Column: Of pet food and presidential campaigns
I want to salute Mary Boland for her wonderful, disturbing Post Independent column of March 10. By now, the cruelty inherent in conventional animal agriculture shouldn’t surprise anyone. We expect better from products carrying the organic seal, for which we pay extra, in part, because we believe that animal welfare, environmental protection and consumer health are all equally served by organic agricultural practices. We’ve been deceived, again.
We’ve allowed ourselves to be compliant consumers of the abundant products on store shelves – the ones we can afford because they are relatively cheap. They are cheap because many of their long-term real costs are hidden from us, or deferred for future generations, or subsidized when our taxes address crises like oil spills, red tides and toxic waste cleanups. We’re outraged – someone should do something about this – but we can afford only these cheap consumables because we are working our butts off, making and marketing more of them, or serving the industries that assuage their immediate toll, like insurance, medicine and recreation.
The conflagration of rage touched off by Donald Trump’s candidacy, for all the pundits’ expressions of shock, really shouldn’t have been unexpected. The plutocracy has used and discarded so many people, made cynical promises so often, ignored so much bewilderment and pain, that a wrecking ball of a demagogue has been able to ignite this angst into explosions of destructive energy.
When many feel they have little left to lose, destroying the structure that feels like a prison may feel cathartic – even creative. But while the Trump phenomenon may be understandable, it is yet another deceit. He is the man who respects nothing but winning, whatever it takes. However honorably they strove and struggled, losers have only his contempt. What are these multitudes at his rallies but hordes of losers in his eyes? Does shame for having been duped and used make it easier to hate others than to acknowledge one’s own painful losses?
Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, has upheld the general principle of solidarity through decades of public service, and, at 75, has taken on the most grueling of tasks: to mobilize and inspire everyone willing to be part of the cure for the malaise of our time. Calling out the heartless rapacity of the winners, he points out their Achilles heel: they can’t do it without our complicity, and we don’t have to acquiesce. To take back our power, we must first own up to our weaknesses: our willingness to be deceived and distracted, our anxiety about having enough, our failures of solidarity and empathy, and resolve to reform them. He reminds us of what only we, together, can do, if we will. He doesn’t denounce groups of people for who they are, but only individuals, for crimes they have actually committed.
What does this have to do with pets, with pet food, with Mary Boland’s challenge? I want to remind everyone, including myself, that the cure for what ails us is within our power, residing in the many small everyday decisions and actions that increase our competence and capacity for decent living.
We may hate Monsanto and CAFOs, puppy mills, oil spills, toxic air, water and soil, poverty and war – but let’s not be Trump troops of the left. As the Buddhists say, notice those feelings and let them go. Then, do what we can. Learn to garden; meet our local organic growers and buy from them; eat less meat and none from CAFOS; share locally raised meat with your dogs and cats.
Instead of bemoaning the cynicism of Big Petfood, learn to make your own from scratch. I’ll teach you how. Remember, no matter how bad things are, there really is more to be lost. Species we are driving into extinction by the dozens each day, for instance. Vote out of a sense of all the possibilities that need our care, and then apply ourselves to learning and doing and teaching how.
The sextiped spread, today, might look like mostly veggies on our plates and mostly meat in our dog and cat bowls. It will feel like giving up some cherished pleasures, but it will relieve us of the “need” to make terrible sacrifices that lead to impotence and despair. The consolation of our pets’ companionship will rank high among our rewards.
Laurie Raymond owns High Tails Dog & Cat Outfitters in Glenwood Springs.
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