There is nothing I abhor more than cruelty to animals. Like children, they don’t get a say in the matter, but I haven’t much been exposed to children, so animal welfare is my thing. For years, I fought puppy mills in America, trying to appeal to reason in educating people about the fact that those adorable puppies in the window are the product of great suffering, as their parents sit in small, chicken wire cages their whole lives, exposed to the elements and generally not properly fed or cared for. I know of this horror first-hand, as I’ve helped rehabilitate many survivors straight out of the mill.
But they’re so cute!
How can you rationalize with someone whose endorphins are berzerking upon seeing the playful flufballs behind the store glass, batting at each other’s heads and rolling around on their backs? They look so happy. You can’t even see the terrifying overnight tractor-trailer haul they just survived, weaned too early from their mamas and stuffed into crowded boxes with no food and water. You really can’t even. see. it.
You can imagine my internal conflict as I walk the aisles of the local pet shop here in Japan.
Bill doesn’t really like his food, and the Wellness brand is on sale at the mall. I’d like to take advantage of the good price, but the doggies in the window nag at my periphery. I put the bag down. I pick it up. I don’t want to shop here. Really, I don’t. And why should I when I could just buy this same thing, maybe even at the same or a better price, online?
I don’t want to support a store that sells puppies, but almost every pet supply store and home center (hardware store) here in Japan does. These puppies are from an equally abusive industry that is shrouded even deeper in the shadows than the American pet shop supply chain, but here, nobody even talks about it. Like many things Japanese, the people here find it easier to go the route of the ostrich, sticking their heads in the sand.
How far do you take your convictions?
I confront myself with the reality of the situation: whether or not I buy a bag of discounted dog food in this store will make absolutely no difference in the lives of the breeder dogs who supply this store with puppies. I’m only hurting myself by not taking advantage of the price. Plus, if I really wanted to take a stand against this pet store, I’d have to find a different grocery store, too, as they’re the same brand, and there’s no other grocery store in walking distance (or even biking distance for my feeble flying trapeze legs).
Even so, I walk out of the store leaving the bag of dog food behind. I’ll think on it while I go find a bottle of wine. At the wine store owned by the dog store. Fuck.
Long story short…
I bought the discounted dog food on the way back out of the mall. The woman who rang me out was sweet, commenting on what a great dog Bill is. “You have no idea…” I thought to myself. He IS a great dog. He wasn’t always a great dog. He was a severely emotionally damaged, two-year-old stud-reject from a puppy mill when I met him. It took him almost six months to get the confidence to venture out of his own bed and another half a year to explore the sound of his own voice. And I have fostered even worse, like the emaciated mill momma with saggy tits who bled out her ass for a week. I’m sorry this is not PG, but it’s the truth.
What about dairy cows and chickens?
I’m exploring this idea of how far to take my convictions not only regarding where I buy my dog food but also for what I’m willing to eat myself. I recently decided to take some serious steps toward living as cruelty-free a life as possible. I no longer buy meat products to cook at home, but, for example, I cooked a meal at a friend’s house the other day and she had chicken, so we cooked it. I feel like it doesn’t help animals at all, nor does it respect their sacrifice, not to cook or eat meat that is already on the table in front of me. This goes the same for if someone else cooks it; I’ll eat it. I’ll eat it all, in fact, to ensure none of that animal’s sacrifice is taken for granted.
I thought I was doing pretty well until I really examined my thought process this morning as I poured milk into my morning muesli. Do I believe these dairy cows suffer any less than animals raised for meat? And what about the chickens producing the eggs in my fridge?
I don’t think it’s realistic or even necessarily healthy for me to be vegan, but my problem here is there’s no Whole Foods with clear labeling and potentially happier cows. There are some co-ops if you know where to look, but this, too, is impossible for me because we move every two months. For that reason, I’ve decided this liter of milk and carton of eggs in my fridge will be my last, at least for a while.
Being earth-ethical in a foreign land is hard, but in my opinion, this is the stuff that matters. Factory farming is bad for our animals, our environment, and ourselves. A collective decision to stand against factory farming can have a positive impact on more than 9,000,000,000 (NINE BILLION!) animals who are killed inhumanely every year. For me, at least, I feel like the choices I make to eat a largely plant-based diet and even just the act of writing this post give my life way more meaning than the tricks I throw, the money I’ve earned, or the things I’ve bought. My hope is you’ll support me in my choices and perhaps even consider how an anti-cruelty stance might fit into your life.
Consider the suffering of these pigs, and then really think about whether pork products enhance your life so much that they’re worth this. The blood is on our hands, and we can’t change that, but at least we can make better choices in the future.
If you feel you have to eat meat, at least buy animal products from local, ethical farmers. You’ll spend a little more, but the true cost will be so much less.
I hope you’ll take some time to watch the video below by Peter Singer, a DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. I go back to it again and again.
In closing, I feel like we each have to do what we’re comfortable with. I’m not comfortable with not shopping at the grocery store here because I’ll starve, and I don’t think my purchase of dog food today really made any difference in the big picture of animal welfare. Nor do I think I’m harming animals by wearing the thrift store coats with fur collars I have already purchased. However, I will continue to avoid pet stores selling live animals when possible and buy online instead. Additionally, while my decision not to buy milk, eggs, and meat products from the store may not cause one animal not to suffer, perhaps that in conjunction with sharing my reasoning will.
I challenge you, my friends and readers, to at least make one positive change today to reduce the suffering you cause others. Maybe just think about it a little. Maybe just celebrate meat-free Mondays. Personally, I’m not willing to give up butter yet, but I can live without chicken until I find an ethical farmer to buy it from. Maybe you can find some middle ground for yourself. Every step counts, even simply talking about it. If you already observe a reduced-cruelty lifestyle, talk about it with someone this week! Maybe you can get them on board to make some small change, too.