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What goes around
I was pleased to read Tom Regan's article on the inhumane treatment of other animals that is so rampant in our society (The Myth of "Humane" Treatment, Feb 10). What makes the abuse of other animals especially troubling is the amount of either ignorance or sheer denial of the abuses. Of course, this is not surprising. Who wants to think about how her hamburger, fur trim or deodorant was made? It makes us uncomfortable to associate these products with animal suffering and then to acknowledge our own contribution to this suffering.

Unfortunately, there are also those who believe that other animals aren't capable of suffering or of experiencing pain in the way humans do. As a neurologist, I can guarantee that this is false. Pigs, chickens, cats, apes, birds and mice are all sentient creatures with fully developed neurological systems that enable them to feel the full spectrum of pain and emotions that we commonly attribute only to humans. They experience loneliness, grief, fear and joy. However, in the food, entertainment, research and clothing industries, these animals are treated as mere commodities and are denied the freedom to simply live without constant pain and suffering, a freedom we all ask for ourselves.

The recognition of animal suffering does not imply that one must neglect human suffering, contrary to popular perception. The animal rights community is not asking us to stop fighting against human injustices. They are just asking that we extend our notions of compassion, justice and ethics to other animals as well. It is not an either/or situation.

We can all help both. By simply choosing one plate of food over another at dinnertime, we can help other animals. It is as easy as that.

The animal rights community is challenging us to be consistent with our ethical principles. If we are opposed to institutionalized abuse and injustice against our fellow humans, then we also need to acknowledge the injustices inflicted upon other animals.
Aysha Akhtar, M.D.
Durham

Good timing
Mrs. Coggins' story about her and her partner's wedding in San Francisco was absolutely inspirational and the timing (though accidental) could not have been more perfect, coming as it did simultaneously with Mr. Bush's announcement that equal access to civil marriage was so in danger of being granted to same-sex couples by "activist courts" that the U.S. Constitution needed to be patched to prevent it, and hastily. I read the news of Mr. Bush's announcement with sadness and anger and felt down all afternoon. Then I came home, picked up a copy of the Independent and my heart leapt when I saw the cover. Mrs. Coggins' beautiful and personal story made it clear that the issue is not one of legal rights merely but of symbolism so powerful that it transforms people. To be recognized by society as equal rather than inferior is even more important than all the legal benefits that accompany civil marriage.

Thanks to Mrs. Coggins for sharing her story, and thanks to the Independent for publishing it.
Floyd Bullard
Durham

Thanks for other view
Thank you, thank you, thank you for Lee Coggins' article on her and Suzanne's experience getting married in San Francisco.

Due to the way the media made the gay marriage experience look like a circus, and its focus on same-sex marriage opponents, I would never have known about all the warmth and kindness and support received by those who were experiencing one of the most important days of their lives.
Francine Less
Durham

Correction
In an article about librarians and the Patriot Act (Local Librarians are Bookmarking the Dangers," Feb. 18) the name of the chair of the RTP Chapter of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, Christian Stalberg, was misspelled.

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