Promoting Peace to Save Us All
By Liz White | Director
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”
On this Remembrance Day, none of us can deny the truth of that statement about the high cost of war – costs that extend beyond the death and misery caused by the conflicts themselves. People, including Canadians, are left unfed, unhoused and without needed medical care while military spending increases world-wide. Hunger, the lack of shelter and care and failure to address our climate crisis are also true costs of war.
The author of the opening quotation was Dwight D. Eisenhower, the American general who oversaw the invasion of Normandy during World War II. That’s the same Eisenhower who warned against the growing influence of “the military-industrial complex.”
He gave that warning in his farewell speech as President of the United States:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”
Today, we see around us the proof that Eisenhower’s warning has not been heeded, and that this former soldier was correct in his assessment of how wars are often linked to the economic machinations of those who profit from them. Since that warning we have experienced numerous wars around the world, every one of them a tragedy – none of them the glorious undertaking we are rallied to believe they will be. So much suffering, with no end in sight.
Canada is also complicit.
There is money to be made in the manufacture and proliferation of arms and equipment. That’s why Canada’s government continues to sell Light- Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia, in spite of that kingdom’s human rights abuses. In order to protect high-paying manufacturing jobs, Canadian governments led by both Conservatives and Liberals have continued to promote sales of military equipment to a regime that is engaged in a proxy war in Yemen, a war that has led to mass deaths of civilians, many from starvation. Our federal government sees an opportunity to boost our own economy by allowing the sale of war machines. In the 2018 Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada, Saudi Arabia is the recipient of almost 62% of Canada’s military goods and services. Our hands are dirty too.
Promoting peace is a serious undertaking, one that is at odds with our current foreign relations and economic policies. While I don’t have easy answers to share in this short discussion, I do urge us all to question vigorously political leaders when they ramp up aggressive language against other nations. Aggressive rhetoric and framing other nations and their peoples as the ‘enemy’ is often used to prepare us to support armed conflict. Demonizing other peoples as the ‘other’ is used as a prelude to imperialism, exploitation and conflict.
Peace for All Animals
We animal advocates in North America can sometimes view people of other cultures as being crueler to animals than we are. We encounter such comments sometimes on our Facebook page when we share articles on practices like the live export of horses to Asian nations to be slaughtered for use as a raw meat delicacy. Commenters sometimes accuse those who eat horse meat of being excessively cruel, ignoring the fact it’s Canadians who are selling and shipping those horses, and that it’s our own government that allows it.
The rise of the Coronavirus pandemic has led to anger expressed toward Chinese people because of the ‘wet’ markets where the virus is believed to have originated. It’s undeniable that those wet markets are sources of great animal suffering, as well as posing a danger to human health. But Canada, too, is home to wet markets and live animal markets. And we have vile factory farms that pose significant threat of zoonotic disease transmission. Worse still, Canada is home to poorly regulated animal research facilities where animals endure unimaginable suffering, much of it to develop new products to sell – torment and misery for the sake of profit.
Our society’s willingness to tolerate violence against animals for profit and human convenience degrades our sense of decency and compassion. The cultural acceptance of violence inflicted on sensitive animals, beings who experience pain as greatly as we do, prepares us to accept violence toward other people too. It would take a mighty act of political will to adapt our national economy to one that is more compassionate, that does not believe the torment and suffering of animals is worthwhile as long as somebody is making a buck from that suffering. Yet, if we truly long for peace, that is what we must do.
Albert Schweitzer said
“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it.
Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things [beings], humanity will not find peace.”
So, for Remembrance Day 2020, let’s remember all of the suffering inflicted by wars: suffering inflicted on every civilian including children, soldiers who are often coerced into participation, and animals who never consent to be used. That suffering also includes our elderly who do not receive the care they need in nursing homes because our governments tell us we cannot afford to hire enough workers. Suffering that includes mentally ill Canadians living in homeless encampments because they do not receive the health care and support they need. The money that is spent on war and preparation for war could be used to provide better lives for every Canadian. That, too, is part of the high cost of war.
Voting for Peace
This year, let’s not only remember with sadness, but let’s resolve to support peace by voting for politicians who promote inclusion of all: peoples, communities, animals and the environment; and who resist scapegoating others. We can protest the manufacture and export of war equipment. We can be alert to examining the ways that we accept and promote violence in our own culture, including acceptance of the torment and exploitation of non-human animals that is so closely interwoven into our nation’s economy.
These will require profound changes in political thought and economic structures. Economic re-structuring is always thought to be painful but in fact is liberating as it can extend compassion, caring and protection to all. Those who rely on industries that promote violence toward humans or animals will need to be supported as their businesses and employment are phased out. With some creative thinking we can employ countless Canadians by improving our aging infrastructure, providing good care to elderly and vulnerable people in our society, and building affordable housing. In short, we can employ people by caring for each other and creating a rich and vibrant society.
But as we contemplate the immense suffering of those who have directly experienced armed conflicts, we cannot pretend that the suffering caused by lost employment or profits is in any way comparable to the suffering caused by war.
My wish for all of us this Remembrance Day 2020 is that we should not sentimentalize the very real suffering of veterans, civilians, and animals caused by wars.
Instead, I am challenging us all to be ‘Peace Promoters’ and to resist violence in all of its forms.
And, one last note: Pigs are also direct victims of Canada’s war machine as the Department of National Defense is still using pigs to train military personnel in trauma intervention, a practice that has been abandoned by most NATO nations. Other animals are being used to test antidotes to chemical weapons. These experiments are taking place in secret with little, if any, oversight.