Posts tagged ‘cats’

April 17, 2008

– Of why we destroy X to produce Y –

My sister, who loves animals but eats them on a daily basis, has been wanting to volunteer at a wildlife sanctuary. Without giving it much thought I have agreed to take part on this pilgrimage, mainly because it didn’t occur to me that she would actually follow through with this idea and be prepared to travel 30 hours by plane only to get up at 6am to feed animals. But when my beloved sister started sending me links to different websites, explaining about the everyday duties we will have at the sanctuaries, I realized that this adventure was close at hand and had to really invest some thought into it. While volunteering I would be feeding orphaned predators with cow flesh. Cows that have been raised on what were once lush jungles. It’s a known fact that the amazons are being ‘cleared off’ (another term that is used in our modern day euphemistic language: ” cleared off” instead of “cut off” or simply “destroyed“) to make space so cows can be raised for their meat, or that soy can be grown to feed ‘cattle’.

So let us consider the twisted facts for a moment: First we “clear off” land in order to raise animals for food, and by that, destroying the lives of it’s inhabitants. Then we build sanctuaries so we may protect those who were there first. Then we feed them with the same animals, which we produce, raise and kill in the place where these wild animals used to live and care for themselves. So basically:

We kill X to produce Y so we can kill Y and feed it to X.

It has already been written that many endangered species organizations have caused considerable damage to farm animals. Teaching people to care for wildlife has caused an immense gap between jungle cats and house cats, between wild boars and genetically engineered pigs. Over the last decades, we were taught that some animals, which were hunted for their exotic furs, tusks or skins are to be protected. The WWF, for instance, has educated us that some animal populations are diminishing and should be protected from the modern world, where hunting is done not with a bow or a sphere but with guns. There are many sanctuaries specializing in caring for wild animals and only some (depending on the country, of course) to protect those whom we do not only murder by the billions each year but manufacture them to become our products.

So why do we feel compassion for one and appetite for another?

One theory I managed to conjure up is simply historical: Over the years, since people have gathered berries and roots they also hunted animals. Since then they also “learned” to raise and produce animals so they will supply them of all their needs: milk, eggs, leather, fur, wool and meat. Some wild animals were in real danger of getting extinct (while others went ahead and became extinct), and people realized, eventually, that they simply must protect what is left of these species. And so, wildlife organizations sprouted, and people donated money to them and in return received personalized name and address stickers. Unfortunately, while killing white rhinos (couldn’t say that anymore for the South African elephants!) is not only illegal but considered “bad” by most, killing cows is a worldly routine.

Abandoning the Bolivian sanctuary craze I have decided to contribute my time at a place which is idealistically pure: a vegan farm sanctuary. A place where animals are given a chance to live out their lives in peace. Animals who were found dying on the way to the slaughterhouse, on the side of the road, or simply not “fit for sale” at auctions. The people at the sanctuary do not eat or use these animals in any way. Heaven. I will be volunteering at the British ‘Friend’ during the month of June.

Animal Rights organizations are relentlessly trying to show just how “cute” or “clever” farm animals are, how much they resemble “house pets”. Maybe the reason for this effort is to produce compassion. Meanwhile, wildlife organizations prefer to show us how beautiful wild animals are, how exotic and basically: sexy. With wildlife it’s not really about compassion. It’s more about respect.

Maybe, what farm animals need is respect. Respect for being live creatures who share this amazing planet with us and would rather not be born and raised only to become one’s lunch. Without the need to be “sweet” or “lovable”, but simply because they are creatures who feel pain, fear and love.

Being vegan is not about what one has to “give up”, nor is it about our own pleasures or the compassion we possess. It is about the most basic idea that no one is ours to use in any way.

My sister decided not to join me at the sanctuary, for in her own words: caring for horses and pigs is not so attractive as caring for tigers and monkeys. Many people think in this way. My cousin who journeyed with me a couple of years ago to the Gaza Strip, in order to save dogs and cats who were left by the settlers, enjoys burgers at McDonalds at any given chance. Mostly she likes the ‘Happy Meal’, which is far from being happy. Yes, it is great that she came to help, but it is complete hypocrisy to adore kittens and murder lambs. To send a check out to save lions and go out for a steak dinner. These two things simply contradict one another. If you want to save wildlife, stop taking their space: stop consuming animals who are raised on their land. It’s really that simple.

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April 5, 2008

– Humans are not Humane.

A  beautiful person I know encouraged me to write. When I asked what about, the answer was: ‘You know, humanity and things like that. You should just write.’ I sat down to write, and realized that the term “humanity” is too positive of a term. It brings out associations from the word “humane”. Sadly enough, there’s not much “humane” about humans.

A better word to describe this human race of ours is simply: “people”. And in any case, it’s not humanity that concerns me so, but what it does to others.

There are number of questions, which are constantly on my mind: Why do people distinguish between wild animals they observe and photograph to those they hunt? Why do people use their religious beliefs to reaffirm themselves that using animals (whether it’s for food, sacrifice or any other form of murder) is indeed the word of god? And the question of the day is: why do people differentiate between “pets” to farm animals?

I would like to believe that the love for domesticated animals, as well as compassion for the farmed ones go hand in hand. Maybe it’s a good start: first learning that cats and dogs can feel pain, fear and love, and then relating these ‘attributes’ to other animals. Because isn’t this what it’s all about: people learning to empathize with animals, come to realize that they can also feel the same feelings that people can, and by that show some compassion?

The past week I have spent in Tel Aviv, which is where I was born, partially raised in, escaped from, returned to, left again, and now longing to come back to. Tel-Avivians are very helpful when it comes to cats and dogs. It is also true that vegetarianism and veganism is much more common in Israel than many other western countries (are we a “western” country? there’s another debate), definitely more than Berlin, which is where these words are being written in. However, Israel had and still has an acute strays situation and although there are barely any stray dogs to be seen roaming around Tel Aviv, there are many stray cats, feeding from trash bins, kittens dying from eye infections and very sadly: abuse. Still, I honestly can’t think of a single person or a family that does not have a dog, a cat or both living in their apartment.

My aunt is a perfect example. Living on a ground floor in a very nice area of Jerusalem she has been feeding, caring for and giving shelter to an endless amount of cats over the years. She has also started an organization for helping stray cats in Jerusalem; their main cause is to spay and neuter strays so they don’t reproduce. But meat she eats eagerly and wants nothing to do with my veganism talks.

A short stop by an animal shelter, somewhere in the middle of Scotland’s highlands, demonstrated to me, again, just how bizarre people are: The workers get dispatched and save animals that were neglected, lost or abused. They bring them in, take care of them and hopefully find them a good adoptive family. Only one girl from the team doesn’t eat animals. Sure, the job that these people are doing is not less than angelic, but again I lose connection to reality when faced with the question of why do people make that vicious distinction between different species? How can someone save animals 8 hours a day and then go home and have a steak dinner? Sadly, I know, that the question is how can one save humans all day, like a doctor and then go home and have a steak dinner. Why save one life and take another? But on the differentiation between humans and animals I will write later on. What is so illogical is still that ultimate question of saving one animal and killing another.

<First published on March 24th 2008>

 

 

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