by Linda Brink
[The opinions expressed in these essays do not necessarily reflect the position of ARAUNY.]
Recently, a long-time friendship of mine came to an end, allegedly over the issue of a black leather jacket, but actually over the remarkable human capacity for steadfast denial. What happened was this: traveling in Europe, my friend (intelligent and kind-hearted) posted a picture on Facebook of herself wearing a black leather jacket. The jacket in the picture received high praise from her many followers. I reflected, in my own comment, about how dramatically different are human perceptions of the same object: that what some perceive as attractive, another will find offensive, and utterly anguishing to look upon. Like a deer head on the wall, lifeless, processed remnants of a living creature’s once vibrant body are particularly grotesque to me, although I did not mention this.
In dismay, my friend removed the leather jacket picture and wrote to me that I had no right to judge her, though I had not done so; I simply pointed out the different responses people have to the same item and left it there. She accused me of embarrassing her in front of her friends, and then added, how did I know she didn’t borrow the black leather jacket? To which I replied: the black leather jacket is still offensive to me, and if she is going to send such photographs my way, I can only comment honestly.
She addressed the issue as one of me judging her, rather than one focusing on the actual horrors associated with production of a black leather jacket.
As our communications on the subject continued (rapidly degenerating), she then claimed that the jacket she might have borrowed could have been old recycled leather, or even pleather. Plus, if I also don’t approve of leather shoes, that’s fine by her—a rather puzzling final kicker. I hardly ever go on Facebook, so I could only guess past photos had revealed my friend in stylish leather shoes. In fact, she angrily concluded, choices are not so crystal clear as I seem to think. Boundaries are blurred—after all, how was she to get around feeding her dogs and cats meat? In the end, in a rather outraged, sweeping statement, she wrote that no matter what she wore, she knows that she has “love in her heart”—and that was the final sour note on which our friendship choked and died.
What intrigues me most about the whole leather jacket episode, which I have since seriously considered, is the fact that my ex-friend does firmly believe what she wrote. Despite its defensive ring, her conclusion that she does have Love In Her Heart is apparently her accepted pass to ignoring suffering. As if, because of Love In Her Heart, tortured animals will of course forgive her, or perhaps, not even suffer on her account, at all.
I am constantly astounded by the number of Animal Lovers who in fact daily support the most horrific animal cruelty in the history of Mankind by their choice of products. They eat animals born and raised in agony and wear animal body parts and buy products tested with mind-shriveling cruelty on animals, even as they donate to organizations that adopt unwanted lives, yes—but kill those they judge unadoptable. Because it’s not really about animals, any of it; it’s all about the humans. Human convenience, human wants, human needs, human greed. They support organizations that claim to raise animals kindly before slaughtering them, because that seems such a perfect compromise—clearly indicating a lurking awareness of factory farm suffering, even if they choose not to think about it. Indeed, it seems they do not once doubt the sincerity of their Love for Animals as they assertively stride on, half-deaf to the screams, half-blind to the anguish.
The sheer scope of such denial is nothing less than flabbergasting to me. I told my friend, if everyone stopped eating animals overnight, think of all the individuals who would be saved, right now, and the torturous conditions that would immediately be ended. No market, no product to sell—I say product because that truly is the animal industry concept: not individuals, but instead: steak, wings, chops, leather, wool. Never is the individual spirit part of the equation, though one inhabits each unique body that is part of the doomed trillions. But she would not address this other than to say issues are not so crystal clear—and what about pet food?
Such resistance from one with Love In Her Heart on what actually is crystal clear incongruously befuddles me, because it’s a blatantly unsupportable denial of so many well-documented truths. It’s such a pretense to idealize the notion that all is acceptable for animals, despite your lifestyle, because in your heart you truly do care about them. I suppose if everyone tells each other that, in some warped twilight zone of enjoyable living, it eventually takes on the patina of real truth. If everyone agrees the leather jacket is a good thing—then it must be a good thing. Despite all that nasty other stuff.
If you can choose to not think about the agony of a living creature meeting death by scalding, or spending an entire lifetime in filth, unable to so much as turn around, or crammed into a sweltering warehouse, or wire cage, or fly-ridden, suffocating feed lot—if you can not think about any of this when you view the actual body part on your plate or person—well, I’d say you have the capacity to not think about anything you don’t wish to confront. A sobering thought, that, when you consider that billions of humans daily play this very mind game. What then, are the ramifications for our species’ future? And more importantly, that of the planet?
I looked up the word judgment, and it’s defined as this: the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. Therefore, I did indeed judge my ex-friend. She and her followers are utterly irrational: they choose not to hear the screams. They choose not to think about the pain, the health issues for all concerned or even the pollution generated by most animal production industries. They live in an insulated false reality because in truth, that’s exactly how they want to live—ignoring unpleasantries that might connect directly to themselves. It’s their choice to pretend, and that then becomes the issue. I do believe they know the pretense exists, they’re just not acknowledging they are pretending. It’s the denial gene, pure and simple.
The human denial gene. There is not one aspect of the homo sapiens species that could possibly bode worse for this good Earth than this one affliction: our enormous capacity for denial of that which we do not wish to believe. Over the cliff and falling, and taking so many others down with us, we’ll still be arguing that Love Is In Our Hearts. Heatedly, we will defend the fine merit of our most terrible mistakes. And only half-listening, we’ll miss the terrible cries of the countless non-humans perishing around us.
Exactly as so many of us have chosen do to all our lives. And continue to do, right now.
– Linda Brink, Director of Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary, Warwick, NY