Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Speaking up against animal abuse: Reasons to be hopeful

Liam posing nicely with an article in the New York Times
Liam is very tolerant about assuming weird poses like this.
It's hard to come up with images for some of these posts!

I read a very interesting article by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times last night (yes, it takes me a few days to get through the Sunday paper). In this article, she suggests that Americans have taken a relativistic approach to morality. Instead of stepping in right away when we see something terrible in progress, we tend to take the long view, believing that others are inherently good and that our help isn't really needed.

She cites the Sandusky case as an example of this phenomenon. A man walks in on a crime and does nothing, thinking he can't really be seeing what he is seeing. As a result, the abuse (allegedly, we must say, as he hasn't been convicted yet) continues for decades and many, many lives are shattered as a result. One man could have stopped it, and he didn't.

The article was interesting for me because I'd just read a similar story on the Oregon Humane Society website. Here, a veterinarian was off duty and visiting her boyfriend when she discovered what looked like animal abuse. This veterinarian didn't hesitate. She filed a complaint, and as a result, the cat's owner was sentenced to animal abuse. She could have said nothing, protecting her relationship with her boyfriend from any awkwardness, but instead, she acted. Who knows how many cats this veterinarian saved with her courage?

I'm not prepared to say that there isn't a moral crisis in this country. After all, a veterinarian takes a vow to prevent animals, so a veterinarian who sees a wounded animal is likely quite motivated to step in and do something. Perhaps her actions aren't a sign of great moral courage, but are instead signs of someone doing her job properly. In addition, there are many examples of people who do nothing in the face of both animal and child abuse.

However, stories of courageous people who are willing to stick their necks out on behalf of the helpless, no matter why they choose to do so, should give us hope. Perhaps they will inspire us to make our own leaps and speak up when we see something. Maybe, just maybe, we can prove Maureen Dowd wrong one day with our actions. I think she'd be happy if we did.