Silence in the face of animal suffering and cruelty is a powerful phenomenon that allows us to know and not know, to see and not see. When we close our eyes, and our hearts, to the cruelty rampant in puppy mills, factory farms, research laboratories, rodeos, circuses, and many zoos and aquariums, we close ourselves off to a full relationship with the animals in our midst—and maybe even to members of our own species.
Silence is reinforcing. If we are silent the first time we see animal suffering, we might continue our silence for to break it on the second, third, or tenth occasion would have others wondering why didn’t we say something the first time. Silence becomes self-perpetuating.
But, why are we silent? Do we fear retribution from those who do not share our views? Do we feel we will be ostracized for our point of view, like a vegan at a cookout who feels an outsider or the person who eschews the circus when his or her children are clamoring to see the elephants?
Do we train ourselves not to see, not to hear, not to know? As children, we’re told not to look at the homeless person begging spare change on the street. As an adult, we may no longer see the homeless at all. In addition, we ignore reality by using labels to distance ourselves from suffering. We refer to the body of the animal we are about to eat as brisket, T-bone steak, hamburger—not cow flesh.
Silence damns living, breathing, sentient beings to lives of pain and degradation. Silence perpetuates abuse. Silence is not golden when it hides painful truths. When you think about it…what is keeping us silent in the face of animal abuse?