Zero Pain Tolerance

As activists and conscious individuals, we speak regularly of the pain of non-human animals. We talk of the immeasurable suffering of those trapped in cages and inside laboratories, to the horrors they experience on meat, dairy, egg and fur farms, and wherever else they are exploited for profit — all of which is almost too much for us to bear. Yet, we continue to bring up the troubling topic again and again, with the hope of raising awareness of their plight. The ultimate goal is to inspire sensitive humans to reach out and help free the countless non-humans who are enslaved by an abusive system.

I personally do not like to dwell on the horrors of a life in a cage. Just the thought of being trapped is so frightening to me that I actually try not to think about it.  At the same time, I constantly feel an overwhelming responsibility to those imprisoned to at least do something.

As a collective movement I feel that our main focus tends to be the suffering inherent in intensive farming and nonconsensual testing, where the words “pain”, “suffering”, “torture” and “agony” resound throughout the Animal Rights and Animal Welfare movements, regardless of what particular issues we may be working on.

These words, I assure you, accurately describe the brutal realities that exist, but they are used so repetitively that they have become hollow and devoid of their true meaning. 

For myself, who has been involved in animal rights discussions virtually my entire life — and a committed activist for animals for the last 13 years — these words and others had simply become tools for me in my efforts to free those being killed. Their true meanings had been diluted by my excessive use of them, which I didn’t realize until relatively recently, when my definition of these words was reinstated in my heart and mind.

Four years ago, on February 18th, I witnessed one of my best friends die of cancer. She was my sister and as I watched her suffer intense agony every day for months, until the disease finally took her, the meaning behind those words became all too clear, as they took shape in my own being. The intense personal pain I experienced while watching someone I love die almost destroyed me. The words “pain”, “suffering”, “agony”, “torture” and “misery” were no longer abstract ideas or tools; they were tangible, concrete, physical sensations.

As I grappled with my grief, I found the injustice of it all most troubling. I searched for answers to the multitude of questions her death brought, and the ever present “why?” that followed me wherever I turned for relief.

As an activist, I had been fully aware of the concept of suffering in others, but witnessing first-hand physical pain and torment beyond description, as I watched a loved one writhe in unimaginable anguish, gave new meaning to the words.

I couldn’t come to terms with my sister’s death for many months after her passing. I could not accept that this unthinkable event had taken place. It was some months later when I realized why.  As an activist, I was accustomed to taking on even the most monumental suffering, and seeking out an effective solution. But with this issue of death and grief, there was no solution. There was no way of out it and the resulting hopelessness I felt was crushing me. 

There is a tremendous amount of suffering inherent in this life; suffering that is seemingly unavoidable.  But on the brighter side, a great deal of the suffering in this world IS avoidable and can be brought to an end.

I have zero tolerance for the unnecessary suffering inflicted upon animals or anyone else. Especially in a world where so much pain exists already, how can we allow all this unnecessary pain to go on for even a moment longer? As much as we choose to ignore the fact, every animal killed had a mother, many had children of their own, bothers and sisters or companions who loved them and; therefore, no matter how they were treated before being killed, they and their loved ones all experienced the pain and grief of separation.

I was able to function after my sister’s death only by taking the pain I felt in her loss, and using it to escalate my activism. I transmuted my anger and sorrow into a renewed commitment to the non-humans needlessly enduring  “pain”, “suffering”, “torture” and “agony” at the hands of humans who have grown callous to the true meaning of those words — and to the feelings they describe. 

I have vowed anew to never remain quiet when there are innocent lives on the line … but to speak up loudly, clearly and unremittingly for every animal in the world who is bound for slaughter.



Daylight Chapon
Jade Kiran7 years ago

Please copy/paste the links below and use them in your email signatures, Facebook, CARE2 petitions ...
Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight. ~Albert Schweitzer
The question is not, "Can they reason?" nor, "Can they talk?" but rather, "Can they suffer?" ~Jeremy Bentham

Tricia H.
Tricia Hamilton7 years ago

Just because animals can't talk doesn't mean they can't feel pain. Whoever thinks that they can't feel pain are idiots. Just because they are out of site doesn't mean they should be out of mind.

Katherine Maar
Katherine Maar7 years ago

This has to be one of the most moving and inspirational articles I've ever read.

I just lost one of my rabbits to a fox, and while some may say "It was just a rabbit" or "It's the natural order of things" I believe that humans and animals are equal - I cared for her very much. The worst bit is knowing how she suffered. Whenever I think of her I imagine how scared she must have been and the agony she must have endured. I have to close my eyes tight and think of better things.

I had the pleasure of knowing her for only a few months, I can't imagine how hard it was losing such a dear friend as your own sister. My heart goes out to you, truly. I'm very sorry.

Kathy Javens
Kathy Javens7 years ago

i am so glad you keep bringing this to light. we must not stop the fight. i think the best way to start is with the big business. the factory farms must be stopped first. once they are in line,then the smaller places can be regulated. there should be no torture on animals at any time,but as long as these cruel places are allowed to get away with it,then they will. peace to all.

Jonathan Y.
Jonathan Y7 years ago

It's the large producers and consumers who create the market for massive animal cruelty on a global-industrial scale. So to help the most animals we must put maximum pressure on these large business interests, and find economic incentives for them to market more sustainable and less animal-intensive products. Then they really will have a motivation to change, beyond us just arguing with them. Big business just laughs at the opinions of ordinary citizens, but they take their bottom line quite seriously.

From what I've seen most of the people who work at slaughterhouses and factories are almost as much victims of the animal Auschwitz as consumers of junk food are-they tend to be lower-income folks who just need to make a buck or save a buck, and they do it 'because it is there.' We need to reach out to them too, and try to devise better and more sustainable employment. Not an easy thing, I worked in development programs for years. But it can be effective if you open a sustainable tree nursery next to a slaughterhouse, say, and offer slightly more than the mininmum wage at the animal farm.

There are a few who take sick pleasure in what they do, but that is an artifact of the slaughterhouse system existing in the first place. Society conditions people to follow directions, and to become accustomed to the banality of evil, as the prosecutors discovered at Nuremberg.

Michael P.
Mike P7 years ago

Profound stuff. I, too, want to work towards that world you describe, Keenan, where we humans, because we CAN end unnecessary suffering, DO so. only trouble is, there are too many people sucking oxygen who LOVE inflicting this pain on others. Fur factory workers, seal clubbers, child abusers, puppy mill owners, these people LOVE what they do. And frankly, unless we start openly addressing THESE useless,unscrupulous sacks of protoplasm in a way that makse SENSE, ie getting RID of them, we will never see such a world that you describe. It's funny, we always wanna go after the people who OWN the fur businesses, the CEO of Nestle, the Chef Boyardee Board of Directors, etc, but we always give a pass to the sick, blackend souled cretin who DO the killing for these monstrous corporations. Why is that?

Shraddha J.
Shraddha J7 years ago

DO NOT STOP WRITING! U are very persuasive!

Emma S.
Emma S.7 years ago

Thank you

SANJA l7 years ago

Thank you for shareing this same thoughts i have. I find only comfort in the fighting against it whatsoever the result.

Cheryl Ulrich
Cheryl Ulrich7 years ago

Thank you so much for this article. I'm so very sorry for your loss. :( Why does there have to be so much suffering in this world , both animal and human ??