Why I Love Animal Sanctuaries

Sanctuaries like Animal Place in Grass Valley, and Farm Sanctuary in California and New York, do more for advancing the cause of animals than anything else. First they save the lives of the individual animals; then they allow others to see for themselves how each and every animal at a shelter is a unique individual with a history as valuable (to the individual) as our own histories. Rich and famous human animals get to write their autobiographies, or have them written for them. But we all acknowledge that in fact, every human on earth deserves his or her own biography. The same is true for animals.
As Tom Regan so memorably put it: Every animal is the subject of a life. Each and every one is as worthy of a biography as any human. And when you consider that the animals rarely do any harm to any other being, they are probably more deserving than the average human biography.

What most people discover when they visit a sanctuary is that all these animals share most, if not all, human emotions. As I have sat next to these residents, something else occurred to me that is somewhat heretical not to say outrageous, at least to some. This: That in certain respects, some animals may be our emotional superiors. Dogs are more friendly; cats more contented; birds more gregarious; swans more faithful; elephants grieve more deeply, and so on. You can add to the list.

I love it that there are more sanctuaries every year, all over the world, and that more people are visiting them. Some come away with a promise: “I will no longer participate in the suffering of these innocent creatures: from now on, I will eat no animal or, even better, no animal product.”

I am also pleased to see that there are more and more books about sanctuaries, with actual photos of the animals, so if you cannot visit one yourself, you can at least see them as they truly are. There is little doubt that there is a sea-change happening when it comes to farmed animals. The kinds of crude comments about “dumb beasts” that were made just a few years ago are falling out of favor. I am trying to understand why this is so, while at the same time countries like India and China are causing more and more animals to be killed for food so that even as attitudes change, more animals are probably killed right now than at any other time in human history. Will that, or even can that, ever change?

About jeffreymasson

My new book BEASTS is out this March from Bloomsbury http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/beasts-9781608196159/ or the eBook http://www.bloomsbury.com/us/beasts-9781608199914/
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6 Responses to Why I Love Animal Sanctuaries

  1. Girija says:

    It is now “fashionable” for a lot of people in India to eat meat. I am reminded of my own days in school / college back there when a lot of my friends started to take a sudden liking to eat foods they would never have in their homes ever. I had put it down to peer pressure and rebellious attitude problems typical of people in that age group. Interestingly enough, I later observed in my own family how my uncles and aunts took to eating animal foods in their late 30s and 40s because of my cousins. And now there are shops and street vendors selling meat and ready to eat foods (kababs, omelettes etc ) even in areas that were once strongly Hindu populated residential pockets. The limit was when a huge heart hospital of the country started to serve eggs and meat ( their justification was that it was “just” whites of eggs and white meat – fish and chicken which are “heart friendly”) to their patients if they wished to eat .. ! It is a known thing that people in India have a great fascination for anything western .. it is such a deep seated thing that we often forget to even think before just blindly following them – very very sad but true!

    • Yes. As I recently commented on an editorial in The Hindu:

      “Sad, that the sanity and superior human decency of vegetarianism and ahimsa, increasingly recognized by the west (where any hint of the same ancient wisdom was repressed during the largely retrogressive centuries of Christendom), has actually, tragico-comically, been branded as a vestige of premodern ignorance and superstition by otherwise supposedly progressive Indians who cannot distinguish between what is living and what is dead in their own tradition.”

  2. Rachel Allen says:

    Great article! There’s a wonderful farm animal sanctuary near Ocala, FL called “Kindred Spirits,” and they give so much deserved respect and care to the animals living there. I’ve visited them and their facilites–beautiful! Here’s their Facebook page with lots of photos.

  3. magpie says:

    As a septegenarian I have suffered a lot of years being ostracised about my deep feelings for animals, so it surely came as a wonderful surprise to discover that I am not, in fact, alone. I know now that there are millions of people worldwide who share my distress about animal cruelty and are doing everythng in their power to change this and I truly feel that there are starting to be subtle changes happening among the carnists. But we must be persistent in our mission and the increasing number of animal sanctuaries and books such as yours are changing hearts and minds
    Thanks so much for what you do.!

  4. Julie Dunn says:

    It is always heartwarming to read Jeffrey Masson’s tweets. His book “The Pig Who Sang to the Moon” was the book that turned me into a vegetarian, and I’m ever grateful. And with that came painful awareness of animal’s suffering. Magpie is right though, there are changes happening, thanks to the like of Jeffrey, PETA, HSUS, IDA and so many more. It has become the most important thing to me – to help END animal cruelty. We are on a journey together ~ may we see our dream come to fruition.

  5. Patty Bowers says:

    Ohhh, this is beautiful. So perfect and so true. Absolutely I agree w/ you that alot of animals are emotionally superior to humans. We have not been able to achieve what dogs do, and that is to love UNconditionally. If that isn’t enough of an example to begin with, I don’t know what is.
    I love to read your blogs, it is the only one I DO read. So great to know there are others on the planet that feel as deeply as I do and also are willing to spend their time writing these great blogs, for the education and upliftment of us all. Thank you Jeffrey!

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