It is, after all, my Year of Animals (and Women).
For me veganism is not about body beautiful, weight or health – it’s about animal rights and sustainability. We are living so well in industrialised places like Britain that to put animals through what animals go through is indefensible.
But I’m not strictly speaking vegan because I sometimes eat food that’s going in the bin. This is not a principle – I’m not a freegan, I don’t dumpster dive, I don’t want to compete with non-vegans for old meat and dairy. I don’t eat left-overs at restaurants because I don’t want to confuse or exascerbate the cynicism of kitchen and waiting staff. And sometimes I don’t do it in front of people who’ve gone out of their way to cook vegan for me if I think they will take veganism less seriously. But I will intercept non-vegan food on its way to a landfill if to do so isn’t more trouble than it’s worth because once it’s dead, prepared and plated, it’s food to me. And although it happens very rarely that I get my hands on some I enjoy it immensely when it does. So, as some vegan friends are at pains to point out, I’m not a vegan at all. It’s just a term I use to help people cater for me or to label my first vegan contention – as follows.
Vegan contention #1: it’s not possible be an animal lover and keep a cat, as in:
Na’ama is a former chairperson of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, a strict vegetarian and a lover of animals (especially her cat and dog). (Source: Norm)
Many of my friends know about my opposition to pet-keeping, and since many of them keep cats some of them confuse this with a dislike of cats. I don’t dislike cats – in fact I find cats captivating. But pet-keeping involves capturing and isolating an animal, imposing your will over it, disrupting its social activity and, often, tampering with its sexuality. In the case of cats in particular, it’s about the necessity of feeding it meat of dubious progeny – meat from animals which have surpassed their useful existence to humans elsewhere and may have been horribly abused in the process of getting put into the catfood tin. And – also in the case of cats – an animal which may or may not be predisposed to laying indiscriminate waste to the wildlife in the vicinity of its home, and god knows that many wild species have a hard enough time negotiating their existence where humans are. It’s not an excuse to say “That’s just cats”. You fund the cat breeder, you buy catfood, you effectively sponsor the wildlife killer, you are responsible.
In what way are these things compatible with a love of animals? They aren’t.