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Do You Need to See It to Believe It?

The other day a caring friend warned me about some horrendous, new video on social media, about animal abuse. Despite not knowing me all that well, he felt he knew me enough to know that I wouldn’t handle it well. I was very, very grateful. I stayed away from my social media accounts for a few days, hoping to be able to avoid whatever it was.

I also immediately copied my plea to my “friends” on social media, of please making a concerted effort to keep such gory videos and stories from me, to my local neighbourhood group of animal lovers, with an additional note:

“This is because I believe there’s something ghastly doing the rounds. Please, don’t even tell me. I beg you.”

I thought the message was pretty clear.

A second later, a member of the group posted the link to the video. I was not stupid enough to open it. Instead, I left the group altogether.

This “drastic” step of leaving a group in which I readily participate for a cause I believe in with all my heart, which is helping animals in need, was not just a knee-jerk, hasty reaction. Over the last year, all around India, there were numerous cases of animal abuse, of the most deranged, unthinkable kind, which were deliberately filmed and uploaded in what can only be deemed as a most desperate call for attention from some very disturbed and evil people. The whole purpose was to capitalise on shock value. Many of the perpetrators were caught and hopefully severely punished. It highlighted a terrible malaise in our society, where increasingly, no one is safe- not women, not children, not Muslims, not Christians, not the rich or the poor, neither the daring nor the meek and not the innocent animals. We signed petition after petition, we joined protests to demand updating animal welfare laws and we joined hands to defend the defenceless.

I would have done all of those things, with an equal amount of passion and conviction, even if I had been spared the gory, unnecessary details and certainly, the images.

Many animal lovers and animal welfare organisations are of the view that people must be made to see the terrible things that happen, in order to convince them to take action or to stop unwittingly abetting whatever it is. Whether it’s about turning vegetarian or vegan, or giving up leather and fur or taking action against some incident of abuse, these people resort to bombarding one with graphic emails, letters, videos, social media campaigns and all kinds of other things.

As I see it, such information will only be viewed by someone who is either an animal lover and keen to help, (such as me), in which case it would suffice for me to know that something is wrong and is bad for an animal and I need to take such and such action to stop it; or by some curious pervert who may be inspired to do something equally unspeakable. People who couldn’t care less will not even bother to watch or read and even if they do, well, they couldn’t care less!

The question then is this, Do you really need to see it to believe it?
Shocking images and gory details actually do me a lot of damage. I am angered and upset and haunted constantly by what I have learned, to the point where it makes me short-tempered, impatient, frustrated and depressed. I lose sleep, thinking of the animal. And all I can do about it is sign some letter or report to some authority, without ever knowing what became of the culprits. My ability to help, or the lack of it, therefore hardly justifies the agony I experience. So much so, that now I actually need to switch off. When I receive PETA’s mails, with some God-awful picture, I’m afraid the envelope goes straight in to the bin. Similarly, the video posted on my welfare group, after I specifically asked that we not post such things, left me with no choice but to leave, despite the fact that I know I can and do make a valuable contribution by being a part of it.

These are bad times and lots of bad things happen. I say we all become a little more sensitive to all those around us and avoid inflicting pain on someone in an effort to help another. Because sometimes, it can backfire. Share judiciously- with authorities, lawyers, welfare organisations, police, politicians- people who can actually do something about it. For others who may be deeply affected and who cannot offer a solution, be kind. Spare them the trauma. There’s more than enough all around.

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