to End Cruelty to People, Animals and Nature,
and Create a World without War and Environmental Destruction
cruelty? It is any harmful action taken against another living
entity that disregards its consciousness or awareness. In this
essay, we'll explore some of the levels of cruelty: how it happens,
how it's defined, and what we can do to help end cruelty and enhance
compassion in the world. Cruelty exists in three distinct realms:
cruelty against mankind, cruelty against animals, and finally,
cruelty against nature.
with cruelty against mankind, in which one individual may be cruel
to another for a variety of reasons, usually relating to gaining
personal control over resources (food, money, etc.) or other people.
This concept of personal gain is an important factor in understanding
human cruelty, since individuals are usually only cruel to others
because they gain something from it. In fact, this is designed
into our behavior and has been carried through our ancestry for
hundreds of thousands of years. Picture this: two cavemen are
sitting around a fire at the end of the day. One spent hours gathering
berries, and the other has nothing. The caveman with nothing can
attack the caveman with the berries, take his fruit, and be all
the more successful for it, at least in terms of survival and
control of resources.
anthropological point of view, there is an incentive for deceit,
theft, and even harming other individuals, as long as it results
in some sort of personal gain. In fact, we see this across virtually
all species, but especially in those that are most closely related
to humans, such as primates.
Today, we see the very same thing happening when one nation attacks
another nation in order to control its resources. Attacking a
nation to take control of its oil supply is essentially the same
as beating a caveman over the head and stealing his berries. It
just goes to show how little we've actually advanced over the
This brings us to a salient point: ending cruelty requires moving
past our ancestral roots, and past the behaviors that are programmed
into us because they once helped us succeed in an uncivilized
world. Today we have to recognize that cruelty is not acceptable
in the international community. It is not acceptable to attack
and kill other human beings for any reason, and certainly not
to take control of their resources in order to enrich ourselves.
Likewise, it is not acceptable to exploit poverty-wage labor in
third-world countries in order to enrich corporations and their
CEOs in developed nations. But this is no anti-trade rant: free
trade is essential for lifting poor nations out of poverty, but
only when combined with mechanisms that respect the sanctity of
human life such as safe working conditions, living wages, and
a system of recognizing private property ownership for the poor.
Read "The Mystery of Capital" by Hernando DeSoto, which
is among the most important economic books of the last 100 years,
to learn the real reasons why free trade has failed to provide
economic freedoms for underdeveloped nations (and what we can
do to change that).
Beyond war and economics, we also see cruelty in the world of
medicine. Conventional medicine has a long and sordid history
of using human beings for medical
experiments, even right here in the United States. In fact,
news recently surfaced about a hospital
that had been using retarded children in radiation experiments.
here for a Google search on this topic.
This and many other medical experiments have been conducted on
living, breathing people right here in the United States. This
is one of the most egregious forms of cruelty, in that it is a
harmful action taken against these people, and that it refuses
to recognize the consciousness, spirit or awareness of these individuals.
Just because someone cannot speak in words that we understand,
or communicate with us in the manner in which we are used to communicating,
doesn't mean that they don't feel pain, fear, pleasure or love.
Thus, these medical experiments are a horrifying form of cruelty,
and many continue to this day (behind closed doors, of course).
In the realm of war, we see examples of cruelty as official policy.
In the United States military, for example, cruelty against Iraqi
prisoners has become a global scandal. We have seen photographs
and heard testimony from individuals who were engaged in all manner
of cruelty against Iraqi prisoners, many of whom were innocent
civilians. These people were subjected to appalling acts, including
sexual torture, humiliation, and execution (as was actually caught
on tape). Notably, it appears that the American soldiers engaged
in this activity rather enjoyed it.
In the United States, we increasingly find a culture that supports
cruelty. Much as we saw in 1939 Nazi Germany, this mindset often
accompanies nationalism and pride in one's country. It goes hand
in hand with the fervor surrounding fear-based propaganda typically
orchestrated by a national leader in response to some sort of
military attack. In Germany, it was the Reichstag. In the U.S.,
it's 9/11. Regardless of the justification for military action,
the apparent military goal seems to be little more than control
of resources, which once again likens us to cavemen in my earlier
example. Except in this case, we don't have to look at the faces
of those we kill because it is all censored out of the press.
The Pentagon even banned the filming of flag-draped coffins carrying
our own (dead) soldiers back from Iraq.
So what does it take to stop cruelty against fellow human beings?
First, it requires teaching compassion. We must understanding
that other human beings have souls and consciousness, and that
is it not right to ignore those souls for personal gain, be it
power, control of resources or some kind of financial gain. This
is a lesson that isn't being taught in American culture. It's
not taught in our public schools, it's not an element of free-market
capitalism, it isn't something propagated by the press, and it
certainly isn't practiced by the current government administration.
As a population, we don't seem to understand that compassion is
The next step toward ending cruelty is to stop meeting violence
with more violence. If the problem is violence, then solving it
will require a different approach, such as compassion, negotiation,
or even an apology. The predominant mindset in response to terrorist
attacks, for example, continues to be revenge. This revenge is
propped up by the media and the war-mongering rhetoric of the
current administration. But when we act on revenge, we simply
create more hatred and more violence. We take out one Saddam Hussein,
but we create 40 more who believe they have even more justification
to attack the United States and kill even more Americans in future
terrorist attacks. It is a Medusa: kill one snake, and two more
appear in its place. This is nothing but an escalation of violence,
and it can lead only to more war, pain, suffering and death. Of
course, all the U.S. companies that manufacture military hardware
profit handsomely. The war industry in this country not depends
on war for its economic survival.
The way to stop this escalating cycle of violence is to adopt
humility and compassion rather than ego and cruelty. Again, that
stance does not seem acceptable by most of the American population,
who continue to boast bumper stickers that read, "These colors
don't run," or "American Pride." My favorite is
"God bless America," which implies two rather bizarre
ideas: 1) that God blesses war, and 2) God shouldn't bless anybody
else. I don't claim to know the mind of God, but I doubt the atrocities
being committed against the Iraqi people in the name of the United
States today are worthy of any divine blessing. To name just one
such atrocity, the widespread use of depleted
uranium in ordinance used by the U.S. military in Iraq is,
itself, a weapon of mass destruction that is being used in clear
violation of the Geneva Convention, and that will create lingering
radiation throughout the Iraqi nation for generations to come.
Depleted uranium is not at all selective in who it radiates. By
its very nature, it is a weapon of mass destruction.
It's all the more ironic, it seems, since Bush's promised WMDs
never showed up in Iraq in the first place -- so the U.S. military
decided to bring its own and use them against the very nation
it attacked on the premise that Iraq might someday develop WMDs
and use them on other nations.
To end these cruelties, we must move past the caveman mentality
that tells us to take revenge on the caveman who beat us up and
stole our berries. Unfortunately, that's the mindset we are operating
with today, which brings into question whether we are correct
in calling modern civilization advanced at all. We really haven't
advanced that far. We still act on the same basic emotions and
stimuli as our ancestors.
Cruelty to Animals
Moving on, let's discuss the highly controversial subject of animal
cruelty. Let's start with the premise that animals have souls
and consciousness, and that they can feel pain. We now know that
even simple-minded creatures such as fish can sense and feel real
here for a Google search about new research on fish and pain perception.
And yet animal cruelty continues. Many think of animal cruelty
as limited to people treating their dogs unfairly, or beating
their pets out of anger. But as serious as that is, it is the
least of the animal cruelty concerns. I believe that the greatest
animal cruelty happening right now is in the food industry, where
we are growing living beings and harvesting their flesh in order
to feed a nation beef and other meats.
The conditions under which these animals are raised and harvested
are atrocious. I believe it is cruelty at its worst to put a chicken
in a cage so small it can barely turn around, and cut off its
beak so that it can't kill another chicken or pluck out its own
feathers. Cattle feeding practices in the United States right
now are also a form of cruelty, since matter such as dead animals
and chicken excrement are ground up and fed to cows. This is a
standard, USDA-approved feeding practice in the cattle industry,
by the way. Click
here to search Google and see for yourself.
I also believe that the very practice of raising animals in confined
environments, subjecting them to atrocious feeding habits and
killing them in inhumane ways in order to harvest their flesh
and turn a profit is an outrageous form of cruelty to animals.
I believe that in any advanced society such practices would be
outlawed entirely. I find no justification in this society to
harvest the organs of animals for the consumption of human beings.
People ask, "What about the protein needs?" and "How
will we feed the world if we don't harvest cattle?" Actually,
they have it backwards: if we don't switch to plant sources of
protein, we'll never have enough land to feed the world. Harvesting
and growing spirulina, for example, takes 1/100th of the acreage
required by cattle for the same amount of digestible protein.
And raising soybeans only takes 1/10th the acreage of raising
cattle. Spirulina, by the way, has twelve times the digestible
protein of beef, ounce for ounce. Raising cattle is one of the
least efficient ways to feed the world.
As long as people demand beef, though, an improvement over current
cattle industry practices would be to mandate organic free-range
practices, in which animals are still raised for food, but they
live healthy, sane lives, and are given free access to the outdoors.
They should have sunlight and clean water and the ability to live
out a relatively normal, healthy life. And when they are slaughtered,
it should be conducted in the most humane manner possible -- one
that respects the life of each creature and how that creature
is giving up its flesh for the purpose of sustaining the life
of a human being. That is slightly better approach to creating
meat for consumption by human beings, and it is practiced by a
few small organic and Kosher beef producers. Organic, free-range
meats are available in the United States, but they don't make
up the majority of meats available at grocery stores today.
Another form of cruelty to animals is using them in experiments,
which is often done by the cosmetic industry, the food industry,
and to some extent by the U.S. military. Animals are routinely
used in painful experiments, which I find to be an unacceptable
practice. These are living, breathing, conscious creatures, and
just like human beings, they should not be subjected to cruel
treatments if we are to call ourselves an advanced civilization
of any kind.
These animals feel the pain of these experiments. If a research
worker is giving a pig third-degree burns so it can test burn-recovery
drugs, that is cruel and unnecessary, and should be outlawed.
Cruelty to Nature
Lastly, we must discuss cruelty to nature. This is a phrase that's
not often used in popular culture. To explain this concept, we
must first recognize that plants are also living, breathing beings.
They have a nervous system, a structural system and a circulatory
system. They are very much alive, although not in the same way
that mammals or human beings are alive. Plants are indeed living
creatures, and we need to recognize that and start looking at
trees, for example, as tree-shaped beings. By and large, we fail
to do that today, and through this failure, we as a species allow
ourselves to commit outrageous acts of cruelty towards nature.
Some of the ways we express that cruelty is by polluting the rivers,
streams and air with industrial wastes. We are killing the oceans
through sound pollution and military sonar buoys (which is one
reason why so many dolphins and whales are turning up on beaches
these days). We are killing the coral by dumping toxic metals
onto our crops, which creates toxic runoff that empties into the
rivers, streams, and oceans. We are cutting down rainforests and
systematically destroying the natural ecosystem of the planet.
Little by little we are destroying nature here on Planet Earth,
but this is not just an environmental issue: it's an issue of
cruelty. It is cruel to destroy an ecosystem, because doing so
simultaneously destroys the life that depends on that ecosystem.
Too often, those of us in western society think of plants as inanimate
objects. However, if we could see them on time-lapse photography,
we would recognize that they are living, breathing, moving creatures.
On a slow scale of time, populations of trees actually migrate.
A sunflower will track the sun as it moves across the sky, minute
by minute, so that it's always getting the maximum sunlight possible.
Flowers open and close in response to the cycles of daylight.
These are not just automatic, machine-like reactions, as some
might argue. These are the conscious actions of living, breathing
creatures that deserve to be treated humanely. If we fail to recognize
this in nature and continue to behave cruelly toward it, we will
find that there are terrible, devastating, natural results of
Nature will eventually return to a state of balance, but finding
that balance may involve some dramatic and unpleasant changes
in the world around us. Nature can do just fine without human
beings, and if we continue on our current path of cruelty towards
nature, I have no doubt that we will be setting in motion a chain
of events that will result in the sharp reduction of human population
on this planet. I believe this will occur through so-called "natural
disasters," such as climate change or pandemics of infectious
disease (the bird flu virus is a strong candidate). This is not
nature's revenge. This is simply cause and effect of our cruelty
to nature. It's a reflection of our own cruelty to nature, coming
back to haunt us.
When we are cruel to animals, they can't fight back. But nature
is resilient when we are cruel to it. Nature doesn't fight back;
it overcomes. If we were to wipe out every single tree, uproot
every blade of grass and kill every plant on the planet tomorrow,
we might think we had conquered nature. But within a few short
years, humanity would be wiped out due to climate changes and
the devastation of the food supply. And a few short years after
that, nature would return in full force, with far greater health
and biodiversity without mankind. The wildlife, rivers and streams
would, in time, return to their pristine, original state, and
life in the oceans would again become abundant. All without man.
I only hope that our civilization can find ways to put an end
to this cruelty without having to be wiped out by nature. I hope
that we can find a way to live in balance with nature. But to
do that, we must put a stop to our cruelty. This means changing
the way we live in harmony with our surrounding environment and
taking an honest look at how we pollute the rivers and streams,
oceans, airways, and the entire planet.
There is no "them," only us
Whether discussing cruelty towards people, animals or plants,
all cruelty stems from a prevailing distortion carried by nearly
everyone on this planet: the belief that we are separate. If person
A attacks person B, it is only because he believes he is separate
from person B. If a society attacks and destroys nature, it is
only because it believes it is not part of nature. But this is
a distortion: we are all connected through an intricate web of
intentions, energy and chemistry. One act of cruelty towards a
human being gives rise to many such cruel acts in return. One
act of cruelty towards an animal is returned to us in a darkening
of our own hearts. One act of cruelty towards nature sets in motion
a chain of events that ultimately returns to threaten our health,
our food supply, and the very life of our planet.
Cruelty can only be acted out by those who suffer from the illusion
that we are separate, individual people who exist in isolation
from our world, our conscious animals, and the abundant plant
and microbial life that sustains us. And thus, the solution to
cruelty seems clear: teach connectness. Call it Karma, or call
it quantum physics. You can calculate it with mathematics and
the laws of life sciences, or intuit it from feelings and emotions.
Either way, it is the same truth: we are all connected. We are
part of the same system, and we depend on each other. All of us:
the people, the animals, the plants, even the planet... we all
experience the reverberations of cruelty created by people, industries,
or nations. Simultaneously, we all benefit from the waves of peace,
love and connectedness being broadcast by those who meditate with
positive intention in churches, mosques, shrines and temples all
around the world.
Without them, frankly, we would already be lost.
Perhaps you should consider joining them. Any moment in which
you find peace, silence, clarity of thought, and love for others
is a moment of creation and connectedness that ripples out through
the lives and souls of every living thing on this planet. You
can make a change through intention alone. Ending cruelty starts
with having sufficient numbers of people meditating on connectedness.