No Kill: Widening the Circle

shelterA few weeks ago, I attended the DFW No Kill Workshop in Addison, Texas. Among the many inspirational speakers was vegan No Kill advocate, Nathan Winograd. Because I had heard so much negativity about the No Kill movement, I was eager to attend and learn about the movement firsthand. Was it true that this plan meant warehousing animals for months, even years? That it would mean leaving stray animals on the streets, with no place to house them? That it was irresponsible, requires large sums of money and enlarged shelters? The answers: no, no, and no, no, no. What No Kill advocates is much of what vegan activists advocate: a change in thinking. Once we change our belief system, everything else becomes possible. While few public shelters become 100% no kill, many make astounding strides in saving thousands of animal lives simply by changing their attitudes about possibilities.  Since only about 20% of animals are procured from our shelters, changing that statistic alone is bound to help.

Here are some interesting points:

  • Most of the large animal advocacy groups oppose No Kill often misstating what it means
  • Local shelters which have moved towards No Kill have reduced kill rates significantly
  • Many shelters kill even when they have ample open cages
  • The biggest single change required is a change in attitude: all animal lives matter!

Can No Kill Mean Vegan?

While most No Kill advocates are not yet vegan, some are vegan. It would be my hope that the No Kill movement would eventually widen to include all animals, not just companion animals. As an ethical vegan, there is concern for the animals in the tins, the ones that are fed to all the rescued shelter animals; we have to be concerned for their lives, too. Ending all pet breeding would be a start in the right direction, but when large wealthy groups like HSUS support pet breeding, it is doubtful that will happen anytime soon. Educating adopters about feeding their newly adopted dogs plant-based foods would be a good idea, too, but if they are still eating animals themselves, there is much education that needs to take place before that can happen.

Seagoville in our North Texas area saved 97% of the animals in their care in 2011, saving all but 15 of the 568 animals in their shelter. Other neighboring shelters which have not adopted the No Kill ethic had save rates as low as 33%. Our local animal shelter has a supportive group of volunteers that are bringing the kill ratios down significantly by a determination to value each and every life that enters the shelter. They know these animals by names they have given them; they promote them on social media sites. They attend mobile pet adoption events and help to get the word out to their friends. They fundraise and work hard to increase fosters so that more animals can get out of the shelters with their lives. And it is working.

Valuing the Invisible Animals, Too

The kill rates for slaughterhouses are close to 100%. We currently have no way to get those animals out of the treacherous lines marching them to their death. However, the same change in thinking which has caused such dramatic drops in killing for domesticated companion animals, must be changed for animals commodified for food, clothing, and entertainment. We must not tolerate the abuse and torment of animals for product testing or scientific research. If animal lives matter, and they do, we must widen the idea of No Kill to be all inclusive. It is appalling to me that Nathan Winograd has been attacked by other animal activists, by large animal advocacy groups that themselves kill thousands of animals, and by the ignorant who do not understand what the No Kill ethic is and how it works. But I still have one question that I was unable to get answered the day of the No Kill Workshop: as an ethical vegan, how can we increase the ethic of No Kill to include all animals, regardless of species?