Posted on 26 Aug 2012
By: Marilyn Ramos
Should you be a vegetarian or a vegan if you call yourself an animal lover? If you run an animal welfare organization should you be vegetarian or vegan? If your organization has the word “animal” in its title should you be an advocate for all animals?
My biggest pet peeve has always been people who casually call themselves animal lovers. When I ask if they are vegetarian, or if they attend rodeos and circuses, or if they wear leather or wool, they give me a funny look and then start hemming and hawing. The conversation usually ends with them admitting that they just love their dog or cat, not that they love all animals.
This leads me to another thing that annoys me and that is organizations and charities that have the word “animal” in their names. I recall after going vegan deciding to look for local volunteer opportunities where I could help animals. I was excited when I learned of an organization whose name insinuated that they advocated for all animals. I signed up with them to get more information and to be apprised of fundraising opportunities.
The first invitation I received was for a dinner and a Pets on Parade event. I was excited to go to the event until I had to choose my dinner on the RSVP card. I had a choice between beef or chicken!! How can you have the word “animal” in your organization’s name yet serve animals at your fundraiser? Surely, I wasn’t the only one who would find this hypocritical. The next day I called the organization and advised them that I was vegan and wanted to know what options were available to me. The woman who answered my call was not particularly nice and said they could accommodate me with either fish or pasta. I told her that fish was not vegan since they too are animals. I then asked how the pasta would be served (I wanted to make sure there wasn’t an alfredo sauce or cheese sauce). She said she could not answer that question and I would have to take it up with the chef the evening of the event. I let her know that I was very disappointed that an organization with the word “animal” in its title and an organization that is listed as an animal welfare organization would be so dismissive of a vegetarian/vegan person who was looking to support their organization.
I chose to forego the event since it was clear that this organization was not about helping all animals but simply about helping cats and dogs. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to help cats and dogs but I don’t think you should have the word “animal” in your organization name if you don’t truly help all animals.
Another organization with the words “love” and “animals” in its name recently held a fundraiser at a hamburger joint! Yes, let’s eat cows, pigs, turkeys and chickens while we raise money for cats and dogs and while we hypocritically state that we love all animals.
Why am I bringing this up? What’s the big deal? It is a big deal because I believe that any organization that professes to be an animal welfare organization or an animal rights organization should work for ALL animals. I believe casually inserting the word “animal” into your organization name when you don’t work for all animals is insulting and disrespectful to those organizations and those people who do work for ALL animals. I believe including the word “animal” in your organization name comes with responsibility. I don’t believe calling yourself an animal lover is right either when you do nothing to help ALL animals.
I think that this responsibility also extends to animal shelters and rescues. Animal shelters house mostly cats and dogs but they also do occasionally house other animals – rabbits, snakes, goats, etc. A few years ago, a local shelter permitted a gourmet market to boil live lobsters and serve them in a “Claws for Paws” fundraiser event. They got a lot of flak for it and the good people at that shelter are now doing their best to walk the talk and not have fundraisers where animals are served.
I have to admit that I don’t understand how people who run and work at shelters / rescues / welfare organizations can work all day with cats and dogs trying to make their lives better then go home and eat a steak or chicken for dinner. Why the disconnect? Why the blinders? Is it rational to think that some animals are pets and some animals are food? I think some people think this way so that they can justify eating and wear some animals while working for the welfare of other animals.
My favorite animal rights quotation is from Jeremy Bentham, an 18th/19th century philosopher. He said, “The question is not, “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?”
I wish everyone who worked at these shelters and organizations who truly only work on behalf of cats and dogs yet have the word “animal” in their names or how they describe themselves would take this quote to heart. All animals matter and all animals should have their interests advanced so that we can ALL share in a better world.
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