Me? An Animal Advocate?

Warning: I fully expect this post, this LONG post, to be a bit all over the place...as my thoughts on this subject are...a bit jumbled...and I'm not sure exactly what I'm trying to say...but all I know is I felt like blogging this today so bare with me.

So, I've been thinking a lot lately about...I guess what it boils down to... animal rights - and the fair treatment of animals. Now this post is not a "preach to you" kind of post. I'm simply sharing my thoughts. I find lately I'm being drawn more and more to issues dealing with the treatment of animals. I mean, I've always heard and known that injustices towards animals take place but, keeping it real, it was like "Oh, that's sad...next topic." Now, I find that I really sympathize and wonder "What can I do?"

Thinking today, it struck me that I didn't start to really...for a lack of better word....care until I became a pet owner. I got Howard, my bichon frise/toy poodle, Christmas 2007.

Oh my gosh! Is he not the cutest thing ever?! I can't imagine anyone hurting him!

He is without a doubt the best purchase I've ever made in my life. Period. I never had pets growing up (unless you count goldfish) and to be honest, I was (and still am) afraid of dogs. I guess I always inherently knew that animals had feelings - but it wasn't until I became a pet owner myself, responsible for the life of something that can not communicate for itself, that all these injustices that happen to helpless animals really started to...bother me and that I really started to care. It's really hard to explain unless you have a pet - but I imagine its much like having a child or being responsible for a child. You are responsible for the well-being of that living creature that can not fend for itself. The difference is - babies grow up and turn into adults and learn to fend for themselves. Animals don't have that luxury. In the big picture of things: Man trumps Animal....and we, as men, do a lot of f-ed up shi*t to animals.

Howard make me ridiculously happy and I take the....privilege of being responsible for him very very seriously. It's the least I could do for this animal that brings me so much joy. And joy to my family. My mother, who said "sure you can get a dog, as long as he stays in YOUR space (this is when I was still living at home)," is now in LOVE with him. She buys him Christmas gifts, dog-sits and calls me with funny stories of what he's doing, and often calls me when I'm home to see how HE is. My younger siblings LOVE him. To see how they interact with him (from the youngest 6 yr old to the oldest 17 year old), and him with them, melts. my. heart. I seriously think having a family pet is one of the best things you can do for children. Not only does it teach them responsibility, but it also teaches them about forgiveness, loyalty, unconditional love, patience, and compassion.


I think that's what this is all about. You see, I KNOW, without a doubt, that Howard has feelings. He might not be able to say it, obviously, but he shows it. He shows his loyalty, he shows his love, he shows patience....he is SMART. He is aware. He shows anger! He is FUNNY! Sometimes he wants to do nothing but play...and he has different kinds of 'play.' When he's in pain, it shows. I could go on and on about his personality...

And the real realization that he has this...personality...lets me know that other animals have a personality too. And the thought of people harming innocent animals or treating them unfairly...really bothers me. Again, it makes me think "What can I do?"

It's funny, because as much as I like the zoo - I always felt sad when I was there. Even BEFORE I got Howard. Looking at these amazing animals sitting in these small areas, made to look like their natural habit but really not, sitting behind glass that says "do not tap" as people tap and take pictures. Heck, I was/am one of those people that takes pictures! I would think, "they must be really sad - this is not how they should be living. this is not natural for them." Not surprisingly, I recently decided that the zoo is not a place I'd like to go to any more....though I have volunteered with my little brother's class on their field trip...to the zoo...later this month. Oy. This goes for things like Sea World or Marineland. Don't think I'll be going to either any time soon.

I hear about documentaries like "The Cove" and my heart breaks into pieces. I hear about this story in the news in my area right now and I think "seriously! isn't that a bit drastic? aren't there alternatives?" Ugh, and I won't even mention "Food Inc" and several other stories in the news recently....

And then I feel like...a hypocrite or something because I LOVE to eat meat. Seriously. I'm a meat eater. Love it. And seafood - don't get me started. And I don't see myself becoming a vegetarian or vegan anytime soon (though never say never...). But yeah, for now and the foreseeable future, cutting meat out of my diet is not even a thought right now.

I mean, can I be an animal advocate...or something along those lines...heck I don't even know what I want to do with this new....passion for animals...volunteer or something would be my first guess...but can I really do anything when I EAT ANIMALS! ETA: I think, actually I know, that for some reason I've justified that it's okay to eat chicken and beef...or pork...but eat DOG? HEAVEN'S NO! Or horse? Never. But really - they are ALL ANIMALS...

I went on the WWF website today and as great as their cause is...after a quick browse it wasn't really speaking to me. So I went to the other organization I could think of that deals with animals...Peta. Yes, they are kinda hardcore for me too. But after a quick browse - this felt more what I was looking for. I mean - PETA = People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. That's exactly what is bothering me lately: The unethical treatment of animals....but I doubt PETA has a chapter for people like me. Meat eaters with leather handbags and shoes (kinda giggling writing that).

So...I dunno. I'm gonna browse the PETA site some more but I don't know what my next step will be. Maybe there's a PETA lite or something lmao. Likely, I'll just continue to sit here and wonder "what can I do" and not do anything...but I hope not.

Hmmm...not sure why I felt like sharing this but it's been something that's been weighing on my mind a lot lately. So, I mean, any and all comments are welcome. If you can relate - let me know how. Are you involved in any type of causes like PETA or WWF or a humanitarian organization...anything? Would love to hear about it.

ETA: Just found this website with a variety links to various animal rights organizations that I've never heard of - I'll be doing tons of browsing these next few days.

ETA: How could I not remember the WSPA? That might be a better option for me than PETA. Less hardcore tactics than the latter but just as effective. Excited to have (re) discovered it!


Kyla Roma said...

I'm active by being a vegetarian, not ever passing by a stray dog without pulling the car over and getting the poor kid into a safe situation, and being conscious of how my actions reflect my ethics. Being raised around horses and cows and chickens, I just don't see the difference between them and "cuter" animals like dogs and cats. For me, not eating meat is just a no brainer. It's right in line with my heart- but it's not for everyone.

In terms of what you can do? Volunteer if you have the time! There are so many shelters that need caring people who can lend a hand. It's a great way to make a big difference in a little life.

Anonymous said...

i am the same as you! i love animals and snuggling puppies and want none abused, but ill eat a rare steak in my leather loubs like its my job.

kudos to you for trying to get involved! keep us posted, bc there are lots of people like this!

Kay* said...

@Kyla Roma - I literally had an AHA! moment reading your comment, "...my actions reflect my ethics..." what a gem of wisdom! thank you. those 5 words are going to be replaying in my head for the next few days....

@Sweet Nithings - you literally made me laugh out loud "...in my leather loubs like its my job" :) thank you for your kudos! i will definitely keep you all posted :)

Anonymous said...

The SPCA is a great organization. I give my money to them because I've had experience with a dog that came from them, and our local one is run so well. PETA has good intentions, I think, but I disagree with some of their tactics, so I let my membership lapse.

In terms of diet: If you are thinking of going veggie, try cutting out one animal at a time. It is easier to draw the line step by step. Pick the animal you would miss the least and cut it out of your diet completely. See how that goes and then decide if you want to take it a step further. Also, the Enchanted Broccoli Forest by Mollie Katzen is the best cookbook ever if you need inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Same Anonymous here... I grew up with a bichon. Best dogs ever! Yours looks just like mine did!

Kay* said...

@Anonymous - thank you for your comment and suggestions :) i think you hit the nail on the head about Peta. there intentions are good but it's their tactics - at least some of the more drastic ones i've seen on t.v. - that i take issue with.& yes - bichon's are SO awesome :)

Jai said...

I have two dogs that I never imagined I could love as much as I do. They are my life and soul, especially the first one, Lucy, a 4-year-old German Shepard/Huskie mix, who we rescued from the shelter (the other is little Gizmo, my silly shih tzu with the underbite!). I can see the differences in their personalities every day, and I treat them accordingly. The Newmarket mess angered me, and when I thought about the many dogs and cats who never got the chance to learn and experience the love and joy Lucy and Gizmo did...my heart just broke for them.
So what I'm saying here, Kay, is that I get it. The confusion and the dilemma being an animal lover...and still loving meat and leather. But I think overall, it's the compassion that is the overwhelming factor. PETA...I don't know. I get their goals, but I disagree with their methods. What's wrong with just starting with small, direct, and drastically impactful (?) moves..such as fixing the newmarket mess?

French Country said...

That dog is cute! Reminds me of the little puppy that is laying on a rug by my favorite piece of country french furniture. I should probably show it some luv : )

Nichole Loiacono said...

I am a massive animal advocate. Kitties are my mission specifically (although, I'll help a dog in a split second if I find one.) People see animals as being disposable. I can't tell you how many kitties showed up at our house after people went and dropped them for whatever reason(we lived sorta in the country prior to our move.) They'd show up, dirty, sick, skinny, and scared. I guess where I'm going with this is...do what YOU can do. Find a no-kill shelter in your area. Support it monetarily, or even volunteer. You don't have to be a vegetarian/vegan to do good for all those furry kids out there. Start with that.

Lynne said...

Your post resonated with me on many levels. I am a meat-eater too, although I despise mistreatment of animals. I have cut down on meat drastically, and boycott brands highlighted by animal activist groups for their unethical treatment of animals.
I joined PETA for a while but they are, as you say, hardcore. I got sickened eventually by the continual emails etc bombarding me with the most awful stories and pictures. PREACHING TO THE CHOIR, GUYS! That's why I supported you! I unsubscribed just to stop the mail.
Now I support my local SPCA. At first I felt like I was copping out a bit. Now I follow the philosphy of everyone making a change in their own corner of the world to effect global change.

LAL said...

This is kind of the same realization I've had lately. I get so overwhelmed thinking about the animal shelter in the next county over filling 2 dump trucks with bodies per month. I look at their site and wish I could just take all of those animals into my home. I'm trying to accept the world and be less upset about injustice in it - to people and animals. But, I still want to do something to make some kind of a difference. You're making a difference to Howard. I am making a difference to my cat. Maybe I will make a difference to another cat soon. Can't fix the world for everybody, but we can fix it for somebody.

Jessica O'Brien said...

It's easy to feel disconnected from the leather you wear or meat you eat, so perhaps you want to put your focus into the animals you do feel most connected to. Perhaps an organization like the Humane Society? I'm not an expert on their organization, but it seems they focus on pets not being treated properly and a lot of rescue in regular communities. Here's their site: http://www.humanesociety.org/

Also, in college I volunteered at a no-kill shelter. Just walking dogs and cleaning their cages. They'd be happy to have you there!

I went slowly vegetarian, not by cutting out meat, but my adding in more vegetables! I know that sounds like the same thing, but for me, it wasn't. Slowly meat just played a lesser role to me and I had this whole diet full of other stuff to eat, so it was really easy to let go of. I'm not saying you have to give up meat if you're a "true" animal lover, but you may want to focus on having less meat per week or swapping out some meat entrees for vegetarian ones.

You may also want to research what farm you get your meat from. I'm not really against the eating of animals. I'm against the treatment of the animals who end up as the meat served to me. Does that make sense? Like, in principal I'm not totally opposed to eating meat. However, the living and slaughter conditions of cows, chickens, etc. are often horrific and unless I can find a local farm who doesn't use the techniques I'm opposed to, I won't eat meat.

Anonymous said...

This is a lovely post. There are some people who own pets who definitely don't need to own them. Its really upsetting to read/see/witness some of the things done. A childhood friend of mine had a dog, I don't remember what kind, but he grew rapidly... at one point he stopped eating and stopped barking. She finally took him to the doctor to find out what happened and found out that since he so rapidly grew and evidently they weren't paying attention, he collar began to choke him... and he was bleeding when they removed it. It was so sad!

Anonymous said...

I'm a vegetarian animal hater... so I wish I could relate to what you are feeling. I really just don't want animals in my home, or in the grocery store with me or in restaurants and such. I live in NYC and so everyday I have to deal with dogs barking at me when I am shopping at Barneys and stepping in their poop when I walk down my block...

Anyway, that's not why I am writing. Although I despise most creatures that aren't human... I don't want to see them hurt, I don't want to ingest their flesh and I am actually a very passionate supporter of animal rights. My point is that there are many ways to appreciate animals... don't feel pigeon holed by any of those organizations or their definitions. Get involved! Make a difference! Spread love!

Kara said...

I'm a supporter of the ASPCA. http://www.aspca.org/ I'm not going to preach but I feel that organization best fits my values. And of course I support my local animal rescue shelters too.

You should watch the HBO special Temple Grandin. I loved how she talked about how we should respect the animals and treat them humanely even as they are our dinner. Amazing story.

I'm a meat eater and don't see that changing either. Doesn't mean I don't think we should respect how we treat other living things. I'm a huge animal lover. Great post!

Kay* said...

wow! thank you all so much for leaving your comments! i was certain i was going to get a...an unfriendly comment so i’m so pleased to see you all sharing your experiences, suggestions, comments. wow - amazing! after reading all of your comments, and doing more research, but your comments specifically I do see now that I don’t necessarily have to be a vegetarian to make a difference.

@Jai - thank you for your comment. thankfully there seems to be some kind of resolution with the newmarket mess - although 95 (i think that’s the number) dogs were still euthanized. so sad. i agree with you about Peta - since posting I’ve found some other organizations that I’m more comfortable with :)

@French Country - thank you!

@Sparrow’s Nest - I remember my old manager used to tell me how people would just drop off their unwanted pets (mostly dogs) at her dad’s farm. I just don’t get it! Your suggestion of finding a no-kill shelter to volunteer some time at is a good one, I think I will!

@Lynne - Yes, that’s what it is - the mistreatment of animals. It’s really starting to bother me and I’m becoming more aware of it happening around the world. I really like what you had to say :)

@Lal - I so agree with you :) Your cat is lucky to have you!

@Jessica O’Brien - Love your suggestions of adding vegetables! It’s funny cause recently I was at the grocery store and picked up all these new veggies I’ve heard of but have never made. Then I went to Florida and they went bad in my fridge lol. But I think I’ll try again. Less meat per week is reasonable and something I could totally try to do.

@Sunny - Ugh. My heart literally broke reading that. Seriously, some people don’t have any business owning pets. That story is just terrible and heartbreaking.

@Anonymous - Thank you for your comment. (At first I thought you were going to put me down!) It’s very interesting to read your point of view as a vegetarian animal hater. I hadn’t considered that was possible...one assumes, vegetarian = animal lover. Can I say I think it’s totally fair if you just don’t like animals. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the fact that you don’t want animals in your home---or restaurants so on...(and dog owners really should pick up their dogs poop! I do!) Before I had a pet - I think I might’ve felt kinda the same way too. But what we do agree on is that we don’t want to see them hurt. Thank you so much for your comment!

@Kara - Thank you for your comment and suggestion. I will definitely try to find that movie!

micah said...

I feel the exact same way about our dogs. I would suggest that you watch the documentary Food Inc. (if you haven't already) and/or read the book "Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer. I'm vegetarian, but if you're going to eat meat I think it's important to search out meat from family farms instead of factory farms. Keep us posted - this is an important topic to discuss! :)

Kelly and Sara said...

The SPCA is an amazing group of people! Check out our blog, I foster dogs and frequently post about the animals I help. Currently I have an Italian Greyhound who was so abused and malnurished its disgusting. He has come a long way in the last 4 weeks but still has a long way to go. I just don't understand how people can be "backyard breeders."

Rhona said...

I can so relate to you. In the past, I never really thought about animals in any great details. Sure, dogs and cats are cute but I thought of them in an almost disjointed way. Until, we got our current dog. I have to say that everything has changed. I notice pets all the time and get so upset when I see animals being treated unfairly. I am really passionate about my puppy and his care and other animals also.
I am not a vegetarian but can easily live this way as meat is not my best friend but I still don't chose to eat a non-meat diet bc of my love of animals. It is purely a health thing.

Kara said...

Oh wow. I have so many thoughts on this. I do believe it's possible to be an ETHICAL meat eater. But above all else PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not support PETA. PETA is just a terrorist organization. They have said - in official statements - that they indulge in extreme methods in order to get media attention. PETA is NOT a reliable or reasonable organization. They are extremists who manipulate the media to their own ends. Please do not align yourself with them.

Anonymous said...

I've been having the same dilemma. I am a meat-eater, but as I learn more and more about factory farming practices, the more uneasy I have become about eating meat. I have reduced the number of times we eat meat each week, and I now am trying my hardest to only eat humanely raised and slaughtered animals. I feel much better about this compromise. I found this link on apartment therapy the other day. It's a great guide to get you started!


Anonymous said...

i think the best place for you to start is by implementing some kind of "meatless mondays" in your home - baby steps! and good books to read are "skinny bitch" (ugh, i wish it had a different title), "eating animals", "why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows", and books like "in defense of food" that focus on sustainability and "responsible" meat eating...very interesting, eye opening stuff. good luck!

also, try out vegweb.com or browse around the bookstore for some delicious meat-free recipes. there are tons of super easy, super delicious meals that dont involve animal products, and even if you never go fully veg, it's a great idea to add some veggie meals into your arsenal (often times economical, too!)

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