“I’ll tell you something, Berger – you can go a day without food and a day without water, but you can’t go a day without a good rationalization” – Wayne K. Johnson, educator, New Baltimore, NY circa 1988
I once overheard a store employee remark to her coworker she isn’t going to tell her children “all the bad things” she’s heard about Sea World (“Like how they keep whales in too-small tanks for years and years” *rolls eyes indignantly*) so as to not “ruin the experience” for them. I commented, “Well, kids oughtta know the truth, right?” and she replied with the following rationalization that I could actually see her struggling to create on the fly:
“No… they need to, uh… meet them in person, um… so they can fall in love with them, uh… and want to protect them. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices.”
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight, that’s a great idea. The logic is infallible. Let’s take the kids to see enslaved animals held prisoner 23 hours a day in tanks that for you and I would essentially equate to bathtubs who are then trotted out and forced to perform unnatural acts while being rewarded with food that is otherwise withheld from them in order to get them to engage in said acts in the first place – and PAY their captors to continue this abuse. Yup, that’s sure to instantly turn any child into an environmentally-conscious marine biologist hell-bent on ensuring marine mammals are protected, if they can see past the exciting, cleverly packaged “entertainment” of it all. That, or they’ll want to take home a stuffed orca and ask when they can come see the pretty dolphins again.
And who’s making what sacrifice here, aside from you sacrificing your ethics if you believe the “bad things” you already seem to know about this organization you’re about to support? Are you suggesting the current Sea World slaves are “sacrificing” their freedom so your children can see this, become enlightened and protect future generations of marine mammals? I think even a rabid, speciesiest utilitarian like Peter Singer would find that to be a stretch worthy of the most flexible Tibetan yogi. In fact, I think it’s an example of the Head Up One’s Own Ass pose.
By analogy, would anyone take their kids on a field trip to visit a group of sex slaves – and pay their traffickers for the privilege – so that, having witnessed the “sacrifices” being made, their kids will have epiphanies and start crusading for human rights?
I’m not a parent, but I believe that part of responsible parenting is to model appropriate, ethical behavior and instill a sense of justice and morality in one’s children. Allowing them to watch and participate in events where individuals of any species are exploited seems to be the exact opposite of those ideals. If you wouldn’t bring your children to a cockfight, then you shouldn’t bring them to Sea World (or any marine park), or the circus, or the zoo. Further, I’m of the belief that parents should be educating their children from as early an age as possible that individuals of other species are exactly that: individuals who should be afforded, at the very least, the right not to be treated as property and/or disposable, replaceable resources to satisfy human pleasures and conveniences.
When we educate people that enslaving non-human animals and treating them as property is morally reprehensible, we begin to dismantle speciesism and change the paradigm that makes the use of animals for human desires acceptable. This paradigm shift begins with vegan education because, when individuals begin to live vegan, they quickly cease complicity in supporting all forms of animal slavery.
I’m ashamed to say I made none of these comments to this individual (beyond my initial comment) as I knew with 100% certainty that I was, at that moment, incapable of forming any statements that would have come out kind in any way. It’s said that discretion is the better part of valor, but I can’t help feeling this was a missed opportunity to educate, or at least offer some valuable information to this individual. In the moment, I was seemingly without the ability to find my way from verbal assault mode to education mode, so I chose neither. I’m not proud of that choice, but it’s the one I made… this time.
Perhaps I’ll see this person again and take the opportunity to further the conversation. Until then…
Live vegan. Educate others. Start now, here’s how: