Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dog Walking: Pleasant Stroll or Power Struggle? You Choose!

This summer I have been walking some friends' dogs while they are away. Collie (not her real name) is a lovely dog, and really energetic. The problem is, however, that she loves to stop and sniff every ten seconds or so! I let her stop sometimes, but I have to pull her along many other times to keep up a decent pace. I sometimes feel like taking her on walks is a power struggle in which one of us has to win and the other has to lose. Either I win (we keep walking) or she wins (we stop for a nice long sniff). Surely there has to be a better way to go about this?

Photo Courtesy of https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/VLQjft4yCTz62R7az9v8cg
I am not the only one who faces this dilemma, however. Many dog owners are downright nasty to their dogs if they bark, or tug, or sniff while on a walk. Although I don't act inappropriately to my dog or any of the others, it is a problem with many people (and their poor dogs!). Once I was walking at a large park where dogs are allowed on a leash. I passed by some people and a woman with a dog on a leash. The dog tried to come close to me, jumping and tugging at the leash, but certainly not hurting me in any way. The woman shouted "No! No!" at her dog and dragged him away. I was just dying to scream, "No! No!" back at her, and see how she liked it, but by the time I thought that maybe I would confront her, we had already walked too far in the opposite direction. I suppose it was for the best, really-- I don't want to make her think that animal advocates are a bunch of screaming "extremists"!
Although walking your dog is a great way to give her exercise, sunlight, fresh air, a chance to meet other dogs, and some new places to sniff and explore, it also can provide quite a strain on Collie's neck, prove disappointing when not allowed to stop and sniff, and sometimes even exhaust her.
I feel that if a few considerations are made, dog-walking will become a lot more peaceful and happy.
Here are my suggestions:
  1. When possible, use a retractable leash, as shown below. This means that your dog will have to strain less on the leash. When you reach a busy intersection, you can just press the lock button on the leash to keep your dog safe.
  2. Photo Courtesy of BlankTerrMall.com
  3. DON'T attach your dog's leash to your bicycle while riding. If your dog falls or tries to stop, he will be dragged along behind you. If you fall, he'll be squished under your bicycle. Yikes!
  4. Let your dog stop and sniff at regular intervals, but it's okay to pull her along once in a while.
  5. If your dog absolutely detests going on walks and you have to drag him all the way, look for other ways to give him exercise. These "other ways" include dog parks, the backyard, or simply carrying him halfway and setting him down on the ground. He will be trotting along-- in the direction of home-- in a flash.
  6. Don't scold your dog while on a walk. That will just make her associate walking with negativity.
    1. I find it odd how when people are in the city and walking their dogs and someone (me) comes along, they start scolding their dogs. Do they think it makes them look like responsible owners? It doesn't. It just makes them look mean and stupid.
  7. Don't be too passive. If your dog is eating something off the ground or in danger of being hit by a car, you have to drag your dog away.
  8. Be sure of yourself, as is necessary when dealing with dogs.
  9. Don't bribe your dog with treats. This is not going to contribute to your dog's health.
  10. Only let your dog off a leash if it is safe and you know he will not run away.
If we were all good to our dogs, dog-walking could be less of a pain and more of an adventure. Let us work hard to accomplish that.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Surviving Non-Vegan Meals with Family and Friends

Almost all vegans know the feeling: you arrive at a dinner at your friend's or relatives' house, walk through the door, and are suddenly smoted with the scent of roast beef. You blink, try to hold your breath, then realize it's no use and try to act normal, smiling and avoiding the kitchen. You eat the salad and some fruit as your stomach grumbles and whines for the hummus you left in your fridge. Still, every few minutes you find yourself glancing at your watch. Is it time to leave yet...?
This is an unneccessary bit of suffering that us vegans go through at first. Sometimes this twisted social scene drags on for years, like a really bad (but cruelly funny) soap opera that you long to stop watching, but just can't. (Not like I know much about soap operas, but still.)
The smart vegan knows that something has to be done about this-- and quick, too, unless you want to turn your friends and family away from you and animal rights. Instead of meekly going along to the barbeques and pizza parties without a say in the matter, here are some things that you could do instead...

woman eating
Photo Credit of http://livesuperfoods.com/news/ten-rules-for-eating-safely/
Choice 1: Upon recieving an invitation to a fancy dinner with friends and family, contact the host/hostess to suggest vegan options to be served. Tell the chef that if he or she is not willing to cook a seperate entree, you could always arrive beforehand with something to heat up. If it is a potluck, bring your own vegan dishes (the more the better) for everyone to try. Don't hide that you are a vegan. Make sure that the dishes are absolutely delicious. You may be able to make some converts at the party if the food tastes really good, but don't nag. That'll only make it worse.

Choice 2: If it is an unavoidably meaty meal, such as Thanksgiving, and there is no hope of changing the hostess' mind, don't go. Don't let yourself suffer.

Choice 3: Try to convince the chef to make it an all-vegan meal. Go right up to the host's house with some delicous homemade vegan cookies and perhaps some vegan pasta salad to hold the talk. Show him how wonderful vegan food is. Don't set out to convert him permanently-- not just yet, unless he is open-minded to it. Focus all your attention on veganizing that one meal first. If he doesn't care about animal rights, tell him that you just don't feel comfortable surrounded by meat-eating. You may have to make a compromise-- for example, veganize the entree, but still serve cream-stuffed side dishes. Don't worry about this too much. You can't convert the world in a few hours, but you can help them to start to make the shift.

Choice 4: If these are really good friends just casually meeting up, insist that it be a completely vegan meal. They'll most likely do it for you. Come beforehand to help prepare, if neccessary.

Choice 5: If you are ordering take-out or pizza delivery, take everyone to a vegetarian/vegan place. There are vegan pizza places, too, you know!

Choice 6: If it is a barbeque, set up your own barbeque, loudly but good-naturedly proclaiming that cruelty-free alternatives are over here. Oh, and don't forget to bring the vegan burgers and vegan hot dogs, otherwise you might get a few funny looks!

Top 10 DON'TS:
  1. DON'T eat animal products just to fit in. If you are having the temptation to, remind yourself of the abuse and slavery that the animals had to go through to end up on the platter.
  2. DON'T force yourself to sit through something that is highly disturbing you. Every vegan has different levels of tolerance. You be the judge of what you can handle.
  3. For goodness' sake, DON'T agree to bring animal products to a potluck or picnic. If someone asks you to bring the turkey, tell them no. Or, I suppose that you could sneakily bring a vegan turkey and not tell anyone that it is a mock-meat until they are already eating it. (Muahaha.)
  4. Similarly, DON'T agree to carve the turkey. It's just wrong. You may not have harmed the turkey, and you may not be eating the turkey, but to take part in the process of meat-eating is not in accordance with a vegan's beliefs.
  5. DON'T yell, scream, cry, turn over the table, or run out of the room if others are eating animal products. This will only earn you the label of "unstable" or, worse, "one of those crazy vegan fanatics". This will automatically make people less open-minded to you and your beliefs. They might even try to send you to a counsellor.
  6. DON'T incessantly pressure people to go vegan on the spot, especially if they are eating meat as you speak to them. They will shut off to the animal rights philosophy, becuase they don't want to give up their meal part-way through.
  7. If the conversation turns to your veganism, DON'T just call veganism "a personal choice" and be done with it. When people ask you questions about your lifestyle choice, it is becuase they are interested in it, and maybe they even want to try it out themselves. This is an excellent opportunity to (calmly and rationally) explain your beliefs. Before you go to any meal, work out what you are going to say about why you are a vegan. Take along a few leaflets and booklets with you to pull out if anyone is very interested.
  8. That being said, DON'T scatter leaflets everywhere all over the house. Again, you'll be seen as rather unstable and the hostess will clean up all the leaflets anyway.
  9. DON'T allow yourself to get into a heated debate about veganism with someone. Even if the other person started it, you have the power to come out on top by refusing to furiously argue.
  10. DON'T sit through the whole meal without anything to eat. You don't want to give people the impression that you are a half-starved martyr or something. If you really are stuck (and you shouldn't be, given all my suggestions above), find a plain fruit or vegetable to eat, and help with chores (besides the meat-centered chores, of course) so that it is less obvious that you aren't eating much of anything.

To summarize: you can do it! Convert people if you can, but don't give people a bad impression. Don't make yourself suffer. Be courageous, but polite. Eating with others isn't such a drag once you get used to it, and it certainly loses its scary soap-operaness after a while.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

For the Love of Horses...

For the love of horses, please do not go on a horse-drawn carriage ride this year. I know there are all too many opportunities to do so at heritage farms and museums, as well as in Montreal and New York City, among other places. But these horses-- especially the big-city ones-- are treated very poorly and are in for a lifetime of suffering.
According to the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages,
"The average working life of a carriage horse on NYC streets is under four years compared to a police horse whose working life is about 14 years. ... On the streets of NY, these horses are constantly nose-to-tailpipe and often show corresponding respiratory impairment. Because they are not given adequate farrier care, lameness is often a problem, especially walking on pavement. Horses must work in hot humid temperatures and in the brutal cold – nine hours a day, seven days a week and go back to stuffy stable where they have no opportunity for turnout. Many of the stables are firetraps with inadequate sprinkler systems and fire protective devices and only one means of egress. Most house the horses on upper floors, which makes it even more difficult to evacuate them if there were a fire. It is not unusual to see urine and feces stains on the horses. Because of their previous uses on the racetrack or on Amish farms, many of the horses come into this industry with preexisting injuries or arthritis and are forced to pull carriages containing heavy tourists – upwards of 7-800 pounds. When these horses are no longer fit to work the demanding streets of NYC, they are “retired” – many go to auction where their fate is unknown. “Killer Buyers” often buy these horses by the pound for the slaughterhouse. Horsemeat is a delicacy in some European countries."
 There is no reason to exploit the horse's strength in this way. Horses may be strong, but they are also delicate. These horse-drawn carriages are outright cruelty, comparable to the trail-riding industry, circuses, and zoos. It is much worse than cockfighting. (Don't believe me on that last one? Read next week's post to learn more. [But next week's post hasn't come out yet, so you'll have to wait!])
Image Detail
I love horses. They are another animal that I have been attracted to for my whole life (along with cats). This one doesn't look too happy, though. Maybe he's getting back at people for treating him like a slave...
Photo courtesy of http://www.extension.org/pages/15174/basics-of-equine-behavior

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A Warning for Animal-Rights-Concerned Tourists

There are quite a few things that anyone concerned with animal rights should be aware of when on vacation this summer. Here are all the ones I could think of:
  • This summer, I urge everyone to refuse to buy wildlife souvenirs. For example, if you are going to India this summer, please make sure not to buy anything made of monkey fur, tiger skins, ivory, etc. It sounds obvious, but honestly, it is so easy to get carried away with excuses of "just this once" while on vacation! This is especially crucial with endangered species, of course, so that they do not become extinct. However, following the animal rights philosophy, we must also boycott all other animal souvenirs while we are away. Many animals are actually raised just for this industry alone, which dispels all wishful images of some native hunter donating the scraps of a wild animal to the tourist industry.
  • Image Detail
  • Another thing to look out for: the foods of other cultures! If you are going somewhere that seems exotic by your standards, you had better do research on what all the food names mean-- and write them down! For example, hummus may be a delicious chickpea spread, but haggis is a Scottish "food" made from the lungs, heart, and liver of a sheep or calf. (Once when I was about 9, my mom told me there was hummus in my submarine sandwich. I thought she meant haggis, and I freaked out and almost vomited. Mind you, back then I thought that haggis was actually minced calf brains, so maybe it's different.) It is importatnt to keep up your animal rights vegan diet while away. You might have to bring a few of your own foods for this.
File:Dog Meat.jpg
Dog Meat, or Gaegogi (in Korean) for sale at market. Courtesy of Wikipedia.
  • Pony rides, camel rides, elephant rides... You've really got to consider how this will affect animals. Most of the rides that tourists are allowed to go on are animals specifically bred and raised for this purpose. Talk about unfair...

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If I've left anything else out, please leave it in the comments section. I'd love to know!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

EVERYBODY Wants to be a Cat?!?

I love cats. If I see one on the street I immediately go over to see if he/she wants to be petted. I honestly love them to pieces.
But to be an outdoor cat is a lot more tough than being an indoor cat. They also kill more songbirds, rats, and mice.
Since domestic cats are pretty much something that us humans have brought along into our environments, whether urban, rural, or natural, it only makes sense that we should keep them inside, or at least outdoors on a leash.
Here are a number of problems that outdoor cats sometimes face every day:
  1. Too hot/too cold. They have no way of getting into our air-conditioned or heated houses. They are left to find shelter under porches and-- gasp-- beside still-warm car engines.
  2. Potential kidnapping (catnapping?). It turns out that little Kitty might just be picked up by an animal testing company vehicle. Even if this doesn't happen, there is still the risk of her being "rescued" by a neighbourhood family and never seen by her other humans again!
  3. Overpopulation. If your cat isn't spayed or neutered, he or she might contribute to the overpopulation problem. See note* for details.
  4. Roadkill. Cats do get hit by cars occasionally.
  5. Starvation. Even if you put out some food for him, he won't neccessarily get it before the raccoons do. (Even so, I <3 raccoons, too...)
  6. Thirst. In urban environments, natural water sources have all but disappeared. It would be deadly if Kitty tried to drink snow or antifreeze.
  7. Bullies. Animals can be bullied, too! Schoolkids will try to chase your cat, throw things at her, pick her up, corner her, and more. Teenagers might try something a little more dangerous.
  8. Getting lost. It doesn't always happen, but it does happen sometimes.
Image Detail
Courtesy of http://www.aboutcatsonline.com/articles/feedingstrays.html. The article says that you should feed stray cats, but I think you should only feed them vegetarian cat food (with appropriate supplements, of course).

*When You Shouldn't Spay Or Neuter, Or, Why Spaying And Neutering Is Sometimes Wrong: Spaying/neutering your companion animal is only neccessary if they are around other animals of their own species and opposite gender. My rabbit isn't spayed. She is fine the way she is, thank you very much!
People say that spaying/neutering will improve your animal's temperament. I say: why are we trying to change our animals to suit OUR desires? Of course, we shouldn't let them breed indiscriminately-- or at all, considering the current overpopulation dilemma-- but changing their very natures to make them easier to handle seems very wrong indeed. Oh, and did I mention that the surgery they must undergo is exceedingly painful and takes weeks to recover from?
I feel like the animal rights and animal welfare organizations are campaigning for more spaying and neutering not because they think the animals won't be able to control themselves, but because the owners will not be able to resist breeding their pets to make a new litter of puppies on a whim. Is this not an insult to our very intelligence? After all, if us humans could exercise some self-control, there would be no need to spay and neuter our animals.
Therfore, the only times that an animal should be spayed or neutered is when he or she is a stray and staying that way, or when he or she is for whatever reason being kept outside unsupervised.


Meeeeeeeew. I know it feels like you're doing Kitty a favour by letting him outside, but it really isn't! Here are some things you can do:
  • Keep your cat indoors, or supervised on a leash outdoors.
  • Let fellow cat owners know that urban streets are not the place for a cat! Kindly ask them to leave their cats inside, or supervised on a leash.
  • Share this blog post with all the cat owners in your life!
See you next week!