Sunday, April 26, 2009
On my refrigerator is a refrigerator magnet from folk song artist Jay Mankita, for his melodic and memorable album, 'Dogs are watching us." He talks about their trust in us (unlike cats, some might add; others have inspired the trust and love of one or more cats, but that's a different day's posting).
Some of us may find this topic mildly to moderately offensive (some may find it greatly or even profoundly bothering or offensive). It's an obvious takeoff from the song 'God is watching us' which gave many folks pause in the face of an unsettled society in multifactorial upheaval.
Others might think, well, if God is not vegan or even vegetarian (think of all the omnivorous animals in the creation and the deadly 'food chain' observation, even if some of us are exempt, as perhaps the stewards - we humans - who can honor God in the respect of loving all creation (a la NT scholar and professor Richard Alan Young: Is God a Vegetarian?), then at least (omnivorous) dogs CAN be (and should be, for ethical reasons.
Others object, but though cats need taurine (which CAN now be synthesized in a lab (it's good to be gifted with the neurological complexity that enables rational behaviors AND rational analysis, which can lead to the social construction of scientific method and scientific results which reshape society according to socially desirable HUMANE values), (omnivorous) dogs clearly CAN be not merely vegetarian, but also vegan.
The watershed book in the Vegetarian Dogs (and possibly! cats) movement was Dogs and Cats Go Vegetarian by the co-authors whose surname rhymes with EDEN: Barbara Lynn Peden (who did most of the journal research, I'm told; she is now a folksinger, I'm told) and her former husband, James Peden, who in the divorce got full rights to their shared book production AND VegDog & VegCat and empire (he had a paying job on the side and could sustain the D&GV 'empire' (enterprise) ("Harbingers of a New Age"), and she, claiming no extra-corporate skills of her own (though she had done most of the journal research and networking), left with little in the way terminated employees often do, with no IP rights to the work they have done along the way. Jim has since written new literature and a new chapter in the re-released book. In this light, one ought to read the book about Little Tyke, the vegetarian (not vegan) lioness, sold by the American Vegan Society (she died from being overstressed and overexposed on television as a celebrity - read 'oddity' or 'curiosity')
Blaming PETA in the recent media blitzes about vegan - read that again - not vegetarian but VEGAN dogs AND CATS - are those who (IMHO rightly) are concerned that some animals are, when not technically assisted with periodic lab-derived supplementary doses, suffer - read that again - SUFFER. However, the question persists, particularly in a Christian (read Genesis: God gave the animals the world; there was no DEATH (thus no killing for food) in Eden (rhymes with Peden).
More broadly, in monotheistic, Abrahamic 'traditions' of receiving the common literature of Genesis, the problem remains. Mohammed reported taught that 'it is better to drink milk than to eat meat', and while not PROSCRIBING the eating of meat (forbidding or teaching that it is wrong), there is remarkable tolerance in some branches of Christendom and Jewish practice, and even calendared encouragements of it (for its spiritual and 'meditative' or devotional benefits - as in Lent or in PRAYER AND fasting, etc.). Some monastics are largely or always vegetarian in some branches of Christendom. Dissident NON-MONASTIC groups have been suppressed, but often for doctrinary (not doctrinaire, but doctrinary - related to teaching or 'doctrine') or 'non-subscribing' (to doctrine) reasons.
What concerns me, though, is the philosophical problem of thinking inductively in the present world (as we all must) and committing oneself to a loving, rational (and both all-wise and all-knowing AND all-powerful) Deity, known among the uninitiated as God, though sometimes and by some through more personal names, quite reverently thought.
God has an interest in our intentionality - our behaviors - deliberate and unintentional
Some ways of being ourselves behaviorally and mentally are better (or at least less objectionable) than other behaviors. Some secular folks agree to this much; not all do.
In Genesis we are given stewardship in the sense of caring for all life; from this our (a) ecological and (b) humane AND (c) sociological stewardship obligations are derived.
In terms of our spiritually-derived public policy contributions, how can we endorse (let alone mandate) that we OR others care for animals - and humans, too - and the ecosystem in ways that trade off the well-being of some for that of others, even if mathematically one is numerically or quantitatively better.
Further, we’re helped along in this reflection by the prophecy of Isaiah, where the predatory rests with the herbivore, and there is no more exploitation of one (type) of the other (type), nor of one (type) by the other (type).
So, is keeping carnivorous animals, even pre-existing animals BEFORE any possible PHASING OUT of carnivorous animals by massive spay-neuter programs, ethically tolerable, particularly for those who derive at least part of their moral reasoning and rationale from Biblical sources and indirectly from others who also derive their thinking from those Biblical sources/texts?
Searching for vegan-friendly pet food is laudable in general, but specifically in light of this contextual reflection, that somehow, in the process BEFORE God becomes 'All in All', we ought to live in light of the eschaton, the hope of which (perhaps the Indwelling spirit, would be a foretaste or earnest (like earnest money) of one's spiritual inheritance, a life in a world of no more violence, for which righteousness we are to hunger and thirst (and surely our food would be characterized by having no violence).