by Ruth Eisenbud
"The greatness of a nation and the progress of its moral development may be judged by how it treats its animals." Gandhi
"For there is nothing inaccessible for death.
All beings are fond of life, hate pain, like pleasure,
shun destruction, like life, long to live. To all life
is dear." Jain Acharanga Sutra.
Ground Zero for Justice...
Dear Amy Goodman & Staff, Democracy Now:
Yesterday during the report stating that factors in addition to gun control be considered as the cause for a culture of violence, (http://www.democracynow.org/
'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth, and on every bird of the air, on everything that creeps on the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything." Genesis
Psychologists and criminal profilers have long considered violence to animals as a precursor to human on human violence. Children who abuse animals are seen as likely to go on and commit crimes of violence towards humans. Serial killers often begin their careers by practicing on animals. It is easy to dismiss causality with the notion that if one does not personally pull the wings off of live butterflies, one is not complicit in terrible animal abuse. This is not the case. We may pretend that we are not involved, but when we purchase a slab of meat, we have ordered the murder of a sentient creature:
"Those who eat the meat of other living beings in order to satisfy their own flesh, they are definitely murderers themselves, since without a consumer there can be no killer." Hemchandra, Jain monk
With enough denial we may persuade ourselves that we are compassionate and caring, while knowing full well, at least subliminally, that a living animal will have his or her throat slit for our gourmet meal. It is easy to suppress reality, when the products of cruelty arrive in neat, cellophaned packages, with no trace of the blood or suffering generated.
Even if there was no connection between violence to humans and violence to animals, though there is, it would still be terrible cruelty to slaughter and exploit animals as we do. It would still be morally bankrupt and indefensible. The following two videos by Peter Wollen, highlight the excessive cruelty of the way animals are viewed and treated by society at large. A notable exception is the Jain religious community of India, which has lived non-violently for thousands of years by following the principle of ahimsa. Ahimsa, which originated in India, is characterized by Peter Wollen as the most beautiful word in the world, as it grants equal rights of compassion to animals and humans alike. I strongly urge you to consider the work of Petter Wollen, of Indian origin, who founded the Kindness Foundation:
"The most beautiful word in the world, originated in India: ahimsa":
The cruelty and pain inflicted on animals is ground zero for the campaign to end human suffering and injustice. The failure to recognize this will minimize and trivialize all other efforts. Only if and when media, which claims the moral high ground, is willing to include animals and expose the endorsed violence of religion in the discussion of injustice, will there be a shift towards a more humane world.
Environmental justice too hinges on a plant based, vegetarian or vegan model, as the amount of resources consumed to produce meat, if not wasted by this cruel and destructive industry, could feed the world with ease. Rather than promote the judeo.christian concept of sustainable and compassionately procured meat either by kosher/halal or christian methods of slaughter, as do many wilderness and environmental advocates, the reality remains that these methods still involve terrble cruelty and irreverence for life.
It is irreverence for life that is at the root of so much of the random, spontaneous and prevalent violence that surrounds us. As an organization that advocates for justice, Democracy Now must include compassion for animals in its agenda.
Other media, such as the Huffington Post have taken a more enlightened view by including news concerned with the suffering of animals in their effort to expose injustice. Word has it that the party catered by Ariana Huffington for the Democratic National Convention was vegan, an indication of more inclusive compassion. Recently there has been a lot of media attention on a scheduled 'squirrel slam" in Holley NY, where children as young as 12 will be allowed to shoot as many squirrels as possible in order to win a prize. The intention of this contest is to raise funds for the Holley fire department. An article appears at the end of this letter, so that you may better understand the connection between violence to animals as an indicator of a violence prone society. In addition there is a blog in Psychology Today on the upcoming holy war on squirrels: http://www.psychologytoday.
It is of great concern that rather than consider the side of effects of culturally and religiously sanctioned animal abuse, Democracy Now appears to consider it as irrelevant. It seems that there is even an effort to include religious references to promote social justice, such as the music played on a recent show: 'Who Would Jesus Bomb'. The fact of the matter, according to Sir Bertrand Russell, in his book of essays "Why I am not a Christian' there is a tendency towards vindictiveness in the pronouncement that those who do not accept Jesus as their savior are destined to eternal damnation. This mean-spirited view bears some ressemblance to the use of drones to punish an entire society which is non-compliant with our demands. Non-violence is not a strong point within the judeo.christian tradition, as there are countless tales of revenge, plagues and violence to perceived enemies, with animals always at the bottom of the pecking order.
The violence of the semitic religions is rooted in the ease with which they grant the right to slaughter defenseless and hamless living beings.There have been no jain holy wars, inquisitions, jihads, entifadas, appartheid states, crusades of holocausts, as ahimsa encourages peace. Why not begin with this premise for eradicating so much of the violence to humans that your show regularly exposes.
(Newser) � A fire department in rural upstate New York has an unusual way of raising money to buy new gear�a "squirrel slam." Every year, the Holley department organizes a hunt, sells tickets, and hands out prizes for the best carcasses. ("Reds & grays only!!" says the rules.) This year, however, the squirrels have a little ammunition of their own in the form of social media, reports Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle. News of the Feb. 16 hunt is spreading quickly online, and opponents are trying to put a stop to it with petitions on Facebook and Change.org.
"Stop the mass slaughter," demands the latter petition, whose author is particularly incensed that kids as young as 12 can take part. A blogger at Psychology Today similarly complains of the "barbarism." The fire chief says he's been fielding calls from all over the world�even Britain's Daily Mail has weighed in with a story�but he insists the hunt will go on. In fact, almost all of the 700 tickets have sold already.
Bang Bang, We All Fall Down
Replacing the cycle of violence with the cycle of love
What you go and do
You go and give the boy a gun
Now there ain�t place to run to
Ain�t no place to run to
When he hold it in his hand
He feel mighty he feel strong
Now there ain�t no place to run to
Ain�t no place to run
� Tracey Chapman 
This February the Holley Fire Department of Hazzard County, New York, is holding its annual �Squirrel Slam� fundraiser. It marks its seventh year. An advertisement invites teams of two to �spend a day in the woods and then enjoy the party� � that is, killing squirrels. The first prize of $200 goes to the team that brings in the greatest number of dead squirrels. Additional prizes are awarded such as $50 to the 14-year-old-and-under participant who brings in the heaviest dead squirrel.
Aside from the pure barbarism of the overall event, this last bit of information heightens the horror, particularly in light of the recent Newtown massacre of school children. Children are awarded and offered money to use guns and kill.  However, the New York firefighters are not alone.
Many states promote killing and violence in children with such events as the �Mentored Youth Hunter Program�. For example, the website of the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Department (the people and agency responsible for safeguarding wildlife wellbeing) states :
The time shared between a youngster and a mentor is invaluable. There simply is no better way to introduce a young person to. . .hunting than with the close supervision of an adult mentor. . .The Program allows youth 9 through 13 years of age to hunt without first passing an approved hunter education program. It gives unlicensed youngsters the opportunity to receive mentored, one-on-one field experience and training on the. . .enjoyment of hunting.� 
Here are a few statistics that illustrate the consequences when children are encouraged to harm and kill [4,5]:
� Children�s acts of animal abuse are some of the strongest and earliest diagnostic indicators of conduct disorder, often beginning as young as 6-1/2 years of age
All of this should come as no surprise. It is common knowledge, even common sense among teachers, health practitioners, law enforcement, the legal professions, and social services that teaching violence begets violence.
One day he may come back
Repay us for what we�ve done
Then where you gonna run to
Where you gonna run. . .
And if he finds himself to be
A reflection of us all
Bang bang bang
He�ll shoot us down
This widespread understanding and escalating crisis have brought a consensus that intervention is crucial. One sterling example, the Animals & Society Institute, has created a program, AniCare, which in the words of the International Association of Chiefs of Police provides �an effective means of breaking the cycle of family violence from one generation to the next.� [5, 6]
Our society is long past its saturation point for violence. Firefighters of all people appreciate life � human and nonhuman. Their job is saving lives, not taking lives. Let them know by using one of the many petitions asking that the event be cancelled forever. 
Instead of a cycle of violence, let�s promote a cycle of love and compassion for our animal kin.