Dear Animal Rights A**Hole

Dear Animal Rights Asshole,

Before we begin, please allow me to give you a little background on my position on fur and animal cruelty:


–My first memory as a child was of wearing a blue velvet coat with white rabbit fur trim and a matching white rabbit fur muff. I remember feeling beautiful and I loved the softness against my skin.


–As a teenager I becaume obsessed with old Hollywood movie stars and their glamour (still am), which led me to collect vintage fur coats and muffs. I especially loved monkey fur, which is black and long, and now illegal.


–I now understand the cruelty behind the fur trade, and would never buy it again, vintage or otherwise. But I own two rabbit fur jackets that my mother bought me 20 years ago that I love and just don’t have the heart to part with yet.


–I work in fashion and have worked very hard to raise my co-worker’s consciousness about animal cruelty and child labor. I have had major, weepy arguments about the wholesale buying and selling of fur; I have calmly explained my position using photos and news articles to illustrate the points. I currently handle one small section of the buying and in my department there is no fur allowed.


–I currently own three dumped-at-a-shelter cats and an abandoned dog who was neglected and beaten so badly that it took me a good four or five years to help him get straight enough to be able to eat and socialize properly.


–I regularly donate to the HSUS, ASPCA, WSPCA, PETA, ALDF, HFA, WWF, the AAVS and local rescue groups in my area. 


–I am not a vegan, but I eat meat and animal products sparingly, on special occasions.


–I have panic attacks at night sometimes about the animals and children that aren’t being loved across our planet, and every time bad weather hits I pray for the safety and comfort of all creatures outside. I pray every day that all small creatures, human or otherwise, might find the peace and love that they deserve.


–I take animal rights very seriously.


SO…


Dear Animal Rights Asshole,


With that in mind, I would like to let you know that it is a waste of your time and energy to shout the question, “Is that real? Is that thing real??” at me as I enter the bank wearing what could easily pass for a muppet pelt. My response at the time, because I was so shocked at the aggressiveness of your tone, was “Ah…NO.” But if I had had the time to formulate a proper answer it would have been this:


No, you imbecile, if you had half a brain you would see that it is clearly faux. And it seems that if you are going to get obnoxious with strangers on the street, it might behoove you to be able to spot the differences between real and synthetic fur.


And let’s say that the coat was made from the skin of a once-live animal. Do you really think that your random, unasked for, intrusive, self-righteous attack-in-passing is the magic bullet that would sway me to the side of compassion? Do you really believe that making an enemy out of me will show me the way? 


And as a side note, did you notice that I’m wearing knee high leather boots, a leather belt, and jeans with leather lacing? And you sir, are wearing a leather jacket. Not a cool-looking one, mind you, but leather nonetheless. So where do you stand on that issue, your holiness? Surely if you are this fired up about one kind of skin, you must have some feelings about the others. Are you a vegan? Do you only wear skins or do you eat them too? 


At least you ran at someone like me, who loves animals enough that I won’t be dissuaded by douchebag tactics, rather than some fashion child who might have been on the fence and easily pushed into the non-compassionate camp by an attack like yours. 
Because let me tell you, once on that side of the fence, they are not easily dissuaded. I work with people who will put the head of the last baby seal left standing in the arctic on their Chanel bag, and never give it a second thought. 

I promise you, they do not see the pain, there simply is no consciousness for it. And the main energy (besides vanity) that fuels their callous blindness? Yours, my friend. YOURS. You and your paint throwing, street-shouting, self-righteous nonsensical approach to this issue. Your attacks gives them a reason to feel righteous about buying fur.


Last year I was encouraged when my co-workers conceded to my pleas and bought a stock of faux fur tails that looked very real. It would be great if we didn’t have to have tails at all, but it was a step. We had a party at the store and I noticed a group of fashion types hovering admiringly around the basket full of tails, choosing which color they would purchase. I was so proud of this mini-victory and I said happily to one girl, “They’re faux!” She tossed the tail down in disgust. Her mouth curled into an ugly snarl and she said, “I HATE PETA.”


I had to turn my back, I was so angry and hurt by the exchange. It was an awful moment and it colored the rest of my night. But it was also informative and I know the Universe put that woman there to teach me something. 


When I was young my mother told me that you cannot light darkness with more darkness, that you have to bring in light, because darkness is simply the absence of light. This makes a lot of sense. I know that an aggressive stance is necessary sometimes. But why should there be a war on the sidewalk between two strangers over an issue of compassion?


How about some education, some convincing, some consideration for our fellow man and his thought process? He may not know as much as we do about the issue…yet. If we preach love, don’t we have to live it? How about we teach instead of alienate? How about instead of screaming for Michael Vick’s head, we support Wayne Pacelli in his effort to get Vick out there lecturing to fans about the evils of dog-fighting. That education and reach to kids who wouldn’t ordinarily ever hear the message, is in my mind, more important than the witch hunt. Ultimately, all I care about is which outcome is going to keep the most dogs from suffering.


So, Sir Lame Jacket, I respectfully ask that you shut the fuck up, let me do my banking in peace, and start looking for ways that your dumb fuck ass can bring the light. Take it from someone living behind enemy lines, right now you’re only hurting the cause you claim to love. 


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Candle

I have forgotten far more events than I have remembered in my life, but once in a while I’ll get a movie flash of some event or person or situation which will come back in picture perfect clarity.

One such recent flash was of the cremation room in the Humane Society I volunteered at in my teen years. It contained a freezer where formerly able-bodied and noise-making dogs and cats were stacked, quietly frozen, their fur stiff, waiting for Wednesday when the crematorium was used. Sometimes the metal table in the room would have bodies lain out in groups of two or three, if euthanasia had occurred recently. Obviously a very sad room, although I remember thinking that at least the spirits contained in those bodies were free: liberated from long, lonely days and nights spent untouched and unwalked in cages, free from feeling abandoned by the people who once owned them, free from sickness and want.

The vision of this room came to me while I was walking to work, I don’t remember what set it off, but it hit me with such a lightning flash that I got weepy on the street. I’m sure being raw-nerved from weeks of tattoo allergies didn’t help, and maybe even brought on this sadder memory. Sometimes feeling physically shitty can bring you to a more open place emotionally, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a long-term goal.

At this Humane Society people would often drop off litters of puppies or kittens too young to fend for themselves. We would try to feed them with bottles or droppers, but usually they would die. Sometimes people dumped pregnant dogs or cats that they didn’t want to deal with, or pets that they didn’t want to take with them on a move, or sick pets that they couldn’t handle. Sometimes we’d see their kids crying in the back seat of their cars. The small crew that worked full-time in the shelter were tired of repeating themselves, tired of the unending stupidity, but they would still give their speeches about responsible pet ownership, resignedly trying to educate a bunch of Michigan crackers on what it means to care for a domestic pet.

It was painful, to say the least, though I loved the animals and came regularly to do whatever was asked of me. Mostly it was cleaning cages and walking dogs. One of the larger blows for me was a friendship with a beautiful purebred female collie. She was giant and so smart. I walked her as much as I could while she was there, which probably wasn’t much because I only visited on the weekends during the school year and most animals stayed for two to three weeks tops. I did get to spend some hours with her, walking the hills behind the shelter. She never pulled on the leash and being with her made me feel centered and calm. She was just a golden, perfect dog, and on our last walk she jumped up and put her feet on my shoulders and looked at me with what I believe was love and gratitude.

It was one of the purest connection moments I’ve experienced, human, animal or otherwise, and afterwards I felt sick to my stomach to put her back in her cage. I wondered, who could have discarded this amazing creature? I should have insisted that my parents let me take her, but we had a house full of animals already and she was so big. I hoped for the best for her, and when I returned to the shelter and she wasn’t there, I didn’t have the courage to research whether she’d been adopted. I also didn’t go back into the cremation room to look. I never learned what happened to her and I have always wished I had been more aggressive about taking her out of the shelter. Thirty years later it remains a regret for me.

So there is much screaming about the fact that Michael Vick is being allowed to play football again, much hatred being shouted and some people are selling their season tickets to whatever team he’s on now. I am so uninterested in sports I can never remember.

The anger is understandable. When you watch the documentary on the rehabilitation his surviving dogs have gone through just to be able to live semi-normal lives, you want to kill the people that would cause such pain. (I highly recommend watching it, I think you can still find it on http://www.nationalgeographic.com, just do a search for Michael Vick.) It’s unbelievable: rape stands, tooth removal, bait dogs. It is truly an Auschwitz-esque existence for God’s creatures, and those who participate should be punished.

I have condemned Michael Vick and his ilk many times online. But in lucid moments I know that fighting dark with dark only brings more darkness, and does nothing to alleviate the suffering at hand. Light is the only thing that will illuminate darkness. I don’t give a shit anymore who is right and who is wrong, I just want the abuse to end. And I am grateful for Michael Vick in one way, which is that he is single-handedly bringing more awareness to the crime of dog-fighting than hundreds of PETA videos ever could.

Wayne Pacelle, President of the U.S. Humane Society, has enlisted Vick to speak publicly around the country in an effort educate young boys and men in inner cities to the fact that dog-fighting is cruel. Many of them have been raised with it (as he was) and see it as a sport, something cool and exciting. It is easy to disconnect to cruelty when you’ve been inured to it from childhood. And no amount of internet squawking by tattooed vegan chicks and ASPCA supporters is going to reach that demographic. They don’t give a shit what you or I think, we are not even on their map. However, they do care about what Michael Vick thinks. His opinion carries a lot more weight in this world than mine ever will, so I’d rather see him free and making his football money and speaking to his fans about loving animals than sitting in jail doing fuck-all and looking like a martyr.

There is a 60 Minutes interview with Vick and Pacelle here: MICHAEL VICK ON 60 MINUTES, in which Vick discusses his remorse and change of heart. He is handsome, well-spoken, and appears earnest. Am I completely convinced of his sincerity? No, probably not, I can’t peer into the brain of Michael Vick and he could very well be mouthing what his manager told him to say. But regardless of whether his motives are pure, at least for the moment he is bringing awareness and affording prime television airtime to the Humane Society and the issue of dogfighting.

And that, to me, is a candle in the dark.