Imagine what it means to be any one of the billions of animals who share our world.
The circumstances and experiences of every individual and every group who have experienced, or are currently experiencing, oppression should be acknowledged and respected as being unique. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the mentality of those oppressing others, in all manner of historical situations, has some striking commonalities. For example, looking back on the era of colonization in the Americas, the injustice of displacing and killing vast numbers of indigenous peoples now seems obvious to almost all of us -- painfully so. Yet when it was happening, for many in the dominant group, it seemed justified, even righteous and in accordance with many people's religious beliefs. Similarly, the exploitation and violence practiced during the era of human slavery can be characterized as nothing short of egregious, yet it seemed quite ordinary and justified to those in the dominant group. Most people would not even dream of challenging the philosophical, economic, religious and scientific justifications offered by contemporary authority figures.
Imagine living in a time and place where you were subject to such horrific treatment, and how difficult your life would be. Imagine how much it would mean to have even one member of the dominant group see you as an individual worthy of respect, speak out on your behalf, and take on the difficult work of demanding justice for you and for all others whom society had doomed to live under the domination of others.
Being an advocate for justice has never been easy, and throughout history has often been accompanied by ridicule, financial sacrifice and social isolation. But looking back, how do we perceive those who saw through the mistaken ideas of their own times and advocated for those without status, without standing, without a voice? Are they not the courageous visionaries of our history books, the ones who for a time became the conscience of their communities, and in some cases, an entire nation? Are they not the ones who envisioned a better future for all, and then actually did the work and took the risks necessary to make this vision a reality? Are we not all in their debt, both those in the groups once oppressed and those in the groups who once did the oppressing? Can we imagine what our society might have become had they not stood up and challenged the status quo, had they chosen instead to look away and remain silent?
The Peaceable Practice of advocating for animals offers us the opportunity to extend the reach of our existing commitment to justice and compassion for other humans, to challenge the ideas, cultural norms, scientific fallacies, economic interests and laws that are being used to justify the displacement, oppression, enslavement and killing of billions of animals around the world.
If we were to find ourselves in the tragic situation of non-human animals, what would we hope others would say and do on our behalf? Those words and deeds are the work of those carrying out the Peaceable Practice of advocating for animals.
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