Via Andrea Balt
on Feb 25, 2012
get elephant's newsletter

Another case for hybrids.


I’ve never found the right words to describe my love for animals. I’ve even tried barking, meowing, chirping and pretty much everything else except for sea-horsing.

Like all other forms of love, I suppose it’s unreasonable at its core –-not because it’s inferior to reason but superior. It transcends language so it can never be fully captured by words.

Poetry then happens as a creative—although not perfect—attempt to fill the void between the end of reason and whatever love must be. If love is the moon, poetry would be the finger, pointing to it. And again, this is poetry.

Considering love, animals and the imperative need for poetry to narrow the gap, it was inevitable that I’d fall in love with Walt Whitman, sooner or later. Here is what he he said to me last night:

“I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.

They do not sweat and whine about their condition,
They do not lie awake in the dark and weep for their sins,
They do not make me sick discussing their duty to God,
Not one is dissatisfied, not one kneels to another, nor to his kind that lived thousands of years
Not one is respectable or unhappy over the whole earth.

So they show their relations to me and I accept them,
They bring me tokens of myself, they evince them plainly in their possession.
I wonder where they get those tokens,
Did I pass that way huge times ago and negligently drop them?”

                                          (Song of Myself)

And then of course, there’s darkness.

By the time Walt Whitman wrote his poem, humans weren’t torturing over 50 billion animals worldwide, each year (mostly factory-farmed pigs, chickens and cows). We weren’t experimenting on thousands of dogs, rabbits, rats and monkeys with all kinds of unnecessary viruses, toxic cosmetics, cleaning products, or alleged psychological (bullsh*t) tests, which only serve to bolster PhD resumes (think sentient beings electrocuted, skinned alive, and diseased to say the least). We weren’t breeding them for profit, then abandoning or killing them.

We weren’t polluting our already weathered and monsantoed fields with three times the poop of the entire human species per year, contaminating our soil and our water reserves. We weren’t literally destroying the rainforest and burning down our ecosystem just to produce more pounds of flesh. We weren’t doing any of these mad, unreasonable, sociopathic, f*cked up things.

(Photo: Tumblr)

People have always eaten animals, they’ve even eaten each other at certain points in history.

I don’t want to discuss whether this choice is right or wrong, natural or unnatural, healthy or sick, because dear human, we’ve got a bigger problem than morality right now.

It seems like most battles in the Omnivore vs. Vegetarian/Vegan war start by shooting morality and feelings at each other.

We each judge one another from our own paradigm of what’s fair or healthy or right and what’s not.

It’s as if I tried to convince you that Spanish is a more valid language than English – and presented my arguments to you in Spanish.

As such, the only understanding—or even the beginning of an understanding—between both sides is finding a common ground, a sort of Spanglish, a language we can all speak: Humanimal, methinks. If there’s any hope or place for this common language, we must move beyond the dead-end alley of eating vs. not eating; and into another dimension, more intrinsic to both human and animal nature: compassion, as some people like to call it.

Compassion also springs from love —not from love as a feeling, that ephemeral “love” that comes and goes with the weather; but love as a conscious and basic identity –-the universal force that shapes our humanity and fuels all life. I can’t stand my neighbor, but I don’t think I’d ever cook him for dinner.

Peter Singer said it best:

“All the arguments to prove man’s superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals”.

The point isn’t whether animals are intelligent or not, or how much or little they know or how superior or equal we are to them. The mere point is that they’re hurting. You can’t argue with pain, you can only feel it and you can only wish that it stops.

I don’t want to have to add “non-judgmental” when mentioning my veganism just as I wouldn’t want to have to add “non-cruel” if I were an omnivore. I wonder how much pain we’re supposed or allowed to inflict upon others (humans and animals) in order to live a “decent” or “pleasant” life.  It’s a small world, I get it, but is it so small that it can’t put up with everyone’s right to a life free of torture?

Yet, the same suffering we cause each other can also be the invisible glue that brings both sides together, and levels out any excess of radicalism or cruelty. After all, compassion is recycled pain.

In other words, I don’t particularly care whether you eat animals or not. The issue is too big for me (or others) to settle. It’s like religion, I don’t believe you when you say your god is better (and it makes me like him less).

What I care to know —what I think I know— is that you’re human enough to try to avoid suffering, especially when such suffering is continually and consciously inflicted on a global and sociopathic scale, and it’s already coming around to get us. You know, what goes around…

Vegans who don’t kill animals, but only people? Omnivores who torture animals (or pay others to do so) but respect people? Not working. Non-sustainable. Not helping. Get me out of here!

Just as there is an animal in every human, the opposite must also be true: There must a human in every animal. As if you didn’t roar like a pissed off lion when your morning alarm goes off… or just roared, in general.

A common ground. A cry for help. Pain. Nausea. Equilibrium?

(Photo: Melissa Brandts - - via Tumblr)

Humanimal is a strange language. It doesn’t have many words. It listens more than it talks. Like us, it’s a hybrid.

So I lie awake at night, not because I’m locked up in a cage without sunlight; not because I can’t stretch my legs or because my body is sore from all the bleeding and beating. Or because I’m gonna get my guts pulled out in the morning and I still miss my mother. See,  I’m only 3 months old and filled with hormones and no idea—really—what life…who life is for.  Not me?

No, I’m not locked up in a cage, I’m locked up in a system that not only allows but promotes and even pays for suffering. And I can’t stretch my own arms long enough to stop it. I’d need about a million extra arms, and a couple hundred thousand legs. Or maybe more.

From the cruelest century in history an with a the bright ink of misused blood on my hands, I emailed Walt Whitman. I heard Google does time travel now (a new experimental feature, don’t try at home!). But he’s probably better off not reading this.

“I think that I could turn and die with animals, they are so you and me, I stand and feel through them long and long.

They don’t insult us for pulling out their eyeballs or throwing them alive into a blender, but only beg us –in another language– that we stop.
They don’t lie awake at night and scheme on how to get back at us in Holy War; they lie awake because the only way they’ll fit into their cage is by standing.
They don’t make me drink blood in the name of God, but enjoy my meals with a conscience, in the name of Life.

Not one is depressed, not one steals from another, not one is bitter, not one spends an entire life at a miserable job only to accumulate dead plastic stuff that somehow, lives forever.

Not one is proud, not one meows or chirps shit about another, and when they’re tired, they sleep.

So they show me their hairy, naked joy and make me laugh,
They take me back to that one country I should have never left, return that bark I should have never silenced.
I wonder how they can do this to me,
Did I accidentally lose myself in their anonymous, faceless cry?

Once the email is sent, I watch these videos of different, unlikely combinations of animals and all I have is questions:

What is natural? Is it more natural to eat a chicken than a dog? Is it natural for a cat and a bird to hang together? Would the cat kill the bird if the cat was hungry? If I found a dying animal on the street and I was hungry, would I sink my teeth in it with yummy eagerness? Would my instinct tell me to eat it or beat it? Or take it to the nearest vet?

Does frying/roasting creatures make it more humane? Does boiling something wash the pain away?

Where does all the suffering go? Does it stay in the atmosphere? Does it hunt us down in ways that supersede our linear logic? If everything can be reduced to energy–if love is also energy– then suffering is messed up energy. Could it be that, among my daily dose of oxygen, I’m also breathing in the pain of a million tortured animals? How does it affect me in ways beyond my knowledge or imagination, and where could I hide from it?

What could each one of us do to stop the bloody massacre, considering our different circumstances, beliefs, traditions, habits, choices, languages, intellect and daily power? Even despite our different opinions, should we accept Humanimals for who we are: unique, unlikely creatures… but painfully (and sometimes, inconveniently) alive?

Is it up to us to save them/ourselves or should we wait for someone else?

[Photos: via Tumblr /]

~ Like elephant journal for animal rights on Facebook. ~


About Andrea Balt

Co-Founder / Editor in Chief of Rebelle Society, Wellness Alchemist at Rebelle Wellness & Creativity Curator at Creative Rehab. Unfinished book with a love for greens, bikes and poetry; raised by wolves & adopted by people; not trying to make art but to Be Art. Holds a BA in Journalism & Mass Communication, an MFA in Creative Writing & a Holistic Health Coach degree from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. In her work she tries to reflect the wholeness of the human experience by combining Art & Health + Brains & Beauty + Darkness & Brilliance into a more alive, unabridged and unlimited edition of ourselves. She is also on a quest to reinstate Creativity as one of our essential Human Rights to (hopefully and soon) be included in the UN Declaration. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram and sign up for her Monthly Stroke of Renaissance.


12 Responses to “Humanimals.”

  1. catnipkiss says:

    Andrea, I'm with you. But what do we DO about it all? I feel good about my recent choice to not eat animals anymore. Beyond that, I don't know. Anyway, thanks for writing this, it gets one thinking (thinking is a good start!) Fellow Animal Lover – Alexa M.

  2. Andréa Balt says:

    Hey Alexa, thanks for reading, that's what I was asking too. I think it's both a general and a personal problem, and as such there are general solutions such as the incredible work done by animal rights organizations and the like; as well as personal ones, like your decision to stop eating animals altogether.

    I feel like our inability to work together on this issue comes from the fact that we're either extremist and controlling about it (each side trying to push its agenda on the other) and also that we're focusing on the differences rather than on the first and most important issue. This is why I find it so similar to religion, in a way.

    If we could all just agree on this one point and start to think creatively from there on, I think there'd be a chance to reverse the madness. This doesn't necessarily imply that we should all stop eating meat; although, just like you, I've also come to that conclusion a long time ago and never looked back (& for more reasons than animal suffering). It's my take, it's what I can do in my circumstances. Someone else's "action" might be different but the point is that everyone can do something, even if small, something is better than nothing. We get so caught up in the "why" that we forget the "what".

    Humanimal sigh.

  3. Jill Barth says:

    I posted this to the Elephant Green Facebook page. Thanks for sharing!

    Jill Barth, Green Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Green on Facebook

  4. karlsaliter says:

    Re what to do, I like these guys, and support them.

  5. karlsaliter says:

    Excellent! Where DOES all the suffering go? You pose the "interesting non-linear question of the year." Just posted to Elephant Spirituality on Facebook.

  6. Andréa Balt says:

    Thanks Karl for sharing & posting & commenting & loving them/us. Hugs.

  7. Andréa Balt says:

    Mindful comment form Facebook.

    ~ Michael West: The animal thing is important to me in this way. If we somehow repress in ourselves the knowledge of the great suffering we put animals through, if we teach our children that it's ok to eat animals, to raise them for killing, and not to worry too much about how they are treated along the way… how much easier to justify killing other people, who we can relegate to animal status, and if its ok to kill animals, its ok to kill people, too.

  8. karlsaliter says:

    Cheers to Michael. Killing is killing, (and death can be fatal.)

  9. Andréa Balt says:

    Good point. 🙂 (the one in parentheses).

  10. Andréa Balt says:

    Inspiring FB comment I must share:

    ~ Maru García: This was wonderful!. Matthew Scully, the one that wrote 'Dominion', says that the point is not to prove them equal or having rights to encourage compassion toward them, maybe it is the the total opposite. It is because they stand unequal and helpless in front of us why that they should be protected. It is the decent thing to do, as simple as that.
    I read today that compassion is the new ethical intelligence. I loved it. And I think I know where all that suffering go, it is infecting the whole world…

    ~Andrea – digging this: "compassion is the new ethical intelligence."