As the dogs and I walked, my eyes on the sky, I was nonetheless prepared at any moment to have a pig or two come crashing out of the brush and onto the road. I could hear them tromping around in the hau, silver oak and profusely blooming albezzia (what's up with that, this time of year?) and calling their soft “riiiiiii.”
It occurred to me recently, while digging in my garden, a shama thrush patiently standing by, waiting to mop the worms and bugs I unearthed, making the little clicks that are a part of its amazing repertoire, that the “dumb beasts” aren't really dumb. Listen. They've all got something to say. We just don't speak their language.
I was talking to one of my sisters on the phone the other night and she was telling me about something she'd read or heard, about how dolphins name their babies. Turns out dolphins, crows, primates and parrots all name their babies, as in using calls unique to that individual to get its attention.
And whales not only make up new tunes, their songs spread “all over the Pacific, from Australia to French Polynesia, thousands of miles, over a couple of years.” Chimps use sticks in the same sort of play that little girls develop with their dolls, and they also use mediators to resolve disputes.
“Do you suppose one day we'll come to find out that all the animals we dismiss as stupid or emotionless, actually have a lot more going on than we think?” she asked. “Because when you look at dogs' faces, they definitely have expressions.”
Indeed. And no doubt they have a whole lot more going on than we want to acknowledge because then we'd have to treat them differently. As in better, kinder. More fairly and compassionately.
I was reading an article in The New Yorker written by a 44-year-old gay staffer who was marveling at the “startling transformation in the status of gay men and women in the United States.”
When he was born, homosexual acts were illegal in every state but Illinois. This year, we're seeing the legalization of gay marriage in some states, the election of the first openly gay Senator, the political power of a previously marginalized sector of the population. No, it's not perfect, but we've made tremendous progress.
So do you think the rights of animals, the rights of nature, might be next?
I was heartened by a report that Australia's largest supermarket chain, Coles, will stop selling pork and eggs from animals kept in factory farms. As an immediate result, 34,000 mother pigs will no longer be kept in stalls for long periods of their lives, and 350,000 hens will be freed from cages. The other major supermarket chain in that nation is following suit.
This was accomplished through a media campaign launched by an animals' rights group that pointed out that farm animals are routinely subjected to treatment that would be outlawed as cruelty if inflicted on cats and dogs.
In short, it urged consumers to use their considerable purchasing power. And it worked. It could also work here, where a poll found:
[T]hat 94 percent of Americans agree that animals raised for food on farms deserve to be free from abuse and cruelty, and that 71 percent of Americans support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms.
Consider this: fear of consumer backlash kept McDonald's from using genetically engineered potatoes — a move that pretty much killed that crop's production in America.
As farmer Jerry noted, when I discussed some of this with him, consumers have tremendous power. But people need to let farmers and food producers know what they want. Right now, it's all turned around, with the advertisers telling us what we want.
Flip it, and we might just have a food revolution on our hands. Heck, throw in some consideration for the rights of nature, and we're talking about a consciousness revolution.
Now that's some exciting stuff.
Now that's some exciting stuff.