Trapped inside a cage barely bigger than your body. Standing, sitting and lying in your own excrement. Having to fight for a share of what little food and water there is.

These are the conditions faced by millions of animals across the world. From the emotive – dog farms in South Korea and bear farms in China – to the too often overlooked – millions of hens forced to live in tiny cages on intensive factory farms – animals are the great forgotten tragedy of our world.

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The majority of these animals have no hope of rescue. The majority of these animals face these dire conditions until the day arrives when the one person that could prevent their misery actually causes them further suffering, as they are dragged out and sent on their final journeys to slaughter.

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But what if the hands that lift them from their prison belong to people that offer only love and kindness? 

These rescuers are motivated by the sorrow that comes from wishing animals had not had to suffer at all. Even the rescue is tainted by the knowledge that these rescued animals are the “lucky” ones, and millions more continue to live in abhorrent conditions.

But to be in a position to rescue animals means you have already had to face several battles. These people have overcome obstacles designed to prevent these acts of kindness from ever taking place. There are the lies told by industries that these abusive practices are anything but abusive, that they are necessary as they provide essential foods, clothing and medicines for the people. There are also the cultural rationalizations – which hold that anyone in disagreement “cannot possibly understand.”

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In the short term, the abusive industries and the lies told by the perpetrators of abuse continue to win – as they stack up far more kills and far more suffering than the hands of kindness can ever compete with.

But the hands of kindness show the world that there is an alternative.

This alternative is one in which we show respect for all of the individuals with whom we share our planet, and ensure none have to suffer for us ever again.

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I know which hands I am holding onto.