It's Time to Stop Giving Evil a Pass

Image courtesy of David Paul Ohmer
via Creative Commons.
Recently I came across a powerful essay by Lauren Ornelas, founder of the wonderful Food Empowerment Project, who asks "When did slavery get a pass?" She says:
"All of us are raised in a society that indoctrinates us to believe that animal consumption and, in fact, many forms of animal exploitation (animal testing for cosmetics or keeping animals in captivity for human amusement, for example) are acceptable. So, I tend to give people some latitude if they haven’t thought about these issues and don’t really know the details about them.

However, none of us have been raised to believe that slavery is acceptable. In fact, most of us look back at slavery in the US and abroad as a scar on humanity – as something that we later learned was reprehensible and inexcusable.

And yet, it seems that slavery today gets some sort of pass. Now, is that because much of the slavery taking place (and here I am specifically speaking about commercial slavery) is done at the hands of corporations? Is it because some feel it is too inconvenient to make changes in their lives so they don’t contribute to it? Is it because people just don’t know about the issue? Or is it because much of the slavery is happening abroad?" 

She goes on to focus on the issue of slavery in the chocolate industry as an example. She notes that Hershey's and other companies say that they're working on the issue. She says:
"How can a company say they are working on it? Why don’t they say they are outraged and will ensure these farmers are paid a living wage so that they are not forced to enslave children to do the job?  Is it the extra house? The yacht? What is it?

Is chocolate addiction so serious that they know people just can’t give it up even to make this world a more just place? Do they know that people simply accept that the corporations are 'doing their best' and leave it at that?"

Lauren's anger and frustration is understandable, and it spurred me to think about how often we give evil of all sorts a pass. We know why we continue to make choices that cause a lot of harm: to do otherwise can be expensive, inconvenient or take more time than we want/have; sometimes there isn't a better option available; and sometimes we make that choice because our desires overcome our will.

We can't make humane choices 100% of the time, but we can commit to doing our best to do the most good, and to actively work to change systems that are causing harm. In the example of chocolate, we can commit to buying only vegan, slave-free chocolate. We can educate and inspire friends, family, and co-workers. We can contact companies that still use slave chocolate and persist in lobbying them to change their policies and practices. And we can support organizations that work to change these systems.

Every day we're faced with countless opportunities to say NO to giving evil a pass. We can choose not to be silent. We can choose not to be a bystander. We can choose to say YES to creating a just, compassionate, healthy world for all.

~ Marsha

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