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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beautiful Joe... time brings wisdom and the path is still long

The day has been, I grieve to say in many places it is not yet past, in which the greater part of the species, under the denomination of slaves, have been treated by the law exactly upon the same footing, as, in England for example, the inferior races of animals are still. The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. The French have already discovered that the blackness of the skin is no reason a human being should be abandoned without redress to the caprice of a tormentor. It may one day come to be recognized that the number of the legs, the villosity of the skin, or the termination of the os sacrum are reasons equally insufficient for abandoning a sensitive being to the same fate? What else is it that should trace the insuperable line? Is it the faculty of reason or perhaps the faculty of discourse? But a full-grown horse or dog, is beyond comparison a more rational, as well as a more conversable animal, than an infant of a day or a week or even a month, old. But suppose the case were otherwise, what would it avail? the question is not, Can they reason?, nor Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?[23]
English philosopher Jeremy Bentham

Many years ago, as a precocious 6 year old, obsessed with reading and even then, animal rights, I devoured those terrible, awful, wonderful books, many of which were birthed in the late 1800s. Black Beauty, Beautiful Joe and then as I matured, in my teenage years, Schopenhauer (oddly, a philospher WAY ahead of his time in understanding the complexity of the animal), Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and a myriad of other books, articles and digests on the emerging understanding of the animal mind.  I was 15 when I first learned how veal (once a favourite meat) was created - and have not touched it since. I was 14 when I brought a younger sister to the Shrine Circus in Montreal and for the first time REALLY looked at what they were doing to these magnificent creatures and was horrified.  I walked away from animal-based circuses then and have protested through letter writing campaigns and calls ever since. 

Wisdom is dependent on knowledge - knowledge changes in a nanosecond

There is no ultimate truth. By that I mean our understanding of our world is based entirely on the science and understanding that we have at this point in time.  As creatures of the information age, we know that truth is variable - that what is seen as "truth" can change from moment to moment as our knowledge base increases exponentially and quickly.

Animal Rights

The concept of children having rights, not to talk about animals was a complete anathema in the Victorian world.  Children - and animals - were property and as such, the "owner" had full permission from the government to do as they wished. 

German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was an early champion of animal rights, saying"

Thus, because Christian morality leaves animals out of account ... they are at once outlawed in philosophical morals; they are mere "things," mere means to any ends whatsoever. They can therefore be used for vivisection, hunting, coursing, bullfights, and horse racing, and can be whipped to death as they struggle along with heavy carts of stone. Shame on such a morality that is worthy of pariahs, chandalas, and mlechchhas, and that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing ...[
Certain books stayed with, one of them being Beautiful Joe.  Curious, I recently googled it and was astonished to find out that the author Margaret Marshal Saunders based her fictitious book on a dog owned by her sister in law's father - who had rescued this horrifically abused pit mix from a local farmer in Meaford, Ontario. She credits Black Beauty with inspiring her to write from the dog's perspective.

Fame and legacy (from Wikipedia)
In 1893 Saunders submitted her story to a writing contest being run by the Humane Society. It won, and the following year it was published as a novel. The response was tremendous; both the book and its subject received worldwide attention. It was the first Canadian book in history to sell over a million copies, and by the late 1930s had sold over 7 million copies worldwide. In 1902, a sequel, Beautiful Joe's Paradise, was published. In 1934, Saunders was granted Canada's highest civilian award at the time, Commander of the British Empire or C.B.E. In 1963, the official Beautiful Joe Park was named in Meaford, next to the Moore house where Beautiful Joe was rehabilitated by Louise Moore. A Beautiful Joe Heritage Society was formed in 1994 to preserve Joe's legacy and ultimately establish the Moore residence as a museum.[1]
Docking is Mutilation and Cruel

In many ways, the compassion shown by Walter Moore is astonishing in the context of the times.  The scene I remember so vividly from the book - even after all these years - is where the farmer grabs the puppy and laying him across a block, proceeds to chop off his ears and tail with an ax (in the book, hearing the screams, Mr. Moore went in and got the dog from the farmer).  Yet what I find compellingly SAD is that in the name of "form", the barbaric practice of docking continues with the FULL approval of the law today. So what is the difference between that cruel farmer and our Canadian pedigreed dogs?  Either way, dogs are being MUTILATED because a human being thinks it is ok and the law does not stop them.

more to come


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