Thursday, October 06, 2011

Speciesism at Home

I've been following the activities of a local chapter of a trap-neuter-return (TNR) group called ca-r-ma. At some point a few years ago, a former coworker had posted about them on Facebook and I had become intrigued, since the work in which they engaged stood out a little from the activities of the two local SPCA shelters. I discovered soon enough, however -- and somewhat sadly -- that a common thread they share with the SPCA shelters in my city concerns the manner in which they choose to raise funds for their organization.

I was picking up some cat litter at the store a few days ago when I noticed a colourful poster up on a bulletin board promoting a "Harvest Supper" to be held on Saturday, October 22. Then I noticed that proceeds from the supper were going to ca-r-ma, as well as to The Chickadee Cat Club. Items listed as being included in the supper were baked ham, scalloped potatoes, baked beans, homemade brown bread, mustard pickles and pie. Yep. They are indeed planning to serve up the flesh of one species of animal (i.e. pigs) to raise money for two groups associated with another species (i.e. cats).

This chapter of ca-r-ma has been partnering up with The Chickadee Cat Club often over the past year, which also baffles me somewhat. The club portrays itself as a group devoted to educating people about cat welfare and "responsible pet ownership", when according to its Facebook page, The Chickadee Cat Club is also a Charter Club of the American Cat Fanciers Association (ACFA) and -- how I know it best from observing its goings on in my city -- it regularly hosts cat shows where breeders show up to promote their services as people gawk at caged cats, purebred or otherwise.

I'd brought this up with a friend who is involved with them and her response to me was to insist that most of the money they raise through these cat shows goes directly to ca-r-ma and to the two local SPCA shelters. This misses the point, however, that it is wrongheaded to use some cats as entertainment -- as things -- purportedly for the worthwhile cause of raising money for
other cats. It also misses the much more obvious point that promoting the profitable breeding of cats for the supposed purpose of raising money to assist those cats who've been abandoned or left to fend for themselves is, well, kind of ludicrous. According to its Facebook page:


To sponsor and promote the welfare of all pedigree cats and household pet cats;

To cultivate friendship among and promote the interest and education of the owners, fanciers and registered breeders of cats;

To host cat shows and promote interest in and knowledge of pedigree cats and household pet cats;

To encourage pedigree breeding toward the ACFA standard of perfection; and,

To encourage kindness and assist in the prevention of cruelty and mistreatment of all animals
The fact that a group like ca-r-ma, dedicated to spaying/neutering ferals, is partnering with a group which both promotes and provides a venue for cat breeders does not make a whole lot of sense on any level. TNR is being turned into a band-aid solution to a problem partially fed into by the deliberate breeding and bringing into this world of more domesticated animals. It's being turned by them into a justification to promote even further breeding of cats, when in the United States alone, anywhere from 3-5 million unwanted dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year. Instead of promoting the breeding of more cats and the refining of purebred traits, wouldn't it make more sense to promote spaying/neutering across the board and to promote shelter adoptions? I mean, that would be the obvious option to me, but what do I know? "But it's to raise money for a good cause," I was chastised, as if questioning their methods was somehow akin to rejecting the cause.

I find it hard to walk away from blatant speciesism, particularly when one type of animal use is engaged in and excused for the supposed sake of helping other animals. Thus, I left a polite comment on one of The Chickadee Cat Club's many posts on its Facebook page which plugged the dinner, expressing disappointment that it would choose to sell the flesh of dead animals to raise money for a different species of animal. No surprise that it was removed with no response. Having already somewhat pointlessly discussed the fundraising with animal products issue with a few of its volunteers, I haven't yet left a comment on my local chapter of ca-r-ma's Facebook page.

It's a shame that the question of rights gets buried in a confused message of welfare. It's also a shame that people who are obviously well-intentioned and who no doubt earnestly care about the well-being of a certain species of animal are unable to connect the dots and to recognize that no nonhuman animal deserves to be treated as a thing -- regardless of who benefits from it.


Kelly Monster said...

Excellent post. I walked past a poster advertising a cat charity event just this morning and said to my partner that I was sure they would be selling animal products at the event.

Many people have misguided ideas when fund raising for animals, so they end up confusing the issue of animal rights and embed speciesism even deeper into our culture.

Kolene said...

I work for a TNR organization, Carol's Ferals. Our Executive Director is vegan and 2 of the board members (one being me). While we don't actively advocate for veganism, I am glad to put my time and energy into an organization that doesn't support any animal cruelty. We would never think of having meat at any of our events. I have never understood how anyone can differentiate between a dog or cat and a pig or cow. They all deserve the same treatment.

veganelder said...

Yup, there is a tnr program in this area that helps out at a cat fancier show and also does fund-raisers at bbq places. The power of the culture to obfuscate and short-circuit logical thinking is a sickening sort of way.

Ingrid said...

I think people divide animals into categories because that's the way they've been taught: this is food, and this is a sweet kissy pet animal. When you bring to their attention that this doesn't make any sense, that animal "A" has as much right to be a sweet kissy pet animal as animal "B", they can't seem to process it. We are conditioned from childhood and I think it takes one of several things to understand it the way we do:
1) intelligence
2) exposure to *our* way of thinking
3) an understanding of animals as more than objects
I do not claim to have item #1, and I seemed to have been born with #3, but it wasn't until I had #2 that I woke up to the fact that animal welfare and my choices were profoundly connected.

I once read a wonderful article by a vegan who didn't particularly care for animals. He was vegan for ethical and moral reasons. It's an issue of justice.

Thanks for a great article.