Podcast #25 – Declawing the Cat
Circle of Life (The Lion King)
Some vegans promote the saying, taken from the peace ideals of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, The World is Vegan is you Want It. But what would a vegan world really mean? Would obligate carnivores somehow be banned or executed? Would there be islands of natural habitat that would permit all animal species to live in a functional biosphere without human intervention? How would those areas of habitat be demarcated? Would humans avoid entering into such areas, or would they dominate and control them? What about domesticates like cats and dolphins? Who has the right to live in the new vegan world? Even now, these are sticky issues that plague many vegans and vegan sanctuaries. I know some vegans will no longer adopt cats because of their need for animal products. While some vegans have transitioned their cats successfully to an all vegan diet, others have had little luck and have reverted back to standard cat food, deeply troubling the conscience of these vegans. Some vegan sanctuaries are refusing the big cats entrance because there is no way to feed these animals without sacrificing their vegan ideals. Such life and death decisions are deeply concerning. What will a vegan world really mean?
Rejection of Predators by Vegans?
I recently saw on a forum a long time vegan stating that only vegan animals were worthy of our favor. What about some of the other carnivores, such as dolphins, who are already captive? With diminishing ocean life, would rehabilitating the captive dolphins to the wild be feasible? As human population reaches its projected height at about nine billion souls, the dwindling of natural resources, lack of water, increasing climate instability, and international conflicts will all become challenges that may pull attention away from saving animal lives. Long ago, Chief Seattle was alleged to have said: What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. The natural world seems designed to balance ecosystems, with carnivores living on the weak, the infirm, and the elderly. This order kept animal populations healthy and in check and culled out those who were unable to survive. Without that balance, what would become of a vegan world?
One hundred years ago, in 1911, another transitional age was moving into the area called Lassen Peak in Northern California, where Native Americans once lived in harmony with nature. Continually pushed back by the advancement of human populations, hastened by the Gold Rush encroaching on and destroying their living space, the Yahi tribe was finally limited to only a few members, clinging precariously to life deep within a canyon. One by one, as they died, only one man remained — Ishi, the emaciated sole survivor of his tribe, finally left his homeland and walked into the White Man’s world, was taken and became a living anthropology museum exhibit at the University of California at Berkeley. Ishi lived his last few years as a paid research assistant, as he taught those around him about his previous existence. Ishi had spent most of his life in hiding, simply trying to survive and avoid capture, following massacres of most of his family by US forces and cattlemen. In the end, he witnessed something most of us hope to never live to see: the total extinction of his people and their way of life. Ishi died around 1916, living in captivity only a few years, and dying at about age 54. Some of what he experienced must be a mirrored experience for many nonhuman animals today, as their habitat continues to shrink, their area for migrating, hunting, and foraging becomes severely truncated, and the ongoing press of rising human populations threatens their families and their very lives. Many species of animals are becoming extinct because of man’s short-sightedness and inability to live peacefully with the natural world.
What is the Human Role in Animal Survivability?
I once was privileged to attend a lecture on Raptor Rescue, people who work to save the birds of prey. Attending the lecture were birds who had been savaged for sport: a gorgeous hawk with only one wing, a crippled falcon, and various other birds that could no longer fly or hunt, but were used for educational purposes. What is the fair thing to do if one finds an injured bird of prey? Should they be killed in order to stop ingestion of other animals? If they are allowed to live, who or what would they feed upon? These days, I would object to them being used at all, even for educational purposes, but I am still not certain what is fair and just in these kinds of situations. Education is certainly needed to change the hearts and minds of most humans, but there are troubling questions that require discussion of the human role in preserving animal life.
There are traits among predatory animals that are magnificent. The vision of a raptor is keen and awe inspiring. The grace of a snake, the majesty of a lion, the ability to leap and pounce of a tiger, the bravery and determination of the wolf, the power of a bear, the perseverance of a penguin, the poetry of a seal in water, the loyalty of a dolphin — these animals are all predators, all must hunt to survive. Yet somehow, it seems to me, the world would be greatly diminished without their presence here. As part of the reverence for other forms of life, these lives too must be considered and respected. It is when they are held captive, or are domesticated, that these questions sting us most sharply. It appears that humans will have to make some changes to save any aspect of nature and to preserve as many animals as possible.
Declawing the Cat As Metaphor for Man’s Assault on Nature
Consider the cat. Humans love their soft fur, their ability to clean themselves, their warmth when they curl up, and their contented sounds of purring as they snuggle on our laps. But less desirable in the domestic cat is their ability to claw furniture, draperies, and occasionally, human friends. Some people have their cats declawed, trying to save only the part of the cat they like, then discarding the rest. But sadly, not only is this such a painful operation that many vets refuse to perform it, it leaves the declawed cat completely vulnerable, separating him or her from their only protection, their only way to quickly scale a tree or to strike out at an opponent, or to capture a small animal for a meal. By declawing the cat, we are rejecting an elemental part of the cat. Given that there are many animals who do not have claws, this seems particularly troublesome, as if we could design our very own animals to suit our specifications. And this is actually going on in the natural world, too, in our assault upon it — we are taking species that are near extinction, then self selecting for traits, and breeding them to create designer exotic pets. These animals have not evolved naturally in order to strengthen their survivability, but have been bred for short-term gain, for appearances, often at the expense of the animal’s body integrity. Just look at the mess we have made with dog breeding to see where this leads: some dogs have difficulty breathing, others have eyes that pop out of their heads easily, others have hip problems, and so on and so on. Human intervention has been a disaster for many animal species. Can we leave nature alone? Can we as vegans appreciate the hunters among us, not the human type but those who live in nature and must hunt for survival?
Hungry Like A Wolf by Duran Duran
Predatory Animals in Sharp Decline
Commercial fishing is threatening dolphin survivability. Lions have experienced a marked decline in the last twenty-five years, down to only about 15% of their former population and only a small number compared to precolonial times. Penguins have decreased in population by over 50% in only the last fifty years. With tigers becoming fewer and fewer, some poachers are resorting to leopard hunting, despite the dangerous decrease in leopards as well. Some scientists are breeding panthers to improve their chance of survival, but habitat preservation is paramount for all of these animals. Seals are declining at an alarming rate, believed due to pollution, climate change, and decrease in food sources. African birds of prey are decreasing, believed due to the commerical bushmeat trade. The war on wolves has been wreaking havoc on ecosystems, according to recent research, as smaller predators attempt to take over the natural balance of nature. Predator fish are also in sharp decline, competing with commercial fishing habits that use nets to scoop up every kind of marine animals–many who are considered bycatch and are simply tossed aside. Pandas, Polar Bears, and the Grizzly are all suffering population decline and stress. ”I’ve never seen bears hungry in the fall before, but last year they were starving,” said British Columbian wildlife guide and photographer Doug Neasloss. “I noticed in the spring there weren’t as many bears coming out, but I felt it was premature to jump to conclusions.” But now, he said, “there just aren’t any bears. It’s scary.” Whale populations as well as many other marine animals have also continued to decline due to human intervention and the resultant collapse of the marine food system.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens
Declawing a cat is tantamount to amputating the outermost joint of each one of your fingers. There are numerous images on the web about the horrific practice, and one vet said he would not do it for any amount of money, others will not do all four feet. There is a very high incidence of complications. Some cats are unable to walk properly, others suffer extreme and excruciating pain. There is something that is patently unfair about debarking a dog or declawing a cat; it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the very dogness or catness of the animals, a rejection of the innate characteristics of the animal and their place in nature. These practices leave the animal unable to be their most basic and fundamental selves and leave them even more vulnerable to the whims of unreliable human beings. As vegans or people who care about the animal lives, it is important that we do not tolerate such mutilations. Declawing the cat is a metaphor for what we have done to our fellow earthlings. The root question is this: is there going to be room on the ark for the cat, or any other predator?
Man is Only A Strand in the Web of Life
Back to Chief Seattle, he also is reported to have said: Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. We all know what the current situation is with respect to that web of life and what is happening to animals. If you do not, please listen to podcast, research on the web, or watch films such as Earthlings, go to AbolitionistApproach.com. But here is the question we need to ask: what kind of web do we want in the future? What is our appropriate role as a strand within that web? Do we, as merely a strand in the web, have the right to select for only herd animals, only vegan animals? If we want to build a just planet based on nonviolence, how will we approach carnivores? Whatever you think is just, one thing is certain: It is inherently unjust to declaw the cat!
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