Cecil the Lion - what do we know? A dentist killed him in an absolutely horrific fashion. The dentist now says he’s sorry and he wouldn’t have done this if he knew the animal was loved (which most of us question why that should that make a difference). The world is upset, angry and reaming with blame. Jimmy Kimmel (love him) spoke well about it and got choked up. Jane Goodall (love her) spoke about her repugnance. Images of Ricky Gervais hugging a cute dog, sad about the state of animal affairs, filled Facebook.
I agree with all of these posts and commentary. It’s very easy to be disgusted by and angry with the dentist. And yet, I think this story could go further. It has the possibility to do a lot more than make all of us angry. It’s time we took a stand to end animal cruelty in its many forms. Yes, this is way beyond my own understanding. But the masses are now getting upset. The 100th monkey finally has a broken heart.
So what am I suggesting? Not that we simply re-post a picture of a beautiful lion (before) or a very sad image (after). Or sign another petition (well, sign it, but read on). But that we each take a personal stand to end the violence. We take back the jungle! I'm not speaking only about "the jungles," although of course this includes our jungles, rainforests, and wildlife. But that we also take a good look at our dependence on animal meat and animal by-products – and acknowledge that we have created a torturous, heart-breaking jungle – yes, a jungle on our farms, in our stores and restaurants, on our land, and with blood on our hands.
And it's time to take it back.
But it’s not going to happen by pointing our finger at the dentist. Turn your finger around (this is going to get personal) and point it at yourself. And let's have a real discussion.
In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle about the horrific conditions in the meat-package industry. Dirty plants and rats included in your meal. It spurred a great enough discussion that an entire nation’s meat industry was regulated and standardized. It’s been 110 years; perhaps it’s time again to look at our food industry, and evaluate a propaganda that we’ve allowed to go on way too long.
I am suggesting the tragic death of Cecil, the Lion, should trigger another look at the cruel jungle we have allowed to procreate right under our noses. I know the steak smells really good. But the steak is coming with a cost. Not just heart disease and hormones that we notice in our young women. But a cost that we’re all living with – the cost of personal hypocrisy.
Many of you have a dog or cat, and would never think of hurting them. However, let’s be honest with ourselves here: are we purposely turning a blind eye to the way we mass produce and then torture most farm animals – chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows? With social media, it has to be a purposeful blind eye. So we would never hurt our pets, but we simply ignore the cruel and tortuous yet standard methods of mass-producing, raising and killing our food – and for what reason? Because everyone else says it’s OK?
The truth is that many of the chickens we eat don’t even look like birds now; many are raised without beaks or wings. At the bottom of this blog I posted an article about how we raise our meat. To be honest, I couldn’t even read through the entire article, and I won’t blame you for not reading it. However, I do blame all of us as a society for allowing this to perpetuate. Where is our personal and collective integrity? Is it really OK to say, “I don’t want to see the torture or hear about the torture or read about the torture – but I’ll eat the tortured animal, because it tastes so good.” Sadly, though the dentist’s killing of Cecil was “repugnant,” Cecil was just one of billions of animals tortured this week.
If we really care about animals, all animals (including, but not limited to lions), then we must take a stand and take back the jungle. Are you still eating meat? If yes, do you only eat free-range? I know no one wants to give it up (and free-range means giving it up much of the time). I gave up meat for 8 years. No, I was not vegan. But no, I didn’t eat chicken – and please, if you say to a vegetarian or vegan person “but you still eat chicken, right?” do not be surprised by their wincing back at you- simply immediately study up on your animals – meat is meat and chickens and turkeys are birds (even if they don’t look like birds any more). I stopped eating meat and fish, almost always. And then, the last three years, I fell off the wagon. Then back on and off and on again. And during that time, I had many excuses – working on the road, an illness where other foods were taken away, being type O blood, being Italian – but this is an honest discussion - none of the excuses were a good enough reason to eat meat (though my Italian grandmother would beg to differ), or at least non-free-range meat, if I say I love animals in the same breath.
I admit, I could have done and still could do A LOT better (I still eat non-vegan cheese and non-free-range eggs). I’m publically pointing my finger at myself – there is definite room for improvement. From experience, it’s not easy, at least for me. And based on my view of most people’s eating habits, it won’t be easy for many of us. Yes, of course, there are some high-end restaurants that serve free-range. And there are local farms and Farm to Fork restaurants gaining popularity. But the majority of our country is filled with grocery stores and franchises and other eating establishments that don’t really know the source of their food (or if they do, they would not want to tell you).
What does taking a stand and taking back the jungle really look like? Do we fight the meat industry or the subsidized farm industry? It’s probably obvious I don’t even know which industry to fight. And I don’t really want to be in a battle. As Mother Theresa once said, she wouldn’t protest the war, but she would march for peace. What if we simply take back our own jungle? We no longer live in hypocrisy by turning a blind eye. It may be hard, but we can finally eat in peace. We will no longer accept, just because the majority of society does, and eat something that we know was tortured (or when we do, may every bite taste bitter until we stop eating it).
Ask every grocery store and restaurant you enter if they have free-range or locally grown, organic non-GMO food (another topic for another day re: the Monsanto bill passing). Make every store and restaurant aware that we as a society deserve and demand better. We want to know where our food is from and how it was treated on the way to our stomachs. Call your Congress-persons. Yes, call them about your food. Ok, finish reading this blog, and then call them (I’m sure another blog somewhere can give you the exact causes / bills on the table about which to call them).
If you won’t, if we won’t, if not now… then who will, and when?
We can do this together. I’ve created a Facebook page called: Take Back the Jungle: Taking a Stand Against Torturing Animals. I created the page so we can support each other in where to shop and what alternatives to eat, what restaurants to go to, what to feed our pets. Others have paved the path for us (there are many Vegan and Vegetarian “Support Group” pages out there). I’m actually looking forward to no longer being the highest-maintenance food order-er at the table (OK, I may still win that award). I emphasize, this is not a page for bashing anyone or industry; it is a page for supporting each other as we re-invent our food sources in a positive manner.
Together we can say no to tortured food and yes to our selves and our integrity as we put food on our plates and in our mouths. Do it for your dog (who could have be eaten in the festival), do it for your cat, or do it for your own peace of mind.
Most of all, let’s Take Back the Jungle for Cecil, the true King of the Jungle, and may he not have been sacrificed in vain.
July 29, 2015
Katherine Augustine is an attorney, minister, keynote speaker, and life coach. Through MagicMaker Coaching and speaking, she supports clients in designing and living their dreams. Visit her website at MagicMakerCoaching.com