Monday, September 21, 2009

Please Welcome Lucy!

In an earlier post, I mentioned that Matt and I have been looking for a companion for our cat, Feast. After about a month of careful consideration, figuring out finances, and contacting various shelters around town, we decided to adopt a rescued border collie from East Tennessee Border Collie Rescue. I like this organization because they are thorough in the profiles of their collies, which has the potential to decrease returns of dogs due to "misunderstandings." Their application is detailed and they consider references carefully--all in all, they take adoption of companion animals seriously.

When I began looking through the dogs' profiles, I was searching for one who would be likely to be gentle with our (rather ornery) cat; I decided on Lucy, who was a little smaller than the other dogs up for adoption, and who was described as friendly, with both humans and other dogs. (Of course, I was hoping she would get along with Feast, too.)
Lucy, as the site said, "came from a truly horrendous situation of abuse. [She and two other dogs] had spent almost their entire lives in rusted metal cages, and hardly knew how to stand on firm ground when [ETBCR] rescued them." As I began email correspondence with Lucy's foster
mom, I found out that Lucy had had to have a few teeth removed because they were too black and damaged from chewing on the bars of her metal prison. She also had to have a lot of her fur shaved off because of its terrible condition...

This is a picture of Lucy at the time of the rescue.

Even now, I do not quite have the words to articulate my outrage with the people who abused her so.

We arrived at the adoption site on Saturday--Lucy greeted us cheerfully, and was so sweet; we took her home for a trial run with Feast. As it became clear that the two were more interested in avoiding each other, Matt and I finalized the adoption papers and brought Lucy home with us!

In the three days that she has been in our home, she has adjusted wonderfully. She loves walking around the neighborhood; she knows her name well and comes whenever we mention it; she is curious but cautious with Feast--and the two are getting along better and better. We are very happy to share our home with Lucy. Please join us in welcoming her to a life where humans take care of her, lavish attention on her, and make sure that her needs are met.

As you can see, she is beautiful (and would hardly sit still for the camera)!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Cabbage Pie

One of the readings I assigned my classes for today was an essay by Geeta Kothari, "If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?" Kothari traces several points of conflict between her Indian upbringing and the desire to fit in, to eat the kinds of foods American kids eat--"bologna, hot dogs, salami." During a couple points in the essay, she discusses a sense of inherited vegetarianism, and her various rebellions against it (like eating her friend's tuna-salad sandwiches at school). The essay didn't go over as well as I'd hoped; my students refused to see the conflict, refused, in fact, to see beyond the fact that one could go through life without meat products. I feel like because about a third of my students are older than I (some of them significantly so), I was more reluctant to question their stance, and didn't pursue the discussion into the realm of disclosing my own veganism. Of course, with all of the semester ahead, I think at some point, they will inevitably know.
Kothari's essay resonated with me--I, too, moved to the United States as a child. And although food issues were not as ripe with conflict as they were for her, I am beginning to realize, more and more that:

One day, my parents will be gone, and I will long for the foods of my childhood, the way they long for theirs. I prepare for this day the way people on TV prepare for the end of the world. They gather canned goods they will never eat while I stockpile recipes I cannot replicate. I am frantic, disorganized, grabbing what I can, filing scribbled notes haphazardly. I regret the tastes I've forgotten, the meals I have inhaled without a thought. I worry that I've come to this realization too late.

When I was growing up, there was cabbage pie. My father would make the dough, and my mother would make the filling and put it all together. A few weeks ago, I started thinking of making this pie. Of course, after at least half a dozen phone calls (and two emails) to my mother, her only advice to me in making the pie was, "Oh, you'll figure it out." And as it turns out, I did, although my pie was not as elegant as hers are--it was a sturdy replica. Usually, the pie is made with either cabbage or potatoes, but I had both on hand and decided to use them. In the pie are also carrot, onion, bell pepper, banana pepper, and spices. I made the pie last Monday, and we've been slowly eating it, taking it with us for lunches, having it for dinner, with a side. Today, I lunched on the final piece and it was as good as the first. I am already planning more pies with different fillings, but am also wondering about what else I'm potentially forgetting about, what other foods did I not appreciate as a child? I We all should remember things as such sooner, maintain those memories...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Companion Animals

Now that I have a job, we've been considering getting a friend for Feast (our cat).
I've also been reading Prof. Gary Francione's Animals as Persons and thinking about companion animals--about their status in our homes, and about animals' status in general. Francione states that "as a legal matter, we do not regard animals as having any value apart from the value we accord them" (104). Moreover, "the equal consideration of animal interests necessarily requires the recognition that non-humans have a right not to be treated as the property of humans" (106).

To a vegan, especially, these concepts seem pretty logical and aren't a far stretch from the rest of Francione's argument. However, I think these concepts are more difficult to grasp, to live according to--it is easier to accept the idea that "food" and "entertainment" animals are not property, and more difficult to see companion animals as having inherent value, as not property.
Indeed, it is more often than not that companion animals are treated as though they have inherent value--and yet the demand for these animals that are clearly are only ever marked as "companion" (fetishized objects) is problematic.

If someone were to go to a (dog, cat, hedgehog, etc.) breeder in order to obtain a "pet," she would be signaling a demand to this particular producer, who will in turn force the animals within his control to breed in order to create the supply. This chain of supply and demand becomes especially transparent (at least to me) in a scenario where there is a waiting list for an animal to be born and weaned to fulfill the role that is created for him/her--as "pet." From inception--and even before then--the animal's value is dictated by the role that humans impose, not by the animal's inherent value; in becoming a "pet," the animal is expected to fulfill the human's expectations, not his or her own instincts and wishes. In this sense, the animal is treated more as a thing. This kind of misguided action (obtaining an animal from a breeder, or obtaining an animal for the role of "pet") not only goes against most people's intuitive belief that animals have inherent value--their own personality, memories, desires--but clearly indicates a violation of the vegan ethics. If veganism renounces the idea that animals should be used for food, clothing, and entertainment, we should certainly strive for moral consistency and view companion animals as part of the chain of animal "products."

When considering obtaining a companion animal, rescued animals pose less of a problem--they are inadvertent victims of the system, and oftentimes the ones who have been rejected by the previous "owner;" these rejected animals are evidence (symptoms) of a failed system--if people recognized inherent value of animals, they would stop a) demanding "pets" or b) (especially in instances where the animal's interests conflict with those of the human "owner") discard them at their convenience. To provide a home for a mature animal does not create that same demand, as breeders do not receive the signal to "produce" more animals through forced breeding. Again, I stress that veganism demands attention to not only what we eat and wear, but also awareness of the other ways in which animals are exploited (for entertainment or as pets).

A few years ago, I had a hedgehog, and she was one of the best companions I could ever hope for; when thinking of a companion for Feast, I began considering another hedgehog. However, thinking more extensively about it, I realized that if I want a hedgehog, this desire is selfish (I'd have to go to a breeder to obtain her), and is only a desire to fulfill my human need (whim)--this desire does not consider the interests of the animal mother or offspring.

What we must do is work towards the demystification of everyday practices--whether it's eating an animal or considerint providing a home for one. If veganism signifies a rejection of the commodity status of non-humans, we should be thorough, and carry that belief to the realm (and treatment of) companion animals. Many of the things I have mentioned in this post seem intuitive, but like many things close at hand, they are sometimes the very ideas that we pay least attention to and take for granted.

(A picture of very young Feast and Big, the hedgehog.)