It seems to me that not being cruel to animals should be a no-brainer , but given the fact that April is officially titled “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month” I am obviously wrong. Animal abuse is a common practice that comes in many forms, from animal testing, to “fake fur” production. Each year between 25 to 100 million animals including chimpanzees, monkeys, beagles, dogs, cats, rabbits, rats, birds, farm animals, are used for experimentation in the U.S. alone. Every year roughly 2 million dogs and cats are killed to produce “fake” fur coats. While many other “fur producing” animals are skinned alive.
I received Alicia Silverstone’s book, “The Kind Diet,” for my 25th birthday. This irritated me. I knew I was going in the direction of vegetarianism, but the incorporation of a vegetarian diet in a world of omnivores was a challenge I was not yet ready to face. I’d already had five false starts at vegetarianism, the first when I was in elementary school, and not able to prepare my own food. The last when I was turned down for a blogging position with PETA and protested by angrily eating a burger. This time I didn’t cave to the vegetarian calling, I put the book down and shortly after took a road trip to Florida.
During the last leg of our trip, we stopped at a beach in Naples. I took off my sandals and after a few steps into the water, I looked down and saw this:
It was perfect. I had been looking for a shell this beautiful my whole life, but had never found one completely in tact. I was ecstatic to add this to my collection of beach treasures. I plucked it out of the water.
As I was admiring my new shell, it began to spit water at me! I was puzzled at first but then I flipped it over and saw that a black mollusk was living inside.
Then, it spit at me again, this time in my face. At first I was annoyed, but then impressed the small mollusk’s fiesty personality. The gall of the mollusk when faced with a giant like myself, was nothing less than admirable. “I like your attitude,” I said before apologizing to it and placing it back in the Gulf where I’d found it.
I thought back to a gift shop in Daytona we visited earlier in the week. It had shelves full of conch and shells that looked similar to this one. At the time I imagined that they’d been gathered from the beach after the animals inside had died and consequently washed ashore, but now I wasn’t so sure. Had they knowingly taken these beautiful creatures out of the ocean and let the animals die in order to make a quick five bucks off their shells? I think so.
After this day I could no longer eat meat or fish. I had previously heard of the brutal way in which tuna were killed but in my mind I ignorantly dismissed smaller sea animals such as this mollusc as being mindless. I now knew first hand that wasn’t true. Animal cruelty comes in all forms from abuse of domesticated animals and strays, to dog fighting, neglect, oil spills that pollute the oceans, and even purging the water of these mollusks just to sell shells.
I encourage everyone to be more aware of animal cruelty all year round, not just in April, because there are many things that promote cruelty to animals although we may not immediately realize it. A few examples include Mexican jumping beans, the worm in a tequila bottle, betting at a dog track, and “fake” fur. Animals have rights too. While humans are at the top of the food chain and considered one of the most intelligent species, it is important that we be a copassionate species as well because there are a lot “weaker” species out there counting on us.
If you would like to read more facts about cruelty to animals please visit this site, and if you are interested in adopting a pet or making a donation please follow this link to find a local animal shelter in your area or visit The Rose Hope Animal Shelter, a no-kill shelter, where I volunteer.