#2159

There’s a lot of discussion these days about privilege – about what it means to be to be born into a certain place and time, into a certain gender, into a certain race or orientation. For most humans our whole lives depend on that tiny bit of chance and the luck of our circumstances can mean the difference between a long, happy life and a short, painful one. I therefore try to remain aware of my own privilege and use it to helps others who aren’t as blessed as I am – yet not until discovering The Whiskers Syndicate did I ever truly consider that the luck which makes such a difference for humans does the same for animals.

What I have learned from The Whiskers Syndicate is that the place where an animal is born makes just as big of a difference in their lives as it does for us humans. Even though my current cats were unfortunate enough to be born into a hoarding situation, they were also lucky enough to be born into a liberal American state where animal welfare is bolstered by laws, hundreds of local organizations, and a community of hardworking people who give their time, money, and love to the animals who share their space. There are of course countless animal rights issues in the United States (factory farming, environmental degradation, and backyard breeding to name a few) but at least here there is an ongoing discourse about the harm these practices cause. Many people speak out in the defense of those who cannot speak for themselves, and even if we’re a minority we’re at least a vocal one.

The cats born in Bandung, Indonesia lack even these seemingly basic privileges. There are no humane societies waiting to give them a chance at a new life, no laws protecting them from human cruelty, not even a veterinary community robust enough to diagnose and handle complex health issues. The people there who love and care for cats have no 24-hour vet hospitals, no PetCos, no free spay/neuter clinics, none of the things I take for granted every day. My cats have a good chance of living to be 15 or even 20 years old; street cats in Bandung last maybe 5 years if they’re lucky.

The disparity is so shocking I can hardly wrap my mind around it, and it highlights the stark need for an organization like The Whiskers Syndicate. Without Josie’s selfless dedication and her local and international network of supporters, the cats of Bandung would have nothing. A few kind hearts in the crowd, a few food scraps, but nothing so concrete. Knowing this, it makes me doubly grateful for the cats I’ve known and the ones I currently share my life with. Much like myself, they will never know what it’s like to live somewhere where you have no support, no safety, and only the smallest chance at happiness. I can’t tell my cats to appreciate how good they have it (though I try!), so instead I put my time and money where my mouth is. It feels like the least I can do when I, and they, have been so blessed.

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#2020

Mother, if I stop to think how many of Your children are suffering or dying right now, right this very moment, I nearly drown. The grief is an unseen tsunami and the hopeless part of me wants to get it over with, let the wave wash me out to sea. How can I have any faith in this world when Your children are tortured, hunted, abandoned, experimented on, killed by a thousand different heartless methods every day simply because their lives are not valued? When they are born in cages and die in cages, having never once felt the sun? I want to reach out, to find and be with them in their dark places, their last moments, but their reality’s terror cripples me. I ignore the truth like an open wound I cannot tend – the only option is to keep going until it heals or hurts too much to move. All across the world Your children do the same and I am their sibling, after all, though unbelievably lucky to have been born in a body and place that ensure me basic rights. Your children have no rights anywhere. No right to live and breed freely in the wild; no right to be the masters of their own bodies; no right to be seen as a living creature at all, let alone an individual with wants and needs and a soul as valuable as every other.

People will say I’m exaggerating. I’m not. You know I’m not. Help me, Mother. Teach me how to shield my heart so I don’t have to harden it. Show me how to embrace the pain without making it part of myself. I refuse to be ignorant; I refuse to be uncaring; I refuse to be hopeless. But it’s so hard to face a future that feels inevitable and a truth that seems too heavy to bear. I have feared all my life that it would be my fate to watch Your children perish by the species, and thus far I have been given no reason to think it might be otherwise. So what do I do? How do I move forward? Help me, Mother.

#1908

The unbelievers ask, Where are the gods? If they really existed, wouldn’t they intercede to stop our wars, our destruction?

To them I want to throw my arms out and say, The gods are all around us. They are always here, always watching, always caring.

The unbelievers ask, Why do the gods not take matters into their heavenly hands, if they care so much? Why do they let us suffer and cause suffering in our turn?

To them I want to say, Why should they? Look what we have done with their gifts! Look how we show our gratitude! My Mother weeps for Her children who are hunted, drowned, poisoned, tortured, who are raised in mills and die in lab cages. What the gods have given us, they cannot and will not take back so lightly. For better or for worse, this is our world and our responsibility; we humans control the fates of countless lives. Thus my Mother can lend me the strength of heart to care for Her children, but She cannot simply unmake the evils which plague them. Human evils must be countered with human goodness. 

#1887

Why I’m An “Apologetic Vegetarian”

This month marks the one year anniversary of my decision to become a vegetarian. Neat! Instead of reflecting on that choice and my journey over the last year, though, I instead want to talk about why I call myself an apologetic vegetarian. To understand where I’m coming from, you need a little backstory. First, I have had chronic stomach issues since I was a baby. Lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety induced stomach aches… my stomach basically hurts at least once a day. If I’m not painfully constipated, then I have what I fondly refer to as the “fire poops”. I can’t safely ingest fatty food, greasy food, fried food, highly processed food, red meat, coffee, milk,  artificial sweeteners, black tea, chocolate, soda, or anything else good tasting. Half the time even my safe foods make my stomach upset. It sucks major lollipops.

Second, I have chronic anxiety and OCD. Many of my issues in this department revolve, understandably, around food. I am constantly paranoid about eating or drinking something that will make my stomach hurt, make me constipated, or otherwise isn’t “healthy” enough – based on my own neurotic standards. I can send myself into a panic attack at a restaurant if nothing on the menu seems safe enough to me. It’s bad. On top of this, I also obsess over my weight. Several years ago I was restricting my caloric intake to such a degree that I had dropped from my normal weight of 135 to 111. My period stopped for nearly a year (which was pretty sweet but also apparently not good). My doctor put a stop to that, and a couple years of therapy helped, but it’s still very easy for me to start fixating on my health and weight to a dangerous degree. 

Okay, so now you know. Dietary restrictions and obsessive compulsive personality. Awesome mix. I am such a functioning adult.

When I decided to become a vegetarian, I did so because I could no longer take part in an industry that causes pain to billions of animals every year. Therefore, it made sense to become a vegan – the production of milk and eggs in factory farms is just as horrendous and destructive as the actual meat industry, after all. To say you won’t eat a cow but you’re fine with letting one be traumatized its entire life so you can eat cheese is somewhat hypocritical. However, I knew from the beginning that I couldn’t convert to full veganism. Taking any meat-containing meals off the menu would already limit me more than my stomach issues already do. To further limit myself to IBS-safe vegan meals would most likely cause me issues everywhere I went. If I could give myself a panic attack because the only salad a restaurant offered was made with iceberg lettuce, I’d be totally doomed if on top of everything else, I had to question whether the bread housing my veggie sandwich had eggs or milk in it. It just wasn’t going to happen.

When I became a vegetarian, I promised myself one thing: if I was on the verge of a panic attack or wobbly with hunger and a ham sandwich, for example, was my only IBS-safe option, I had to choose my immediate mental or physical health over my morals. Knowing how obsessive and anxious I can become when faced with a dietary lose-lose situation, I had to give myself an out. I felt like a hypocrite and a coward for even doing something like that in a theoretical future situation, but I didn’t have much choice. I’m glad to say this issue hasn’t come up yet, and my first year as a vegetarian went by pretty smoothly. However, I still feel supremely guilty when I consume something I know (or suspect) has eggs or milk in it. I try to avoid such things when I can, but without an ingredients list you can never know for sure. And, unfortunately, OCD thrives on the things you can “never know for sure.”

So that’s why I call myself an apologetic vegetarian. I wish, truly, that I was at a place in my life where I could take on a challenging and rewarding lifestyle like veganism – but I’m not. I hope I will be one day, and I’m definitely trying to move in that direction. Until then, all I can do is minimize the harm I cause to my fellow animals, and help as many of them as I can.

#1718

I live in a world where I hope I will be respected for my love.
I live in a world where I hope I will be respected for my gender.
So how can I contribute to a world where something will not be respected for its species?
If I hope for respect, must I not first respect the most vulnerable of us?
If I hope for freedom, must I not first ensure the freedom of the caged?
If I hope for happiness, must I not first limit the unhappiness I cause?
It is dangerous to be queer in this world.
It is dangerous to be a woman in this world.
But it is more dangerous to be an animal in this world.
I am privileged to be human, and it is not my place to decide what lives or dies.
So let nothing more die for me.