Hare-Raising Tail

My eyes move from the massive close-up of a rabbit cornea projected on a screen to the middle age man sitting at my table hacking at the chicken breast on the plate before him. He looks up and I attempt a polite close-lipped smile that most likely presents as a smirk.  Averting my eyes I find myself staring at my plate of beige food. Fried Tofu, brown rice and three breaded disc-like objects that, at one time, may have lain claim to being a vegetable of some sort. I’d recently given up meat as everytime someone mentioned pork or lamb I envisioned my chunky wide-eyed cat Petie.

my cat is the reason I'm a vegetarian

Photo credit goes to Joyce Pedretti (http://www.joycepedretti.com)

The man of my dreams?

The night had seemed promising at first. As we all took our seats in the banquet hall, the lights were dimmed and Doctor Palmer, a clean-cut boyish looking man in his late 30s took the stage. I found him attractive in that New England kind of way – pressed khakis, light pink shirt, and navy tie – we were in Boston after all.  I’d craned my neck in an effort to check out his ring finger but I was too far away and he too fidgety so I couldn’t call it.

Not fifteen minutes later my ex-potential-future-husband is enlightening us about exciting medical advances in the field of Childhood Glaucoma …over dinner. Clinical trials only made possible thanks to donations from the generous patrons gathered here this evening (minus me, I’m just the+1).

How’d I get here?

Children’s Glaucoma is a disease of which I was completely unaware. Weeks earlier, half listening, I’d agreed to join my friend Jen and her extended family at a fundraiser for which they had an extra ticket – something to do with children and vision and a niece who suffered from a disorder. I heard “something to do other than another night drinking copious amounts of red wine with my girlfriends (or alone) and the potential to meet guys.”  I was in.

Back to reality…

And here I am all dolled up, in a Boston banquet hall listening to Dr Palmer carefully explain that lab rabbits, induced with glaucoma, are given cell grafts in hopes of regenerating healthy corneas. If successful, millions of children born with the disease – some in attendance – could hope for improved sight or regain their vision altogether. And future generations would be spared the 20-30 surgeries needed to save their eyesight within the first weeks of birth.

I’d only recently begun processing the realities of the farming industry and now this? I hadn’t considered lab animals before. I grew up with a hamster and couldn’t imagine hurting him in anyway – not even in the name of science. What was the difference between my hamster and a cute lab mouse? I mean my cat Petie is only two floppy ears away from rabbit, pink nose and all. In fact it’s his resemblance to small farm animals that contributed to my vegetarianism in the first place.

cat bunny

Photo credit goes to Joyce Pedretti (http://www.joycepedretti.com)

Whenever I saw lamb, pig or rabbit on a menu his chunky face flashed before my eyes.  I mean a pig knows its name at three weeks of age and I’m not sure Petie can make that claim. But the truth of the matter is that cats aren’t even safe from this fate (dogs neither) and are sold from shelters to labs and university biology classes with the rational they’ll be put down anyway – may as well make a buck and put ‘em to use (While not legal in all states, Utah and Minnesota mandate pound seizures and Oklahoma requires them but has opt-out concessions).

Back at the table, my mind is racing.  I go to nudge my friend Jen (a newly turned vegan and fellow animal lover) but thankfully I intercept the reflex.  As I look at the faces crowding the hall I know I have to keep my feelings about the atrocities of animal testing to myself – at least for tonight.  Suddenly the enormity of the issue dawns on me. By speaking out against animal testing am I in essence telling a mother her daughter’s sight (or life) is no more important than that of a rabbit? Is it? Where is the line?  At what point, if any, is it okay to harm another creature for your benefit?  Some will argue we have the right because we have the intellect and physical might to subjugate other species.

The incident…

Dr Palmer continues, going into great depth around the steps involved in having this procedure approved for use in humans.  And at that moment – perhaps in his excitement – he slips and uses the word  “bunny” in referencing a research subject.  There were children present!

I kick Jen under the table and scan the room to see if anyone else had noticed. If they had it wasn’t stopping them from greedily chomping away at cooked flesh. I’m reminded of an episode of “House” where a female patient who blogs and is vegetarian (not me, she was blond and married) needs a valve replacement. She had the choice between a pig valve – the recommended choice from a medical outcome perspective – or plastic one.  After some guilt and fear of reader backlash, she decides to go through with a pig valve replacement.  Perhaps it’s easy to be idealistic as long as it’s theoretical.

Thanks to the Doctor I’m starting to relate to the “crazies” who are adamant about only using products not tested on animals.  But to avoid all medicines or medical procedures that exist today because of animal testing seems impossible.

What I can say with all certainty is that I will keep doing what I can to save as many rescue animals as I can, continue to flirt with vegan and be sure to ask any prospective date if they conduct research on bunnies.

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  • Thanks for this informative & enlightning post…even I love veg ppl…and am on the verge of going veggy…and this world wants more n more people like you…as you said… “What I can say with all certainty is that I will continue to do what I can to save as many rescue animals as I can, continue to flirt with vegan and be sure to ask any prospective date if they conduct research on bunnies.”….keep it up…cheers

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks Vishal for always being so supportive and for taking the time to post a comment 🙂
      Let us know how the vege thing goes for you!
      T

  • I have gone through a few food phases but just couldn’t stick with them – I wish I had. I have the same issue with the medical stuff – it is one thing for stupid stuff, but if doing a test on a bunny could cure cancer, then what? It is so difficult, because I really really hate the idea of animal testing, but if it could save lives I just don’t know.

    • Ihavecat

      Amy, there’s still time! I hear you – I’m torn….i dnn’t think we need our shampoo and soap tested on animals – i mean, if they are worried it could be harmful it should be IN the product to begin with right??!!! Mascara though? could lead to blindness i guess? It’s a complicated issue…

      Thanks for posting!
      T

  • jmuhj

    “Crazies”? Hardly. Through history, many if not most of the greatest minds in all disciplines have made the logical connection that, since WE are mammals and primates ourselves, WE are not much different from members of other species, especially mammals; and they, like we, realize(d) that all living beings with central nervous systems have the ability to feel pain. They also have the same intrinsic value as human beings. Therefore, it is not a question of “baby vs. member of other species”; it’s NEITHER ONE that should ever be subjected to what we would never volunteer to be subjected to, ourselves.

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks for reading and posting. I put “crazies” in quotes for a reason and don’t disagree with you. But it is a complex discussion when it comes to life-saving advancements…..i never really stopped to think about it and this was just about how it all dawned on me.
      TA

  • elaine lively

    i see some people laughed at the picture without reading the material,which is certainly not funny..much as i sympathize with those suffering from diseases, i dont think it justifies using innocent animals ther has to bo other ways..

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks Elaine for dropping by and taking the time to both read the post and write a comment. Not an easy topic and one i have personally been burying my head in the sand about….
      Hope you come back to read some of my other posts – thanks again!
      T

  • Darlene

    The Bunny Cat pic is so very cute. I love it.

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks Darlene! And thanks for stopping by my blog!
      T

  • Thanks for posting something to make us think, Tamar.

    Oh, where to begin… I am a vegetarian. Unfortunately, I have realized it’s impossible to only use non-animal products. Take medicine, for example. If I have to take a cancer med that was invented because of animals, I will. I guess that’s the survival instincts kicking in — you kill to survive.

    But of course when it’s not a matter of life and death, I make sure I only buy soap, shampoo and make up from companies that don’t test anything on animals.

    And then there’s the issue of being a vegetarian but buying loads of meat for my animals. I personally don’t have a problem with that because I’m not an obligate carnivore (my cats, for instance, are), but I confess I feel terrible cutting raw meat on my counter.

    As someone who wants to protect all living beings who are capable of feeling pain, I put a lot of thought into everything I buy and eat and wear, and give up a lot. Unfortunately it never feels like I’ve given up enough. Many will think I’m just cynical. I prefer to think I just have to work harder.

    • Ihavecat

      I don’t think cynical is the word at all. Good point about survival instinct. Even vitamins have animal products in them – they are everywhere. We do what we can I guess. My friends and I keep telling ourselves “baby steps.”

      In terms of treatment to animals, milk/cheese cows have terrible lives. I block it out and eat cheese like i used to not think about how animals were treated and killed when I was enjoying meat.

      I need to get more serious about the vegan thing (of course my mom is begging me not to as she thinks i wlil be mal nurished – I agree it takes more effort to eat properly and you have to think ahead).

      Honestly I never gave thought about making sure the products I used weren’t animal-tested and now I will try and be better about it. And while I haven’t bought leather goods since going vegetarian, I still have leather things.

      Thanks as always for the readership and comments Daniela

      T
      PS – are you attending BLOGPAWs? Sorry if i already asked you. No brain cells left! I’m considering it but haven’t booked anything yet.

  • I kept some of my leather things, too, (the useful ones, such as heavy-duty boots, not the purses). I decided it’s a good idea to use them as much as I can, so I don’t generate even more waste on this planet.

    I like the idea of baby steps. That’s how I feel.

    🙂

    I haven’t decided if I’m going. Let me know if you will.

  • This is a great article Tamar. Speaking about animal testing, many pet food companies test their products on animals such as those biggest brands out there. I went to Iams research center to “investigate” how exactly they treated their animals because I had heard bad things they did. The bad things I heard turned out to be partly true, but they had everything changed since then.

    About the animals, surprisingly they all looked very happy, well trained and content. The environment was pretty much similar to the animal sanctuaries I have seen. They do not do any abrasive testing. I saw a one million dollar litter box system they used to analyze cat urine and stool samples as part of their research.

    Here is a report I wrote about what I saw there:

    http://lovemeow.com/2009/09/the-truth-about-iams-pet-health-nutrition-center/

    But again I wish they could stop doing animal testing at all because I do not know if I saw everything that day.

    There are a lot of vegan foods out there that provide proper nutrition we need :). I made toufu with black beans and lots of green vegetables today. It was a hearty meal and the whole family loved it :).

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks for reading and posting! I will check out your article for sure. Pretty cool that you went to visit and that they let you (as we know the beef industry in the US isn’t as forthcoming).

      Of course they will put their best foot forward. It’s always those under cover investigative reports that end up reveal the awful truth!

      Yes it is very possible to eat well as a vegan but I do think it takes some planning. Harder to get food “on the go” and the other thing is that there are so many animal products (milk, egg but also animal fat etc) in things we don’t even think about! You really have to educate yourself to do it right.

      Tamar

  • Love Meow,

    The problem with what we see when we visit companies is that it may very probably not be all they have. Companies show what they want to visitors, not every operations they keep. Take farms as an example. People who go there may visit the free-range area, but not the barns with thousands of chickens living on top of each other (cage-free doesn’t mean barn-free, and legislation can be tricky). Happens all the time.

    Tamar, you’re right. The word would be hypocritical.

    • Ihavecat

      Seriously it’s so complicated, you have to get “Free roaming” eggs or something like that. Cage free can still mean they are crowded together and can also mean they have access to the outdoors but they are usually to terrified to go outside. Terrible!

    • Daniela, it is very true. That’s why animal testing just doesn’t sit right with me.

      I wish they could create robots for testing or computer programs to replace real animals. But I know in reality that just seems to be too costly or impractical.

      Why do we really need lab tests if the food has all the proper nutrition that our pets need. And why do they keep preaching others that corn and by-products are good? That’s something I could not get over with when i was there. Corn is never good for cats no matter how you manipulate it. Why can’t we just feed our cats natural food with little processing or manipulation? Also by-products only mean cheap and low quality food to me. Why’s that they are better than real meat?

      After the visit, the company seemed to have changed a few bloggers’ mind about corn, but not me.

  • Wow, what a great post. You bring to light so many issues many animal lovers grapple with on a daily basis. Raising awareness is a wonderful step, thank you for doing that!

    On another note, we hope you and Daniela go to BlogPaws! We are going, filming, doing a casting call (fun stuff) and we look forward to meeting so many people we have connected with in one way or another!

    Let us know if you are making the trip we would love to meet you!

    Also, stopping by to give you a shout out for some PET BLOGGER SUPPORT! Woot! Woofy woo and meow too!

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks so much for dropping by my blog and for taking the time to post a comment – and for the shout-out!.

      Haven’t decided on BlogPaws yet….I know, I know I need to make a decision! I will def let you know. What kind of casting? Animals or humans? 🙂

  • Great post! Given that we have the science to test products using computerized simulations and other methods today, we don’t need to harm animals to help humans. It’s no longer expensive or impractical. We are there!

    Many companies agree, but are constrained by federal government regulations. So, let’s start by lobbying our elected officials. Each of us can make a difference.

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks so much for stopping by my blog – I will be sure to check yours out!

      It seems to me that there should be other ways to know if mascara is going to blind you right? I mean, haven’t they been making it for years? and how about just don’t put anything in it that’s toxic?!

      But seems the issue when it comes to scientific advances is a little harder to navigate don’t you think?

      Thanks again for taking the time to read and post 🙂

  • Good post. Mario’s M talking. I’ve had a lot of mixed emotions over this issue for years. I do see some testing necessary – for medical purposes (but not necessarily all of it if there are other means to accomplish the same thing). I do, and will continue, to watch what types of products I buy such as shampoos, cosmetics. Thanks for bringing this issue to the forefront again. It makes us all stop and think a little.

    • Ihavecat

      Hi Mario’s M 🙂
      Thanks so much for visiting my blog and for taking the time to post a thoughtful comment.
      Hope you come back to visit again soon!
      Tamar

  • A very great post… very thought provoking. Of course I love the Photoshop tricks : ) but I also enjoy contemplating all sides of the equation you explored in this post. Even though there are many that will never adopt a completely vegan lifestyle, you bring up important points that can make anyone pause and think before they consume or support.

    your friends,
    Glogirly & Katie

    GLOGIRLY – Tails Of A Cat And Her Girl

    • Ihavecat

      Hi GG (and Katie!) – Hope you didn’t take offense to the photoshop-ing (I cheated i know!). Thanks as always for visiting and taking the time to post. Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂
      T

  • We LOVE your photoshopped lamb and bunny! Of course with Petie’s cute pink nose, they are EXTRA cute! : ) In fact, Katie thinks Petie may have been a bunny in a previous life.

    • Ihavecat

      Awwww I agree with Katie, I do think he is very bunny-like! Glad you liked the pics!

  • I’ve been vegetarian for over 20 years and am slowly making the switch to vegan. I feel more than a bit hypocritical with a leather chair in my front room, but as we know better, we do better. I make every effort to buy animal-free/cruelty-free products (I can’t imagine why someone feels it’s necessary to have their perfume tested on a bunny.) However, I’m also coming around to the idea of the eating of local, humanely-raised animals. I have friends who farm and raise their own chickens and pigs. These animals have plenty of room to roam, sunshine, back scratches, etc. and it (oddly enough) seems almost natural they end up on my friend’s table. I would like to see less animal testing done. I suspect the reason it’s so prevelant is that it’s the easy route. If it wasn’t allowed, I bet ingenuity would step in and we humans would come up with other means of testing/invention.

    • Ihavecat

      Hi Dena,
      Thanks so much for visiting and for taking the time to post! It’s amazing to me that while we discuss these types of issues NJ is actually talking about legalizing the hunting of feral cats! We have such a long way to go before we get people to see the need to treat animals humanely.

      I hope you check out my post where I talk about how I became “re” vegetarian last year (Feline Mignon: http://ihavecat.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/eating-cats-and-dogs/). i was inspired by my cats but also others like Alicia Silverstone and Jonathan Safron Foer (and he is also an advocate of being educated about where your meat comes from – i originally thought of eating local but i still can’t deal with the thought of animals being killed for my pleasure)

      I am a total hypocrite too with my leather jacket and leather boots. But I can say I haven’t purchased any new leather since I became vegetarian. I learned about a few companies that sell recycled leather bags etc…but I’m not sure how i feel about that yet….I like the idea bc we aren’t wasting the leather, but then am i sending the wrong message to people that it’s OK to wear leather (they won’t know it’s recycled)….

      THanks again for stopping by and hope you come back again (and sign up for the I HAVE CAT email alerts!).

      T

  • I totally agree, Dena. I would love to have my chicken for the eggs and their company, and my pigs for the company only.

    I also have a leather bench, and it will stay here until it completes its duty. Once it’s old, it will be replaced for something else, leatherless.

    We live and learn what we feel more comfortable with. 🙂

    • Ihavecat

      I agree it’s baby steps…..better than NO steps right?!
      🙂

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  • Magwhisk

    GREAT article !!!  (I am Vegetarian too 😉  Good luck!!!

  • Tamar, this is such a thought-provoking post. I’m against animal testing (and all other forms of animal cruelty) philosophically, but I’ve had juvenile diabetes for 20 years. If I didn’t have insulin, where would I be? In the grave since I was 11. So many important things rely on animal testing–like the insulin I have to take to live–and I’m ashamed sometimes that I have to rely on it. Does that mean I’m going to stop taking my insulin? No.

    Like you, I do what I can to balance out what I can’t control. I try to buy only products that say they’re non-animal tested, and I eat very little meat (I haven’t made it all the way to vegan–or even vegetarian, since I still eat eggs, dairy, fish, etc.–yet, but I’m working on it). I make it a point to know about what I’m buying when I can so I can make the best choices I can. I even feed my cats healthy/holistic food as much as I can. (But I have no illusions of trying to make vegetarian cat food!)

    • Thank you Kate for not only reading but taking the time to write a comment! I just have to keep telling myself “baby steps” and “something is better than nothing” right? It’s hard but I’m trying to teach myself not to be so all or nothing in life! 

  • Check out the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM.org) it is their goal to find non-animal based laboratory options for the medical research field.
    Specifically here’s their info on that: http://www.humaneseal.org/learn/without.cfm …
    And here is their FAQ about animal research: http://www.pcrm.org/resch/anexp/faq.html.

  • I suppose there might be some circumstances in which I could justify animal testing for genuine medical reasons. But the ugly truth, which I have seen firsthand working in a lab years ago, is that many lives are wasted for completely mundane reasons and for the lamest of research projects. And the standards of care — though far better than what food animals go through, even allegedly free-ranging ones — can be downright shameful and still be considered within specifications. The medical and research professions have done so little to make things better, much less humane, much less justifiable, that they have forfeited the privilege of borrowing animal life to make human life better. They’re only hurting children, who will inherit this planet, not helping them. Not one bit.