Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Living Humanely in an Inhumane World… September 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — A Random Life @ 9:32 am

The other day I sucked myself into the never-old “vegan cat” debate (for the record, I am vehemently opposed to feeding cats vegan food, but that’s not here nor there). During this discussion, one person brought up the point that dozens of animals are made to suffer for the life of one cat, which had me thinking of a million other points…

When I chose to take in my feline friend, I promised to take care of him to the best of my ability. And that included feeding him food that would best nourish his body…Admittedly, I am not thrilled about the fact that his canned food consists of animals that were tortured & killed in factory farms, but it’s not the only situations that comes to mind when I think of suffering & consumption. I am not particularly thrilled that many animals were tested on and killed so I can take medicine to relieve my ails. Or that the produce I eat may have been picked by the hands of day labourers who are exploited by big businesses. And it doesn’t particularly please me to think that the clothes on my back and/or the doll I bought my niece for her 2nd birthday could have been made by a person working in the worst of conditions. But unfortunately, that is the reality of the situation. There is someone out there suffering just so that we can live with the basics (save my niece’s doll, that is). And it doesn’t have to be this way…

Another issue I struggle with is trying to live humanely when times aren’t prosperous. While I do my best to buy fair trade and organic foods as much as possible, I have found myself shopping in Wal*Mart during tight times. I know many people are vehemently opposed to Wal*Mart. I, on the other hand, can’t fault one for doing what they must. If one is on a shoestring budget (and have a large family), Wal*Mart is one of those stores that will get them by in a pinch. Even with that knowledge, I often wonder to myself how do we survive during economic challenges and try to live humanely?

Even if we got rid of Wal*Mart today, it would only serve as a band-aid on a gushing wound. Chances are there is blood, sweat & tears on most of our everyday items, no matter where they’re purchased. There is much we can do as conscious consumers to not support suffering, however we can’t starve or go naked until everyone behaves consciously. So how do we live humanely in an inhumane world? Is it even possible in this lifetime?

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44 Responses to “Living Humanely in an Inhumane World…”

  1. Reno Says:

    This argument sounds a lot like what I hear meat-eaters say when they’re avoiding responsibility for their diets. “The world is never going to change so I may as well continue benefitting from the system as it stands”

    Wal Mart exists as a faction of a messed up system. If society were rearranged so that growing your own food and making your own clothes was encouraged instead of discouraged (and in many places illigal, or reserved, ironically, for the wealthy), we would not have a need for “necessary evils” like Wal Mart.

    Also, you are never without choice. No one is forcing anyone to shop at Wal Mart. I’m poor, I’ve been poor my whole life and I’ve never felt like shopping at Wal Mart was my only option. You don’t need to purchase cat food from the worst abusers like Iams or Pedigree. You can make your own cat food using scraps from a butcher at a farmer’s market if you really wanted to lessen the impact of her diet.

    It’s important to hold people accountable for their actions, and responsible to the rest of the world. Everyone can choose to live better. Being vegan is about making the best possible choices for ourselves and for the health of the planet.

    You may not be able to live the “most humane life ever” but you can certainly choose not to shop at Wal Mart, and not to purchase the worst kind of cat food.

  2. MariaRose Says:

    I truly don’t believe that there is any way to live completely humanely. After years of trying to cause no harm, I finally decided that the best option for me was to try and limit the amount of suffering I caused, but I could never eliminate it. We work so hard to be natural, humane and kind but often forget that nature is almost never easy, simple or kind. Kindness and humanity are simply beautiful human inventions.

  3. Steve Says:

    This is an amazing post. I’ve been thinking about the exact same issue over the past three or so days.

    Step 1 for most people is, I think, to keep asking questions and doing homework on where things came from, because I think most of us could still stand to be a lot more careful. (I realized the other day that I probably don’t honestly need new clothes in the next 10 years at all, except maybe the occasional shoe.)

    But restricting your own consumption only does so much. After a certain point, putting your effort toward creating social change seems to make more sense than personally abstaining from every single thing that puts smoke in the air.

    The specifics of working toward social change are probably relative to each person, and I still haven’t even exactly devised my own plan.

    The important thing for me has been remembering that the respect, appreciation, and love I want to give to all fellow existence through my veganism (& anti-rascism, anti-sexism, atni-heterosexism, conscious consumption, frugality, environmentalism, etc.!) means that I also want to respect those people around me who haven’t “woken up” to it so much yet.

    What I mean is that, when I reflect on these things I oppose, I often then see that negative around me every day, and I almost start to blame the individuals around me for buying so much unnecessary stuff. The thing is, they are not evil people; they are not bad or inconsiderate. They just, for whatever reason dealing with their and my development, haven’t had the same enlightenment. (Or, with some other things like you said about Wal*Mart and living on a shoestring budget, they’re only doing what they must.)

    I think my effort toward social change will be to guide people, respectfully and patiently, to the enlightment(s) I’ve had (concerning anti-oppression, universal love and respect).

    But “guiding people” is another issue, then. Some say “you can’t change people.” But, you know what? People do change. And I have changed myself through the help and wisdom of others.

    Maybe all you can do as a “changer” is keep respectfully “putting it out there” for people, like, “Here’s an opportunity.” Maybe they will pick it up and change themselves and their world with it; maybe not. I think it has to be that way, though; you can’t force change; it’s not respectful, then, and it’s not real.

    Apologies on the length, but I really connected with this topic.
    Thanks!
    Steve

  4. Kanika, this is a great post. And I agree with some of the sentiments MariaRose and Steve shared. For me, I think this kinda hits at something I think about: that as individuals, we are limited. We can accomplish a lot on our own. But just to change how things are produced and sold–not to mention all the other changes we’d like to make–we need political, economic, govermental, and social changes. It’s not enough to just not shop at Walmart and feel superior for it. That’s kinda my problem with the way the so-called green movement is usually covered in the mainstream media. It’s all about what an individual does or doesn’t buy. I definitely vote with my dollar but change will have to eventually infiltrate corporations, institutions and governments. It’s got to be about groups and not just the individual.

  5. I believe it’s about balancing needs and interests. It’s also about admitting that we can’t do everything and making choices that have the most impact. For example, going vegan has more impact than merely going vegetarian. And both have more impact than being a meat-eater.

    There is a difference between food and medicine. We can all live relatively easily without consuming animals as food. However, some of us cannot live so easily without consuming animal products in the form of medicine. That’s a choice each person must make themselves, weighing the options, and recognizing that no vegan can be entirely perfect because we live in a nonvegan society.

    I feed my cats meat, but I feed my dog a vegan diet. They are different species with different requirements for nutrition. I’m no comfortable gambling with my cats’ lives since they are strict carnivores. But since dogs are omnivores and can live very successfully as vegetarians or vegans, I’m perfectly happy to feed my dog veg food.

    When it comes to economic challenges, we have to make similar choices and compromises. It’s easier to forgo walmart when there are lots of other options, however, one of the bad things walmart has done is eliminated the competition. So what do we do? We try to avoid walmart as much as we can and we accept that our powers are limited. We try to use craigslist, freecycle, and we try to shop less. We try to learn to make our own stuff, garden, and share. And when we do go to walmart (or places like it – I shop at Target instead) then we bring our own bags, we read labels, and we try to do the best we can.

  6. Kanika Says:

    @ Steve-

    Thanks for your kind words… :) And no problem for your post, you’ve actually given out many good points.

    Admittedly, I am not a big spender either…My TV is 10+ years old (which reminds me I have to get a converter box for it, LOL), and I tend to wear my clothes & shoes to the ground…If my friend didn’t buy me a DVD player, I probably still wouldn’t have one.

    And it is frustrating when you realise that many people don’t “get it”. But I believe that most people are good at heart and want to do the right thing, but are not knowledgeable. This is where educating the masses comes in. Once a person knows better, they do better, buy better (if they can) and demand better. Sometimes, informing others with love can work much greater than preaching and judging…Naturally, not everyone will comprehend your message (and may even get defensive), but all you need is one or two people who are willing to listen.

    Maybe all you can do as a “changer” is keep respectfully “putting it out there” for people, like, “Here’s an opportunity.” Maybe they will pick it up and change themselves and their world with it; maybe not. I think it has to be that way, though; you can’t force change; it’s not respectful, then, and it’s not real.

    I actually agree with this approach…My personal form of veggie activism has always been cooking meals for my omni friends and family. I figure if they realise that a delicious meal doesn’t always have to include meat, then I’ve won half the battle…LOL Plus, people are far less defensive about discussing issues when they’ve had a good meal.. :)

    @ Maria Rose-

    We work so hard to be natural, humane and kind but often forget that nature is almost never easy, simple or kind. Kindness and humanity are simply beautiful human inventions.

    This. Nature is beautiful, yet cruel at times…We as humans want a world free of death & suffering, however it’s not a possibility.

    @ Reno-

    #1- I don’t know where you live, but here in NY, housing and groceries can be extremely pricey. I will go to Wal*Mart & Target for my necessities if shopping @ my markets of choice is out of my budget. It’s either that or not being able to pay my rent on time/have food in the fridge. I am not going to apologise for doing what I must at a time of need.

    Also- You might get on well without having to go shopping in a discount store such as Wal*Mart, but what would you say to a single working mom who can’t afford to shop elsewhere? How about the laid off worker who is living on a small unemployment check? Or the large family who is struggling to make ends meet? Where I grew up, this is a reality. The mom-and-pop stores in the area sold inferior goods & produce, and when Wal*Mart opened up last year in my county, it provided decent food & clothing for the lower income people. I am not going to throw judgment on them for doing the best they can to provide for their family.

    Although Wal*Mart could do much better when it comes to human rights issues, I’ve never understood why so much focus only is put on them when chances are, most retailers are doing similar practices and charging you an arm and a leg to do such.

    I think the best thing that we can do as social activists is to lobby so that there are more affordable, humane products available to the public and they won’t have to rely on retailers that profit on the exploitation of others.

    #2- The cat doesn’t eat Iams & to my knowledge, Pedigree only made dog food.

  7. Kanika Says:

    Hey Joselle! I am glad you like my post :)

    That’s kinda my problem with the way the so-called green movement is usually covered in the mainstream media. It’s all about what an individual does or doesn’t buy. I definitely vote with my dollar but change will have to eventually infiltrate corporations, institutions and governments. It’s got to be about groups and not just the individual.

    I feel you 100% on this! My main problem with the mainstream “green” movement is that on one level, it leaves too much room for deception. There are all these so called “green” products on the market that are made by manufacturers that test on animals and put pollutants into the environment (and are not taking measures to change their ways). The average consumer buys these products thinking they’re doing good for the Earth when in fact, they’re still supporting the “problem” so to speak.

    I definitely agree with your assessment. It will take change on multiple levels for us to achieve truly humane consumerism. Unless this is addressed, our ability to live consciously is severely limited.

    @ Elaine-

    I believe it’s about balancing needs and interests. It’s also about admitting that we can’t do everything and making choices that have the most impact.

    This is a good point…And words to live by!

    I confess, I prefer Target to Wal*Mart as well…At least they sell soy milk :P

  8. Steve Says:

    There are so many good ideas on this page! I wanted to state (/ reiterate) that I stand with some confidence about half way between Reno and Elaine.

    I definitely want to acknowledge that every single bit of harm we do deserves inspection to see if there is a better way; Reno’s post echoed that side of my concern (a great post, really). I think a lot of people limit their creativity and don’t question enough in their life; a lot of people accept defeat when they don’t have to.

    But I also want to avoid being judgmental or disrespectful about the choices that others make. For many (most?) of the things we’re talking about here, I believe that I’m only in the position to judge my OWN decisions as ethical or un-. It’s difficult for me, as an outsider, to say whether a particular low-income single parent could get by in a pinch without Wal*Mart. I know that I would certainly encourage her to try. I also know that I wouldn’t withhold my respect if she couldn’t.

    Thanks everyone!

  9. johanna Says:

    Steve — yeah, I feel like I can’t really judge other people like you said; I have not been in the position where it was imperative for me to buy the absolute cheapest stuff I could get in order to survive, so I don’t feel like I could say w/certainty whether someone could or couldn’t afford to avoid Wal-Mart (well: there are a few people in my life that I know w/certainty have a certain level of disposable income that would allow them to go elsewhere if they gave a crap: & it does piss me off that they don’t).

    At the same time, I definitely see Reno’s point that it is in a way like meat-eaters’ arguments for not giving up meat. But… we also live in an imperfect world.

    Sometimes I find it hard to strike a balance between encouraging people to stretch & try that little bit harder to find another way (when it isn’t a strict issue of financial privilege, I mean, but maybe more just of convenience/comfort), & cutting them slack… I mean, I’m by no means perfect in this regard either.

    Kanika — the reason activists focus on Wal-Mart is b/c they’re the largest employer in the country (maybe in the world? I forget on that one), & thus they set standards for industry practice. So far they seem happy to drag the standards down as low as they can go. If we were able to make them change, it would have a big impact!

  10. Noemi M Says:

    interesting discussion…I think the holier than thou attitude that many people have regarding Walmart & how the folks who shop there are evil- turn off folks who could become vegans or activists in the future. signed-a poor (vegn &activist) single mom who’s shopped at walmart when need be

  11. MariaRose Says:

    Just for the record I first went vegan while living in a small dairy community in NM. Wal-mart was the ONLY way I was able to go vegan! There was one other grocery store in town and they had next to nothing for vegans. They had tofu and meat analogues at Wal-Mart that really helped me out with the transition to veganism.

  12. Kanika Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I am all for challenging others to be creative and thinking outside the box. I would not have written this entry if I did not want genuine discourse on the subject or was open to new ideas (which is part of the reason why I asked the question how can one live humanely on a budget).

    However there’s a difference between someone saying “Hey, sister, I’m struggling as well, so I know your pain…But there are other routes to go besides Wal*Mart. Here’s a few tips on how I’m able to get by without them. Perhaps they may help you. If that doesn’t work, maybe we can brainstorm something.” and asserting “Well I am poor and I don’t need to shop @ Wal*Mart” accompanied with implications that others of making excuses for shopping there or presuming that they’re feeding inferior food to their animal friends, which can sound really patronising.

    Not for nothing Reno, that’s how your reply looked to me, and I felt attacked & judged by that…I don’t know if that was your intention or not, but I’m just saying…

  13. ThoughtCriminal Says:

    I’ve never thought of feeding a cat companion animal flesh to be an inconsistency for vegans because it’s not for the vegan’s benefit. It’s for the cat’s well being. I don’t like it but, again, it’s not a perfect vegan world (yet…).
    Unfortunately we currently live in a world where domestic cats are excessively brought into existence by humans solely for benefit and enjoyment of humans. Humans purchase cats (and other “pets”) from breeders while there are so many feral and stray cats without basic necessities that need help.
    This problem (that humans created) was a problem before the idea of veganism. One important thing we, as vegans, can do is raise awareness of why it is not in our companion animals’ interests to be bred into existence, and put through such a hard life, simply for our enjoyment.

  14. Thank you for this post. It takes courage to speak out like this, as it tends to get you a lot of shit. I believe that we all do the best we can with what we’ve got & if some people feel superior because they’ve never had to shop at Wal-Mart, well good for them. It’s not realistic to expect the same of everyone else.

    As for the vegan cat issue, I wish folks would refrain from having cats if they refuse to feed them meat. It’s not worth the risk to the cats’ health to impose our vegan ideals upon them.

  15. Karen Says:

    When it comes to vegans with cats, here’s one practical and easy way to lessen the impact of being a cat companion. Keep your cat indoors–ALWAYS. The impact of non-feral outdoor cats is devastating to wild bird populations. Unlike companion cats who have the benefit of a safe place to sleep at night, routine veterinary care, and regular meals, wild birds fend for themselves. It devastates their population when millions of them die at the claws of a predatory creature that has an unfair advantage.

    Sorry for the mini-rant, but I always feel compelled to bring up this issue when fellow vegans bring up the cat food debate. I don’t care what you feed your cat at home, just don’t let it hunt wild birds. They are such a valuable part of our wildlife and we’re losing them.

  16. Sofia Says:

    Becoming pregnant at 20 with no stable income was a very sobering experience as a vegan/aspiring activist. My mommy used to buy me veg*n food and pricey produce and of course my clothes and all that. When I left the house, I simply did without conveniences like air conditioning, new/clean clothes, a stove, working fridge, y’know. I just took what I could get with no real consequence. I liked living as environmentally inconsequentially as possible.
    But pregnancy has left me irritable and hot and hungry and tired and scrambling to figure out where the hell we are going to get the money to feed and clothe our baby in the food and clothes I WANT to give the child (usually not cheap). I used to feel like if you are resourceful enough, well gosh, you don’t HAVE to go to WalMart. I probably won’t have to very much because I plan to only have one child and I have a partner who just landed a really lucrative if not soul-sucking deskjob. TOGETHER, we will have TIME. Time is imperative to the lifestyle we desire. If we want to sprout, garden, build and play with our child, we need TIME and that’s what large, low-income, single-parent families do not have a lot of, not to mention money. So yeah, I think there are some holier-than-thou attitudes that stem from having not even an inkling of an idea of what it’s like to provide for someone else. I still don’t know what it’s like, technically, since this baby is still inside of me and baby showers are awesome.

  17. Reno Says:

    I definitely didn’t want to spread judgement, but I genuinely believe that if we ever tell ourselves that we are without choice, we are making a lazy decision that will only spread negative consequences.

    I live in the poorest county in New York State. I live ten miles outside a town of 1000 people. Wal Mart and P&C are pretty much the only places to go. I have shopped there before and I have accepted that I have chosen to live in a place where this is my reality – but the point is that I *chose* to live here.
    I could also *choose* to live in a place that I feel is more aligned with my values. No one forces you to live in a place where you can’t afford food. Saying that you have to shop at discount stores because of where you live, is accepting that you don’t have a choice to live somewhere else, and I find that to be a cop out.

    The way I have mitigated the problem here is by starting a food share between myself and my neighbor. He has enough time and land to grow vegetables, which we then buy from him.

    Also, I realize that I sound judgemental, but I’m only using a stern tone of voice because I’m the child of a single mom who never made any money, and I still don’t make excuses for myself. We lived in a shitty apartment my whole life and I overheard plenty of conversations about whether we were going to be able to afford groceries.

    My boyfriend’s mom was a single parent, raising three boys by herself in central Pennsylvania while their dad rotted in prison for selling drugs. She has never once used that as an excuse to shop at Wal Mart.

    I understand that if the choice is to pay rent or eat, you have to do what you have to do, but don’t try and pretend like it’s your only option.

  18. Noemi Says:

    No one forces you to live in a place where you can’t afford food.
    this idea equals privilege. thx.

  19. Kanika Says:

    Reno-

    There are several reasons why people *choose* to live where they live, and since you don’t really know any of us, you’re not really in the position to assess whether we’re making “cop-out excuses”. In addition, for you to lecture others without offering viable solutions (as Elaine did) really does nothing to generate solutions to the problem, nor eliminates suffering in the world. It just creates more divisions and makes people defensive, which was not the intention behind my post.

    Do you seriously think that avoiding Wal*Mart makes you a decent, moral being? What else have you done in life to improve humanity in the world? Or is that the only thing you can brag about to make yourself feel good? It’s not like avoiding a store will earn you the keys to the pearly gates, so why do you continue to harp on it as if you’re doing something so significant?

    I know many decent, hard working people who would give their last dime & bit of energy to lobby against injustices and cruelty. They also happen to shop in Wal*Mart and *gasp* eat meat! For you to claim superiority over them because you don’t shop there seems very petty & self righteous.

    Unless you’ve got something meaningful to add to the conversation, we’re done here…Have a good day. :)

  20. Kanika Says:

    Destiny,

    Thanks for your support, I really appreciate it!

    I honestly didn’t think I was being courageous, nor really expected any drama behind my words. This post was inspired by a genuine curiosity of how VOC readers felt about a very real issue affecting everyday people. Judging by the responses here, I can see this topic hit many people personally.

    I didn’t want this to turn into a Wal*Mart debate because quite honestly, it’s not all about them. It’s about us.

  21. Reno Says:

    Look, the point I made is *exactly* the reason you started this discussion – because you are unsure whether it’s possible to live in a world that is free from suffering.

    I was trying to push buttons to get people to own up to the idea of personal power as it relates to veganism.

    It’s not possible to live in a completely humane world, and yes – I have shopped at wal mart, and the gap, and a number of other stores throughout my lifetime that don’t support the values that I would like to see in the world.

    If anything, the point I made just further expressed how absurd it is to believe that we can live in a world free from exploitation.

    Everyone was very quick to defend the practices that they partake in because they “have” to and my original point stands, that I have heard that argument from meat eaters before and at what point do we say “enough excuses” and make the next move up the ladder of social conciousness?

    Shopping at wal mart isn’t going to cause the world to combust, but allowing yourself to make decisions without questioning the validity of them is likely to contribute to a higher level of suffering.

    I didn’t want this to turn into a Wal*Mart debate because quite honestly, it’s not all about them. It’s about us.

    I completely agree.

  22. Steve Says:

    I’d actually love to hear more of an explanation behind this:

    “[I]t’s not all about them. It’s about us.”

    It seems to be getting at something very important, but I don’t yet feel like I have a complete understanding of it.

    Thanks so much!

  23. Crys T Says:

    I’m sorry (especially since this is pretty off-topic), but the point made by Karen in comment #15 seems a bit unlikely to me. Pet cats are responsible for the reduction in the bird population? I can’t believe that.

    How many birds do you suppose one cat can even manage to kill in the course of a lifetime? Especially compared to the numbers of birds there have always been in relation to cats. I’ve had cats for the past 20 years and only one of them ever managed to kill birds on two occasions. Most of the time, the cat will spend ages stalking a potential victim, only to pounce and have the bird easily flap away.

    And anyway, are we saying that cats haven’t been killing birds since…well, ever since there have been cats?

    Isn’t it much more likely that the drop in bird populations, at least within towns and cities is about factors like pollution, global warming, etc.?

    Unless there’s been some studies done about massively exploding cat populations around the globe that I haven’t heard about (or something about birds that’s making them much slower and less agile than previous generations), I really have to doubt that cats have anything to do with falling numbers of birds.

    But to go on-topic: Reno, you don’t seriously believe that most people “choose” to live where they do? The way things are now, even people like me, who originally had the resources to choose where to settle, can afford to move somewhere else…and god, how I would like to.

    Not everybody has the options you do. You’ve joined a food share? Great, that’s genuinely fantastic. But not all of us can do that, for any number of reasons. Some of us live in places where there’s no one willing to start any such projects with. Not all of us have access to enough land to grow anything on. Some of us are differently abled, which may affect our ability to participate in such things. Hell, some of us have mental illnesses that make seeking out other people for these types of things an insurmountable challenge. Some of us are working three (or more) jobs to keep body and soul together–before having to take care of the kids–and do not have the time or energy for anything else.

    Yes, saying “I don’t have a choice” can be a cop-out. In some situations. But not everyone has all the options you do. For some people, the price they’d have to pay to live up to your standards would be unfairly and unfeasibly high.

  24. Karen Says:

    Dear Crys T. Here are some resources on domestic cat predation of wild birds and other wild species that you may read if it so interests you. I have been a cat companion and cat lover for many years and I continue to educate myself on the many ways in which my cat stewardship may and may not be compatible with my veganism. Meat based cat food and shopping for pet products at the Walmarts of the world are not the only social justice issues that concern me when it comes to being a cat companion. I offer this info for other vegans to think about: http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/materials/predation.pdf

    http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/cats/materials/hazards.pdf

  25. johanna Says:

    Karen, iirc, that stuff was debunked quite thoroughly in Nathan Winograd’s Redemption (a great book about why US shelters kill so many animals — & orgs like PETA & HSUS support this & resist finding ways to change this — by a vegan). It’s been a while since I read it, but I’m pretty sure that’s in there.

  26. Reno Says:

    Chris – I realize that “choosing” where to live is an absolute luxury and comes from a place of great priveledge.
    My point is more that everyone has the personal responsibility to live the best possible life in whatever situation they are in, which I think we all agree on.

    I was trying to make sure that we didn’t lose sight of the things that we really do have control over because we assume that we don’t. Some people can control where they live, some people cannot. Some people can control the education they receive, some people cannot.

    Regardless of the particular hand we are dealt, it is up to us individually to recognize the positive and negative impacts of our lives.

    We all know that it’s easy to make excuses for participating in certain behavior when we know we probably shouldn’t. Some people get to the point where they make so many excuses that they stop advancing socially, mentally and emotionally.

    When I started the discussion that I did, it was to bring up the fact that many people will gladly slip into these comfortable excuses, completely unchecked by society. Is it wrong to think that people should own up to their behavior for better or worse instead of making excuses for them?

    I didn’t mean to infuse it with judgment the way that I did. My intention wasn’t to judge people for their behavior, it was to remind people that judging yourself is part of being a responsible member of society and we should hold people accountable to that practice.

  27. Noemi Says:

    thanks Reno, for making sure I checked myself on my behavior, can’t let myself get too lazy now can I, bemoaning the cards we are dealt and all that jazz-well I’ll just pull up my bootstraps and try a little harder. thank you. thank you for making sure we are advancing socially, mentally, emotionally.


    My point is more that everyone has the personal responsibility to live the best possible life in whatever situation they are in

    seriously?


    it is up to us individually to recognize the positive and negative impacts of our lives.

    seriously, I mean, seriously? Did you just read a book by Oprah?

  28. Reno Says:

    I’m not sure where this extreme hostility is coming from. I started a discussion following an open ended post that included a question worthy of answering. Did that upset you?

    I understand if you’re mad at me for being the silly white girl interjecting her thoughts on your blog, but part of the reason I read this blog is because it offers a perspective on the animal rights movement that I don’t often hear.

    Considering the animal rights movement is predominantly white people who are usually so convinced of their own righteousness that they cannot see where they are wrong (which we obviously are a lot of the time), doesn’t it behoove you to stay open minded if you have something valuable to say to me about this issue?

    Maybe the reason you’re so hostile is because you’re not actually offering an opinion or a thought here, you’re just trying to cut me down for your own pleasure.

    I might have been an idiot, but I wasn’t ever hostile.

  29. johanna Says:

    No, Reno, I wouldn’t say you were hostile. I would say you were condescending, refusing to admit your experience may not match others’ (ie. “If I could avoid shopping at Wal-Mart, so could everyone else!”), & refusing to see the ways your comments are soaked in privilege.

    Chiding Noemi for not being open-minded while you refuse to see that your own experience is not universal? WOW. Nice effort at distraction from your own display of privilege, but… no.

  30. Reno Says:

    I already admitted that I was an idiot and that I was wrong about what I had said.

    I’m not always aware about how my privilege comes through (obviously). I think I sounded condescending because I was trying to be assertive about a point. Sometimes I let that get away from me.

    I wanted to be right. I wanted to prove that my original point stood, and I talked it out with all of you. I was looking to figure it out. I was wrong and you told me as much.

    I read this blog to help understand all of this. I realize that it is equally privileged to commodify this blog for my own benefit (I know you’re not here to help me work my shit out), and for that, I apologize.

    However, I did learn a lot about myself and my perspective. I am always the first to say I am wrong when I have been proven as such.

    I’m sorry it got so ugly.

  31. Noemi Says:

    yes I was snarky. no I wasn’t hostile. I didn’t know or was I assuming you were white. often times, we must step back and lisetn, when someone calls us out on our shit. I shut up and step back often. I also won’t open up my own personal life and tell you the many reasons you are wrong. I’m not a teacher and I won’t use my own experiences as your tablet.

    I’m out of this conversations as of now.

  32. Connie Says:

    I have not had time to read all the comments here but will come back and do so. Juat wanted to say I really liked your suggestion, “go naked until everyone behaves consciously…” lol!

  33. Steve Says:

    Can we discuss what this means:

    “[I]t’s not all about them. It’s about us.”

    ?

    It seems to stand opposite to the consequentialist philosophies that argue, “It’s not about our personal purity; it’s about the animals’ suffering.”

    Should we focus on ourselves or on the world? I feel I could really gain from some other opinions on this.

    Thanks again!
    Steve

  34. Kanika Says:

    @ Steve-
    What I meant by that particular comment was that it’s about what we can do to make the places where we shop & the products we buy more humane and easily accessible to everyone…I am sure if we put our heads together, we can lobby for a society where people don’t have to choose between their conscious and their wallet…Where they can find affordable goods that are kind to sentient beings & the environment.

    This thread focused so much on Wal*Mart drama, that we really didn’t have the opportunity to exchange ideas, which was my hope for this discussion…So I am mildly disappointed in that. Oh well… :(

  35. Abram Says:

    Hi, I’ve read not only the post, but also the many comments here, and think everyone here is trying to make a difference. For a while, reading the comments, I felt so good that people were having an open discussion on a difficult topic. Then part of the to and fro slipped dangerously close to a fight capable of shutting down the discussion…

    We do all have to make our own choices within the context of our own lives. We all have to learn to question everything, even our own assumptions, and to be always mindful. And there are many people–among ‘greens’/environmental advocates, animal rights/welfare advocates, veg*ns, etc.–who get up on a soapbox with good intentions, but nevertheless with blinders on, unaware of their own privileges, and unaware of the way in which their own social/cultural/economic/racial/religious/geographic/gendered contexts enable them to make the choices they do. That is why I am often wary of soapboxes and people who get on them (I suppose my vegan blog could be seen as one too, though).

    The very fact that this post was written and so many people commented on it, even if at times it got a bit heated, is heartening. It means, to me, that many people thought about the topic. Ethics, or morality if you will, is a continuum, a spectrum, rather than a dichotomy. There are many truths, not one Truth. And thinking people have to work their way through them. We cannot shed all our blinders at once, so sometimes our well-intentioned words can still miss the mark or be hurtful.

    I apologize about the length of this comment, but the upshot is this: while we sometimes miss the mark, as long as we keep thinking, discussing our thoughts, thinking some more and adjusting our actions according to our insights and within our ability, we can only stand to benefit. I am truly heartened.

  36. Gary Says:

    I’ve been taking sort of a compromise approach and feeding my cat a vegan formula as a “mix-in” to his animal-based food. I’ve been doing this for the past couple years and he seems to be doing great. I did some research beforehand, and I’m comfortable with the decision, but I know it’s a tough dilemma and every cat’s different.

    The biggest cause by far of bird populations declining is loss of habitat. Migrating birds suffer when their winter or summer habitat is destroyed. Bird species that cats never prey on are suffering as much or more as ones they do prey on. Some of the studies used by the American Bird Conservancy have been debunked or are contradicted by numerous other studies. E.g, the authors of a famous, oft-cited cat predation study in Wisconsin claim that their figures are being wrongly extrapolated and that they never intended to estimate worldwide figures – there are too many variables. Studies show that songbird populations in England, where almost every cat is outdoors, have long ago stabilized. Cats to some degree make up for the huge reduction in native predators that have have been wiped out. Prey populations generally need predator populations to stay healthy. Imported birds such as sparrows and starlings have a huge impact on native birds, stealing their nesting sites and food sources. If an outdoor cat around here catches a bird, it’s likely to be a sparrow, thus providing more opportunity for native cardinals, nuthatches, titmice, and other birds that compete with the sparrow. Not that non-natives should be valued any less than natives. If the bird eats the sparrow, that’s far more humane than feeding the bird a killed, artificially obese chicken who had a deprived life in a factory farm.

    How many birds die every year from starvation? The numbers are staggering. Unfortunately nature’s way is for birds to produce far more offspring than will survive through adulthood. Many of the birds caught by cats may have suffered an even worse death anyway. Or would have been eaten by a different predator.

    Outdoor cat’s main diet is rodents. Rodent populations are generally doing fine. You virtually never hear people complaining that outdoor cats are killing billions of rodents. Rodents don’t have nearly as large or influential advocacy groups as birds.

    Having said all that, I’m not recommending that people let their cats free-roam outside. But the situation is far more complex and nuanced than the ABC would have you believe or “cats are killing all the birds.” Often those simpleton attitudes fuel mean anti-feral behaviors and policies.

    I think cat guardians also need to be honest: my 10-year old cat, at this point twice as old as his lifespan in the wild, and with access to veterinary care and his own tooth-brusher (me), has no more right to life than the chickens who were killed at six weeks old for his meals. I am biased and I admit it. I love my cat, and I realize I am causing harm to keep him alive far longer than his wild cousins. I wasn’t vegan when he came to us as a stray; he changed my life. Would I get a cat down the road? I’m torn. I’m captivated profoundly by cats and can hardly imagine living without one (or more) yet I have a hard time reconciling my vegan principles with future cat adoption.

  37. Abram Says:

    I think we do far too much tampering with nature. If we are concerned about the decline of song bird populations, we need to look at habitat erosion and other human-caused factors more closely. Cats are by nature hunters, but this nature is largely subdued in many domesticated cats. I’ve seen many vacant-eyed, domesticated cats completely uninterested in birds or mice, except perhaps to play with a bit, not kill and eat.

    My partner and I rescued a beautiful black cat, whom we named Raven for his jet-black fur and exceptional intelligence, that was pretty much feral when we found him. We saw him outside, in the winter, in near -20C weather, in a part of the country where temperatures get to below -40C. A group of children who’d been taught to believe that black cats were bad luck were throwing rocks at him and shoving a dog in his face. He was desperately trying to get away. We did not want a cat at the time, but we could not bear to see him treated that way, so we took him in.

    He was emaciated and extremely hungry. Members of the northern community in which we were teaching at the time brought us a freshly hunted wild duck the same night we took him home. Being vegan, we did not at first know what to do with the bird, but then decided to put it on the floor to see what Raven would do. He devoured most of it (practically his own body size), all but a few big feathers, and then found a place in the basement to sleep for hours.

    He was the most intelligent cat with whom we ever came into contact. He was very vocal, making a number of different sounds to express different things. He also loved the outdoors and, despite our best care, could be seen, after begging to be let out for hours, looking downright depressed. Btw, we did feed him meat. When he did slip out he’d be out for hours, sometimes a couple of days, worrying us, but then he’d bring a bird, mouse, or even a small wild rabbit, to the front porch to show off and eat in our presence. I could not deny him that. That is a cat’s nature and, though we felt for the creatures he ate, we felt much better about that than supporting the human slaughter of fish and fowl by purchasing meats for him.

    We still miss Raven, but he taught us more than any cat that to truly domesticate a cat you have to break its spirit. We couldn’t do that. Seeing him depressed made us sad. What we should do, I feel, is rail against the practice of bringing cats into existence by breeding. We both decided, after Raven, that cat ownership felt at odds with veganism, not just because they need meat to be healthy, but also because they are domesticated, their spirits broken, entirely for our own pleasure. There is no symbiotic relationship.

  38. Gary Says:

    Hi Abram,

    Thank you for your kindness in rescuing the cat.

    I disagree strongly that there is no symbiotic relationship between cats and humans. The bond between the two can be profound, and it has been that way for thousands of years.

    Cats partially domesticated themselves. They gathered around grain stores, and the friendlier, more outgoing ones got to know people. The people enjoyed petting and playing with the cats, and the cats enjoyed being petted and having a new type of companion. And humans have laps, too! And let’s not forget veterinary care that helps keeps cats healthy well into old age.

    Our cat was a stray who literally knocked on the door and moved in. What’s not to like about a roof over your head, scratching posts and perches everywhere, and two servants who fed you round the clock and play interesting games with you?

    I can’t speak for every cat, but my cat’s spirit is certainly not broken, nor should any housecat’s spirit be broken. One way to keep up that spirit is by daily interactive play. The human creatively puts the toys into motion, and sets up interesting challenging scenarios (hiding places and so forth) to keep kitty challenged.

    Another strategy – but not one that obviatres the need for daily interactive play – is to have two cats who are compatible with each other; they can do cat stuff together.

    As a compromise between the freedom of the outdoors, the risks of the outdoors, and predation of wildlife, many cats respond favorably to leash-walks. I wrote an in-depth article on the subject here: http://www.cattraining.com/leash-walk.htm. My cat and I have taken walks nearly every day for the past nine years. He takes inventory of everything in the backyard, rolls on his back in the gravel driveway, scratches on nature’s original scratching posts (trees), and investigates anything he considers novel. It’s a great way to increase the cat-human bond, too. Sometimes we just lay on the grass together.

  39. johanna Says:

    Re: cats & vegans (sorry, Kanika, for going back to this again & again, eep!) — my take is that humans created this problem by breeding & domesticating cats, so we are responsible for taking care of the ones that are here (same w/dogs, etc.), & for not breeding any more. I definitely understand the tension of having a meat-eating companion animal, but… what are the other options? Mass euthanization of cats??? Also, if I chose to adopt a bunny instead of a cat, isn’t that, too, a form of speciesism? (discriminating on the basis of biologically-necessary diet, heh)

    Gary — I agree w/you that cats, some cats at least, definitely get something out of their relationship w/humans, which makes things trickier sometimes.

    I’ve been trying to get my cats accustomed to harness walking on & off for a year or so… one of them really likes going outside, once she remembers that’s what happens when OMG WHAT ARE YOU PUTTING ON MY BODY goes on. ;) One of them likes it okay, but the other one won’t even stand up straight w/the harness on yet… he does the thing where he slumps over like you just put a 10 lb. weight on him. And yes yes yes to interactive play! I find that if we’re not good about doing it regularly w/our cats, they get less interested in it & more cranky until we’re back on schedule.

  40. Gary Says:

    I am guesstimating that one of the earliest and most popular (and perhaps most appropriate) uses of lab meat will be for cat food. Of course, I would want to introduce this option carefully to ensure that there’s no nutritional time-bombs in this new way of serving animal flesh to carnivores.

  41. Abram Says:

    Gary, I may have overstated the case as far as the symbiotic relationship between cats and humans goes a bit, but I do feel that the conditions under which the cat was domesticated were much, much different than the conditions under which cats and humans form their relationships today (especially urban). The small wild cat, not unlike the wild dog, came to human habitations for easier hunting opportunities, as grain stores and the like attracted both birds and rodents. The cat came to hunt, which I feel is the first important aspect to keep in mind. And humans came to tolerate, appreciate, even reward, the cat for the ‘service’ of controlling what humans considered pests.

    The rewards likely came in the form of even easier sources of meat and milk, and in the form of scrubs. Who doesn’t like scrubs? Even I do, especially around the beard :-)> I imagine it took a very long time for people to bring cats largely indoors. Cats retained the ability to live their lives, though living in proximity to humans and developing relationships with them, largely in accordance with their natural instincts. They had the freedom to hunt, to play and to roam in order to establish and maintain territory. Grain stores were incorporated into their territories and relationships with humans were formed. Even among the agrarian Mennonites in Northern Mexico, among whom I grew up, cats, though friendly with humans, retained their freedom to behave more as they would in the wild.

    Secondly, the house cat, from the reading I’ve done, emerged out of and was first domesticated in Africa (some of the earliest images appear in Egyptian hieroglyphs). We have since taken the cat all over the world, not only to regions with climates in which they cannot safely survive on their own, but also into urban areas fraught with a variety of other dangers. And we continue to breed them. Modern urban cats, especially those most ‘cared’ for, now live lives far removed from their natural state.

    We offered Raven all the attention, including scrubs, hiding places, toys and interactive play that we could, but all that paled in comparison to his urge to be himself outdoors. This may have partly to do with the fact that his formative months were spent in the remote northern wilderness. Though very friendly–always afraid of children because of his early encounters with nasty children–but almost too friendly and trusting around adult strangers, he never lost that urge to roam and hunt. He even had a wildness in his eyes, when he staked out and patrolled his territory (after he came with us into urban space), that made most other urban cats cower before him, even though he was smaller than most.

    Raven would not suffer a leash, though he would of his own will get into the cat carrier after a visit to the vet. And he would not sit or sleep on our laps, though he would snuggle, on his own terms, into the curves of our sleeping bodies. He loved play, even learning the word mouse, knowing that the word would be followed by the toss of a play mouse. At the very utterance of mouse, his pupils widened dramatically as he prepared to hunt. As for other cats, his territorial instincts were too strong, his independence too fierce, to put up with another cat without assuming complete dominance.

    Obviously, as with dogs, cats currently in existence need caring human companions in climates (too cold or too urban) where they cannot survive by themselves. We need to stop breeding them, inasmuch as we need to stop breeding dogs and cows and chickens! We need to care for those we have already brought into existence, but to continue breeding them is, to my mind, to be complicit not only in their suffering, as there are always many that get lost, are mistreated or abandoned, but also in the suffering and death of fish and fowl and other ‘meat sources’ for their food.

  42. Kanika Says:

    It’s cool, Johanna…I’m actually quite happy that there is still discourse going on despite the initial heat… :)

  43. Gary Says:

    Hi Abram,

    Thanks for you thoughtful response. Cats’ relationships with humans are complex and diverse. I believe that cats saw humans as much more than food sources almost from their earliest encounters. Tombs thousands of years old show humans buried with their cats, and historical records suggest deep affection for cats. Playful kittens, for example, from any epoch, would naturally respond to kind humans and in no time at all one can imagine ancient cats purring on ancient humans’ laps. In fact, I would not be surprised if there were sporadic companion cats thousands or hundreds of thousands of years before agriculture hastened their wide-scale domestication.

    I agree that many cats have a strong urge to be outside. For that matter, they are curious about what’s behind any door. One can always let their cat out at any time, but usually out of concern for their safety (or the backyard birds) we restrict their outdoor access. Actually, it’s a cultural thing. In Europe, for example, most cats are indoor-outdoor, and they seem to enjoy the blend of outdoor exposure and indoor security and comfort.

    In the U.S. I sense a small but budding movement to let cats experience the outdoors under controlled conditions, such as harnesses and leashes, outdoor enclosures, and specially-designed protective fencing. People are trying to negotiate a compromise between cats’ freedom and cats’ health and safety. I think as this trend continues, we’ll see more and more innovative products that help us achieve that balance.

  44. supernovadiva Says:

    wow at this thread. since everyone’s talking about the cat deal. feed the cat normal catfood. the end. when money was tight when we were kids, my mom set the cats outside to fend for themselves til we could afford to feed them again.

    marcus garvey said you never know yourself til your back’s against the wall’ i always remember that.
    i always tell people to do what you can til you can do better. not to be flippant but we hurt somebody all the time in this consumer world between buying and throwing it away.
    i never thought i’d be in walmart or applying for WIC, but i did what i had to do to feed my child. i don’t do either now, but i swallowed my pride and handled business. AND I WOULD DO IT AGAIN. we got to remember there are rural veg*ns out there and walmart is it for household needs.
    also if you are still concerned about feeding yourself cheaply do this:
    1)no convience foods. make your own patties
    2) beans beans beans (patties, soups, chili, just beans lol)
    3) stay with the produce. cut and freeze them for later
    4) internet is your cookbook
    5) look for natural alternatives for cleaners give or take (buy baking soda and vingegar in bulk)
    time to get your ‘little house on the prarie’ britches on :))
    6) nobody can judge unless they’re willing to make a contribution to the kanika utlities fund
    handle your business. you can’t be conscious if you’re unconscious from hunger.


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