I recently came across a fundraiser for a cat and dog shelter near Bristol, and whilst it’s really worthwhile supporting groups that are helping cats and dogs, it is worth considering that in terms of animal suffering cat and dog issues aren’t particularly neglected, and that we also wouldn’t need to harm some animals to help others, we can also help more animals by not supporting the industry of animal consumption.
The fundraiser itself refers to a dinner party serving animal products, and whilst it’s not unusual for rescue groups to do this type of thing, there are probably a number of reasons behind it. Perhaps the primary one is that some animal shelters may be concerned that serving vegan food may put people off supporting them, or cause people to think it is extreme to help animals to the extent that we wouldn’t eat them. In cultural terms most people presently believe it is perfectly fine to eat animals, even if it is unnecessary for us to do so. Another issue could be that people associated with the shelter aren’t vegetarian or vegan and so wouldn’t think about the reasons in favour of having a vegan menu, instead a single vegetarian option exists in each savoury category on the menu, with the consequence of placating, rather than celebrating the diversity of non-animal food.
A better way forward for various animal rescues is to be more inclusive and progressive, reflecting the ethic we wouldn’t replace calves on our menus with cats and dogs, and yet this could still require careful promotion to encourage people to support the fundraiser. However, I do think if most people care about cats and dogs, then even if they didn’t care particularly about not eating other animals then they would still support cat and dog shelters for the good work they are doing. In this way ‘enduring’ a delicious vegan meal rather than going to the effort of finding other cat and dog rescues that support the consumption of other animals, and so reinforcing their ideas. For animal rescues themselves another alternative could be to avoid organising fundraisers that involved ‘food’ altogether.
There are also several broader issues to consider too, such as dogs and cats eating other animals anyway. This is indeed the case, but at the same time isn’t necessarily going to be the case either, whilst it also wouldn’t add a layer of legitimacy for what humans choose to consume. Another point could be the issue of domestication, in terms of animal companions this is still situated within speciesism. From a western perspective we tend to treat cats and dogs differently from ‘food’ animals, and yet this still varies depending on how we use them (for instance within the greyhound industry, vivisection labs, puppy farms), whilst from a vegan perspective rescue (or non-use) would be encouraged and purchase discouraged.
At the end of the day I think there are good reasons for animal rescues to serve vegan food at fundraisers. For some supporters this may be an issue of concern, but for one night we ought to be able to put aside those issues and appreciate the reasons why it is a good thing to do.
Artwork by Pawel Kuczynski