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December 16, 2004

Comments

Tim Pitzener

Amen, brother. See, we will agree on some things.

Hugo

Praise God, Tim!

moonshower

I think I'm in love with your chinchilla. She's such a little cutie. It's a pity I have three cats that would make a small mammals life miserable, as my boyfriend would love a rodent type creature.

Tim Pitzener

Praise God, Tim!

Amen. I don't know much about chinchillas, but I am a big enthusiast of pets of all kinds.

John

Do you have the same aversion to meat-eaters? Because I admit to slaughtering a sheep for Christmas dinner last week.

Hugo

No, I don't, John -- I do make a major distinction between factory farming of fur (for fashion) and raising livestock for food. I grew up spending part of my childhood on a ranch, and have seen some (not much) slaughtering. I desperately WANT to be a vegan (or even a strict vegetarian), but while the spirit is willing, Paul was right on about the old flesh...

John

Not to mention those who wear sheep-skin coats. I do that too. Where is the line? Cow? Mink? Leather from pigs? Rabbit? Is killing any of the above truly evil? And in any case, is killing a Chinchilla any more repulsive than killing a baby in the womb, the rate of family breakdown, or gang warfare and child abuse? Is it any more repulsive than porn? Yet you allow discussion from all sides of those subjects. I'm sorry; I'm a country boy, and while killing a chin is not nice, your strange moral over-reaction sounds awfully like those who want to ban rabbit-killing and fox-hunting (both pests) on the grounds that foxes and rabbits are cute. I'm an animal lover, with six dogs, two cats and assorted other livestock in my house; unnecessary killing makes me mad too. But animals aren't people, and we shouldn't pretend they are.

Amanda

Can I still have tacky fake fur?

I agree with you, for what it's worth. I am flummoxed by people who claim animals don't have some kind of conscious life. My two cats, for instance, are far too clever for one thing. And for another, they are in love. In my weak moments, I envy their regard for each other.

Hugo

John, I wasn't making a rational argument -- rather, I am clear that this is an issue about which I haven't the slightest intention of being charitable, openminded, or rational! This is pure emotion, brother, pure and raw!

zuzu

I'm certainly not about to give up my mother's mink from 1963. But, OTOH, I'm not about to buy a new fur (except maybe rabbit, because they're eaten, and, dammit, I live in New York and it's cold here).

John

Rabbits are terrible pests, and need to be culled. Otherwise, they out-compete NZ Native animals and eat rare plants and stuff. (I kid you not). For every cute rabbit, there's a native animal that can't compete with it.

Mychelline

Hugo, I don't think you're irrational at all. My own reaction upon hearing the words "chinchilla coat" is always utter revulsion, followed by a horrified exclamation of, "But chinchillas are *endangered*!" (Even if they weren't, fur coats are just wrong, except for animals.)

Proud to be a critter-loving tree-hugger.

La Lubu

Maybe the person looking up "chinchilla coats for men" was just trying to find that Snoop Dogg post, but couldn't remember which blog it was in.

Anyway...I can't say much on the fur issue, 'cuz I wear tons of leather! And I'm an unrepentant omnivore. I have no problem with vegetarians, but don't dig the PETA crowd. Telling people what is prim and proper to have on their plate is just as rude as telling people how and with whom to have sex, ya know? Both the kitchen and the bedroom are intimate places, and not to be intruded upon by others.

But no...chinchillas are cute, can't argue there!

kelly

Hugo I loved your post, it even made me tear up a bit. You're right about the meaning of pets to those who don't have kids. To me there is no distinction between person and animal and there isn't anything I wouldn't sacrifice for my beloved-most-perfect-creatures (despite their so called "flaws"). Love is irrational, I eat meat, but refuse to watch scenes in movies where something bad happens to an animal. I cry when I see a dead dog on the freeway, but cruise right by when I see an accident (granted I feel bad and hope that noone was hurt, but I don't have the same emotional response) (also, if nonone had stopped to help, I certainly would). I think it's the fact that animals are dependent upon our kindness and goodwill, that when I see one that so clearly wasn't given any it just breaks my heart (for real, not just a little). I love you for loving your little rodent, and that's real too, this coming from a girl, who was suspended from high school, for beating up a boy who bludgeoned a rat to death. You may remember, maybe not, me being late to class because my old dog, Winnie, was in the hospital. She died October a year ago of cancer, I had to put her to sleep (people said I waited too long). There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of her and miss her sweet face. Which brings me to a weird point Hugo, if you as a christian, are as devoted to your god, as Winnie was devoted to me (innocently and unwaveringly) (hoping you guys don't freak out over that one and think myself tantamount to god) then you are an a-okay christian in my book (surely you must know that is saying a lot!). Okay, turning into a big weirdo, must go now. BTW, my cat, who shares your fabulous name, has cancer now too, he's on his way out, my life (and surely the world) will be a far less richer, loving place when he is gone.

Hugo

Thank you, Kelly. Thank you.

MaryGarth

I'm not generally advocating fur coats, but I do notice that there tends to be a bit of an urban-rural divide on some of these issues. As John notes above, in the country, rabbits may be pests, but city people get all goo-goo about the cute little bunnies...

And while I'm not pro-fur in general, having grown up in the country, I don't shed any tears when I see a raccoon coat or hat. Damn raccoons maimed and killed my chickens (they didn't just kill one and eat it because they were hungry, either--they kept killing and maiming without taking a bite) and got into the grain no matter what I did (I'm not saying they aren't clever, but in the country--or in some cases, the suburbs--they're the enemy), and ate all the peaches off the trees the day before they would have been perfect AND one attacked a friend of mine in her neighbor's kitchen, leaving deep, gouging scratches and bites all along her back and arms (this we ultimately blame on people rather than the raccoon, because we assume the raccoon was raised as a cub by some idiot who thought it was cute, and then released it into the wild when they realized that raccoons NEVER make good pets, so that it felt entitled to walk into the house and wasn't afraid of people... )

Sorry. I was 13 or 14 when the racoon killed my chickens, and I'm still a little cranky about it. Damn them.

djw

La Lubu, I think one can make a distinction between leather, a bi-product of food production, and raising and killing animal solely and unnecessarily for (novelty) clothing.

John's point about rabbits in NZ can be broadened; being a human means being responsible for the death of animals. This is just as true for those who wish to reorient human life to make our presence on the planet more sustainable and less harmful to the natural world (see John's rabbits).

Some would use this basic fact to argue that these fur coats aren't a big deal, because the ecology of modern life involves so much animal death anyway. I'd say that misses the point. The "ecology of modern life" isn't something we can plausibly abandon, but it is something we can redirect and shift and in a general sense take responsibility for. Within that context, the easiest practice to jettison (with the possible exception of poaching of highly endangered species) is fur farming--for its cruelty, of course, but also for its utter disrespect for our responsibility to be...for lack of a better term at the moment...better killers. We should approach our tremendous responsibility to and awesome power over nature with respect, humility, and seriousness. On that scale, fur farming fails on grounds of unnecessary cruelty, but I'm every bit as offended by the inefficiency, wastefulness and conspicuous consumption of such a practice.

Hugo

Thank you, DJW, that is nicely put. One of my dear friends in high school now works for the department of Fish and Game here in California. He has had to "cull" deer herds at times when overpopulation threatens the entire species. He's a crack shot, and he knows he must sacrifice the individual animal to save the species. I couldn't do it myself, but I honor his great love for God's creatures. I see no comparison between his taking the life of a deer and what fur pelters do. None.

yami

Hugo, do you distinguish between fur for fashion, and fur for function?

Wearing a mink coat is kind of like driving a Hummer, I think - it's a status symbol of questionable ethics. So our response to the ethical concern is amplified and distorted by our response to the display of wealth and privilege.

This isn't something I know much about, but I've heard that for prolonged outdoor work in extreme climates, even the best synthetics are just not as good as fur - and they're nowhere near the price/warmth ratio. Obviously chinchilla coats aren't made for Antarctic expeditions, but foxfur-trimmed parkas and things are. I feel much better about these practical furs than I do about extravagant coats, but I'm not sure how much of this feeling is from a genuine concern that animals not be sacrificed for insufficient cause, and how much is simple anti-elitism!

Hugo

I too feel better about it, yami, largely because these are decisions of necessity. I'm not telling the Eskimos to stop wearing fur, at least not until we in warmer climes can provide them with a genuinely comparable substitute. (I'm no more inclined, however, to defend the use of fur on cultural grounds than I am to defend female genital mutilation because it's "what people have always done." Tradition is never an adequate defense.)

Let's close down the factory farms, and then talk to traditional peoples.

John

DJW: That's fair. Proper stewardship and creation care, I can support, and strongly.


Hugo: Sorry? You're expecting "traditional peoples" (white farmers as well as Eskimos) to abandon the fur (from pests like wolves, foxes and rabbits, not chinchilla fur coats for socialites) that have kept their peoples warm for centuries for "a comparable substitute" why? Because killing a rabbit is bad? These cute little things need to be shot. We might as well get what use we can out of them once they're dead. Ditto wool from sheep, leather from pigs and any number of other things, including furniture from trees. "Urban people are the only ones who care about the "conservation of the countryside" because they don't have to live in it". Chinchillas, I concede, are not pests, and so don't need to die, (So killing them for a coat isn't so nice) but is killing extra pigs for a leather jacket immoral? Where is the line here? Are you attempting to draw one, or are you just reacting to anyone threatening (the truly gorgeous) Mathilde?

Hugo

Well, first of all, we can get wool without killing the sheep. And I thought leather came from cows.

In the long run, I do think that a cruelty-free world is possible. I don't think it is going to happen overnight. In the short run, we need to concentrate on stopping the fur industry; in the long run, we can look thoughtfully at issues of resource management and sustainable, non-violent agricultural practices.

And Matilde thanks you for your kind words.

zuzu

Well, first of all, we can get wool without killing the sheep. And I thought leather came from cows.

You can get wool without killing the sheep, but you can't get shearling. And cowhide comes from cows, but there are other leathers, like lambskin, calf, ostrich, alligator, etc. All of which make good eatin'.

La Lubu

Now see, here's where you're losing me Hugo. I don't see any need for killing chinchillas in general, and certainly not Matilde(!), or anyone's pet for that matter.

But sustainability is more complex than that. Here in Illinois, we're up to our eyeballs in deer, and I mean literally, if one goes through your windshield. Why? Because there are fewer natural predators and plenty of good, high-octane corn to munch on.

I've heard too many pleather-wearing animal-rights types talk about how bad it is to eat meat and wear leather....yet they don't offer the same critique on synthetics that cause far more environmental damage. What tends to be most sustainable also tends to be local...like John serving up rack of lamb with mint sauce, and selling the hide off to be tanned and used for clothing.

I think the whole "cruelty-free" issue is one where folks have to agree to disagree. We aren't going to agree on where the cruelty begins. For some people, any use of an animal product is cruelty, because the animal didn't give you express permission to use it (like your wool example. John would need a labor contract with his sheep, complete with hoof prints, I guess). For others, all killing of animals is cruelty, even if they are dispatched quickly. For others, a quick death for an animal isn't cruel as long as the life taken is for a purpose (meat on the table). Still others think that some animal suffering is acceptable in the service of a higher purpose (laboratory animals). It's not a black-and-white issue.

And rare steak is mmm mmm good. Tofu is bleeeccccchhhh. I mean, IMHO.

Hugo

Oh, meat is not a black and white issue to me, La Lubu -- fur for fashion is. Even I can make that distinction!

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