From ownership and exploitation to connection and compassion – for all.

December 13th, 2009 6:35 pm by Kelly Garbato

Last month, I wrote about a series of videos in which Compassionate Cook Colleen Patrick-Goudreau examines the intersecting threads of human and animal exploitation. Specifically, we looked at four segments in the series: Female Exploitation; Maternal Instincts; Inherent Violence; and A Return to Compassion. Well, several weeks have passed, bringing with them three new videos to discuss!

In Domesticating Animals: From Reverence to Ownership, Patrick-Goudreau points to the agricultural revolution – in which humans transitioned from a foraging to farming lifestyle – as the beginning of the end of our harmonious relationship with nature and other animals. With the domestication of plants, nonhuman animals and land came human ownership of these “things”; living beings became property to be hoarded, protected and defended. This rush to affluence – to gather and own as much as possible – also triggered conflict between humans, including the human exploitation of other humans.

Patrick-Goudreau emphasizes the deleterious effects of reducing animals to property – essentially, commodities to be bought and sold – throughout this short video. Historically, marginalized groups of humans – women, people of color, those belonging to lower socioeconomic classes – have also been treated as the property of more privileged humans. I’m especially interested in how closely these two phenomenon are linked; did they occur almost simultaneously? Did the fall of women come close on the heels of the devaluation of nonhuman animals? Are humans doomed as long as we continue to exploit nonhuman animals?

I think y’all know my answer to these questions: No one is free while others are oppressed.

Connecting with the Animals, the next video in the series, is fairly simple and straightforward. Patrick-Goudreau talks about visiting sanctuaries for formerly farmed (read: exploited and abused) animals, and what a transformative experience this can be. I challenge you to watch this piece without getting a little teary-eyed.

The Mr. and I bought a 20-acre property specifically because we hope to adopt a few rescued farmed animals in the (as-of-yet undefined) future. After reading through Farm Sanctuary’s care instructions for various species of “livestock,” we tentatively decided that goats would be the best fit. We don’t have a whole lot of experience with farmed animals; larger animals, such as horses and cows, are a little intimidating for us first-times, as are smaller animals who need to be kept safe from predators – think chickens and turkeys. I love pigs, but local zoning laws might be working against us here. So goats it is! Um, maybe. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Patrick-Goudreau’s obvious fondness for goats – for all animals – well, it’s kind of awesome. Infectiously so. I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but veganism has opened my heart: to the magic and wonder of life, in all its diversity; to the inherent value of individual creatures; and to the unique, singular nature of every one of earth’s trillions of inhabitants. No two animals – and this is true of individuals as well as species – are quite alike. All have thoughts, emotions and behaviors that are theirs – and theirs alone. Once you start to consider nonhuman animals as individuals rather than things (or indistinct masses of things) – well, it changes your worldview in a way that’s impossible to explain.

Ahem. On to the final video, Who Are Slaughterhouse Workers? In a sentence: “they’re disentitled, disenfranchised, desensitized people” who have fallen into a job that strips everyone involved of their – for lack of a better word – humanity.

Patrick-Goudreau stresses that most slaughterhouse workers are not sadists or monsters; and indeed, they’re no more monstrous than those who consume “meat,” eggs and dairy, thus funding and perpetuating this violence – violence which, it’s worth noting, they delegate to “lesser” humans. To this I’d like to add a recommendation: the next time PETA, MFA, et al releases a scandalous undercover slaughterhouse investigation, let’s not direct the bulk of our ire at the few individual slaughterhouse workers meting out the abuse. Let’s not forget that they do so under another’s orders: the plant supervisor, for example, who enforces unreasonably high quotas, and the company policies which give the manager little choice; the stockholders, who demand perpetual growth and return every quarter; the owners and top-level managers, who set the company policies and make a profit on the backs of others, human and nonhumans alike.

Too often in these situations, the workers seen committing the atrocities on-screen are – again for lack of a better word – scapegoated. The buck stops with the humans lowest on the “food chain.” Much like the soldiers prosecuted for torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, those who kill “our” “food” are simply following orders; and, while I don’t think this absolves them of all responsibility, punishing those humans who exist on the lowest rungs of the hierarchy is, at best, a show. The root of the problem remains unaddressed – and so, absent the sacrificed workers (and soldiers), the abuse will continue at the hands of another. Meanwhile, feigning ignorance and outrage, the hands of those directing the abuses remain (outwardly) “clean.” However, deposing and swapping directors, while a step in the right direction, will not solve the problem, either.

The problem is our ownership and exploitation of animals; the solution is veganism.

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Videos in this post

Domesticating Animals: From Reverence to Ownership: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks (www.compassionatecooks.com) talks about how the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago changed our relationship to the natural world, to animals, and to each other, particularly in relation to war. (2:01)

Connecting with the Animals: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks (www.compassionatecooks.com) talks about the transformations that occur in the animals rescued from slaughter and given lifelong protection and sanctuary. (1:42)

Who Are Slaughterhouse Workers?: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks (www.compassionatecooks.com) explains the importance of not demonizing slaughterhouse workers (they’re not evil but rather desensitized humans) and reminds us that we’re complicit in the violence if we buy meat, dairy, and eggs. (1:18)

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One Response to “From ownership and exploitation to connection and compassion – for all.”

  1. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says, “Wake up, bacon breath!” » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] been a few months since last I wrote about Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s series of short videos addressing the issues of veganism and […]

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