MGU 56 | Animal Cruelty

 

Choosing to go vegan benefits not only you and your health. It also creates a ripple effect that affects those around you as well, particularly the environment and animals at large. Tackling an uncomfortable yet very necessary topic in this episode, Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen talk about veganism and activism in relation to Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week. They discuss the connection between cruelty to animals and bigger forms of violence against human beings, highlighting the mentality that sees nature as somewhat beneath us. Speaking about activism as a means to get others to see what you’re fighting for, Jason and Whitney then tap into having a compassionate approach rather than the egoic and condescending perspective. Listening to the conversation in today’s show may make you feel uneasy, but it is an important part of our awakening to the suffering that exists in this world. Once you come to grips with that, will you find yourself coming down from the arbitrary place we humans tend to take, allowing us to hold safe places for animals and to better co-exist with the natural world.

Listen to the podcast here:

Activism: Bearing Witness To The Suffering That Exists In The World

Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week

This topic could certainly make us feel uncomfortable. I feel like it’s important to discuss this on a serious level and also find some positivity because sometimes the realities of life feel sad and painful, yet it’s important that we not run away from things just because we’re afraid of the pain and we’re afraid of addressing them. That’s at the heart of so much of what it means to be vegan. It reminds me of something which makes me laugh, speaking of making light of a situation. I went into this amazing vegan grocery store called Besties in Los Angeles. I went there the very first time with you, Jason. It hasn’t been open that long.

It’s this great little store. It’s in East Hollywood. If you’re visiting in Los Angeles and you’re going to some of the Hollywood spots, it’s not that far from the center of that. If you’re in Los Angeles, it’s a place I admittedly had forgotten about until when I wanted to get some of my favorite cookie dough by my friends at Eat Pastry. I had realized I hadn’t been able to find Eat Pastry in many stores in Los Angeles. I found out they had full stock at Besties during the quarantine. I ventured out to this Bestie store and I’ve been twice because I was so impressed with what they had in there.

The second time I went in there, I notice that the woman behind the counter was wearing a face mask as most people were during this time of protection from COVID-19. On her face mask was for the March of Silence. Jason and I, our mutual friend Chef Ito who is the chef at Âu Lạc Restaurant, which is one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to and definitely one of the best in Los Angeles, did he start March of Silence or does he just run a local part of it?

There are a few people that are involved in it. It’s a nonprofit group, so I don’t know that Ito is necessarily the creator of it. He seems to be the progenitor or the person that’s most associated with it, but I don’t know that he’s necessarily the one. When I did a panel for World Animal Rights Day, this was also 2019. I spoke on a panel with Moby, Koya Webb and a bunch of other vegan activists. There was a larger group working with Ito. As far as I know, it’s a formal nonprofit.

That point aside, I noticed that her mask was branded for March of Silence. I recognized the logo and asked her about it. She said that she got the mask from one of the marches. I thought that was so great. We’re getting to the point where we’re required to wear masks when we go outside. I’m pretty sure that in the city of Los Angeles, you’re required to wear a mask where certain stores are requiring you. One of the local stores I go to, grocery stores I go to, is requiring that you wear a mask if you’re going to go shopping. Masks are a big deal and it’s funny how it’s like the new fashion statement noticing people’s mask.

My point here after that tangent is that once I brought up March of Silence, she looked at me and asked, “Are you an activist as well?” I found myself fumbling because I don’t consider myself an activist even though I feel like being vegan in itself is a form of activism. I think she was assuming that I was vegan and then just wondering if I would be a vegan activist. It’s been an interesting thing. I want to explore that and then use that as a segue into another specific topic. It’s interesting because there’s the dietary side of veganism to the plant-based diet where that’s a form of activism. You’re choosing not to eat certain foods because of what that means for your health, for the environment and animals. That’s one of the best choices that you can make. It has a big ripple effect throughout the world.

There’s also the activist side of people that go to a lot of protests and who get involved with various forms of animal rights activism. That’s not something that I’ve done very much of and I haven’t felt called to it, which is a little hard to admit. It’s almost like they’re ashamed. I feel like I’m not doing enough or something like that. I’m curious, Jason, what your feelings have been. Have you ever considered yourself an activist? I know you have some big activist friends like Gary Yourofsky, who has spent a lot of time with you. He’s one of the most well-known in the vegan movement. I, too, have been surrounded by a lot of activists, but yet I’m not somebody that feels a big desire to go and protest. Jason and I have been to the Pig Vigils in Los Angeles, but I don’t even know if that would count as a protest. It’s more just holding space for the animals, which is another form of activism. I find it interesting for myself to reflect on how I’m an activist and how I’m not an activist. I’m curious about your thoughts on this, Jason.

You opened up a big question. I have many thoughts and feelings on this subject. When I first transitioned from a standard American diet to living a vegan lifestyle back in 1998, one of the things that I was up against was being the only person I knew that ate that way and lived that lifestyle. I literally didn’t know anyone else growing up in Detroit. Slowly over the course of about maybe the first 3 to 4 years, I finally started meeting other people.

You mentioned a big name in the animal rights activism world, which is Gary Yourofsky. He retired a few years ago, but he had a track record of being an activist for twenty-plus years traveling all over the world lecturing and has had some massively viral YouTube videos. For me, in the early days, I did a lot of protesting. I would go out with signs and I would go out in that angry and angsty, “Don’t you know what you’re doing? Don’t you know what you’re putting in your body? How dare you. Don’t you know the fur you’re wearing was ripped off someone’s back.” There was an energy around it that if I reflect back on, it made sense because in my late teens and early twenties, I was angry.

I still have some anger issues I’m dealing with, but in my early twenties, I was full of piss, vinegar and fire. I channeled a lot of that rage and disillusionment into my protesting. Some of it I did with Gary. Some of it I did with other animal rights organizations that I was involved in. However, I started to feel that energetically and right around 2004, I remember having this thought of I’m out there, I’m carrying signs, I’m yelling at people and I’m giving off this energy that is very aggressive and very confrontational. I remember thinking, “Does anybody even care? Is this energy and this style of communicating, protesting and letting my feelings be known, is anyone receptive to this?”

MGU 56 | Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty: Choosing not to eat certain foods because of what it means to your health, to the environment, and to animals is one of the best choices that you can make.

 

Is anybody receiving this or are they just like, “Who’s that angry guy with all the tattoos? Why is he so angry?” I remember thinking as I had learned how to cook more plant-based meals for myself when I was making that transition. I remember having the contrast of sitting down with my family, not just my mom, because my mom turned vegan three months after I did, but more my extended family, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins. When I would make food for them or we would have a family dinner, the remarks that they would say of like, “This is delicious. I can’t believe this doesn’t have meat in it or dairy.” I wonder if it’s more effective as an activist for me to take my love and my skill with making food and use that as my activism. It seems to me that people are more receptive and curious when I’m feeding them good food than when I’m in the street corner holding a sign and yelling at them. That was when I made the transition right around 2004, 2005. I went to culinary school. I decided to change my career, but the shift for me was taking acknowledgment that I didn’t feel the standard forms of activism, of protest and the anger and the vitriol was working.

The inspiration for this episode came from Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week. It’s an effort by the Humane Society to raise awareness around animal cruelty and human violence. It’s an important thing to discuss. All jokes aside, I feel like if you’re not a very compassionate person, you might get triggered by an animal crying in the background and you may feel an urge or even follow through with being violent to an animal. This happens a lot. A lot of human beings are struggling with this violent side that may be a lot of us have naturally as human beings. This idea that animals are ours to control and are there for our pleasure. If they cause us distress, pain or frustration, then we try to control them by abusing them.

Jason, I know that you decided not to watch the Netflix show Tiger King simply because you didn’t want to partake in it or see any form of animal abuse on TV and reward a television platform like Netflix for putting out that content. It’s interesting because I did see that show and it was before I had a lot of awareness around what that show meant. You were able to see an article before you started watching it, but I watched it very early on. I wasn’t aware that there was mainly animal violence and abuse in that show.

They’re using those animals for entertainment purposes and doing a few things on the show that are pretty shady, and who knows what happened that wasn’t even captured on camera. That highlights some of the drive and motivation that people have and the ways in which some people may not even be aware that what they’re doing to animals is wrong. I like to give most people the benefit of the doubt. After watching that show Tiger King and reflecting on it, all of that abuse that happened and probably still happens to animals in all different parts of the world is out of some form of desperation. One of the big themes of Tiger King is the desire for fame, which is something that you and I have talked about, Jason. It is the desire for money, “I can use this animal. I can become well-known and I can make money from it.”

Not to give any spoilers to the show. I won’t share any details if the audience chooses to watch this show. One of the big character arcs that you see with multiple characters on the show is going from a place of loving animals and wanting to protect them. A lot of them started with a desire to save endangered species. That started to evolve into this corruption where suddenly, they realize that because they had access to these exotic animals, they could make money, profit, get famous and they could get love from it. There was so much that you could see how these people had changed over the course of their lives. I don’t think people mean to be cruel to their animals, whether it’s as simple as throwing your cat across the room because it’s crying and you’re frustrated you don’t know what to do.

People do this to human beings as well. There are many cases of parents doing various forms of abuse to their children simply because they’re frustrated or they’re sleep-deprived. It’s certainly not okay to do those things but at some level, it’s something that we can relate to. A lot of us don’t want to admit that we have those dark sides and tendencies. Most of us have it controlled, but some people don’t even know how to control it or they don’t have the awareness to realize what they’re doing is a form of abuse and violence.

Sometimes, people don't know how to deal with their pain, so they want to inflict pain on another being. Click To Tweet

It runs deep. It reminds me of some of the books and the seminal works that I remember reading in the early days in the ‘90s when I was changing my lifestyle and my relationship to animals and eating in the earth. The ethical side of it came in for me. The environmental side and the human health side of it all came in when I was making that transition and doing all that research. I remember reading Diet for New America and lesser-known books like Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus, which is still a phenomenal book and Dominion by Matthew Scully, who was a former speechwriter for George Bush. He is very much a right-wing staunch Republican, which you wouldn’t necessarily “expect” a person like that to write a book about animal rights and veganism.

There were some seminal works back then in the day that I read. I remember there was a correlation that was made between at some point during the agricultural revolution or thereabout. There was this mentality that humankind started to move away from the mentality that we were one with nature as hunter-gatherers or tribal sects of humanity that we existed in far longer than our current construction of a society that we’ve been, in particular capitalism. More so when the agricultural and certainly the industrial revolution happened, which is closer to us in the timeline. There’s been a distancing of us from the natural world from a lot of the indigenous cultures and tribal communities that felt we were one with nature. There was a communion with nature and the natural resources of the world to looking at it and going, “We’re in charge of this.” We’re not one with nature because nature is a scary place. We can be torn limb from limb and there are uncertainty and danger around every turn.

What if we could control nature? What if we could take seeds and we could mass-produce food? What if we could take technology and build larger structures, cities and move out of the dangerous, uncertain tribal forest environment we’re in? To me, that was not only the beginning of “human civilization” as we know it, but it was also our distancing from the natural world. I think on a deep subconscious level, a lot of the cruelty toward animals, toward each other and toward nature is a result of this deep sentiment that has been going on for millennia that we are in control of nature, that nature is somehow beneath us. It’s a resource to be used. It’s a resource to be leveraged for profit.

If I may, the situation that we’ve been facing in the world, there have been a lot of wake up calls that we’re not in control of nature. This whole idea that we are the arbiters of the natural world and we can use it for our gain and use it for profit. I hope that mentality is being broken because we’ve set ourselves a part of it for so long in almost like a weird godlike sense that we’re in control. We can do whatever we want with animals, with nature, with resources, with water and with soil. We’re slowly breaking out of the spell. I hope at least.

The other thing that this reminds me of is I’m still reflecting on that show Tiger King. There’s almost a rebelliousness and this desire to control. I feel like some people think, “How dare you tell me what to do. If I own this animal, then I can do whatever I want with it.” “If I’m in this marriage or this relationship behind closed doors, I’m allowed to treat that person however I want.” “If I’m a parent, I can do whatever I want. Don’t you tell me what’s abuse. I’m not being violent. This is just my parenting skill.” There’s this desire to do things our own way and we don’t want anyone to tell us what not to do. That’s super interesting too. There’s also a connection between animal abuse, violence, domestic abuse and all of that.

There have been a number of studies. There’s an article on the Humane Society‘s website that has shown people that have committed acts of animal torture and then gone on to do criminal violence against human beings. This was highlighted in another Netflix show that I watched, which was much harder to take in than Tiger King was in a lot of ways. The show is called Don’t F**k with Cats. It was well-produced and fascinating, but it was incredibly challenging for me to watch because of the amount of animal torture that went on in it. The point of the show was how they were working to stop animal torture, but they had to describe it in order to get the message across and it was agonizing. I had to mute it or skip forward because thinking about some of the things that people do. Part of the point of the show was that sometimes torturing animals can lead to bigger forms of violence against human beings.

That’s part of the reason the Humane Society wanted to raise awareness every year is the connection between the two. In my opinion, a lot of people see domestic abuse and criminal violence against humans as being more important than animal abuse. The other way around could be true. One point that I’ve become passionate about is that many forms of violence is not always physical violence. It can be emotional abuse, mental abuse. It can be bullying. It’s interesting how a number of vegans can be so passionate about animal abuse, but yet they’re cruel to one another. There’s almost a lack of compassion with human beings. This also goes back to your point, Jason, where you found that you could be more of an activist through food.

MGU 56 | Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty: A lot of the cruelty toward animals, each other, and nature is a result of this deep sentiment that we are in control of nature, that nature is somehow beneath us.

 

That was a way of reaching people and that was a form of compassion because you were noticing that people weren’t enjoying your rants as an activist. They didn’t want to be forced. They didn’t want you to try to convince them of something. If you could show them that food could taste well, that was a kind and subtle way to reach people. I do feel like there have been a number of times where vegans think like, “I don’t care if I’m offending somebody. I’m going to stay this anyways or do this anyways”. I personally feel like that’s not a very compassionate mentality and it can be harmful.

I ultimately have rested in this space that if my intention is to spark curiosity and openness in someone, I found that gentleness is a way to approach people. I found that effective. Understanding the points and the research that I want to communicate if that comes into conversation is also important. More so, when you have someone who’s breaking bread with you literally and enjoying a meal or in terms of the stand-up comedy I’ve done, you get someone laughing on stage. Even some of the health presentations I’ve done over the years. Someone in a state of laughter, their defenses and their guards are down and they’re open to receiving information. For me, joyfulness, nourishment and laughter, I have found personally to be much more effective forms of activism and sparking a new conversation than telling someone what they ought to do, what they should do and what they’re doing wrong.

I often find one activist say, “I don’t care if I offend someone, I need to get my point across.” To me, that feels like a very egoic perspective where it’s like, “I’m the arbiter of truth. I’m the holder of knowledge and I’m going to impose it on you whether you like it or not.” I have to ask the question, what is the intention? Is the intention to get someone to see your point of view or is it to violently hammer your point across no matter what the reception is? I often ask those people, “What is your actual intent here? Is it that you feel powerless and you feel trampled on in a certain way? You feel like you’re not heard, you feel unimportant and by sharing your viewpoint violently or forcefully, then you’ll feel a level of importance. Is it to open a conversation?” I feel there are more effective ways of doing it.

A lot of this comes down to ego. The thread through with a lot of violence and abuse is that there is this thought that you or whoever we’re talking about in this case as the abuser, you are more important. You are the one that’s in control. You are the one that’s right. It’s like the world is centering around this person and it’s a level of narcissism. It’s like a godlike thing. You’re determining whether or not you’re kind to somebody. You’re determining how you treat somebody and whether or not they deserve to be treated well or not. You’re the one that has the right information and this person is wrong and it’s your job to convince them. It is a psychological issue here and a very serious problem.

On the Humane Society’s website, one of the things that they recommend is a psychological intervention. One of the reasons that therapy is so important is people are looking for an outlet and support with their pain. Unfortunately, sometimes people use violence as an outlet. Sometimes people don’t know how to deal with their pain, so they want to inflict pain on another being. It’s a sad and important issue to discuss. That’s why I wanted to bring this up, even though it’s tough to discuss this. One of the things that make people uncomfortable is talking about these things. If we don’t pay attention to it, if we just think, “I’m not abusive and I’m not violent, then I don’t need to pay attention to this.” Maybe somebody else in your life has violent tendencies. Maybe some of somebody else in your life is being abused and you don’t even realize it.

This is why these things are important to discuss and not shame people. We don’t want to make these the things that you should never talk about. It also reminds me of something that made a big impact on me many years ago with Shaun Monson who directed movies like Earthlings and Unity. I think it was in an interview that I did with him way back at my early days with Eco-Vegan Gal. I asked him if it was hard for him to watch footage of animals being abused. In essence, his answer was that he felt it was important to bear witness. That’s part of the reason Jason and I have been to the Pig Vigils in Los Angeles.

It’s incredibly painful to bear witness for animals that you know are going to be killed and you have no control over it. Those animals don’t have control either. At the very least, you can bear witness to what’s happening and send love to them and also use it as an opportunity to stay motivated. That’s why conversations are important. We need to hold safe places. We need to make it okay to talk about these things. When people feel shame and embarrassment, when they try to hide their true feelings or their situation, they may not seek the help that they need. That continues the cycle of abuse and violence. It’s the dark side that needs to be examined.

Sometimes, we don't actually know until we see it with our own eyes. Click To Tweet

I want to comment on two things that you brought up. One was exposing ourselves willfully to the suffering and the pain that exist in this world. I do feel that there is a deeply important element to a degree. I want to share this briefly because I don’t want to make this about the Buddha. It reminds me of the story of Gautama Buddha. He was raised in a very sheltered Royal family that protected him from what was happening in the outside world. When he left the palace grounds and went out into the world, he discovered beggars, lepers, disease and people suffering in poverty.

That was one of the seminal things that put the Buddha purportedly on his path of enlightenment. Being aware of the suffering and the pain of the world, the totality of the human experience and the animal experience, the experience of the world was part of his awakening. If we’re talking about any of the great documentaries, you mentioned Unity, Earthlings, Cowspiracy and Forks Over Knives. There are a lot of environmental documentaries out there too that exposing ourselves to the reality of the situation that we are in or potentially heading toward has value. I also know that I have a threshold where in the early days, I watched a lot of animal abuse videos through Gary Yourofsky, other activists I was working with, Bruce Friedrich and some people at PETA back in the day. I bombarded myself with so much of it that when I see an animal abuse video coming through, I’m like, “I don’t need to see it because I’m so deeply and keenly aware of it.”

I still have memories of being haunted by some of the things that I’ve seen. Stuff that wasn’t even made public, stuff that Gary is like, “You have to see this. It’s never going to go public.” There was an awareness that we do need and useful for the totality of suffering and pain on this planet, but not so much that we destroy our state of being by feeling depressed and powerless. For me at least, there’s a threshold where I’m like, “I don’t need to watch more of this because I’m going to make myself so depressed and feel powerless that I’m not going to take action.”

Each of us has to become attuned to what we need in that time. I’ve gone through stages where I felt like it was important for me to bear witness more than it was to take care of my emotional self. I guess in a way, I felt like it might be selfish if I said, “I can’t handle watching this.” I would think back to what Shaun said and think, “That animal didn’t have a choice about what was happening to it.” The very least I can bear witness to the pain that they went through or they’re about to go through because perhaps that changes some karma. It puts a different energy into the world. It puts an energy of love. I know when I went to the Pig Vigil, as painful as it was, we didn’t see them being abused or killed. We saw them right before that happened. It was their last moment. It’s a little bit of a different situation because the aim of Pig Vigil is to give love to these animals. It’s the last time and maybe the only time that they’ve ever received it. That’s a bit different.

Watching violence happen is really challenging. One of the pivotal moments for me was when I saw this documentary years ago called Fur Trade. It was about the fur industry and very graphic. I forced myself to watch it all the way through without closing my eyes or turning away. It was because of what Shaun had said to me within a year or so before I saw that movie and I thought, “I want to watch this for the animals.” I want to make sure that I know what’s going on because sometimes we can make an assumption, “I know what’s going on.” Sometimes we don’t know until we see it with our own eyes.

I will never forget the imagery from that movie. That made me a stronger activist in a way. That made me clearer about why fur is bad. I don’t think I was fully aware. It’s a balance. I would encourage anyone reading to take it experience by experience. Check in with yourself about your reasons for watching something versus not watching something and weigh out the pros and cons. Sometimes it helps to write these things down. Why am I choosing to watch this? Why am I choosing not to watch this? What is the ripple effect of me making those decisions? We might need to dig deeper to see what our motivations are and what’s truly a priority for us.

Part of raising awareness is being knowledgeable and knowing what the signs are. That’s part of what is also recommended during Animal Cruelty Awareness Week is to be keen and notice what is a form of mistreatment. It can be all sorts of different extremes when it comes to animals. It can be that they don’t have adequate shelter, that they’re being left out all day in the hot sun. I’ve seen these videos on platforms like TikTok where people have noticed that their neighbor’s dog was out in the yard constantly. Some of us might not think much of it, “It’s just outside. That’s what they do.” If that dog doesn’t have access to water or it’s too hot out and they need to go inside for shelter, that could be a form of mistreatment. It’s about education. That’s part of my point here. Sometimes we just want to protect ourselves from the painful things, but that could be perceived as selfish because if we’re trying to protect ourselves so much, we can’t protect other animals or human beings.

That’s a wonderful perspective, Whitney. I haven’t talked to anyone about this. You sparked something that has been a real conflict for me. I want to hash it out in real-time quick because it’s come up and it’s important to me. You hit right on the head with the TikTok videos and some of the things you’ve seen on social media about people taking video footage of their neighbors and perhaps a dog that’s left out on a hot sun without water or on a chain or whatever it is. We have some dear friends that we’re on animal rescue organizations. I’ll give a little backstory and then I want to talk about our situation that’s a conflict for me. Some of the audience may follow me on social media and see pictures of my Frenchie, Bella.

Whitney was the person who turned me on. I adopted her from our friend Brittany, who runs a wonderful animal rescue organization called Little Love Rescue in Los Angeles. As a sidebar, if anyone is looking to adopt, Brittany and her organization are absolutely wonderful. They’re always looking for fosters and adopting families. If you are looking for a companion animal, please check them out. Bella was taken from an abusive breeder situation. As far as I know, the information we know about Bella’s history is she was used as a breeder dog and was taken by a dog sitter and literally taken/rescued from a physically abusive situation. We don’t know the extent of it, but she ended up with the rescue organization and then ended up being my dog.

Down the street in the neighborhood I live in LA, there’s a rabbit that, from what I can tell, is being kept outdoors constantly in a very small enclosure where I’m like, “That is too small for this large rabbit.” There have been many times that I’ve walked by on my street down the block and have been tempted to take that rabbit. We’d go back to one of the original points you made, Whitney, over this idea of ownership, owning our children, owning our animals or owning the earth. It’s like, “It’s mine. I can do what I want with it.” It’s been a tricky thing for me ethically because a part of me wants to take this rabbit because it is in an enclosure where it’s exposed to the sun as far as I can tell all day long. It was raining like hell and I’m like, “I’m going to take this rabbit.” There’s a part of me that stopped like, “What if you don’t know the whole story? What if the kids that live there love this rabbit?” I’m like, “If they love this rabbit, why is it out next to this broken-down old car in their front yard in a tiny enclosure?” I’ve seen carrots, I’ve seen food in there, but there’s a part of me that’s like, “I want to take this rabbit,” and I’m conflicted about what to do.

MGU 56 | Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty: One of the reasons that therapy is important is because people are looking for an outlet to support their pain.

 

That’s tough. You also live in a neighborhood that is culturally very different from how you live and how you were raised. There also might be cultural barriers or even language barriers. I don’t know exactly which of these neighbors it is and that adds another problem. It reminds me a lot of a rabbit that I temporarily rescued years ago when I was visiting my family. My mother and I were driving down the street at night and we saw this huge white rabbit running free in a yard. We pulled over because this rabbit could have easily been hit by a car or attacked by an animal such as a coyote. We got the rabbit. We didn’t see any sign that there was anybody around. We looked around to see if this rabbit maybe have just escaped.

It was in front of a house nearby and then the lights were out and it wasn’t that late at night. My mother and I took the rabbit and then immediately posted online. We’re looking who the rabbit belonged to and it took days. Finally, we went back to where we got the rabbit from and knocked on the door of the house. It was some animal therapy clinic. I don’t know what it was, but it was very liberal. Their response was, “Yes, that’s our rabbit. We just let them outside sometimes.” They were nonchalant about it. They said to my mother and me, “You can keep the rabbit if you want.” I wasn’t living there and my mother was not prepared to have a rabbit, but we decided to take care of the rabbit for a little longer.

A week or so went by and then they called us up. A different person we had talked to and they were like, “We want the rabbit back. You took the rabbit from us.” They demanded that they take the rabbit back. My mother didn’t want to cause any issues. She gave the rabbit back to them. The whole family felt weird about it because it was a similar situation, Jason, where why did this rabbit deserve a family or a living situation where people just let it out without watching it. Let it roam around a busy street and outside. To me, that’s mistreatment. We found out online through a website Nextdoor.com there were other people in the area that have continued to see the rabbit being led out in that same circumstance.

I’ve regretted not fighting more for that rabbit because who knows if he’s even still alive? Their clinic or whatever it was eventually shut down. There’s a level of guilt that I felt over the years because this was an incredible creature that my family probably would have ended up making a nice home for on the property and shower it with love. We reluctantly let it go back to this place that wasn’t treating it well. I don’t know if that helps your specific situation or anyone else’s. It is tricky. We could have tried to fight for this animal and it could have caused this huge uproar. At the time, we figured maybe they were going to take better care of the rabbit.

We had the best of intentions in giving it back to the original owners but you never know. People can say that they’re going to take good care of an animal, but their version of good care could be very different from yours. When you were telling the story, Jason, I was rooting for you taking this animal because rabbits can be incredible companion animals. I would be excited on a selfish level, but it would require some more investigation. To your point, even with your dog, Bella, we don’t even have the whole story on what happened. A lot of assumptions can be made and sometimes people go to extremes. It’s like when you break into somebody’s car because the dog is sitting in there and you think it’s going to die of heat.

It could but maybe the air conditioning was on and you didn’t realize it. Sometimes we have all this information and people will go to these extremes before they collect all the information or because their definition of mistreatment is more extreme than yours and tricky. The same thing can be said about human beings. Some people are in emotionally abusive relationships, but they don’t even realize it. Maybe their friends think that they’re being abused, but they just don’t like the person that they’re partnered with. That’s the fine line of what does it mean to be mistreated.

There’s a lot of nuance in this conversation. That’s the word. Can we ever get the full scope of what is happening in any situation? Certainly, there’s the desire to garner as much information about what is happening as possible, but can we ever get the full picture? On your point, you brought up the differences between culture and how we’re raised. Perhaps certain patternings that we observe from our parents or the generations that we’ve been raised by. When I’ve gone to places like Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Mexico or Ecuador and some places in Europe. I had an interesting experience in Greece. The relationship that I’ve observed in a lot of different countries I’ve traveled to. We’re not even talking about feral creatures, but even companion animals roam the streets. They come back for food and they go where they want.

Even small kids in certain countries, I’m like, “How old are you?” They’re like, “I’m five.” I’m like, “Where are your parents?” They’re like, “They’re back home.” The kids are chilling miles from home. It is this battle of the way I was raised to regard animals, their care or what is love and care. The way perhaps that my mom or my dad raised me, how far they would let me go away from the house or at what age they would let me roam. It’s very different depending on the country and the culture we’re in. That goes back to the challenge I’m having. My perception of this animal or this child isn’t being cared for. It’s a hard judgment to make some times. I am struggling with it because there’s this thing of like, “What if I take the rabbit and then these kids are devastated?” but I’m perceiving that, “You should have a much bigger space for this rabbit because it’s pacing back and forth.” I’m still struggling with it. I still haven’t made a final decision.

We have extensive notes on every single episode. If you’re looking for more resources or anything that we’re referencing, you can find it at Wellevatr.com. One link that I’ll put there is to a website that helps you recognize animal cruelty and how to report it. Some of the common signs of animal abuse are open wounds, signs of multiple healed wounds, physical ailments not being treated, poor skin conditions, emaciation, limping, difficulty standing, difficulty walking, flea or tick infestations left untreated, chained outdoors for long periods of time, kept outside in extreme weather conditions, multiple animals living together and cramped or overcrowded conditions, animals housed and animals with large amounts of feces or garbage or foul odors coming from a home where many animals are known to be living.

They tell you to consider reporting to an organization. Maybe that is the best option for you. They recommend not confronting a suspected animal abuser instead contacting a local animal control officer or Humane Society. I know the trick with that is this fear that they will be taken into a shelter and maybe euthanized or something. I would recommend to you, Jason, or anyone else who’s reading in a similar situation to see if you can partner up with somebody. You might want to partner up with one of your friends that’s knowledgeable about these types of situations and talk to them. Speaking to Brittany at Little Love Rescue would be wise. Maybe giving a few different opinions because you certainly don’t want to take any drastic measures at first at least.

If we're trying to protect ourselves too much, we actually can't protect other animals or human beings. Click To Tweet

It’s something that I monitor every time I walk Bella down the street. I check in like, “How is the rabbit doing? Is it eating? Does it look healthy? Is it okay?” I feel like it’s one of those things where I’m being mindful and observant without taking any drastic action. In my opinion, I feel that the enclosure it’s in is far too small for that size of an animal. That’s the thing that bothers me. It doesn’t look wounded. It doesn’t look like it has open wounds. It doesn’t look like it’s being physically abused. It’s just one of those things where I feel like this creature needs more room.

I wonder if it would make any sense for you to offer to build or bring over another enclosure so they could have it. It could either be a case of ignorance or maybe they feel like they can’t afford a better situation in that what they have is good enough.

I thought about delivering a larger rabbit enclosure in their driveway with a note on it saying, “I got you guys a gift for your rabbit,” with no explanation.

Something kind like, “I admire your rabbit.” You could even say, “I was gifted this.” You can make up some fake story to make it seem like, “I had an extra one of these lying around,” and just see what happens. There’s always a chance that you’ll offend them if they’re not comfortable receiving a gift, but it might be worth the risk simply for the animal’s sake. That would be a sweet gesture. If they do love this rabbit and they’re doing the best that they can or know how, then you’re helping them out.

That’s a good point. I’ve thought about that. Maybe it’s a time for me to get handy. I have all this time on my hands.

You could create it. It might help you feel inspired to make the outdoor space for your cats that I’ve been encouraging you to make. A trip to Home Depot to get some wood and some fencing. You could make a cool outdoor enclosure for your animals and make one for the rabbit, then you would have a real legitimate excuse if you left it like, “During quarantine, I built this. I thought you might want to use it for your rabbit.” When I went to find the link for Little Love Rescue, I stumbled upon the Little Love Rescue Instagram account, Jason. There’s a cat on there that looks almost identical to Julius as a kitten. It’s interesting this coming full circle with Julius. He came from Little Love Rescue. There’s another little baby Julie up for adoption.

The thing I’ve had to do is limit my urges to adopt animals because I am at 5 and 5 is a good number. I also acknowledge that if I were to have more room, more physical space. Perhaps live on a farm or have more square footage. I do anticipate eventually I’ll adopt more because the urge is there, but there’s also the, “For the square footage I have, this is a good number. We’re going to stand pat for now.”

That’s important to consider too. We have to remember when we adopt animals that we’re taking on the role of care and we need to consider the length of their lives. There are many cases of people that get animals and then realize that there’s more than they bargained for. When they buy a bunny rabbit for Easter and then realize they don’t want the bunny rabbit after Easter so they just abandon it or do something worse to it. There are people that get mini pigs as pets and then they grew up to be large pigs and they think, “I didn’t intend on having a large pig.” There are people that have more animals than they can pay for. Animals can be very expensive. We have to consider the cost of them.

The same thing goes with human beings. It’s like children. It sounds wonderful to have a kid and everybody’s having children, but we have to think about the long-term, time investment, costs involved and shelter. There are many factors when we’re taking care of any being, even a plant. Even plants require a lot of care and attention. It’s a big responsibility to have a relationship with an animal, with a plant, with a human being. It’s a great opportunity to grow as a person to have these dynamics, but it’s also a big responsibility that we have to take seriously and know that every living being has feelings. Every living being is deserving of respect and care. If we’re taking on any role of responsibility, we have to take it incredibly seriously.

It’s an honor in a way to care for being. To me, there’s this thing. We talked about the narcissism and the ego. Genuine care is not necessarily about like, “I am your God. You would depend on me. I give you food, shelter and water.” It’s not this narcissistic ego thing of someone dependent on you. Real care and real nurturing is coming from a genuine, deep unconditional love and a desire to be of service to another person without expecting anything in return. Animals, especially cats can definitely teach you that. It’s like, “Come here, I want to love you. Give me love.” They’re like, “I don’t feel like giving you love right now.”

I’m glad that we’ve found a way to balance out the serious talk with a little bit of laughter and joy. Ultimately, animals are a huge source of joy in our lives as are human beings and even plants, they count as well too. We bring these things into our lives very intentionally most of the time. We do that because we think that they’re going to enhance our lives. We have to remember that it can’t always be joyful. There are going to be times that are serious. There are going to be times that are painful. There are going to be times that are frustrating. We have to continue to be aware and conscious of the way that we interact with anything outside of ourselves and also pay attention to how other people are treating other beings.

MGU 56 | Animal Cruelty

Animal Cruelty: Real care and real nurturing come from a genuine, deep unconditional love and a desire to be of service to another person without expecting anything in return.

 

If you see something that seems like mistreatment, evaluate it. It’s probably better to err on the side of caution in terms of if you think that animal abuse or human violence is happening, do something about it. Don’t just be silent. Don’t pretend that it’s not happening. In your case, Jason, with the rabbit, something needs to be done, if not just said. At least it would make you feel better to know that you were trying and that you put some effort in it because who knows what that rabbit is going through. I hope that it’s being well cared for and loved, but we can’t make that assumption, just like we can’t make the assumption that somebody is in a good relationship if they’re showing signs of mistreatment. If we feel like we’re suspecting something, a lot of the times our intuitions are right and that’s a huge reason that this week exists and was created by the Humane Society. We need to pay attention to the signs. We need to be aware of it. We need to take our personal responsibility and play our role in protecting other people if we see any signs of mistreatment.

That’s well said. The point about intuition is spot on. There’s something that gets activated in me when I see this rabbit and I’m not sure what that is. I do want to take some form of action and I’m trying to figure out what the best course is.

We’ll probably have some people asking about this rabbit. We will keep you posted. Maybe we’ll update it. If you have follow-up questions, observations, things to contribute, such as resources, we’d love to hear from you at Wellevatr.com. Hopefully, we will update this episode with some positive news about that rabbit when that gets resolved. You can also get in touch with us on social media. We are @Wellevatr. We have our separate accounts as Jason and Whitney. My accounts are @EcoVeganGal or @WhitLauritsen. If you want to talk about anything show-related, the best way to do that is through Wellevatr. You can direct message us if you’d like it to be private. You can email us at [email protected] and you can join our community on Patreon. We have a wonderful community of amazing like-minded people that are passionate about their well-being and we have lots of different perks. We’re always working on adding more value through Patreon. We’d love to have you part of that. If you want to check that out, it’s Patreon.com/wellevatr. There are links on our website to that as well. Anything else you’d like to add, Jason or is it time to go back to caring for your cats?

I think everyone’s riled up with a lot of pent up energy because of the quarantine. I sense they’re like, “He’s sticking around all day, but we have all this energy.” I need to probably play a little and give them a little extra attention and also feed myself. It’s all good. We’re figuring it out. If there’s one thing I’m deeply grateful for, especially having this extra time at home during the quarantine period is their presence because mentally, I would feel a little bit crazy if I didn’t have these beautiful companions with me. I’m feeling extra gratitude for them.

I’m going to take a walk myself with my dog, which brings joy to both of us and is a wonderful way to care for them. I sometimes feel like I’m neglecting my dog a little by not taking her for enough walks. That’s definitely a plus sign to give us both some exercise and I’m grateful for that too.

Every living being has feelings. Every living being is deserving of respect and care. Click To Tweet

We have some amazing resources on our website, Wellevatr.com, all about mental and emotional wellness. We have our great new PDF called From Chaos to Calm. All about taming anxiety, fear and overwhelm. We also have some awesome courses like Wellness Warrior Training. When this quarantine is lifted, Whitney and I will be doing some live events. It’s been a minute. We have some great stuff in the pipeline. You can sign up for our newsletter at the website and stay up with all of the latest and greatest that we are creating for you.

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