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Say Yes To Giving Back!


By Cynthia Sampson
Animal welfare activist and supporter of REBSEA

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights.
That is the way of the whole human being.”
~ Abraham Lincoln

As highlighted in a previous article here, a notable number of REBSEA members are committed activists in their communities for animal welfare and animal rights. In fact REBSEA was created by over 100 Realtors who have been donating to non-profits for quite some time and many of them have been directing their donations specifically to animal welfare organizations. Their Charter Member program is attracting other Realtors who will be donating to non-profits as well and a sizable number of them are also focused on animal welfare as the cause that they are passionate about. As of now there are about 250 Realtors comprising the REBSEA network with new members joining each and every day. What does this tell us about the REBSEA community and, more broadly, about American life as it is developing today? For one, we are always finding innovative ways to deal with problems that persist. 

Several REBSEA members have created innovative programs in their communities to improve the welfare of animals. What is most encouraging is the fact that a program such as the one founded by Brenda Breit of Scottsdale, Az. is now being considered by several other REBSEA members who are determined to create the same program in their community. Brenda founded an organization that has rescued over 2200 animals left behind to starve in foreclosed properties. Imagine if the REBSEA network, with so many members committed to animal welfare, can spread the word and share the information necessary to build a program like this in many other communities? Every community should have a program like this. As Realtors they are in a position to help make this a reality. And there are many other ways that Realtors can help to improve the welfare and quality of life of animals. REBSEA intends to help find the way to implement many programs that have been successful across the U.S. and Canada. Of course, Realtors are keenly aware of the importance of companion animals in the lives of their clients, not to mention, I have no doubt, in their own lives. But moving beyond our own loved cats and dogs (I have two kitties who are profoundly precious to me), we are learning so much more about animals these daysundefinedabout their emotional lives, intellectual capacities, and behaviorsundefinedas well as about how we interact with them and the relationships among different species.

We need not be surprised by this. Not only are we opening our hearts and our researchers’ eyes to the realities of other creatures’ lives; but if humans are evolvingundefinedand one hopes that we are!undefinedthen doesn’t it also stand to reason that other species are also evolving in their own forms of consciousness and capacities and behaviors?

And as anybody knows who is on as many animal-related list-serves as I’m on, a great deal is happening as well at the inter-species level. Think, for example, of the story of the South African elephants who traveled long distances and assembled for twelve hours to honor the life and mourn the death of Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who had saved their lives (seeElephants mourn Death . Or of dog mothers that nurse orphaned kittens or bunnies (or vice versa). Or the celebrated story of the 130-year-old giant tortoise, Mzee, who adopted Owen, a baby hippopotamus swept ashore in Kenya by the massive Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004 (see Hippo and Tortoise. Stories like these abound and never fail to inspire and not infrequently, if you’re like me, move us to tears.

As a matter of fact, perhaps the most-loved and replayed commercial from Superbowl 2014 is the Budweiser video of the puppy who is being adopted out from one farm to another. But this resourceful little rascal pup keeps escaping back to his original home to be with his special horse friend in the barn and romping in the field 

The stories I find most moving of all, though, are those of animals freed from research labs or some other form of captivity and setting foot on grass or strawundefinedor paddling in waterundefinedfor the first time. Check out these deeply moving and inspiring videos of chimpanzees, ducks, beagles, and hensundefinedprecious creatures receiving love and human kindness for the first time in their lives: Chimps see daylight for first time
So what is this about? Why do our relationships with other creatures touch us so profoundly and draw out our own higher natures?

The celebrated Scottish-American naturalist and author John Muir, during a thousand-mile hike to the Gulf of Mexico, wrote about animals he encountered as "beautiful in the eyes of God ... part of God's family, unfallen, undepraved, and cared for with the same species of tenderness as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth."
Two other leading thinkers have written about the need for us to enlarge our circle of compassion as essential to our own progress and finding peace.

Albert Einstein described the human tendency to experience ourselves, our “thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of … consciousness.” He saw this delusion as “a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.” We can free ourselves from this prison by “widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in all its beauty.” And, “the striving for such achievement is in itself part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.” There’s a lot going on in this quote by Einstein!

Albert Schweitzer honed in more explicitly on our treatment of animals and how it relates to our own quest for peace:
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, humanity will not find peace.

Even Martin Luther King, Jr., championed the cause of animals: “Never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the wellbeing of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds on our soul when we look the other way.”
I see the protection of other creatures as the ultimate rights movement. It is a call for us to be the voice of the voiceless.
Again, we’re learning so much these days about the “personhood” of other creatures. Two major developments happened in what may be a game-changing week for animal protection last December (2013).

The week began, on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with the filing of three court cases in three courts in New York State pressing for nonhuman personhood rights for four captive chimpanzees (more on this below). It ended with a conference at Yale University on "Personhood Beyond the Human," attended by leading scholarsundefinedphilosophers, historians, scientistsundefinedplus the occasional just-plain-citizen activist … me! (For a good write-up of the conference see Are Animals People?.)
The lead convening organization was the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology (IEET), headed by James Hughes, and its Nonhuman Rights Project (see Nonhuman Rights).
At the conference attorney Steven Wise told how he has waited thirty years for the legal climate to be right for the type of hopefully precedent-setting legal action being taken in New York, and he has discerned that the time is now. (A video of his talk is at Ethics in animal treatment.)

And so, the three cases were filed in three lower courts in New York in early December, with every expectation that they would be thrown that same month for lack of law or legal precedent. And so they were. Wise's plan is to appeal them up to the New York Supreme Court.
What was remarkable, though, was that two of the three lower court judges, in immediately rejecting the filings, expressed their sympathy for the argument. One judge quoted in the article (linked above), said "What a great argument. You lose!" What the article doesn't recount, though, is that judge also said in so many words (not a direct quote), "I wish you well. I love animals." A second judge also expressed sympathy for the case though not quite as personally.
And so, we are hopefully on what will surely be a long legal and legislative path of protecting other creatures from the types of abuse they receive by the billions in the United States (an
estimated ten billion a year) in research labs, on factory farms, in circuses and other forms of “entertainment,” and through other cruel and abusive practices.

Let me leave you with another favorite quote of mine. It is by American author Henry Beston from his 1927 book, The Outermost House, which he wrote during a year spent alone in a cottage on Cape Cod. “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals,” Beston suggests. We have tended to “patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves.” But, he asserts,
[T]herein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth.

Let me close by extending warm appreciation to those realtors reading this who are undefined or will be undefined engaged at the leading edge of “inter-national” (meaning “inter-species”) peacemaking, newly defined, right in your own neighborhoods and communities!

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