PETS OR PRISONERS?
Waking up to the truth
By Julie Earth Angel Walker Longhill
Imagine you are a child growing up in a prominent white family on a plantation in colonial America. One day you go into town with your parents and they say "we need to buy us some slaves ". At the auction block, dark-skinned people are lined up with metal collars around their necks and shackles on their hands and feet.
Some have been transported in large cages; their humiliation and hopelessness are palpable. Imagine that your young heart is broken when you witness these atrocities. Something inside you screams "This is not right!". Your family and society however, act as if this is normal. You soon learn the underlying message "conform or be destroyed ". It must have been very lonely for those people who grew up with human slavery, (knowing in their hearts that it was wrong).
Imagine you are a child growing up in an average family in modern America.
One day you go into town with your parents and they say "we need to buy us a pet". You enter what is called a "pet store", where all kinds of animals ( in cages and aquariums) are for sale. One of the clerks slips a metal choke collar on a puppy, hands the leash to a young couple, and they walk out. You feel the humiliation and hopelessness of the captive animals. Imagine that your young heart is broken when you witness these atrocities. Something inside you screams " THIS IS NOT RIGHT "! Your family and society however, act as if this is normal. You soon learn the underlying message "conform or be destroyed". It is very lonely for those people who grow up with animal slavery, (knowing in their hearts that it is wrong).
I grew up in the suburbs of America in the 1960's and '70's. We were taught that humans have a right to keep some animals captive, and we call these "pets". Our family owned many pets over the years: cats, dogs, mice, horses, turtles, fish, birds, hamsters, and even a raccoon. Most of these animals were kept in cages except for the dogs, cats, and horses. I truly loved our pets and a part of me felt their loneliness on some deep level even though I could not put it into words.
I remember when we bought our collie puppy and first brought her home. I stayed beside her many nights as she cried and cried. Only recently have I fully realized that she was taken away from her mother and siblings, and forced to live with our family. I secretly celebrated when she slipped out of her collar and got free, which happened a lot. I remember pony rides for children. I loved having the chance to be around them, but the ponies were sad and bored. As a teenager I went to a fancy horse show where they pranced around doing tricks for their riders. At the end of the show they let the horses run free in the rink for ten minutes. They were so alive and happy; it was my favorite part!
I had a pet cat (who had been rescued as a kitten) when I was a young adult. She was sometimes my only friend and companion. Like many Americans, I was a wounded and isolated soul needing compassion and love, but finding it hard to connect with other people. I began to heal, and my self-awareness increased along with the awareness of society's wounds. I allowed myself to feel, and in "feeling" my compassion for other Beings grew. When my cat was young, I had her spayed and de-clawed. Much later I began to grieve this decision; feeling terrible for taking away her ability to defend herself and to climb trees I asked my cat for forgiveness as I shed many tears. Through my process of personal growth I discovered a connection between repression of our emotions and how we treat and interact with people and animals. Two weeks after my cat died of old age I had a dream; her Spirit was free and she was climbing a tree!
It has taken many years for me to openly question and confront the common American practice of owning animals as "pets". I too have been brainwashed by this culture, like so many others. When I am honest, my heart has been telling me all along that "something is wrong, very wrong!" Animals' basic rights are being violated daily by millions of Americans, and it is perfectly legal and condoned.
We hold them prisoners, and call them "pets". We separate them from their own species, families, and from the Earth, to provide companionship and entertainment for our children. Cats, dogs, and horses are now routinely sterilized which causes them to be more docile (and easier to tame). Many animals, (as pets), are treated like property; they are bought and sold, bred for pet shows, their wings are clipped, their tails are docked, they are chained up and exploited. We cause great suffering to other creatures, and in the end we suffer too.
But there is hope. Human slavery was once legal , condoned, and widely practiced in America. A few brave individuals spoke out against this injustice and a war was fought over this moral issue. The ideal of "liberty and justice for all" prevailed, and we are a better people and country because of it.
It is time NOW to expand this ideal of "liberty and justice" to include All Our Relations. As we release our hearts from the shackles of human repression, we are free to liberate animals from human oppression.
Together we can live in harmony again on Mother Earth, respecting the natural ways as the Creator intended.