I’m struggling with a moral dilemma. I strongly believe that all animals are independent living beings that deserve to be treated with compassion. Yet I rely on medications manufactured by pharmaceutical companies that test on animals. Even if I didn’t take manufactured drugs, I would have to ingest animal parts, such as pig and cow thyroid, in order to survive. How can Pagans with serious illness find a balance between the harshness of survival and compassion?
My family raised cows for a few years during my early teens. Dad taught us girls not to name any of them or their calves. He didn’t want us crying when our pets were sold. We were taught similar values with hunting from my grandpa and dad. Only kill what you will eat or share with others.
Since my dad was often away with the Airforce reserves and my mom was in college, much of their care fell to me. It was easy to fill their grain and tighten their fly back scratch in the spring. In the winter though, the water pipe often froze so I had to haul water from the house on my sled since I wasn’t old enough to drive. It took multiple trips of back breaking work.
I didn’t mind though because I felt we shared a kindness and respect. The lead cow would let me stroke the soft white curls of her face. I played chest bumping and head butting games with our young bull. We did name him George since he was a pure bred Angus and wasn’t going to be food.
It wasn’t until later in life that I learned how thyroid medication and insulin were first created. The first insulin treatment was the extract of dog’s pancreas given to a fourteen year old boy. (History of Insulin) Later they used cow and pig pancreas. For hypothyroidism, pig and cow thyroids were used. Not only do these animals give me life sustaining protein, but they were the foundation for the medicine I take today. Well, I’m off insulin now.
According to the National Institute of Health, there are many laws and regulations in place to enforce the care of animals used for research. But how much of a life can an animal have if they are in captivity and experimented on? Then again, what kind of life do animals have on farms especially large factory farms. None. Is is better that the lives of animals in labs are sacrificed so that thousands of humans can live?
Perhaps what I need to remember is that life is filled with life and death, suffering and joy. I’ve seen my cat outside holding down a mouse with one paw. The mouse was bleeding from the neck. My cat would lift it’s paw and the feeble mouse would try to run. The cat would drop his paw down again and lick his lips in boredom. Even animals can be cruel.
Let’s be more aware of how animals have played a major role in furthering human life. How then can we honour this more in our religious practice?
“History of Insulin” by Timothy Gower Discovery Health
“Desiccated thyroid extract” Wikipedia
Office of Animal Care and Use Regulations and Standards