Respect – as published in December 2018 Issue of Houston PetTalk: Photo by Evin Thayer; LB provided by Mini Pig Rescue of Houston

Being a part of humanity is filled with questions – Why are we here? What are we trying to accomplish? What is God’s plan? Why is there evil and pain? The list could go on and on with the BIG questions that drive us crazy because the answers are arbitrary and typically not provable, thus reducing the answers to a matter of faith.  We are barraged with information, hatred, love, cruelty, injustice, good-hearted people, freedom of choice, suppression, abuse, jealousy, heroism and more in this big black cauldron being stirred together in a soup called LIFE. As a people, we have to navigate through it, digest it all and make choices based on our own beliefs and individual situations. Simply put, it can be hard to be a human and live in this world.

Some people unfortunately can’t cope and create their own demise. Others struggle but find a way to see a positive outcome and on the whole, seem to maintain a balance. For me personally, the uncertainty in our world and the evil that exists are two of the most disconcerting aspects. 

However, there is one element of humanity that I don’t struggle with, I don’t question and that I know for sure: the concept of respect for all things. Between humans, respect for one another is a universal expectation (but that doesn’t mean it actually occurs 100% of the time). There are plenty of examples to point to that defy this basic principle of humanity but for the most part, respect between people exists unless there is a factor of greed or evil present. Moving past respect between humans, the slope gets very slippery. As humans at the top of the food chain and possessing the highest IQ, we have a responsibility to be the stewards of all else including animals, plants and all aspects of our environment on earth and beyond. Just because we CAN disrespect, abuse or misuse something doesn’t mean we SHOULD.

The world we have been given is quite spectacular. If you’ve ever stared at Caribbean waters, studied a peacock’s feathers, smelled a gardenia, hiked to a waterfall, witnessed a rainbow, watched horses race across a meadow, been mesmerized by a harvest moon, then you know what I’m talking about. There is so much beauty, innocent life-forms, and extraordinary geological displays that to not steward and protect them is not only disrespectful, it’s reprehensible. I’m not talking about being extreme and being upheld to impractical standards, I’m referring to a basic level of respect for all living things and our environment. 

Take LB (short for Little Bit) as an example, who was so gracious to pose with me and underscore my point. He comes from one of the most abused, tortured, misunderstood yet intelligent species on earth…the pig. Many studies have been conducted regarding pigs and it’s no secret among those who care to know the truth that pigs can solve cognitive problems, they display emotions, they have unique personalities, they love to play and they are easy to train. Authors Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and founder of the Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy, and Christina M. Colvin, a professor at Emory University, published a research paper about domestic pigs in which their findings conclude that pigs are mentally and socially similar to dogs and chimpanzees. They go on to say that pigs 

are cognitively complex and share many traits with animals whom we consider intelligent. I have often heard that pigs have the intelligence of a 3 or 4 year old human. 

The unfortunate circumstance for pigs is that they are considered a food animal all over the globe and they are treated horrifically for that purpose. Over 97 percent of pigs in the world are raised in factory farms. Meaning, they never see the light of day, they are kept in crowded unsanitary conditions and injected with hormones to make them grow abnormally large and antibiotics to keep them breathing until slaughter. In addition to the unhealthy conditions this food animal is raised in, pigs are known to carry some diseases, the processed meat of pigs is deemed a cancer causing agent by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and the pig’s digestive system is ripe for keeping toxins intact. But having said all of that, there are plenty of people who will consume pork all over the world, every day. I can’t convince a person not to eat something but I think a balanced awareness is in order when it comes to how we treat all animals, including those that are going to end up in someone’s stomach.

With an intelligence equaling or surpassing a dog, pigs deserve to live a life that allows for fresh air, healthy food, room to roam, social interactions and play. Essentially, they deserve to be happy…they deserve respect. Wouldn’t you rather eat the pig that was happy and had less stress and toxins in its body? Any food animal deserves to live a non-abusive life and to die a painless death. They definitely don’t deserve to die the horrific death they are subjected to so “the meat will taste better”. What right do we have to torture an animal so we can eat it? It is absolutely possible to still eat food animals while raising them with dignity. 

God warned his people not to eat pork. I find that interesting.There are lots of good reasons to not consume pork as it relates to health including the statistic that  consuming 50 grams of processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, etc.) each day raises your risk of colorectal cancer by a very significant 18 percent. Maybe that’s the pigs joke on mankind.

To me, pigs are the poster child for unnecessary abuse of anything we, as humans, can abuse. There are plenty of other animals that are discarded as meaningless and treated accordingly for man’s pleasure or convenience. Entire forests are chopped to nothing so that humans can have particular products with no thought to the destruction of habitats. For example, Gorillas are highly endangered in part due to deforestation. The sad part is that much of the destruction and abuse isn’t necessary. There are options as long as we are willing to stop waste and unnecessary degradation of the environment. 

Animals matter. Plants matter. Oceans matter. Our planet matters. Each deserves respect for its life, respect for its contributions and respect because God created it. LB and all the other creatures that make our world diverse should be our carefully protected by us, not anihilated and treated as insignificant. 

The holidays are a time of joy as well as a time of reflection. Take a moment to give thanks for the abundance of our world and be a steward for the many things that make it awe-inspiring. All of the LB’s and other creatures great and small will thank you.

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