Respecting the sensitivity and intelligence of animals

As I walked through Earl Warren Showgrounds today, taking my usual shortcut on my 3-mile walk, I was stopped by a family in an SUV who had a couple of questions about the Fiesta rodeo, a longstanding tradition in Santa Barbara that's featured during our Old Spanish Days festivities.

"How is the rodeo?" they asked. "Is it suitable for children?" And... "Is it violent?"

If you know me at all, including the fact that I've been a vegetarian for 24 years, I think you know how I answered. I believe that:

1) Animals (especially mammals) are feeling, thinking, intelligent creatures that suffer physical and emotional pain.

2) People dominating animals for entertainment is harmful to both the animals and to the onlookers, as the audience becomes desensitized to the sufffering of animals. (Yes, yes, I know people still do these activities on ranches. Fine. That doesn't make it okay with me as entertainment.)

I was honest with the family about my feelings regarding the rodeo. I told them that I don't agree with rodeos, that I believe animals are harmed in the process and that I didn't feel that it was suitable for children. But no, there's no blood and gore. This satisfied them and they pressed on to look for a parking spot.

Because this is the Yay Life! blog and not the "Rodeos are a bummer" blog, I thought I would celebrate the intelligence and sensitivity of animals by sharing some interesting links with you.

From the Psychology Today blog: Animals and Emotions

From National Geographic: Minds of Their Own

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals

From the New York Times: Can we see our hypocrisy to animals?

Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness

I was originally saddened while passing through Earl Warren, walking past all the rodeo horses and other animals who might suffer harm during this event. I was then surprised and grateful for the opportunity to talk to this one family and share my thoughts on rodeo and the effects on the animals pressed into service for what I consider to be an inhumane sport. They seemed thoughtful, and I hope that they'll think about what I shared and do more exploring for themselves.

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