Afghanistan and this US govt has done nothing to build a structure that will protect women’s rights after we are gone. They could have armed women — trained them as police for women’s courts. They could have passed the IVAWA making money aid dependent on progress toward women’s rights. But no, all we get is pretty speeches from Clinton about how she supports women. So these organizations are scrambling to do the most they can for the most women before the hammer drops and the Taliban takes half the country and the Pastun burka the rest.

  • bravebird
    This is INDEED a good conversation. :-)

    First, Anitat, when you said that now you will look for certain things when choosing a partner, and that if you had had that rule before you wouldn’t have hooked up with your previous partners — that is EXACTLY what I was saying. That is all I was saying. You were unable to come up with, or follow, that rule before, for whatever reasons — whether they were rooted in your personal past, in our society’s general patriarchal structure, or whatever. You literally were not able to do so, or you would have had the rule back then, when you first started dating/living with men.

    Speaking of this rule you now have — whether or not it holds true all the time, it does speak to something else that’s critical here: one of the PRIMARY reasons for NOT HAVING CHILDREN with perpish men (or getting the kids out immediately upon discovering the perpish behavior — or waking up to it, is more typically the case) is because they learn far better from role models than anything else. So, put very simply, boys will grow up believing it’s all right to demean women, and girls will grow up believing it’s appropriate to be demeaned. And here we go again. Abuse repeats itself — and saying that is NOT equivalent to blaming the victim — it’s about recognizing that these things happen.

    I mean — what — we are shaped by everything EXCEPT the most strikingly influential, vivid, lurid events in our lives? We are shaped by our parents’ smoking habits, but not by the fact that they raped us in our sleep, or smacked around our mothers? Of COURSE we are shaped by DV and other violent, abusive behaviors. To say that has to mean something other than blaming the victim — it is a statement of truth, something that ideally can lead to interventions that are helpful. But again, that is what I mean when I say that people do the best they can — literally — and sometimes, that “best” isn’t very good.

    Second, I do agree with you that more men than not are perps of one kind or another, but I have come to believe that this does not exonerate women of their own responsibility. That, again, is not about blaming the victim, but about asking people to use whatever strength they have to do what they need to do. Some people, though, have little strength — some people are extremely compromised (and I am not talking about those women who literally live where there are no resources — we can just talk about women living in cushy college towns with a shelter on every corner, if we want, because women there don’t leave their abusers in droves either). That’s why I say again, I know that plenty of women can’t help it (and men too of course, but this conversation is about women). They literally cannot do other than they have done, or are doing.

    Does this mean we stop EXPECTING THEM to act differently? I think not. I think we continue to expect it, offer help if they want it, and make it clear that this is not about blaming them but asking them to get out of the way of a nightmare. You know what I mean? Girls who are raped at frat parties where they have taken random drugs handed to them are NOT responsible for the rape — but perhaps they could not fucking go to the frat parties in the first place, where it’s common knowledge this shit happens ALL THE TIME? Hell, when I worked at a rape crisis center — hugely feminist, one of the top ones in the nation — when we all sat around at the lunch table, we would talk about such things — it wasn’t about blaming the victims, it was about wanting women, as a group, to be STRONGER and SMARTER.

    I mean, can’t we as a sex show ANY responsibility, even if it means saying most men are potentially violent, so be alert? I think we can, and we should, if only because I’ve always been a bit concerned with continuing the image of women as weak victims — an image that is one of the things that gets us into trouble in the first place. At the very least, we can say hey, DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN OR ALLOW PETS INTO THE HOME for a very long time, and/or if you or your partner has a certain history. Why is it so hard to not have a kid? But of course that’s a much bigger conversation. ;-) But that, again, is my primary bottom-line point: what happens to a child or animal drawn into a relationship is the responsibility of BOTH PEOPLE. BOTH OF THEM. That’s the bottom line. It might be a responsibility that’s far beyond the ability of many people to assume, but then again, JUST DO NOT DO IT.

    In any case, I am just saying that between the two extremes of blaming the victim and completely absolving the victim lays a gray area — an area in which some expectation of personal responsibility lives, an area in which true allies and advocates of the victim help the victim to see that she has agency in her life, that she can make other choices. Chances are it will be years, possibly decades, before many women who have been seriously compromised will learn to take that kind of personal responsibility. But asking them to do this — asking grown women to do this — particularly those who drag unwilling participants into the mix — can’t hurt. It won’t do the job (as we see all the time), but it can’t hurt. Because eventually it sticks.

    So, back to animals, that’s why I feel that we continue to educate people, but perhaps give in and realize that most people won’t change a goddamn thing about their diets and actions, despite what they learn about the horrific treatment of animals, and so we also really push for other avenues of change (sort of like, we want to do anti-racist education but we sure as hell keep the civil rights legislation on the books because if people don’t willingly change, we want a way to MAKE them act right).

  • Bravebird –you have GOT to get on Face book –it is easy and it is amazing — I never paid attention to it though I had a page for a long time but now there are a zillion animal rights/vegan pages and we are all talking to one another — the sanctuary and posts like this should be there and part of the conversations on the news page feed. These are a mix of new and old people and the conversations, like this one, are not about the SOS. If you get a page find Greenconsciousness and become a friend –then we can share … its easy and you will see the benefit after you do it.
  • Nancy
    I think if you don’t leave the first time he hits or shoves you that is YOUR choice to stay. If you wait around to have kids on top of it and nonhuman animals, you are just as responsible for what happens to them as the”abuser.” I remember the Lisa Steinberg case in NY and think that Nussbaum was as responsible if not more for what happened.
    Nonhuman animals and human children don’t have a choice. The only difference is that human children are not considered property.
    As for the “they are doing the best they can theory. How does that work when we apply it to Hitler, Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, etc.
  • Nancy

    Children are treated as property in Family Court – abusers always get the kids back unless they are sentenced in criminal court.I am with you as far as personal responsibility is concerned – as i said I think all of us come to a place where no matter how twisted we are from abuse —we choose to slide along or to reject it as best we can — to have children is a choice.

  • anitat
    Green, I agree….even after one of my children had a restraining order against dad for severe abuse in his household, and I had sole custody (rare these days) the other child was still left in his care because (and I quote the judge) “we can’t do anything because she hasn’t been hurt YET.” Never mind that he systematically abused his two first bio kids, my two older kids, and the next-to-the-youngest. Again, so many of them just say it isn’t happening and without one crap load of proof, the abuser wins, period. In nearly every state, the person that leaves first LOSES. In other words, they ‘abandon’ the spouse which gives him/her the advantage in every proceeding afterwards.

    I was raised in a household where this type of stuff just didn’t happen. I think my family, even though a law enforcement family, was incredibly naive. This stuff only happened to other people, or to people who were living bad lives and provoked it. Once the abuse started, there was no — repeat NO — support because I must have provoked it. The attorney warned me that if I left, the chances were he would end up with the kids, poor wronged fellow.

    It’s all well and good to say “leave the first time”. You can do that if there are not already innocent kids or pets in the mix. But if you already have the kids and pets when the abuse starts, it is a much more complex matter AND ABUSERS KNOW IT. New federal laws make it even more difficult — if the abuser convinces a judge that the other party is a risk to leave the jurisdiction (not nation, but jurisdiction), their bank accounts can be frozen, they can be required to pay a bond, etc.

    Again, I don’t know what the solution is but I know what it is not.

  • and when the DV shelters move the women to other states to escape the child abuse, the FBI moves in and hunts them down, threatens the shelter and parent with criminal violation of court orders if the children are not returned to the father. Phyllis Chesler documents all this and more in the recently released second edition of her famous “Mothers On Trial”. It is an eye opener for women who think the system (read patriarchal system) is going to protect them or at least protect the children.
  • anitat
    Green, THANK YOU. I could have written that first review (talia). Was my daughter sexually abused? Well, she was the only kid I know of that asked the guardian ad litem (at age 8 ) to make her step mother stop giving her a “personal bath”. Still, through the years and by the time I finally got all my ducks in a row, the dad (and I use the term lightly) did things that were so heinous to this child that at least sexual abuse would have had a name. This kind of abuse didn’t, really. She reported it, to teachers (he was a teacher then, they were told to give him professional courtesy), to cps (“she’s psychotic, just like her mother”), to psychiatrists (“why, sir, she cuts herself right in front of us and says she’ll say we did terrible things”). By the time I was able to get enough ducks lined up to battle this very favorite male teacher, a police officer had witnessed acts of abuse and told the court, two teachers who reported it to the court (and gotten fired), approximately 12 parents had seen specific acts of abuse, 14 care givers (counselors, doctors, day care workers) had called CPS, and over a dozen teens had come forward. The officer had witnessed some pretty heinous acts on school grounds! How do I remember? hey, when it is your kid and you are powerless, YOU REMEMBER. I still wonder if going through the system was the right thing to do. A hundred times I have thought that I should have given her to one of my native american friends on one of the big rez’s and just kissed her goodbye. Believe me, it was an option, and in retrospect, me sitting in jail might have been worth it. After all these witnesses, cps in the dad’s state STILL said the daughter was the aggressive one. I get pissed off just THINKING about it. Luckily the state I was in did their own investigation and sent out a real psychologist (you know, in case I was crazy). Both girls confirmed the acts of abuse and the fellow took me aside and said he wasn’t sure she would ever recover. Yet, today… is a happy retiree from the USAF, from his school system, makes more money than God, has plenty of jobs on the side……and is adored, still, by hundreds of people. My daughter? She adores him. She worships him. She tries to kill herself maybe every four months, and in grand fashion. She is addicted to prescription drugs, to heroin, to alcohol, to sleeping pills, and to methadone. She refuses to participate in treatment the second she realizes they’re getting close to “the problem”. I don’t usually tell people this…..they wonder why I left the kids (I didn’t), they wonder why the judge took the kids and if I was a bad mom (through all of this, no judge EVER said that, just that he had more “resources” –well freaking DUH –, though I did find out later the judge was very concerned because I was frightened all the time — it showed weakness and perhaps paranoia–), they wonder why I never tried to get them back (are you kidding me? never???) and how I could leave such a ‘great guy’. Do you know what it’s like being living in a military base when they circle the wagons? argh.

    My family tells me “oh, this is old news, give it up”. It is NOT old news. I do volunteer work, with men AND women, and it is anything BUT old news. This crap goes on every day and most judges have a very pronounced preference, one way or the other. The adored parent….can literally get away with murder.

  • In one case, where all the stuff you said above also happened including attempted murder several times, the abuser set fire to the house of the “non abusing” parent where his children lived. (He was the son of a DA) I had no hope that it would mean an end to his visits – no horror had ended his visits. However, in the police car, on the way to jail, he said he was going to kill that F—ing Judge — and that was it. The cop told the Judge and all visits were ended. She was free after 17 years of hell and at least 3 destroyed kids. The “non-abusing” parent was damaged from childhood abuse when she married the DA’s son and had five kids before she got in touch with her anger and fought her way to recovery — much like the mother of Bravebird in the original post.

    Other times, despite numerous warnings to the court, children with broken arms and whisker burns on their genitals, visits would continue with the abuser maybe “supervised” by his relatives who feel so sorry for him because of his bitch wife he has to suffer so much.

    Do you remember the case where a man killed his wife but while awaiting either trial or sentencing was out on bond, and STILL received visits at HIS home supervised by a lone woman social service worker much like the one he killed?

    The children begged not to be taken for visits, they reported abuse of their mother. When this visit supervisor came to his door with his kids, he pulled them in, shut the door in her face, she smelled gas as the door closed, and he lit a match and burned his children alive. The were dead before the fire dept got there. That is the justice children get in patriarchal courts.

    As I am writing this the news is on the radio that a father killed his three daughters in St Croix WI while they were visiting him. The police arrived because the mother had called afraid for her girls. I am surprised the cops even went to check because these calls are usually ignored. All three girls were dead. How many stories have we heard of this kind? Hundreds.

    When the state is against you, it is over, no matter how many witnesses you have because all that crap about we are a nation of laws and the courts are objective, – is false. Old white men are on the bench along with aunt toms. There are conflicts of interests of the kind we never talk about because we cannot prove they exist.

    That is why we need children’s villages. So when things are too confused to determine there is a safe place to send the children while the adults take care of their mental health issues. Children should be removed from these toxic environments until they are equipped to defend them self. They only have one childhood which they will live with the rest of their lives. Visits with parents should occur in safe houses with the same security check we do in courthouses to protect judges.

    Both parents need to have the children removed from their custody. The environment both parents create is TOXIC to children. The divorce war is toxic to children. I do not believe people turn into abusers overnight. When you end up in these situations, especially over and over, there is a problem on both sides. The woman I described above was not fit to have one child much less five. Her children are damaged despite her statements that some turned out fine. That she doesn’t admit this shows she still avoids and denies. Other women blame without seeing their own part in the tragedy.

    When woman get pregnant after only a few months of being with a man there is a problem. And the problem is a NEED that ignores or avoids all the signs of conflict. A fear that seeks to cement the relationship by a focus on a baby or an animal to help ignore the underlying rot.

    My solution is the sanctuary solution. Sex segregated group homes in a village of grouped by age homes, each home staffed by three caretaker couples -one man -one woman — with video cameras monitoring activities.

  • Hi bravebird – This is a difficult conversation to know where to step into. But I wanted to for a few reasons… One is that I have wondered for the longest time what makes some folks react with compassion in witnessing injustice, and others not. I’ve concluded that most of the time empathy exists because of past experiences in being a victim… It’s like we can see/feel from a more authentic view. We KNOW what it’s like to be the brunt of violence, therefore when others are harmed, it doesn’t take much to understand it.

    True, there are those that go the opposite direction to become the perpetrator instead. And that to me is a form of “broken” that’s nowhere near getting fixed. At least with empathy you’re engaged. Shutting it down as abusers do, is a death-sentence for all.

    I appreciate your description on how some of us were raised as a tree with a barrier obstructing healthy development. It’s accurate. And I may be going out on a twisted limb with this, but here’s my thoughts on irresponsible parenting. I don’t think having kids ought to be a “right” but a privilege that’s earned once you can validate that you’re emotionally and economically sound. Gee, that would eliminate me and probably 90% of the people that exist today. :/

    I also think that justice should be available to humans who endured suffering and damage when they were young… I don’t know why there are no lawsuits for injuries sustained when people were in custody of their guardians. (?) If someone was physically or mentally beaten up as a kid… I just don’t know why the condition of “childhood” should deny justice. Instead we’re left in the world to lick our wounds and console ourselves that our parents did “the best they could”. But when it comes to ruining lives and compromising the future happiness in it – For me, that’s just not good enough. :(

    bravebird I’m glad that you found some comfort as an adult… Glad that you opted to cling to empathy rather than the flip side possibility of becoming a brute. In my experience no one nurtures better than someone who’s been through the same sorrow. And your decision to do “the best you could” in your vegan choices proves that once again… Hugs xox

  • Nancy
    Human children maybe treated “as property” in the courts, just like women may feel “like a piece of meat” but legally they are not considered property like nonhuman animals . To say so is to further objectify the billions of creatures murdered each year. There are no amber alerts for animals, there are no kidnapping charges, etc. and as far as I know unwanted children and babies are not given fatal plus, nor are they bred, sold at livestock auctions, nor taken to slaughterhouses and eaten. Nor are women kept pregnant for their milk and their babies taken away from them. I have never seen routine disembowelment of pregnant women while their fetuses are trampled on until they are mushed into the concrete.
    There is NO comparison. Animals do not choose their abusers,human women do and they should be held accountable for it.
  • Tell it to the 3 boys burned alive Nancy.
  • anitat
    Life is life. Children are kidnapped, animals are stolen. No difference. Unwanted children and babies are aborted and murdered daily. Human trafficking of women and children throughout the world is one of our biggest problems today. And anyone who eats Kraft products and drinks Pepsi are using products from human fetal cells — by Pepsi’s own acknowlegement.

    I had a long discussion today with the therapist about why we don’t notice abusers. It may help you to know this. An abuser typically starts off very nice and slowly grooms the woman (or man). what’s wrong with “here, dear, have a bit of this”? Nothing, until the abusee wakes up one morning and it has morphed into “dammit, I said you don’t need any bagels, eat the melon”. Initially, there is almost no difference between the behavior of an abuser and the behavior of a well mannered individual. It can be very, very difficult to tell when that concern changes.

    Or…..we can completely ignore volumes of research on both issues (animal rights and human rights). That is nothing more than being an abuser.

    IMHO. Let’s talk with dignity.

  • I don’t really agree anitat – I know that is the line but WAR put out a list of indicators in 1984 – there are signs — I believe women ignore those signs and then get pregnant quickly — this is just my opinion but there it is. I know all the stuff therapist say but when a woman has a trail of abusive relationships and by that I mean more than one, I think there is a dance going on and both people are dancing.
  • Nancy
    Life is life. Children are kidnapped, animals are stolen. No difference.
    There is a vast difference between what goes on with human children and non human animals.
    nonhuman females are routinely raped and their babies systematically stolen.
    The sheer numbers alone make the difference.

    Unwanted children and babies are aborted and murdered daily.
    Women CHOOSE to have abortions cows, sows and other females at the slaughterhouse do not.Nor are their babies ever unwanted.

    Human trafficking of women and children throughout the world is one of our biggest problems today.

    “Human trafficking is NOT one of our biggest problems today. NON HUMAN trafficking- flesh based agriculture is.
    the amount of aborted human fetuses, kidnapped human children etc. is infinitesimal compared to the sheer number of nonhuman animals, including neonates who are beaten, hunted, raped, eaten, boiled alive skinned. The only other people in the US who went through something like this on a smaller scale were my descendants,human slaves in the antebellum south.
    And even the “trafficked” women and kidnapped children still abuse nonhuman animals by eating them.

    I had a long discussion today with the therapist about why we don’t notice abusers. It may help you to know this. An abuser typically starts off very nice and slowly grooms the woman (or man)
    I disagree with this. I used to work for a “battered” womens shelter. Most of the time the women knew when the dynamics changed and CHOSE TO IGNORE IT. How about the first time he shoves you or slaps you, you walk out. You are human you have that choice. Nonhuman animals never choose to be abused.
    There is NO comparison, nonhuman animals have no choice, they are abused even by people who are themselves abused. To paraphrase Yoko Ono, animals are the niggers of the world.

  • Nancy
    Tell it to the 3 boys burned alive Nancy
    How about I tell it to the BILLIONS of nonhuman animals barbecued every year.
  • Why do you need a hierarchy of abuse Nancy? ? How do you connect more animals are treated worse to children are not treated as property? Because not every single child is abused? — maybe you have not seen what we have seen done to children — on a continumn 40% of the children in the USA, so can you imagine the % in other countries.

    The truth is it is all connected. I can’t write a book here on that but people who abuse animals abuse people – people who desensitize the self to animals are less sensitive to human suffering and on and on

    But I don’t want to argue this point. More animals are abused yes that is true. You are talking to an ethical vegan so …..
    But I have seen what is done to children and I think they are treated as property. Many will grow up to pass it on (if they survive)and others will fill our mental hospitals and prisons. The cycle of violence.

    But I can easily agree with you that there is more animal abuse and it is horrific. I just see it as all connected rather than children are not treated as property because animals suffer more and in larger numbers.

    The movement to free children is farther along than the animal rights movement though not by much. Children are the property of their biological parents unless the state breaks that ownership and all the rights that go with it. I know the law says there are limits to what you can do to a child. That is why I say the child’s rights movement is further along. But there is virtually no enforcement so…..

  • Nancy
    “Why do you need a hierarchy of abuse Nancy?”
    I think that hierarchy arose when humans enslaved animals and made them property. The current legal status of animals is based on the concept that animals may be utilized for the benefit of humans and is the foundation for considering animals to be property in the eyes of the law. By considering animals to be property, the courts effectively have given people:
    the right to own or possess animals
    the right to use animals for the benefit of the owner or other people
    the right to manage the animals in question as the owner sees fit
    the right to sell or give away the animals as the owner sees fit
    This status of property pertains to all animals, including those kept as pets as well as animals utilized in food production and for other purposes.
    Institutionalized and systematic violence entrenched in the zeitgeist is very different from random violence not approved by the prevailing paradigm. For example, victims of the Nazi holocaust are remembered through Holocaust museums. There no museums for the victims of pogroms endured by the Jewish people and others in Russia and Germany. The people killed in those camps is a minute amount compared to the world wide killing of other species. The extermination camps, by the way were modeled after slaughterhouses the book, Eternal Treblinka raises this very subject.

    “How do you connect more animals are treated worse to children are not treated as property?”
    Because children are NOT considered property under US law, they have rights -nonhuman animals have none so any human can inflict any type of abuse with impunity.
    Case in point:
    Rights/ not considered property: Man leaves baby and toddler in a hot car. People call the police, the police respond immediately. Baby dies, Man is arrested will be charged with murder.
    No rights, considered property: Theo, a black lab cross is left by his “owner” without water in 100 degree weather without water or food while she goes swimming. Concerned neighbors call animal control and police, no one responds. Theo dies a horrific death. We are trying to get the police to indict the owner. Even if we do she will get a slap on the wrist because Theo is considered PROPERTY. Please sign the petition.
    Multiply this scenario and worse for the nonhuman animals in labs, used as food etc. and on and on it goes.
    Carol Adams in her book The Sexual Politics of Meat talks about women feeling like pieces of meat. She states and I agree with her, that doing so further objectifies the victim. Children are not considered property according to the law in this society, nonhuman animals are. When you say that children are figuratively considered property like nonhuman animals who actually are, it further objectifies and victimizes them a second time. Case in point, a child harasses a dog, the dog bites back, the dog is murdered. Never will you see the opposite. That is the difference.

    “How do you connect more animals are treated worse to children are not treated as property? Because not every single child is abused? — maybe you have not seen what we have seen done to children — on a continumn 40% of the children in the USA, so can you imagine the % in other countries”.
    And that number as horrific as it is does not compare to the number of nonhuman animals who are murdered each year in the most barbaric way with impunity, how every part of their lives from birth to death are controlled. You say that 40% of children in the US are abused plus those worldwide yet that number is infinitesimal compared with the amount of other species murdered by humans each year. According to the figure is 58 billion and this does not include those murdered in shelters, laboratories, hunted, sylvan animals murdered as nuisance,animals in bordellos, or those murdered by their owners. Whatever is being done to these human children in a random, furtive manner is being done to nonhuman animals in a systematic, approved way and on a grander scale because they have no rights. The speciesism is so entrenched that even vegans fall prey to it. For example, how many vegans go to restaurants to get their “vegan option” surrounded by the aroma and presence of dismembered nonhuman animals? Would they do this if the dismembered parts were of humans, especially children? This cognitive moral dissonance is the difference between entrenched, systematic violence of nonhuman animals with no rights and that of any human. Also human victims abuse nonhuman victims because they see them as property. This is not true of nonhuman animals. Very few nonhuman animals eat humans and only then when forced to because of human habitat destruction or fight back and when they do they are “destroyed.”
    I think that every “ethical” vegan should go see whose rights they are defending and why. You wrote that maybe I “have not seen what we have seen done to children,” but I think it is you who have not seen what I have seen done to nonhuman animals and it is an abstract concept for you. I have worked with both human and non human victims and as a person of color, know and have experienced abuse, I can tell you that non humans have it worse in every way. Perhaps you should go to the local slaughterhouse and livestock auction and see the doomed pregnant females who give birth at the slaughterhouse/stockyards, the neonates left for dead, the piglets being pounded against concrete and the rape that goes on. Or Read the book Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz. Here is something to get you started:
    Can you imagine the outrage if these were human children
    what about if this were a human
    When was the last time this happened to humans en masse?
    “I know the law says there are limits to what you can do to a child. That is why I say rights movement is further along. But there is virtually no enforcement so…..”
    The law says there are limits to what you can do to a child because children are not considered property. Virtually no enforcement is better than NO enforcement because there are no laws against it. If you kill another human and they can prove it you can(theoretically) go to prison. Not so for nonhuman animals. If you think that we have gotten anywhere with non human rights, you are sadly mistaken. As Bravebird stated we have yet to secure basic rights for nonhuman animals. Humans, including children, especially in this country have some basic rights; nonhuman animals have NO rights at all. You can be sure where there are little human rights the nonhumans have it worse.

    “The truth is it is all connected. I can’t write a book here on that but people who abuse animals abuse people – people who desensitize the self to animals are less sensitive to human suffering and on and on”
    It may be “all connected” but nonhuman animals bear the brunt of the suffering. Humans suffer when they are objectified, and treated like “animals- less than human. Look at the words that are used to insult-bitch, coon,cow, heifer, sow, dog, pig, beaver etc. That is why Ota Benga was put on display at the Bronx zoo z
    I find the second sentence odd since most people are already desensitized to nonhuman animal suffering by having someone else kill them so they can eat their flesh and steal their embryos and milk meant for their children. This already predisposes everyone in the present paradigm to participate in violence towards nonhumans and other humans and to treat certain humans like they treat animals.
    This statement is also odd because the animal victims who have already been murdered behind closed doors are used as a stepping stone to what they perceive is the “real” problem- human violence towards humans. So these victims are further objectified and victimized.
    The people that go above the approved systemic violence towards nonhumans and choose to torture animals themselves, and perpetuate “the cycle of violence” (Implicit in that term is violence to other humans, nonhuman animals are not included), do so by their own choice. Bravebird is an excellent example of making a conscious choice, she could have perpetuated the violence of continuing to consume nonhuman animals, become partners with an abuser, bred unwisely but she made the connection and CHOSE not to.

  • bravebird
    We are indeed on Facebook! Look up Veganism is the Next Evolution. :-)
  • bravebird

    Regarding Hitler et al, I sincerely believe they were doing the best they could. But NOT in that praise-the-little-kid kind of way. Again — the words are literal, not figurative, and if anything are MORE damning of humanity than assuming everyone has/perceives they have choice and blithely goes about life making said choices. I think humans as we are now are compromised, weak, tribal, superstitious, problematic animals who unfortunately developed certain cognitive abilities long before we broke free from certain ways of being — ways that were useful when there were 100,000 of us, but have long outlived their usefulness and turned counter-productive. It’s the same thing as survival skills that survivors develop as a way to get through abuse when they are children — the mechanisms work brilliantly when they are children, and are generally counter-productive when they are grownups.

    So, we developed religion as a way to maintain connections with the so-called natural world when we realized we had stepped outside of the circle of life (my theory, anyway). We developed kinship and tribal bonds because they were useful for survival. So on and so forth. GREAT for 15,000 years ago. WRETCHED now. But by now, those mechanisms are DEEPLY entrenched, just as such mechanisms become entrenched in individual human survivors as a result of individual abuse.

    We now have thousands of years of shaping, pruning, selective breeding, inculcation, brainwashing, and all sorts of externally imposed and self-imposed beliefs, attitudes, traits, and so forth. And just as a tree may NEVER stand up straight after it has been subjected to leaning by the force of a building in its early years, so too with humans. We cannot stand up straight, we cannot, by and large, act better. We are doing the best we can, in a literal way, because we have been molded by all of those forces.

    I guess what I am saying is that our human ways have made Hitlers inevitable. Frankly, I’m shocked there are not MORE Hitlers. Of course, there are many more than people realize — he’s just highly publicized, and was positioned to act upon his particular set of beliefs and desires. But he (and the rest of them) did the best he could. Again, NOT in that pat him on the head, good job honey, you did the best you could, but in a ROCK-BOTTOM, LITERAL, that specimen of humanity was shaped and molded into what he was, and THAT was who he was. Does anyone think he could have been “reformed?” No freaking way.

    Does that mean we do not blame him for his actions, hold him accountable, or, more to the point, STOP HIM? Of course not. But incidentally, that is one reason why I’m not opposed to the use of murder as a penalty for certain crimes. It cannot be used now, when the justice system is riddled with prejudice and there are no proven ways to know, DEFINITIVELY, who committed certain crimes. But if those things were different, HELL YES. Pedophiles do not change — true sociopaths do not change. Certain others do not change. SO STOP THEM before they hurt someone else. What’s the big deal?

    And then of course, again, one must come back to the inevitable conclusion: if this is the best we can do in terms of how we treat each OTHER, how the HELL can we expect us, in general, to do better regarding members of other species? I believe some of us can do better — I see us as sports, flukes, weird oddities — I also see us as in need of improvement, always, as I think is appropriate. But humans en masse? What would make that shift? My gut says nothing until we literally evolve into another version of humanity — a better model. One that won’t destroy its host. One that won’t wreak mass devastation upon everyone else. Etc.

    And until that happens, we keep pushing education because we never know when we will find other sports — we keep pushing for rescues (either legal or not) because we have got to save as many lives as we can — and we cast about for ways to effectively force humans to act right even though it’s not in our nature (e.g. by fighting to eliminate milk subsidies so that cow’s milk becomes exorbitantly expensive).

  • anitat
    I admire you guys from that standpoint…..even arguing that school kids should not drink from those cute little cartons is considered heresy around here. That’s my one tiny contribution to mankind/animalkind, and I totally understand what you are saying about “best they can” not being a “good boy” kind of thing. In that since, I suppose I fail, because I can’t take the stress past the milk carton point!
  • Nancy – your last post was excellent and I am copying it to keep all the links. I wondered why I don’t go to restaurants anymore.

    BB -I found VINE on FB — but I notice the new formats does not have friend requests buttons. I think you just click like but that does not make you a friend. Oh well…..I shared you with my friends.

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