Monday, April 6, 2009

Thoughts About PETA

I have very mixed emotions about PETA. There are days when I like dogs a lot more than people. I've only been bitten by dogs four times. People are much worse. A dog will chew on your leg and run away. He won't shoot a movie about it. A dog will chase a cat up a tree. He won't pack all the cats in the neighbourhood into a freight car and gas them.

A dog who is really a misfit usually owes its foul disposition to hanging out around bad people. Even if it's a genetic problem, it usually comes from people breeding dogs the wrong way.

But people aren't all bad. How far would a dog get in an anger management class? Could you imagine a canine twelve step program?

"My name is Lassie D. It's been six months since I chased a cat up a tree. I take one day at a time. My owner got me a really neat squeaky toy that doesn't scratch me when I sink my teeth into it. That helps me cope. It really does."

"My name is Princess. I've had litters from three different fathers. I know its wrong, but it happens every spring."

People have the potential to want something and measure it against a moral yardstick. Sometimes I have a burning desire to gossip to my wife about some obnoxious jerk I stopped talking to. There are social and religious reasons not to gossip. There is a whole book of Jewish laws on the subject written by a guy named Yisroel Meir Kagan, who is more widely known as the Chofetz Chaim. Out of respect to those laws and a rational realisation that gossip is socially corrosive, I rechannel the desire to gossip into harmless pursuits, like following Albanian elections and snickering about Yasir Arafat's assorted sexual preferences.

I know a lot of people who take stock of their character and try to improve on areas of weakness. That is a distinctly human characteristic.

I heard a woman from PETA say that she would be unable to decide if a child and a puppy were drowning who should be saved first. That is taking love for animals way too far. I heard a story about a rabbi who scolded his son for tearing a leaf off a tree without good reason. His reasoning went further that we are given mastery over creation to take it a step higher and not to use it scornfully. Food on one's plate is relying on a human to take it to a higher level and not to waste the strength it provides.

I have no faith in human logic to suffice as a moral compass. Everyone has a tendency to devise a moral system that puts them on the highest rung. An athlete will stress fitness. A professor will stress intellect. We need a standard outside our own logic as a guide. The human intellect is a powerful anaesthetic for the conscience. There are times when vegetarianism has a rational appeal. There are times when I put my own logic aside to defer to Torah teachings. The issue of vegetarianism is one such area. When I look at the bloody sectarian wars in India and the willingness of vegetarians to shed human blood, I feel vindicated in my decision.

I once worked with a girl who was vegetarian. She sat down at my table when I was eating a roast beef sandwich. "I'm a vegetarian." she said smugly.

"I'm a carnivore." I replied.

"What's a carnivore?" she asked.

"It's someone who eats only meat" I answered.

She was properly mortified and told me so.

"Have you ever looked into the beautiful brown eyes of a cow or a sheep?" she asked

I was ready for that question.

"Have you seen a carrot skinned alive? Have you ever seen potatoes cut into pieces and tossed into a pot of boiling water? How about cabbage being shredded and thrown into a bowl full of other vegetables that have been dismembered?"

When I paused in my impassioned defense of vegetable rights, she was finally able to get a word in.

"What about the poor innocent cow? " she asked indignantly.

"It serves it right for tearing up all that poor innocent grass." I replied.

I finished off the debate with a diatribe against "rootism", which is the belief that life forms with roots have no rights and feelings. According to this philosophy, PETA members are oppressors of life forms with roots. People who eat animals are simply implementing a measure of justice by eating the animals that oppress rooted life forms.

The problem with advancing such an argument as I did with my vegetarian friend is that it starts to make sense. After talking like that for about ten minutes, I need a good tossed salad to clear my head. Sometimes it is a good idea to be familiar with the timeworn traditional ideas for doing things before you go and question them.

I heard a story about Barbra Streisand giving a free concert to a tribe of cannibals. I wish I could have been there.


People who eat people

Are the luckiest people in the world......

Human logic can make anything sound sensible. It's scary. I'm going out for some Chinese food. It'll clear my head for sure. Vegetarian...carnivore.... I'll have beef with broccoli.

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