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Russia: A proud land of intolerance and bigotry

August 18, 2012

Pussy Riot: sentenced to two years in prison for an anti-Vladimir Putin protest in a Moscow cathedral earlier this year

What is going on in Russia? I really had no idea how scary-controlling and bigoted that country was! LGBT rights simply don’t exist there and apparently neither do some basic human rights that we Westerners take for granted. The Russian powers-that-be have bizarre ways of doling out their bigotry: from “hooliganism” charges for Pussy Riot (equating to two years in prison) to Moscow’s outright ban on Pride parades for 100 years(!) as they allegedly pose a “risk causing public disorder.” Whatever happened to freedom of speech?

Why don’t we ask good ol’ Madonna who just recently was sued for “insulting” a bunch of bigoted anti-gay activists by speaking out in support of gay rights at her concert in St. Petersburg last week. The pathetic thing is, they actually have a case for it! St. Petersburg adopted a law prohibiting any public display or dissemination of “gay propaganda”. This would fall into that category. Someone who’s close-minded moral sensitivities were hurt even went so far as accusing Madonna of potentially causing some boy or girl to become gay (*gasp*), which would lead him/her to not make babies and consequently the country would have fewer people to defend its borders. [Yes, that’s it. Gay people will certainly be the downfall of Russia.] I’m not kidding. This person was serious.

Granted, there has been *some* progress in Russia, particularly the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1993 (and no longer considering homosexuality a mental disorder in 1999); however, being LGBT in Russia is no freedom. A country that so blatantly condones prejudice and nonacceptance of diversity is going to breed a pretty racist, homophobic, and all-around prejudiced bunch. Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, was comfortable publicly labelling Madonna as a whore and threatening to fine her for “homosexual propaganda.” If that’s not telling the public how to feel about it, I’m not sure what is.

Russian freedom of expression appears to be an oxymoron. Perhaps I’m naïve, but these kinds of events I would have expected to read about in Russian history books, not in current news. It makes me sad. It makes me nauseous. It makes me wonder about my own freedoms. Could an extremely right government ever change the course of time for Canada and reverse our basic human rights here at home? Talk of abortion rights and gay marriage circulates regularly at the governmental levels, often encouraged by the media, to see just how far politicians will go in expressing their personal beliefs on these hot topics.

It’s yet another one of those times when I feel somewhat helpless to support a cause I feel so passionate about. I marvel at activism in the height of discrimination and persecution, and part of me wants to join the ranks of my brethren, but the other part of me reminds me of how ill-prepared I would be for such public confrontation. I do benefit from the enormous human rights achievements of the past and I do stand on the shoulders of giants in that regard. I am cognizant of this fact every day and I am thankful. Yet we are still in desperate need of giants now, in countries like Russia, and worse, Uganda, Jamaica, North Korea, … The concept of LGBT rights is an illusion to those of us who live in western bubbles of progressive cities. We are so far ahead of the pack on this front. We need to recognize that people today, in countries not so far off, are being persecuted and silenced in the fear of prejudice and hate.

Eastern Europe has shown their true colours time and time again. Antisemitic political parties still exist and outright scapegoat the Jews for the problems of a country (Hungary). It’s even hard to be accepted as vegan in Russia as most people can’t accept that you are different from them. Racism in Russia is rampant, being “prevalent in 50% of Russians.” And we have already borne witness to what little rights LGBT people have in Russia. Difference is a curse. Conformity is the rule. Diversity in Russia and beyond is frowned upon.

I never want to visit Russia or any other country that does not allow freedom of expression or equal rights for all. This resolution means practically nothing to the cause, I know this, but it’s a decision that helps me cope a little better with the blatant hypocrisy of my life (i.e., enjoying comparatively complete freedom while others do not).

Every decision we make should be guided by our beliefs, no matter how small. May the international pressures and disdain for prejudice lead Russia down the virtuous path of acceptance on a greater scale. Let us pray to Madonna for this.

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How to be a happy vegan at a summer barbecue

July 22, 2012

poolsideThere are so few summer weekends and they book up so quickly. It seems like everyone wants a slice of your weekend time and you kind of want a slice of everyone else’s!

We just spent a beautiful weekend at a friend’s house just outside of Ottawa.  It was a small party of seven and involved swimming, barbecuing, imbibing and loads of relaxing. Not to mention that the weather was perfect. Of course, when vegans are ever invited to meat-eaters’ barbecues, they essentially have to brace for being around loads of meat and being the centre of attention, whether it is of awe-struck observers of one’s abstaining from eating meat or any animal products, or of excessive teasing or even inappropriate comments in reference to one’s culinary choices. I sometimes have to psychologically prepare for these kinds of events, whether to be comfortable answering the typical questions (genre: “Can you still eat eggs though?”) or to laugh along at the jokes (genre: “Is a vegetarian still vegetarian if he eats a vegetarian?”).

Often the mental pre-prep does little to help with my emotional side when I’m in these kinds of situations, but for some reason this weekend, I was able to look past it and come out on top. I’m not kidding! I was able to have a wonderful time despite all of the teasing and meat-eating from my comrades. The most uncomfortable I felt was when the conversation turned–at least 5 times throughout the party–to discussing how wonderful it is to eat meat. I still haven’t been able to confirm whether this kind of bizarre human behaviour happens more readily around the presence of vegetarians or if this is just the kind of shit that gets carnivores off regardless of who is around (as long as there is at least one other carnivore there who is able to also idolize dead animal flesh). It’s not enough to eat meat, you’ve gotta also talk all about it! Standard topics of discussion usually are limited to:

  • Proclamations of one’s love of meat;
  • Descriptions of how much one loves meat;
  • What kinds of exotic meats one has tried;
  • What kinds of exotic meats one would try;
  • How much meat can one eat in one sitting;
  • How much of a deal one got on the purchase of meat;
  • How bloody does one like one’s meat.

There is definitely something sexual about meat. I still haven’t read the books on the sexual politics of meat, but it is totally not a far-fetched idea. Often when men (it’s always men, in my experience) talk about meat, it’s similar to the way they talk about women or men (depending on their sexual orientation). Yeah, kinda gross. But I guess the upside is, at least in my case, I am able to view this behaviour the way a scientist peers into a microscope, like a social experiment and in some ways, this helps me get over the offensiveness of the entire experience.

There are so many reasons to get angry, offended, frustrated or hurt. If you let your emotions take the best of you every time someone else was insensitive, you would be a very unhappy person. Being vegan in today’s society is not easy, because it is still generally acceptable to mock and deride veganism. It’s also acceptable to remain completely ignorant about it. When confronted with an uncomfortable situation, I try to tell myself that we are all on some righteous path, just that some people are farther along than others. I should try to accept that people sometimes just don’t get it and usually are not trying to hurt. Rather, in some ironic way, they are just trying to get along with me. On the rare occasion, I’m successful in convincing myself of this and I am able to have a great time with a motley crew.

You have to decide your own cutoff limit between wanting to have a good time and being offended. You can’t live your life hating the world. Take a break every so often from the inner turmoil and just breathe in the fresh air of otherwise pleasant and good-natured company who truly are happy that you are with them. You might even find yourself more productive in your own moral agenda if you are more accepting–or happier–in your day-to-day.

Conscious happiness

July 15, 2012

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The office is so quiet these days.

Many people take vacation in July and I like the quietness. Me, I’m taking little to no vacation this summer. It’s really my first summer of “9-to-5” style work and I’m not yet feeling the need to flee that other people in a similar situation generally feel during the warmer months of the year. I think I’d rather take vacation in the winter.

Facebook status posts confirm that people are out having a good time, on boats, overseas, at parks, at concerts, with friends, drinking Corona, barbecuing meat, etc. There appears to be a propensity among humans to want to brag about or announce what they’re doing and where they’re going. I believe that in some way it validates their decisions to take vacation and/or spend money on frivolities. But they look happy. And maybe they are happy. And when people are happy, they generally look good–that is to say, “good” both in reference to their condition and appearance and also in reference to their person.

All of the summer-induced smiles on my Facebook feed have given rise to conflicting feelings in me. On one hand, I am gladdened to see such apparent happiness in a world that often appears so sad. These cheerful individuals have somehow overcome the barrage of bad news and found solace in their immediate lives: their family, friends, health and weather. On the other hand, I am troubled by all this happiness despite the knowledge that our lives are in direct contradiction to our morality.  I say “our” and not “their” because I feel that I too struggle with my own happiness when I know that taking pleasure in the distorted luxury of our affluent society is only a chimera when coming to terms with the interconnectedness of our lives and decisions and the lives of billions of others, more miserable and wretched than we.

Alright, I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer. There is simply no point in being miserable needlessly just because we know that our excesses necessitate unnamed misery, suffering and deaths. Whether we are happy or miserable in our lives will not change the indirect impact we have on others elsewhere. So might as well be happy, no? Except that our happiness may seem provocative or disrespectful in light of all this. Our misery or frustration may seem more like conciliatory sympathy. But either way, it could be regarded as insulting. So what do we do?

I don’t think that we need to focus on how we feel or how we come across as feeling. If we’re sad, we’re sad; if we’re happy, we’re happy. Our happiness and sadness should not be considered moot only because we benefit from the privilege of living in a rich country with social welfare and relative shelter from harm. What we should focus on, however, is twofold: (1) how can we make changes in our lives to reduce the suffering of others, and (2) how can we be most informed in life so that we are aware of the impact (whether negative or positive) of all of the daily decisions we make (whether it is to eat meat, buy clothes, travel to exotic countries, or simply just spend the weekend at home in an air-conditioned environment)? …all of this of course, irrespective of how we may feel on a daily basis. Consciousness in our daily decision-making–no matter how seemingly insignificant–is for me, the most important step in reconciling one’s morality with one’s actions and reducing the guilt and ignorance which so often may lead to one’s own unhappiness or the unhappiness of others present or absent in one’s life.

If I knew that everyone smiling at me on my Facebook feed was making the conscious decision to smile at me, knowing as best as they can how their opting to do whatever it is they are doing that makes them smile is impactful in so many ways, I would smile back.

Are you in control of your life?

July 8, 2012

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.netToday is my birthday. I am 32 years old.

I’d like to think that I have already accomplished great things in my life (notwithstanding my poor performance lately on maintaining my blog–many apologies for those faithful readers). I’m not sure if it’s true, however. At times, just having certain firm beliefs seems enough to convince me that I am doing something significant and good on my short time on this planet, but then I choke on the realization that self-satisfaction generally does not equate to greatness or impact on others. But then again, maybe it does.

Life is weird that way; we really don’t know how our actions or our inactions affect others. I know that a lot of people I have met in my 32 years on this planet have been affected  from just knowing me, to the extent that they have questioned their own morality and assumptions. Some have reduced their consumption of animal products and others have gone so far as to become vegetarian/vegan. This is something to be proud of. Not that I believe that I was the sole reason for these important changes in people’s lives, but I do confidently believe that I have had some influence or persuasion or helping hand to get them there.

For my part, I have been affected positively by countless others. As social beings, humans tend to group and in those groups, we adopt and share each others attitudes, mannerisms, humour, and even beliefs. At 32 years old, I have likely not yet achieved greatness outwardly, but maybe there is some greatness growing inside of me.

Today is a special day, but not because it was the day I was born. It is the day that I decided to write a blog post. This may seem like an ordinary event in the lives of internauts, but it has deep meaning for me.

Every so often, I realize that I’m doing things in my life either out of habit or because slowly and incrementally, I find myself doing them. Whether it is taking lessons I don’t want to take, or meeting with people I don’t want to meet with, or joining clubs, or agreeing to do things, to go places, to do this, to do that… And then I have that moment of clarity when I wake up and see that–wait a minute–I am no longer in control of my life as completely as I would like to be. It is an amazing moment when you reveal this to yourself this and a liberating moment when you actually take action.

If you don’t like something, change it.

If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.

If you can’t change the way you think about it, stop doing it.

Live by this mantra, and, believe me, you will find your life will lead to contentment in leaps and bounds. It is hard to stop doing things you think you should do because it’s just what you’ve been doing for so long, but try it. You won’t forget how good it feels.

This is my first blog post, aged 32.

Ottawa Veg Fest 2012

April 15, 2012

Veg Fest 2012Well, it’s that time of year again. Er… what time, you may ask? Only the most exciting time for vegetarians and vegans in the Ottawa region, the days leading up to Ottawa’s Veg Fest. Everything is abuzz here in Ottawa in preparation for the 4th annual Veg Fest, Ottawa’s no. 1 vegetarian event, brought to you by the National Capital Vegetarian Association (NCVA) and The Table Restaurant. It’s the type of event that you do not want to miss and if you do miss it, you’ll be kicking yourself over it till next spring when you will surely not make the same mistake again. As always, there will be plenty of exhibitors, food demos, and guest speakers. Every year offers more exciting events and activities. This year will feature a silent auction and even a 31-day vegan challenge with many prizes to be won. Also new this year is that while the venue isn’t changing (Glebe Community Centre), the Veg Fest is expanding at the venue to allow for more space for the food demos and presentations. You’ll be sure to run into some special local celebrity guests and maybe even a talking vegetable or two. Seriously, Veg Fest is zany.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Veg Fest or who think that perhaps it might not be for you, here is some more info to help familiarize yourself with the event and make you certain that you will enjoy it no matter what you eat!

  • Veg Fest is a great event for anyone who enjoys good food. Not just vegetarians. Everyone should check it out and see what it is all about, especially those who are curious about living and eating more healthily, environmentally-friendly initiatives and products, and all the hubbub associated with this new-fandangled concept called “vegetarianism”;
  • Guest speakers will speak on issues pertaining to health, environment, and animal suffering  (Jack Norris R.D., James McWilliams, Jo-Anne McArthur);
  •  Lots of food to be tasted and discovered. You may even learn how to make some of it yourself with the fantastic food demonstrations that will be taking place throughout the event;
  • This event is entirely run by the dedicated volunteers of the NCVA. Come show your support for a local not-for-profit organization striving for the betterment of your community. You can even become a member yourself at the event or online by a $20 (or more) donation to the organization;
  • Admission is FREE, by the way;
  • And yes, kids are welcome and love the event too!
Oh, and I’ll be there too, which is I think the most compelling argument to come, no?
More info can be found on the NCVA event page as well as the NCVA blog, which you should be reading anyway.
See you on Sunday April 29, 2012!

Follow-up commentary on: Can vegans own pets?

March 25, 2012

Cat for adoptionI wanted to take the opportunity to clarify slightly my dilemma in my previous post. A few people have made comments following my post cautioning me not to equate morality of humans with that of other animals (e.g., cats). I am surprised by this warning as I did not believe that my post revealed any indication that I was ignorant of this. Indeed, I am well aware of the moral differences between humans eating animals and other animals eating animals, and I would certainly never apply identical moral argumentation to both scenarios.

I would like to emphasize a particular element of my dilemma that I still do not have an answer for. I was recommended a podcast by Gary Francione in which it was alleged that he answers my questions concerning this dilemma. Gary makes some extremely insightful points on what vegan cat owners should do on the assumption that certain cats cannot follow vegan diets and remain healthy. (Note that this is an assumption he makes because he admits he is not a veterinarian or similar and so cannot claim that this is true or not.) However, he also makes the assumption that this question is being asked by vegans who presently own cats. Still I am left in doubt about those vegans who are interested in adopting cats but do not have one yet. This is a very important distinction.

Indeed, the podcast helped me to frame my question more precisely, by referring to “pet ownership” as an “immoral institution”, which I can relate to. It is assumed, therefore, that vegans who already participate in this “immoral institution” have an obligation to their animals to continue participating in it. For example, vegans have the obligation to engage in “morally excusable” acts such as feeding their cats meat in order to ensure that they do not suffer. This makes perfect sense and I was not questioning this per se in my previous post. But I wonder:  does one opt in good moral consciousness to participate in this “immoral institution” if one has the choice not to (i.e., if one is not already participating)?  In other words, what should non cat owners do? Should they adopt cats in the hope that the cats can follow a vegan diet and if they can’t, then (since they are now cat owners) they must start buying meat (as identified by Gary as the “morally excusable” act)? Again, Gary believes that it is not inherently wrong to feed a carnivorous domesticated animal a vegan diet if they prosper only on it. That I do not deny. But should we participate in this “immoral institution” called “pet ownership” if we have the option not to? Is it “morally excusable” to adopt a cat and take the risk that it will not be able to eat a vegan diet?

As previously mentioned, Gary says that it is “morally excusable” to feed cats meat if there is no other alternative. This implies that he believes it is better to feed and care for the cat than to euthanize it in order not to contribute to the meat industry. I can accept that, too. But I still am without the answer to my question in my previous post: Can vegans adopt cats? Sure, vegans can own pets, but should they adopt if they don’t already own?

I am also aware that I should not broadly apply my morality for animals on my morality for meat or animal products directly. However, this must be taken with a grain of salt. Non-vegetarians can and do make the “category” argument when they eat meat, e.g., “It’s already dead by the time it makes it to my plate!” (I.e., “It’s not my ethical dilemma, it was someone else’s”). The same can be true for cat food. If one feels justified housing a bunch of cats by believing that the meat that one feeds the cats is just an animal product that is already dead, then I’m not going to argue, but to my mind, I do not believe it is categorically appropriate to make the distinction. Perhaps I’m in error to try to work out exactly how many animals need to die so that my cat can live out his/her life, and then from that try to determine whether it is more morally excusable to euthanize the animal than to feed it meat. Perhaps it’s a timing issue with respect to at what point we can safely say that we have no control or persuasion on an animal’s suffering. It is more apparent and direct to see your own cat harmed by your dogmatic beliefs than it would be to only *assume* a farm animal suffers from you compromising those very beliefs. That may be enough for most people to see this as a black and white decision. Unfortunately, it isn’t quite so for me.

Finally, I’m a bit surprised that I must also explain and clarify my stance on my veganism, but alas, I do have to from time to time. I’m not inherently against killing. That is not what you should have taken away from my last post. I do not believe all carnivorous animals should be killed or euthanized for “the greater vegan cause”. That is ludicrous and a straw man. However, I do think that if domesticated animals were to exist no longer, this wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing. The same applies to domesticated farm animals, but for different reasons. My “life equals a life” reasoning that I alluded to in my previous post could be likened to the classical moral dilemma of choosing between saving drowning animals. Say four cows and a cat are drowning in a lake. You have the opportunity to save the four cows or to save the cat. Which do you save? This eliminates the timing issue I referred to above. I do not apply or compare this hypothetical dilemma to natural environments or the food chain. We are talking about owning pets, not disapproving of eating meat across the animal kingdom.

I do not believe I made a category error in my previous post. Agree? Disagree? I’d love to hear your comments!

Can vegans own pets?

March 18, 2012

cats for adoptionI want a cat. Since I was a very young child, I have always wanted a cat. It sort of morphed into wanting a monkey after reading Curious George and watching Friends, but even during that stage of my life, I would have been quite happy with a cat. My sisters and I had two cats only throughout the course of our childhood. Buckley was, for all intents and purposes, my cat. I was devastated when he died and locked myself in my room to grieve and draw pictures of him to post around my room. I was about seven. While I loved him literally to death, I probably treated him more like Elmyra from Tiny Toons treated kitties. The second cat we had was Lucy. She was the devil incarnate, but again, I loved her dearly and was extremely sad when she passed.

Now that I am older, living on my own and following a vegan lifestyle in which the principles of veganism are highly important to me, I have the opportunity to own a cat myself, but the reality is, I cannot get past my ethical dilemma with such a relationship.

First, let’s deal with the general dilemma of being vegan/vegetarian and wanting to own a pet. Can vegetarians/vegans own pets? Some vegans do not even contemplate the potential moral inconsistencies with “owning an animal”. Even the phrase sounds counter-vegan. If we consider animal rights, then how could owning an animal ever be appropriate? If it weren’t for humans, animals would never have been domesticated. Cats and dogs, for example, would very probably not even exist. To be sure, pet ownership inherently perpetuates the idea that other animals can be “owned” like objects and as such the laws protecting these animals are little more severe than laws protecting physical property. Essentially, while most people seem to believe that domesticated animals are treated with respect and love, the majority of these poor creatures who are lucky enough to live in a home–and are not stray, abandoned, feral, farmed for meat or fur or brought up in a mill–sadly live in a state where their “owners” do not care for their emotional needs and desires. However, even vegan abolitionists agree that owning animals is often the lesser of two evils since there is nothing we can do about their existence at this stage. It would actually be contrary to animal rights to deny domesticated animals the comfort of living in a good home that would care for them, just because we are against owning pets, in principle. Therefore, when there is an animal in need of shelter or a loving home to prevent it from starving or being abused, etc., it behooves us as moral human beings to care for and nurture these animals. This is as much the vegan agenda as it is that of any other animal lover. If you are interested in reading more on the vegan abolitionist perspective on owning pets, I recommend Gary Francione‘s article on the subject, quoted in this blog post, but for the purpose of my blog post, I believe we have an answer to this general question:

In general, vegans and vegetarians can own animals, provided that the animals are adopted or rescued. This excludes buying animals that are sold at pet stores or bred for certain aesthetic characteristics, or from (puppy) mills, etc. The mere fact that these institutions still exist is abhorrent to me, and should be to any vegan, vegetarian, animal lover or owner.

So I’m reassured that in general, vegans can own (or more accurately, adopt) animals. However, I do not believe this applies to all species of animals. Certain animals have no right in a human dwelling (such as non-domesticated animals, exotic animals, birds, and the like) and even if we do consider our acquiring of the animal to be an adoption or rescue, the animal may end up being more miserable than if it were just euthanized or set free. The borderline case that I still do not have an answer for then is whether we, as vegans, can adopt/rescue domesticated carnivorous animals, namely cats, and still stay true to our ethics, principles, and concern for non-human animals.

My sister is a veterinarian. As such, she knows a lot about domestic animal care. She also is a strong advocate for pet adoption and rescuing and is appalled by the lack of care some owners provide for their pets. The grand majority of cat owners feed their cats meat-based food, whether it is from beef, chicken or fish. This is because cats are carnivores and therefore require a meat-based diet. Vegans are, by definition, against buying and consuming animals and animal-based products. This arguably applies to pet food that contains animal. Ethically speaking, I can see no difference in buying meat for my own personal digestion and nutrition and buying meat for that of my furry little friend. At the end of the day, you would still be supporting the factory farming/meat industry or simply condoning the practice of raising and slaughtering animals for meat or other animal products. Often, pet food meat is the byproduct of the meat industry. However, I do not believe this is relevant to the ethical debate. Meat is meat, especially if it comes from the same industry.

It must be noted that there are some websites and (small) pet food operations/companies that seem to indicate that you can ethically feed your feline vegan, plant-based food and that it has all that is required to maintain a healthy pH balance and taurine. All this and you are purchasing cruelty-free pet food! However, my sister, while not against the possibility of raising animals vegan per se, is extremely skeptical of the claims made by these sites and companies with respect to the vegan food being nutritionally complete for the animals and to the lack of evidence that this food is actually appropriate and safe for the animals. Furthermore, she debunked most of the claims made on vegancats.com. So it seems for now, there is no ethical alternative to feeding cats meat-based foods.

So then how is this decision complicated? If we believe that buying meat is ethically wrong then shouldn’t the answer be evident? That is, vegans cannot own domesticated carnivorous animals, namely cats?

It’s a much more complex issue than that. In light of what was discussed above regarding the adoption and rescue of animals, we know that there are many cats who need loving homes and without which may continue to live in terrible conditions, possibly squalid or abusive. Shouldn’t we, as vegans and animal lovers, adopt these pets so that they no longer suffer? Isn’t part of being vegan reducing the suffering of animals, including cats?

Hence the Catch-22. On one side, we cannot buy meat because of the implications of supporting the meat industry and thus indirectly causing suffering to animals. On the other, we cannot not adopt a cat, because if we choose not to, we may be indirectly causing suffering to that animal. How do we reconcile our vegan ideology with the beast which is the domesticated carnivorous animal?

Due to this conundrum and my lack of a clear solution, I had abstained from adopting cats, despite my deep-seated love for them. However, recently I was confronted with the dilemma once again. I watched Animal House Calls in which my sister was an invited guest on the show. She introduced Fergie, a rescued cat who needs a home, to the viewers. I somewhat fell for Fergie and wanted to adopt her. I emailed my sister almost humorously alluding to my desire to adopt the cat. It developed into a discussion on the very dilemma above, can I adopt poor Fergie as a vegan?

On “a life equals a life” ethical basis, it appears that more animal suffering would be caused by the adoption of Fergie than by Fergie being euthanized. I know this sounds shocking for cat-lovers, but try to picture it the other way. Say you wanted to adopt a chicken, and in order to adopt that chicken you would have to kill 10 cats. Would you do it? Most likely not. That’s how I feel here. How many animals need to suffer and die so that Fergie can live? Do I want to be responsible for the deaths of those animals?

I’m not even sure this is the most appropriate way of basing the ethical debate and I welcome any arguments or alternatives to help me with this issue. Indeed, I find it a struggle. Nevertheless, presently the above perspective is how I view it and so I cannot realistically adopt a cat–no matter how much I love cats–because I believe that it would be too much of a compromise of my veganism and my commitment to reducing animal suffering.

So if you are vegan or if you are committed to reducing animal suffering, and you are not quite sure if you feel comfortable, ethically-speaking, adopting a cat, I have boiled it down to three conclusions you can make after you have done some soul-searching:

  1. Do not get a cat, because you can never be confident enough that a vegan diet is appropriate for cats. Your morality restricts you to adopting herbivorous pets;
  2. Do more research and if you find a credible trend of evidence that supports vegan diets for cats, then adopt a cat and start her/him on a vegan diet. However, you must be prepared if s/he shows signs of not being healthy, or of even not enjoying the food, to buy meat to feed her/him, because you have taken on the responsibility of care for the animal and it would be even more ethically abhorrent to disown the animal because it can’t follow a vegan diet;
  3. Adopt a cat and find ways of reconciling your veganism (and animal ethics) and owning a pet. (Then let me know about how you did this!)

Presently, I must admit that the only realistic option I see available to us is the first one. And so, I sign off this dreadfully long rumination, as cat-less as I was when I started it.

 

Check out the follow up post entitled “Follow-up commentary on: Can vegans own pets?” for more discussion on this topic!

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