Value of All Life
by Delisa Renideo

(Fourteenth article)

Have you noticed how our consciousness has grown regarding the value of human babies? There was a time, not so long ago, that the infant of poor parents wasn’t considered as valuable as a baby born to more affluent parents. White children were more valued than children of color. We also used to label the children born to unmarried parents as “bastards” and later as “illegitimate children.” These deprecating labels allowed us to justify prejudice against these children and inadequate care and services for them. Finally, we began to realize that all infants have their own legitimacy -- based upon the value of the life force within them. All children have their own intrinsic value and the right to be treated with love and respect. In addition to their physical needs, we recognize the importance of meeting every child’s emotional and social needs.

I realize there are still many children in our country, as well as around the world, whose basic needs are not being met. But at least our consciousness is growing toward a recognition of the intrinsic value of ALL children, and this growing consciousness is being translated into programs to provide for their needs. Things don’t change “out there” in the world until things change “in here” in our consciousness. The same is true for our relationships with animals.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve wondered why some dogs are dismissed as “just a stray.” And why are the dogs somehow blamed for this condition? They are just the unfortunate result of people who have not been responsible for the precious life in their care. Dogs called “mongrels” or “mutts” are considered to be of less value than registered or pedigreed dogs. This is just an example of the king’s children being more valuable than the peasant’s, and the labels justify our prejudice. Like children, every puppy has equal intrinsic value based upon the life force within them.

We open our hearts, homes, and pocketbooks to the beloved animals whom we call our “pets” and turn a deaf ear to the cries of the animals in research labs.

Why do we allow Terry, a chimpanzee, to live in complete and heart-breaking isolation in a Nevada zoo, where he hasn’t seen, heard, or touched another chimp in eight long years? Why do the manufacturers of Iams, a premium dog food, use dogs for research, keeping them in tiny, dark cages with a cold, concrete floor for as long as 6 years? Why are circus elephants transported in airless vans in extreme temperatures, and beaten with chains to make them submit to circumstances so far removed from their natural life in the wild? Why is chasing a terrified calf with a horse, and then violently throwing it to the ground and tying it up considered wholesome entertainment for the whole family? Why are billions of animals each year subjected to extreme overcrowding, widespread disease, universal suffering, and violent death because we consider them “food?”

Some would say the answer is simple. They are “only animals.” However, I believe the answer is that our consciousness has not yet grown to recognize our kinship with all life. We do not yet see every expression of life as valuable in its own right. And until we do, we will not experience peace among humans, either. But I have hope, because caring people everywhere are raising these issues and shining the light of a new perspective of compassion upon them. And when things change “in here” they will also change “out there.”

Delisa Renideo is a co-founder of Rays of Hope and can be contacted at 373-1526.

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