Posted by Marcia Penner Freedman
I have received many responses to the posts on treatment of laboratory animals, some in direct emails and some as comments on the posts themselves. Animal abuse, of any kind, is apparently a subject that stirs people deeply.
I have included here several comments by readers. I hope you enjoy these, and perhaps will be moved to respond also.
Shloime Perel, who lives in Montreal, refers to the abuse of animals as heartbreaking. He cited a biblical passage in which a donkey is beaten several times by his owner, Balaam (Numbers 22:21-29): “What have I done to you to make you beat me three times?” the donkey asks. At that moment Balaam sees an angel in the path before him and he ceases mistreating his donkey.
Unlike the donkey in the story, animals cannot protest for themselves. They need an intermediary to speak for them. We need to be that angel, Shloime wrote in an email. Someone has to protest for the animals.
One protester is artist Marcia Rajnus Goldberg, also from Montreal. The artist imagines a world in which no primates will ever have to submit to cruel laboratory testing aimed at finding out such things as how much diesel fuel or nicotine it takes to kill a primate – actual research she read about in the newspaper. In this painting of a chimpanzee, Marcia has placed him in a jungle where he will live under the care of primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall.
I painted that chimpanzee in the tree for a friend who fell sick in Nagaland, India where she saw monkeys and other wildlife. It was there that she came down with a superbug that collapsed her lung. Four months later she’s pulling for her life, and this painting will be hers when she gets home (is hers, wherever her home will be).
It’s almost as if Marcia is saying that art can bring about change, art can help heal.
The next item was sent by Joseph Frank of Oakhurst.
Do animals feel pain? Joe wrote. Of course they do. Is compassion a universally accepted moral value? Unfortunately it is not. The ultimate and earnest wish, manifest in the Buddha, both as archetype and as historical entity, is to relieve the suffering of all living beings everywhere.
This photo reminds me of a scene in the film Seven Years in Tibet, a story about the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer who lived in Tibet between 1944 and 1951. In the film, when Harrer is asked by the then young Dalai Lama to build a theater, the Buddhist workers refuse to excavate the site until a colony of worms is removed and relocated to safety.
Would we do the same thing for a worm, those squiggly, dirty creatures that turn our stomachs? Did you ever watch someone bait a hook with a live worm? Have you ever heard anyone protest?
And what about spiders? I think of the revulsion commonly directed towards them, how we have learned to fear them and casually stomp on them.
How does that happen? We sing The Itsy-Bitsy Spider with our three-year-olds. It gives us joy to watch the little ones trying to figure out the thumb-to-pointer twist of the fingers.
But this song is not a simple finger game. This is a celebration of nature’s resilience through the changing seasons. The spider climbs up the water spout, gets washed down by the rain, then continues his climb when the sun appears.
Why can’t we teach the ecological lesson – forget about the finger dexterity. That will come as the child’s brain matures. There’s something more important in that song.
Why can’t we teach children to appreciate the importance of spiders, feel compassion for them in their struggle to survive? Why, rather than run in fear from spiders or crush them under their feet, can children not learn to trap the ones that enter their homes and relocate them outdoors, where they belong?
And finally, what does it say about our idea of teaching and learning when we focus on our child’s hand movements and ignore the spider in that song?