How We Lose Connection to Animals and Ourselves
We love our dogs, but we torture, slaughter and eat cows without a thought. We send Michael Vick to prison for abusing and killing dogs, but we erect laws that prevent insider investigation of slaughterhouses. We buy toys for our dogs to unwrap under the Christmas tree, but we heartlessly behead hundreds of thousands of turkeys every holiday season to set on the dinner table so that we can sit around it's roasted carcass and give thanks for our blessings. What's the problem here? I call it the "big split."
What It Is
The big split is the manifestation of how fragmented we have become psychologically, socially, and spiritually. "Parts are parts" and the parts are not connected. There is no "whole." We live and operate in segments. The problem is, all things are connected in reality and when we choose parts over the whole, we become destructive to ourselves individually and to all of us collectively. Ignorance is not bliss. What you don't know will kill you. All of the parts do effect us whether we’re cognizant of them or not. Actually, it’s when we’re not cognizant of them that they have the greatest power.
Here’s an example everyone can relate to: You have a friend that complains regularly about another of your acquaintances who you both know. The complaint is that this person drives recklessly most of the time. He speeds, texts while driving, is distracted by his cell phone, tailgates, weaves in and out of traffic, and generally seems not to be focused on his driving. “It’s downright dangerous!” says your friend of this acquaintance. As you’re listening, you are thinking to yourself that your friend who is doing the complaining drives this exact same way herself. It’s always bothered you and in fact you avoid being in the car with her. She is completely unaware of it and you know that if you bring it to her attention, she will deny it and probably get upset with you. She sees herself as an “excellent” driver.
So what’s the mechanism here that allows the friend to not see the truth of this situation? It is called “splitting.” I (you or whomever) take qualities that I have and don’t want to own and project them on to someone else. I “split” them off as if they don’t belong to me. Worse yet, once I have split them off, they are now out of my conscious awareness meaning I don’t see them. I will not be addressing the behavior or problem because I have sent it underground where it is now inaccessible. That doesn’t mean the problem will go away. To the contrary, it now has much more power because I am not in control of it and I can’t change or mediate it. This is what I mean when I say ignorance is not bliss. It isn’t. What you don’t know can definitely and usually does hurt you, even if you are not aware of it.
Where It Originates
Splitting is a normal psychological defense mechanism we all use occasionally, but it originates and is much more prevalent earlier in life around the age of two, give or take. If you’ve been around toddlers, you know that they move from extreme to extreme: happy and laughing one minute and crying and screaming the next, often at the drop of a hat. Toddlers are working on splitting. They have surmised that life doesn’t always go their way and mommy (or whomever is the caretaker) isn’t a good mommy all the time. She doesn’t give in to the toddler’s every wish and command the way she seemed to when he was younger. She impedes his desires sometimes, tells him “no”, and get’s in his way. When she does this she is “bad mommy.” Somewhere between 2 and 4 the toddler is able to put “good mommy” and “bad mommy” together in a singular person who loves him but has variations in her behavior toward him based on the context and situation. She is no longer a “split” mommy, but a whole person. He too is getting his first sense of being a whole and separate person, with good and bad qualities. It is the wholeness aspect that’s important here because it embraces the opposite parts and everything in between. Instead of things being seen in the context of “black and white,” they are pieces of a bigger whole that appear in the context of different situations.
How It Perpetuates
Now back to our original conversation. In our world, there are a lot of people who never move past that original split. They see things primarily in black and white, good and bad, us and them. Historically you’ve witnessed this in the extreme: the Nazis and the Jews, the Whites and the Blacks, the Rich and the Poor, us and them, us and them, us and them. The franchised split off the disenfranchised and see them as "less than." The less than are then treated in ways that are violent, inhumane, and abusive. Witness the Holocaust, Slavery, and Poverty.
What goes on with animals in our world is far worse than any of the above. Why? Because animals are not only disenfranchised, abused, used, and tortured, they have no voice. They have no one to take up their cause and help them. They have no other country to step in, no hero of their own kind to speak up for them, no one to throw money their way to give them a respite. They are owned, maltreated, and killed. Why? Because we as a group have decided that’s their lot in life, and it’s okay. We are part of the biggest split our species has ever known and we willingly participate in it every day.
How Did We Get Here?
Now that I’ve put it out there, let me back up a little and explain why this happens so that you can see it in the context of the Big Split. As a group, we don’t all consciously decide at some point in our lives that we want to participate in this animal holocaust. We are brought into it at birth and socially acclimated to this massive collusion without ever having the opportunity to consider it.
- We are fed meat and dairy from infancy and throughout our most formative years. It is a given.
- We are ingrained through repetitive messages from our trusted parents, our teachers, our communities and the media at large with the message that meat=protein and without it we can’t grow and survive.
- We are ingrained with the idea that milk=strong bones and without it we cannot grow correctly.
- We are lovingly fed meals of meat, dairy, fat and sugar in our homes, in social situations, and with our peers so that we associate love, belonging, and pleasure with these practices.
- We are never told as children how meat gets to our table. If a child happens to hear that meat comes from cows or chickens, they either don’t register that death is a part of that or a fantasy is handed to them about the happy cows living in pastures and eating grass. Because of their age, they are protected from the reality.
The split is not a choice, it is installed before cognition is developed enough to question it. And if there is a question along the way, messages are sent from every direction to squash the inquiry. Mom and Dad say it’s okay. Our doctor says it’s okay. Everyone at church says it’s okay. All the other kids eat the same way, so it must be okay. TV commercials are full of delicious looking (meat and dairy) food, so it must be okay. The food is in the grocery store so it must be okay. It just must be okay.
Keeping It Hidden
The dissociation from the reality is so complete and so reinforced that there is barely a chance that any breakthrough will come about. But in the off chance that this could happen, the meat and dairy industry work hard to eliminate it immediately. They proliferate messages using our favorite icons to insure we buy into the lie. “Got Milk?” They make ads that pit the animals against each other as though they are in the game: the cow holding up the sign “Eat Mor Chikin.” Everyone chuckles when they see it. They make sure we never think of a cow or chicken or pig as an individual being that can feel pain, or that attaches to their offspring, or that has intelligence. They are herds that don’t have the intelligence to understand what’s happening to them. They are here to serve us. We have “dominion” over them and that’s the way it should be and always has been. We even have different names for them: beef, pork, cattle. In essence, they are barely real.
Finally, the split is protected by hiding the actual slaughter of these animals. It’s done behind closed doors with locks. We aren’t allowed to look in. In many states now, laws have been erected to prohibit insider investigations of slaughterhouses, which means such attempts are punishable by law. The industry knows these investigations expose the horror of what they do. They see their pocketbooks in danger and so they have gone to great lengths to prohibit any exposure. What the public is allowed to see is all the neatly packaged, cleaned up “meat” in the grocery store with the evidence removed of the life that was there. We’ve got thighs, breasts, steaks, rump roasts, pork chops, and the worst, veal.
What We Don’t Know Does Hurt Us
As with all splits, what you don’t know will hurt you. By participating in this split, we aid the unconscionable torture and maltreatment of innocent animals that do have feelings, are sensitive to pain, do have attachments to their offspring and to us when we allow it, and do have intelligence. They are not different than our dogs and we would never treat our dogs this way.
Secondly, we are buying into the myths that we need meat to satisfy our physical needs for protein, or that we need milk to build strong bones. Both are blatant lies. We can get plenty of protein and calcium from vegetable sources that are infinitely better for us.
Third, we reap the results of our actions with increases in cancer, heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and many other diseases and illnesses including autoimmune diseases. That’s just health. The livestock industry is the biggest source of greenhouse gases, far surpassing the entire transportation industry. As we destroy our soil and water to produce “meat”, we are on the way to irreparable damage to our environment.
The Connection Imperative
The research on the ill effects of meat and dairy are underway and revving up as the “great lies” are being dispelled one by one. We have to look at what is real. Knowledge is our friend. It connects all of the parts. It connects all of us. Without this connection, without seeing life as a whole, without respecting all beings, we all stand to suffer the consequences, which ultimately is our own destruction.