My fairly new Mac just crashed. It was two month beyond the extended warranty when it died. I tried everything to revive it, but it was damaged beyond repair. I took it to the local Mac Genius and had a relatively painless operation done – new hard drive was installed, a bit more memory was added, and the backup system was implemented. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that even backups do not retrieve all your data. (Back up that purchased library from iTunes – it warns you on the iTunes site that you may have to repurchase all your music once again.) While the computer was down, I also lost the use of my iPod.
Dependency on Electronics
The same day the computer crashed, my cell phone died. This made it quite problematic to investigate getting the computer repaired. Also taking place concurrently, I had been tweeting about a dog that needed a new home and had decided to try to adopt her. I had emailed the rescue group, alerting them to my interest. They were unable to verify if she was good with cats, and since there was a problem with transportation, too, I was unable to go see her. I am very glad she meanwhile found a home — there will always be domesticates that need good homes — but it did highlight for me how dependent we can become on our various machines. No car, no cell, no iPod, no computer left me feeling isolated and frustrated – how could I be an animal activist without these machines?
It also caused me to consider my motivation for thinking about adopting this lovely girl, Luna, a Lab-Great Dane mix. I do show dogs and cats who are in need of a home on Facebook and Twitter and even on Examiner.com on a monthly basis. I have read all the horrid statistics about how many of these precious beings are killed each year due to the lack of homes. But there is another side to the story, too – the food needed to provide for their lives. With dogs, vegan dog food works for most from what I understand. With cats, it is a bit more difficult. For those that have found vegan alternatives, it is great. But it has kept me from adopting a feline because of this wrenching concern for the animals that a feline might consume. It is one of the dilemmas for which there is no answer yet. It is already impacting the adoption of felines and some vegan sanctuaries no longer accept big cats.
Dependency and Food Sources
There is something very unfair about adopting a domesticate. They are totally dependent upon us for their very lives – for room to stretch, for walks, for food and water, for attention, for adequate health care. Because of that dependency, they are emotionally much safer than human to human relationships, where the other person can wound you with words, or walk away. But there is also no way for us to truly meet their needs, nor them ours. Like us, they do best with their own kind and with freedom to make their own choices. Of course, in today’s world, this is impossible for domesticates, and a good caring home is the best we can offer.
Nath Miles started a forum question over at Animal Rights Zone about the issue of domesticates and sustainability; another is taking place over at Abolitionist Approach. It is an important question and one that plagues many activists. I have heard of vegans getting food for their cats from animal parts the butcher was going to throw away, from neighbors, from local markets, and from other crafty, creative sources. Their hope is to limit the need for another animal to die to save the one they have adopted. My guess is that most of our neighborhoods waste more food than these animals could consume; most of us overeat, too. Many of us are also aware of the carnage that is the pet food industry, where euthanized cats and dogs, roadkill, and grocery waste are fed back into the animal food chain. It seems no matter how you look at it, the animals lose the game.
Acknowledging Dependency, Acknowledging Desire
The ten days without a computer or iPod, six without a car, and a week with no cell phone made me realize that life is precious even when isolated, without work, void of connections. It gave me time to think about dependency – both my own and that of an animal I might adopt. What would I want from that dog? What could I offer her? What is the most fair and just approach to take towards all of the animals, all of the beings on the earth? It helped me to look at my own desires and really look at why I might want to create a dependency. As a single mom, I experienced plenty of time with others dependent on me; do I want to go there again? Do my desires matter in the grand scheme of things, with so many animals losing their lives? What is fair? I wanted to save a life; but would adopting an animal just result in the deaths of other, unseen animals that would become their food?
The time without the machines on which I depend brought about some changes. I will be backing up any future music purchases on CDs in the future. I will monitor what is on my computer and cull unnecessary items. I vow to weed through my extensive photo collection and limit it to only those I might use someday. I won’t have the iPod stuck in my ear so continuously – it was good to read again, too. I will not be adopting any animals for now but will learn more from other vegans who are taking care of domesticates first, to see what is possible. And I plan to do more face-to-face activism in the new year, as well.
Loss and Learning
For now, there are four boys who will absorb most of my time, who will be with us for the holidays. Like their parents, I have watched them wind through the various stages of dependency towards ever increasing autonomy. It is gratifying to witness children become adults that you not only love, but like and admire. It is a tremendous relief to realize they no longer need you; they even begin surpassing you in abilities. One of my favorite quotes is this: A mother is not someone to lean on, she is someone to making leaning unnecessary.
But for a domesticate, the equation is quite different. They will need us until the day they die, and we had better be in it for the long haul or it is kinder to stay out of the game. I think of the vegans I know who are making a difference for living beings: those who do open rescue, those who have adopted a newborn kitten or a flock of hens, those who take in unwanted and rescued farm animals or develop a primate sanctuary for the scarred and discarded. If we are truly to become non-speciesist, we need to challenge these issues with a sense of justice. All of the beings need to be considered, not just the ones in our laps. I felt the loss of Luna; there was something in her eyes that drew me to her, and I had already imagined her as a part of my life. I had made emotional space for her. But with loss comes learning, and time to reflect. What is fair? What is just?