Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What about the roadkill?

It's an interesting thing: eating roadkill is almost taboo in our culture, yet, whenever I seem to bring it up in conversation (it happens more often than you'd think), I get plenty of people who admit either doing it themselves, or what a good idea it is. My parents ate road kill when they were poor, (they suggest cutting away the bruised meat as it has a bad flavor and texture). Seems like common sense to me.

January brought two tidbits to my RSS stream:

1) This cute, understated stop motion video about factory farming, and, 2) An essay about the environmental impact of where we (as in North Americans mostly) get our protein. It's one of the better blogs that I've read recently on the subject, but it still has too much of the hand-waving "oh what are we to do!" mentality. And really, I don't blame them; all the empirical work on the carbon-footprint of food is being done on industrial-style food systems. There's very little attention on anything remotely "outside the box" (including, apparently, hunting, which is almost always left out of these discussions even though it's a significant source of animal protein in the US).

I want to hear more about farmed tilapia. I want statistics on animals grazed on marginal land that couldn't be used for crops. I want to hear more about grass-fed cows. I want studies about backyard chickens and fish ponds and goats. About pigs fed on restuarant waste and slaughtered at home 100 feet from where they they were bred and raised. About hunting/fishing/trapping wild game for food. About urban roof-top farms. About targeting invasive species for consumption.

The Ominvore's Dilema is a good book, but most people seem to come away with only one message: eat more plants. So few people seemed to pay attention to all the interesting little details the discusses.

I live 5 miles from several CAFO feed lots, I've helped drag dead calves into their kill pits; 10 miles from one of the largest rivers in North America and one of the richest salmon runs outside of Alaska; 30 miles from 50,000 acres that used to grow wheat, but now the government is paying the landowners to lie fallow for the sake of wheat prices; 100 miles from the Tillamook cheese factory's co-op of dairy farmers; 250 miles from where I grew up, where the bulk of my animal meat was wild-killed deer and elk or pork and lamb raised by neighbors

I'm glad that it's becoming more mainstream to think about where our food comes from, and the quality of life of the animals we eat. But I want more. More attention to nuance and to thinking outside the box, more consideration on how complicated these issues are, and more research studies on food systems that already are thinking outside the box, and have been for years, thank you very much. Less of the black and white. Less of the blame being slung at farmers who are barely breaking even, even with government subsidies. Less finger-wagging at middle class families who dare to buy non-organic eggs. Less of the continuous, simplistic chanting message from certain quarters repeating over and over: "plants good, meat bad".

It's all well and good to get wide-spread attention on CAFO-type animal husbandry, but not if no one sees (or utilizes) the myriad possible alternatives.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Skyrim-inspired mural

Dogs piss on fences to show ownership. I paint on them. The design is from an inn sign from Skyrim.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Merry Ice Storm Day!

I fell down five times while taking the dogs for a walk. In a field, not even pavement! That's why I'm now inside at my computer.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Anecdotal Pit Bull #24 - #30

Been awhile since I did one of these, but I assure you its not because I haven't been running into any "pit bull types". While anti-breed people like to say "pit bulls" are relatively rare (and then only owned by thugs, of course). They're certainly not rare around here. We see at least four or five (non-repeating) BSL-eligible dogs per week, usually more. I just don't get a chance to photograph many of them. Plus I've been busier than usual the last couple months.

Below you'll see the usual; these are normal, beloved, family pets that would be targeted by BSL should it ever come to my area. Each and every one represents a potential drain on the city budget and local law enforcement if such asinine legislation were passed.

We don't even have the budget for animal control here, and we're the second-largest city in the region. As it stands, police can't even respond to all the dog-at-large complaints (one of the top calls the city police receives, btw). I'm told by my friend at the department that they usually ask the caller if they feel comfortable catching the dog themselves and bringing it to the station or directly to the shelter (a private shelter that has a contract with the city to hold strays). They already have to prioritize their time.

I'm not sure where BSL-advocates think that cities like mine would find the resources to go around confiscating dogs that have done nothing wrong while still continuing to enforce the dangerous-animal laws they do already. I'm serious. I really would like to know exactly what pro-BSL people think it would look like on a day-to-day basis if police had to enforce BSL. I mean, its not like anyone is going to call in complaints about dogs that aren't doing anything wrong. Oh, sure, if a new BSL ordinance was advertised enough, there would probably be some pit-bull haters in the community who would be more than happy to report their neighbors. But then again, if it were advertised widely, then owners of the persecuted "breeds" would have a heads up to hide their pets.

So, IN ADDITION to the calls they ALREADY don't have time for, would the police also have to also go door-to-door, like they do in some places that passed BSL? Would they stake an officer out at the three vet clinics in town? Or just require us to make daily breed-sighting reports? Would they pull people over while they're driving? All of the above?

IMG_4262 #24 in my series is Holly, my current foster dog. She is not a pit bull, but she could easily be targeted by BSL. She likely has some boxer in her recent ancestery, but other than that she's a certified mutt. But she has short hair and a somewhat blocky head and the coloration from her boxer genes; from the right angle, she definitely looks "pitty-ish". In fact she looks quite a bit like this dog. Certainly enough for a vindictive AC officer to haul her away if she lived in the wrong city.

IMG_3655 #25 is the dog from this earlier post. He's one of many dogs owned by a local rancher. He's friendly and mellow and gets along with the other dogs. He's unneutered. Maybe he's a boxer mix, maybe "pit bull". I keep forgetting to ask the owner.

IMG_3635 #26 is a 3 year old unneutered male. Owned by a family with children. We hospitilized him, I think for pancreantitis. He was scared of everything, but never aggressive.

IMG_3593 #27 is a "mastiff mix" according to his owner, and that seems likely. However, he would likely be targeted as a "pit bull type" by BSL. We hospitalized him, I don't remember what for. Caring for him was not a memorable experience.

photo #28 is a "lab/pit mix" according to the owner. Another hospitalized case that I don't remember very well (I need to keep better notes). I obviously felt confident enough to walk him to the potty yard without a muzzle and an armed guard, so there's that.

IMG_4220 #29 is a young female dog, maybe 2 years old, who was found wandering the countryside. A kind person took her in, and when her original owners couldn't be found, decided to keep her. We were treating her for a vaginal prolapse and spaying her. She was very submissive and friendly.

#30 is a husky/pit mix. He went missing and came home that afternoon riddled with buckshot. The police were never called, so we may never know why someone felt compelled to shoot him from short range - once from the front, and once from the back presumably as he was running away. It's possible he acted aggressively. But it's also very possible he wandered into the yard of someone who just doesn't like dogs, or "pit bulls". He was perfectly friendly while at the clinic. Even while in considerable pain, he was never aggressive.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

No more misanthropy

I don't know if you've noticed, but there is a rather strong streak of misanthropy in the animal rescue community.

I've been volunteering at a shelter for three years now, and I work at a vet clinic. I get it. Some people are ignorant. Some people are cruel. Some people just don't share my values when it comes to animal welfare. But I think I'm done with the hate-on for "people".

Some people are fixable, in which case being snooty or self-righteous about their choices won't educate them about anything. Some people are not, in which case being snooty or self-righteous won't do any good either. So, really, let's all be honest about it and admit that it's more about feeling good about yourself at the expense of others. This is why I can't hang out in certain animal-welfare forums anymore. There's a point where the kvetching is no longer about letting off steam, and more about making yourself feel special and better than others.

Yesterday we took a phone call from an owner who wanted to know if his accidentally-pregnant bitch can still give birth naturally even though she got hit by a car last week and might have a broken pelvis. My days of hanging up the phone, and saying, "I hate people", are over. (I might have choice words to use about this one person). I'm done with that, because one facepalm-ingly ignorant pet owner is not "people".

I don't even care if it's a reoccurring theme. There's a trend of old dogs being owner-surrendered around the holidays? Bunnies after Easter? Can't take a pet with them because they're moving? Kinda generally sucks, doesn't it? Good thing they have an animal shelter to turn to. You know, a central location of compassionate animal experts who's main job is to shelter and find homes for animals?

Maybe some of these people deserve a handwaving rant in the back of the intake room, maybe some of them really had no other recourse but surrendering their pet at a shelter. Maybe you're tired of hearing the same excuses reasons. When you find subtle ways to punish people who come into the shelter to surrender a pet; Being cold or impolite; Emphasizing the fact that it'll probably be killed if you can't find it a home; Whisking the pet away even if (or especially if) it seems they want a moment to say goodbye. When it comes to the point that no reason is good enough; when you could never see yourself say, "OK, if I were in that situation, maybe I would bring my animal to a shelter", you're probably not being honest with yourself.

One thing I'm tired of is "God, I hate people."

You. Are. People.

You, and the lady who adopted the elderly, diabetic black dog when she could have picked the young, healthy one, and the one who bottle-fed the litter of kittens, and the one who picked up the dog wandering on the highway even though it made them late for work, and the breeder who fosters, and every single one of the people who come into the shelter to adopt or donate towels or money. They're part of this 'people' that you say you hate, too.

If you work at a shelter, that means you get to be surrounded by people who share your values about animals, and who probably have rescued pets of their own. You get to see members of the public every day who come in with the express intention of adopting an animal in need, and you have the self-centered audacity to think you're some kind of lone warrior out there? That you're, the only one out there who really cares for animals, and everyone else is part of the problem?

I'm going to try really hard not to think like that anymore. I hope you do, too.