What a twisted world we do live in. Recently I read an editorial in the ‘USA Today’ entitled “What’s the Godly Way to Treat Animals" by an American Baptist preacher, Oliver Thomas (USA Today, Monday June 14, 2010) in which Mr. Thomas referred to our society’s indifference to the cruel treatment of animals as a ‘moral blind spot’ that compromises the moral fabric of our society itself.
Quoting Mahatma Gandhi as saying “the moral fiber of a society is best gauged by how we treat our animals,” Mr. Thomas used examples of how we as a society must push for laws to protect animals from cruelty and graphically describes some of the inhumane abuses animals are all too often subjected to (ie “one of the saddest outcomes is a dog that is chained and left in the backyard. A tethered dog lives in utter misery without physical or mental stimulation...And that is how we treat the animals we love. As for animals we raise for food consumption, my guess is that few Americans have any inkling of the horror these poor animals endure.”)
Mr. Thomas then encourages his readers “to join the growing list of cities and states that have banned or placed restrictions on chaining animals- like Texas- or that have banned the most inhumane practices- like Florida and California.”
I’m not saying Mr. Thomas is wrong. I too think all animals should be treated humanely as a natural extension of the inherent sanctity of life. But I have to admit that over the many years I have grown to hold those such as Mr. Thomas, the ‘Humane Society’ and the organization ‘PETA’ (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in contempt. The truth of the matter is that most of these people who scream about treating animals humanely are nothing but hypocrites. By selectively advocating only the politically popular concept of ‘animal rights’, they have proved themselves to be cowards unwilling to speak out against the inhumane treatment of millions of prisoners here in America.
The inconvenient truth about the epidemic of animal cruelty in America today is that it is a direct extension of who we really are as a collective society. The majority of Americans today- including the majority of members of the ‘Humane Society’ and PETA deliberately turn a ‘moral blind eye’ towards the widespread abuse of prisoners in American jails and prisons, and don’t see the relationship between the abuse of animals and the abuse of prisoners.
As long as we continue to choose to be a society in which it is acceptable, and even encouraged to treat prisoners like animals, then how can we expect members of our society to treat animals humanely?
I have now personally spent 27 years in continuous solitary confinement: in a six foot concrete and steel cage that under applicable state law it would be illegal to put a dog in. I have been denied any outdoor exercise, or even a moment or sunlight, for years at a time. I have been brutally beaten, and chained and shackled until I bled, and have not touched a blade of grass or dirt in over a quarter of century. And I am not alone, as this is how prisoners in America are treated every day.
Mr. Thomas argues that we should join states like Texas that now make it a crime to chain a dog in your backyard. However, he does not point out that Texas also executes more prisoners than all the other states combined, including many who may very well have been innocent. In Texas, prisoners are routinely put in chains and shackles, and led out to state run farms to work under conditions comparable to a southern slave plantation.
Perhaps before Mr. Thomas gets all giddy about how ‘humane’ Texas is, he should take a few minutes to read the 100 page plus Federal Court opinion of Ruiz v Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115 (5th Gr., 1982) (available on www.findlaw.com), in which it graphically details the systemic abuse of prisoners in the Texas prison system, including a routine practice of chaining prisoners to a post in the open sun for hours, even days, at a time.
Mr. Thomas commends Florida for passing laws that prohibit keeping animals under physically and psychologically oppressive conditions that would be a criminal act if only prisoners would be legally protected as ‘animals’.
Again, before Mr. Thomas encourages his readers to embrace Florida’s ‘humane’ ways of treating animals, Mr. Thomas should spend a day taking a tour of Florida State Prison, where at least a thousand prisoners have been held in long term solitary confinement under conditions so brutal that the vast majority are under psychiatric medication just to cope. Anyone who wants to read about how prisoners are routinely treated at Florida State Prison should read the Federal court opinion in Valdes v. Crosby, 450 F.3d. (11th Gr.)
But nobody dares to speak out about the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners as that is not politically popular. In our society today, it’s one thing to show compassion and mercy towards a cute little kitten, or a sad eyed puppy dog. But all too often these same animals’ rights advocates will foam at the mouth and respond with anger, or even violence, towards those who suggest that perhaps even prisoners should be treated humanely, too.
With their twisted logic, they will argue that animals are defenceless creatures in need of protection- and prisoners are responsible for whatever punishment brought upon themselves. I personally find it amusing when these people twist logic around to justify the way prisoners are routinely treated and why animals should be protected- but not prisoners.
The fact is that if the ‘USA Today’ newspaper (which is the most widely circulated newspaper in America) was to publish an editorial that called for the ethical and humane treatment of prisoners, then they would be flooded with hate mail from mobs of angry readers who see advocating the humane treatment of prisoners as a ‘bleeding heart liberal’ agenda.
So, the mainstream media and editorial writers like Mr. Thomas will not say a word about the ethical and humane treatment of prisoners. As long as they stick to kitty cats and puppy dogs, their message will be embraced and they will be seen as honorable leaders of moral integrity.
That, Mr. Thomas, is the true ‘moral blind spot’ in America today. Perhaps one day our society will evolve enough to understand that only by learning to treat each other humanely can there be any hope of raising our social and moral conscience towards the manner in which God’s lesser creatures are treated.
As long as we continue to be a society that aggressively advocates the inhumane treatment of millions of prisoners, and elect politicians upon their promise to be ‘tough on crime’ by inflicting misery and pain upon those we see as ‘criminals’, there will always be a significant percentage of our society that will never develop a concept of respect for the humane and ethical treatment of animals. Those who think they can have it both ways are just pissing in the wind. Only by advocating and demanding that we treat each other, even prisoners, humanely can there be any hope to live in a society that will treat all forms of life humanely.
Michael Lambrix #482053
Florida State Prison
7819 NW 228th St (death row)
Raiford, Florida 32026-1160