Monday, November 29, 2010

'Twas the Month after Christmas...

This is a repeat but, in my opinion, it can never be repeated enough:

Just as a horde of half-grown bunnies are plopped down on the doorsteps of animal shelters not long after Easter, so do piles of puppies and caboodles of kittens show up shortly after December 25th.

Obviously, this influx of hapless infants is due to poor planning, impulse buying, or simply that the 'thrill is gone.' Or worse, all of the above.

Unfortunately, these youngsters (and some oldsters) who are being relinquished will pay a much higher price than market value…and an extremely unacceptable one, at that.

Therefore, I'm writing this for those who might be so caught up in the spirit that 'surprising' someone with a living, breathing, and dependent creature on Christmas morning sounds like a really nifty idea. Well, trust me, it's not.

As we all know, the holidays are filled with much excitement, disrupted routines, and - as a rule - more visitors than usual.

So just imagine the effects these conditions can have on an animal that hasn't even had enough time to get to know you, not to mention learn its boundaries and territory, then settle into a daily regimen in its new home. That's a lot to deal with, period, let alone during the stressful days or weeks that encompass any special season.

Yet, far too often, I hear about people crating their 'Christmas' puppy or kitten, dog or cat for continuous hours on end simply to keep them out of the way of company, while cooking or entertaining, wrapping presents, etc. About delaying housetraining until after the holidays. No, people, no.

If you really, truly want a pet, just hold your horses and wait until your household has returned to its normal routine. Please don't selfishly cause a bewildered baby animal (or confused older one) to be set up for failure from the get-go when all it takes is a little patience and timing.

I realize full well that there is something magical about the decorated tree, the twinkling lights, the multi-colored packages that elicit childhood memories (or wishes) of puppies or kittens peeking their adorable faces out from under those pine-scented branches.

But, in these days of overwhelming pet abandonment, such fanciful pictures in our heads need to be tempered with a mega-dose of realism.

For never forget - ever, for an instant - that pets are forever needy. They need us for their care, their sustenance, their medical assistance, their training. They need us for our constant physical presence, attention and for our love.

In a nutshell, they need to be full-fledged members of the family for their entire lives and not relegated to a sugar-plum moment induced by the spirit of the season, one to be abruptly ended when the glitz and glitter is gone.

I pray this message is taken to heart…..all year long.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner: Food for Thought

I recently received a comment from a reader who labeled me a hypocrite because I avow to be an ardent animal lover, yet I consume meat.

For the record, I don’t eat much animal flesh; however, in the grand scheme of things, a little goes a long way… in, it doesn’t really matter if I have a hamburger once a year or steak every day. The bottom line is that an animal died for my dinner.

However, this column is not going to be an effort to convert the world to vegetarianism. That’s an impossibility and we know it. Whether I became a vegan this instant, the slaughterhouses would still continue to echo with the screams of terrified creatures. And that’s the point I’m going to address.

Not many decades ago, dogs and cats at county pounds were unceremoniously tossed into gas chambers, crammed together so tightly that a few even survived this traumatic horror. Animal-lovers were outraged and, as a result, today most shelters are operated by humane organizations with individual lethal injection being the normal mode of euthanasia. Still too sad, as still too many abandoned pets are being put to sleep, but at least - for the most part - they are not afraid or suffering before or during their final moments on this earth.

The same cannot be said for the cows, calves, chickens, pigs, and lambs that are killed every day for human consumption. So this begs the question: Instead of bombarding the world with grisly pictures that momentarily elicit tears and gasps of guilt, wouldn’t it be better if animal rights groups focused every bit of their considerable power into promoting strong enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act, the Animal Welfare Act and any other acts the government has in so-called force?

Death is a given for each and every one of us. So, bottom line, dead is dead. Yet what matters most here is not so much about when an animal dies, but how it dies.

Believe me, I am not being trite as this is a heavy-duty moral and ethical issue for those of us who love animals. But it seems to me that - first and foremost - preventing fear and suffering in any living creature should be the ultimate goal, one pursued with a vengeance.

Again, I could quit eating chicken, then smugly tell myself I am not contributing to the rampant cruelty that food animals endure. Yet, while I eat my salad, that cruelty rages on and the animals continue to suffer horrendously. So, unless and until we all fight to change the system and forever stop these inhumane practices, eating meat really becomes a moot point.

For while we loudly scream bloody murder about the squalid conditions of puppy mills, we should be ashamed that we’re not fighting just as vehemently to silence the unheard screams of animals suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses…and that includes your Thanksgiving turkey.