I have being thinking about morals and ethics and when or if we should foist them on others

Posted: September 22, 2006 at 11:57 pm

 (Sorry, this has nothing to do with a particular SAINTS animal – no story here so you are free to not read any further)

This has been something I have always struggled with as I have always believed we all make our own decisions when we are ready for them.  I don’t believe in educating people by voicing my opinions.  If someone asks, then I well share.  I never ask someone to believe the way I do.   But I am human which means “the world revolves around me so everything I think must be the right way to think because it came out of my head”.  I try to remember to  educate by doing not “nattering at people”.  But here again, I am showing my ego by thinking everything I think must be correct because it comes out of my head
The other  volunteer work I do outside of animal welfare (and their work is just as near and dear to my heart if not more dear) is Amnesty International.  They have one belief that I do not share or I waver on.  They do not believe in capital punishment (won’t go into details about why they do as they have some very valid points and I won’t go into details why I can’t make up my mind as I think I have valid points).  I belong on a list of Urgent Action Files.  Emails go out to me and thousands of people around the world asking for us to write a letter ASAP on behalf of a human rights activist or prisoner of conscience or a person who is on “death row”.  These people’s lives are in immediate danger so we need to act now.  I will write a letter in the first 2 instances but I can never bring myself to on the 3rd because, no matter what, that person I am to write a letter on behalf of killed another human being.  I can never make up my mind where I stand on the issue so I do nothing.  I never say anything to anyone in my group, especially to Sylvia, who strongly opposes capital punishment, because I admire and respect Sylvia who has been doing this work since the late 70’s.  I hope to still believe and fight the same fights 25 years from now.
The volunteer work I do for animal welfare is more immediate because it is more in my face and I am often sadden and confused that it takes away from my Amnesty work.  Right now I am taking a break from Amnesty and the Surrey SPCA because I have Oliver and Chase in foster with me and going to walk the dogs at the Surrey SPCA (which is my most favorite thing in the world to do) or attend meetings and write letters for people  who are far away and even to go out to any SAINTS work parties and/or events takes away from the foster animals that have been put in my care.  This paragraph has nothing to do with the subject at hand really but I feel guilty about this decision because it is in my nature to be guilt ridden even though I think I have made the right decision.  I just needed to get it out.
What is being discussed on brindleweb now has brought out some of what goes through my head when I think about my volunteer work in the animal welfare (is that what you call it?) field.  Do I agree with all the ethics and/or morals that I see for the 2 organizations I volunteer for in animal welfare in regard to me being who I am?  No.  I won’t discuss the SPCA because I don’t think this is the forum to do that.  But I can (hopefully in a safe manner without repercussions) discuss the difference between the SAINTS philosophy/morals/ethics (I’m not sure what to call it) and me. 
My views are definitely shaped by the fact that I am a vegetarian and chose to be at the tender age of 14 (my niece made this decision at 11 yrs – yeah for her, I am so proud of her).  I chose to be a vegetarian for the following reasons:

  1. Because I believe animal have souls which are equal, not less or more than a human’s soul.
  2. Because I think humans, as an animal species, are in a unique position to choose to be carnivores, herbivores or omnivores.  The human species began as vegetarians originally, this is backed up by physical remains of their teeth – somewhere along the line they decided they liked meat and their teeth began to change.
  3. Most importantly, if I had to physically go out and kill any animal, I would not be able to do it.  Because I can not carry out this act, I feel it is not right for me (and know one else because everyone has to make their own choices) to eat any living thing. 

This means that I will not eat anything that has the same cell structure as us which even includes oysters because I believe we have some similarities.  Plants do not have the same cell structure.  A plant has a wall around the cell structure which allows the plant to photosynthesize which is something an animal can not do even if it is immobile like a coral that lives in the sea.  I know I draw my lines here but I have to draw them somewhere.
So this is all leading up to my differences with SAINTS “people”.  Most of the volunteers and the founder (Carol) are omnivores which is fine because everyone comes to where they are in life for a reason.  But here is the think that I can’t get over.  SAINTS has animals in their care that are traditionally considered farm/stock animals – these are the chickens and the sheep and I believe there was, for a very short time, a pig at SAINTS.  Now I think most of the people who volunteer at SAINTS eat chicken and pig (ham and bacon) and possibly sheep (pork chops, lamb stew).  I don’t get this.  Okay lets say sheep is not consumed by anyone but I am sure everyone consumes cows.  This is how I see it – cows  are less valued than sheep if you will eat a cow but not a sheep.  In my world, that doesn’t equate.   So no one would ever eat the chickens at SAINTS or the chickens would never go to a home where they would ever be consumed as meat or wouldn’t go to a home where another animal is consumed.  This seems like a very lofty and good goal.  But this is the thing that goes through my head – why is it okay to eat any other
“farm animal out there” but not the ones from SAINTS.  Why are they are not allowed to be eaten but any other animal (cow, sheep, pit, goat, etc) are allowed to be eaten, as long as they didn’t come from SAINTS.  I have had these discussions with Carol and she has given me explanations which make sense to her in her world but they don’t make sense to me in my world because my philosophy is different.   In my heart of hearts, I can’t understand why each and everyone of those people who work with and love the sheep and the chicken and the ducks don’t run to become vegetarians.  But, you see, I am foisting my ethics, morals and views of the world on others. 
When we had dinner in Mission, we were discussing the crab fest SPCA fund raiser in Prince George that had been cancelled due to the controversy over boiling the crabs alive.  Very quickly in the discussion, I became aware that everyone but Sheila and I were eating lobster (which were probably boiled alive).  To be honest, at this point, I didn’t stop the conversation but watched it to see if anyone was struck by the fact that they were eating lobster, which had been boiled alive, while I condemned the SPCA for carry out such a function.  I didn’t see anyone put down their lobster.  Everyone reacts to the world differently.   What I saw before me was proof of that.   Even though I would like everyone to react the way I do (being egotistical here again), it is their choice to see the world as they do.  The world has always survived on a clear food chain model.  That model must be there for a reason, right? 
So why am I spouting all of this on a Friday night?  Because things sit with me and eventually spout out of me.  Carol once posted that there was no discrepancies at SAINTS that she was aware of.  Well, I guess, in my world, there will always be discrepancies that will always exist as long as people view animals differently.  Why is it such a  horrible thing that people eat cats and dogs in another part of the world but it is okay for the western world to maintain turkeys in the most disgusting ways (we have turkey farm a couple of blocks up from us) and that it is acceptable (not talking about SAINTS volunteers here – I know they would all think it was disgusting).  Why it is okay for other chickens to be eaten but it isn’t for the SAINTS chickens – are they more special than others?  And if we choose not to eat chickens because we decide they are worthy of our love, why are not cows? 
I guess the posting on brindleweb brought up for me, all too clearly, that there are differences on how I see things, as a vegetarian, and how others do.  Do I think that, by me posting this, I will change anyone’s thought patterns – I highly doubt it.  Do I think I am educating anyone here or giving them something to think about – unless they are already approaching that space, I highly doubt it.  Do I think people should think like me, no.  In the end, I am not that egotistical.  Everyone must follow their own path to get where they need to be and me foisting my opinions, ethics, morals on others is just wrong.  Is it interesting to see how others think?  I hope so.

16 Comments on "I have being thinking about morals and ethics and when or if we should foist them on others"

  • Carol says

    Wow..make me read a bunch of tiny print first thing in the morning, why dontcha?
    Just to clarify a couple of things before I respond. I don’t eat veal, lamb, or commercially grown chicken. The veal, because i won’t eat baby animals, the lamb because I love sheep as much as dogs and simply could not eat either, and the commercially grown chicken because those animals are tortured. I am working on getting to teh rest.
    I did eat lobster for the first time in almost 40 years, I am not sure why I ate it because i remember how upset I was as a child when my mother tossed my playmates in the pot. So why I ate it that night I cannot tell you, but I did, and it bugged me afterwards.
    Also Leila, I did not say, there were no incongruencies here, I said I was looking for them and came across the adoption fees for the farm animals which I felt were congreuent with our beliefs. There are many ways here that we could do better, and I never meant for anyone to think that I was not aware of this.
    As to the whole meat eating or vegetarian issue, my personal feeling is right now I am choose not to eat commercially grown meat, I choose not to eat sheep ever, and I choose not to eat veal…where i will get to on the evolutionary spectrum in 5 or 10 years, we shall see. And as for brindle which apparently sparked this, brindle as a public forum, hurts, and attempts to destroy more people in “discussion” than any other discussions,I have ever witnessed, it is the perverbial need to pee on someone else’s parade…whatever, to each his own, I find brindle discussions toxic to my health.
    I respect and am proud that you and Sheila are able to comfortably live in a vegan world. Not everyone else here is able to do that (nicole does tho), some want to and can’t get there yet, some don’t want to, and that is their choice. What people eat is their business not mine. I have enough of my own stuff that i am struggling thru.
    Our choices are choices that we personally choose to live by, they can become a platform to divide us or they can become a bond that helps us to grow stronger.
    It all depends on what we want to achieve I suppose.

  • Carol says

    one other thing i wanted to add, the only reason i am able to do any good in this world, thru my nursing and thru my animal rescue, is because I realized along time ago, that goodness did not demand perfection. If we wait until we are perfect to step up and struggle thru and try to make things better, both we and the world will be long gone before we make the attempt. I think it is ok to be a sinner in life and try to be better.

  • Faith says

    I am very similar to Carol in the meat eating area. I will not eat sheep, veal, or any other baby animals. I will not eat wild meat (how’s that for a conundrum since their quality of life is a million times better than that of those on a factory farm). For me, I live in one of those worlds where I try not to think about where meat comes from. Sad but true. I am finally getting away from factory farmed meat and this is because I am aware of how inhumanely these animals are treated. I do eat far less meat than I used to and not for health reasons, for animal reasons.

    I eat meat because I like the way it tastes. If I ever had to kill an animal for meat, I’d become an instant vegetarian. If the day ever came where I inherited a flock of chickens or herd of cows, well, I’d have a bunch of pet chickens and cows.

    I admire people who have made the choice not to eat meat, I think it’s entirely possible I may make it there some day.

    Thank you for writing this Leila.

  • Faith says

    One other thing, I think a lot of people eat meat because it’s easier to let other people do the “dirty work” of killing the animals. Ignorance is bliss.

  • katie says

    I just wanted to comment on the first half of your post, which hit me more than the meat-eating vs. not, LOL!, although I find it an interestingly passionate debate.

    I am currently working up at the prison (William Head) right now, acting in a play with the inmates. This is my 2nd year performing there, amongst former drug dealers, murderers, robbers, etc. (They don’t allow rapists or pedophiles into the program out of safety concerns for the women) Before this experience I had never even known a soul who had broken the law, never mind to such an extreme degree. Now some of my best friends are guys on parole for some pretty extreme crimes. But they have done their time, have spent a LOT of time thinking about their crimes (10 – 20 yrs!) and are trying to now live their life with a minimal negative impact on others, and give back to the communities which they have hurt.

    Before all of this, I hated criminals, I didn’t see them as humans. Now I see that just like everyone else, they are individuals who have made choices, and sometimes those choices are fused with their personalities (some of the guys are….sketchy), and sometimes it was just a poor judgement call, but their inherent personality can be salvaged.

    One of my friends who came and saw the show I did last year (who is also an SPCA volunteer, funny how we all find each other!) told me that meeting the criminals face-to-face changed her opinion on criminal punishment. Also, one of the guys compared the rush of walking on stage every night with the feeling he got walking into a bank he was about to rob.

    I am not trying to “sway” anyone, but rather just wanted to share my experience, because I was such a different person before this experience. I completely understand the mindset of dehumanizing criminals, and often don’t share my experience with others because of their judgements. Just like a lot of people feel they can’t share their eating habits with others.

    There, I made it connect!! ;o) I really enjoyed this post Leila and read it the whole way through. I hope you find the time to return to the other volunteering that you love so!

  • Chris says

    I have a question…

    I don’t eat any veal, lamb, or anything baby. I haven’t eaten crab or lobster in years, but when I did it was always dead first. (I don’t know if that makes a difference or not.)

    Basically, I don’t really eat much meat at all anymore. As the years have passed I feel sicker and sicker when I eat it. I attribute this to whatever they are pumping into the meat these days.

    But as the last few years have passed I have also become more aware of the treatment of animals/chicken bred for the table. I have a hard time stomaching the way chickens, etc are treated and really steer away from it.

    I know I probably have half baked ideas, but I try in my own way to make a difference. I NEVER support fast food chicken places, etc.

    Anyways I’m starting to babble…

    My question is this: When someone says they don’t eat commercially grown chicken, it sounds like there is an alternative? Are you meaning organic/free range?

    I’ve always wondered this and never had anyone to ask. Everyone I know has thought I was nuts even broaching the subject.

    And of course where to find such a thing? I haven’t ever seen it in a grocery store. Do you have to go to a special butcher?

    I know I’m kind of uninformed, but am just beginning my journey and any info would be welcomed. 🙂

  • Sheila says

    I am no expert either – but I think commercial grade meat is when the animal comes from a factory farm. If I am going to purchase meat I go to a place like that have section that has meat that is free range, non medicated, and access to the outside. “Organic” is what it is called. When I purchase meat I go to Choices Market which specializes in this type of product or a butcher store that also specializes in this type of product. Again the butcher store I have used uses “organic” in their advertising. The problem for most people who live in the suburbs or city is that organic is so much more expensive than regular meat found at Safeway.

    I am not a true vegetarian. I have only being doing it for two years (but I will eat wild salmon and prawns. I told Leila I could because they didn’t look like they had the ability to reason they were being killed. Leila’s response was oh you think so. I will believe anything if it can get me what I want)I tried for two years before without success. There were 3 pivotal events that were instrumental in me trying each time and after a couple of months I would fail.
    Two years ago I found my dog Butch and for some reason he was the key and then it stuck. Or it may be because I made a conscience choice to eat the salmon and prawns. (More than likely). We eat eggs that say free range brown eggs. The package says the chickens have access to outside pasture and feed on the natural ground cover. The milk we have been drinking for the last year is organic and says that it came from a farm dedicated to the earth’s ecological balance and animal welfare. Last week I was speaking to a vegan (doesn’t eat dairy products) and I explained this to her. Her response was what does access to the outside mean(meaning not much). I said that may be true but I could only do the best I could do otherwise I wouldn’t be eating anything. She said she was doing it and she was fine. I remember being very irritated with her. The reason was because I felt she was judging me and I was coming up on the short end of the stick. I may be proud of my accomplishments but she wasn’t. Well I have to admit she is better with her convictions than I but am I going to stop eating dairy products and sometimes fish – no because really just because I can’t do it.

    I agree with Faith, ignorance is bliss. I was much happier in my choices when I was ignorant. And I compromise my ethics all the time. I won’t use Shell gas stations because of their stance in Africa and yet today because I was almost out of gas I stopped and used Shell. Simply because it was the first gas station to come up. I justified that little act with only giving myself $15.00 worth of gas instead of filling up. Now I am only 1/4 guilty of compromising my ethics. Also everytime I eat eggs and have coffe outside of the home – that is another indiscretion. It is tough to be human and be ethical.

  • Jean says

    Well. I’m one of the hypocritical sinners at Saints. I do eat meat, including (occasionally) commercially raised meat.

    At one time I had stopped eating all meat except free range poultry and seafoods. That does not mean I value poultry and sea life less than other animals, but that I prefer to keep some animal-based protein and fat in my diet, both for convenience and taste. Slowly I have drifted back to the occasional pork, lamb or beef as well. And every now and then, I even eat fast food, including fast food chicken (though after hearing about the conditions under which they are raised I’m doing this very, very seldom). I’m not sure why I eat meat – mostly because I like it, but also because my friends and family eat it and trying to avoid all dishes with those items is too much bother as is trying to learn to prepare and like a balanced, nutritional, vegan diet. I guess that means I’m lazy and a hypocrite.

    Do I worry about it? A bit. Does my hypocrisy bother me? Sometimes a lot, sometimes not. Does it affect my ability to be a loving caregiver for animals at Saints? I don’t think so.

    I know I can’t change the world, but I do try to speak out on inhumane farming practices. I also choose to support those meat producers who are small-scale, organic farmers because I believe it is both more humane for the animals and healthier for us.

    I have chosen to help the animals who come to saints, and if all I do to make the world a better place is to nurture a few elderly and disabled dogs, cats, sheep, horses, donkeys, llamas, alpacas, rabbits and chickens, then so be it. It is better to do a little something than to do nothing because of fear of being a hypocrite.

    I also hope this blog doesn’t become the political hotbed that many animal welfare forums become. I see it as a place to talk about life at SAINTS and to help readers get to know the animals for whom we care. I prefer questions regarding my integrity to be face-to-face and in private – or better yet, a group of us discussing philosophical differences over a bunch of (vegetarian) pizza after a full day of working hard at SAINTS.

  • Chris says

    Thanks for the info. I really appreciate it. I will call around to the butchers here in Kamloops and see what I can come up with.

    I should clarify what I meant about fast food chicken places though. What I meant was, I never eat at “the” fast food chicken place. I am guilty of chicken products at other fast food places. (See, there is one of my half baked ideas.)

    Alas, I am a beginner in all of this and do eat meat, just not very often anymore. I did welcome the info in this thread as I really want to support more humane practices when I do choose to partake.

  • Gayle says

    As an ‘outsider’ that regularly reads the SAINTS blog (I’ve only been out to SAINTS twice), I just wanted to say thanks to Leila for posting her thoughts on this subject, and also the rest of you who responded. Contrary to what I’ve read on Brindleweb (I’m mainly a lurker there; my ID is ‘floodcat’), there is no finger-pointing going on here, just an honest and caring discussion about a topic that is a difficult one for those who love animals.

    I am glad to see the topic come up on the SAINTS blog, because the fact that SAINTS cares for some animals that are regularly eaten in our culture (chickens, sheep, rabbits), therefore means that (like it or not) this issue relates to SAINTS. Seeing it brought up just makes me feel even better about SAINTS and those of you who work and volunteer there, because it shows your honesty and compassion, as you each mull over the difficult conundrum of how to be a human being that — in one way or another — uses animal products.

    As has been pointed out, each one of you are at a different point on the path of how you work out this issue in your individual lives, and how you interact with your fellow volunteers at SAINTS, and the SAINTS animals themselves, when it comes to this particular topic.

    Being able to share your individual thoughts and opinions on such a passionate subject shows to ‘outsiders’ such as myself, that you are a rarity in this world: a group of people who have differing opinions, but can still come together to work on a shared objective, i.e. helping the animals at SAINTS. And as you work together and respectfully debate topics such as this that relate to SAINTS, you make each other better people through shared ideas and challenging each other and learning from each other.

    And by being brave enough to do so on an internet blog, you challenge and educate visitors to the SAINTS website, who discover that ‘animal lovers’ such as yourselves, are not that weird or freaky, but are passionate and smart and respectful and brave enough to talk about difficult stuff. And that’s pretty darn interesting!

  • Leila says

    Gayle: Thank you for your beautiful response to this thread (my post and everyone’s response included)!!!

  • Carol says

    i thought it was a good response too!

  • nicole says

    well, i had just written a post, then read it and it bored me so I thought that’s not a good sign and deleted it.
    I won’t post my reasons for being a vegetarian as that’s one of my least favourite questions.
    The drama that happens on brindle won’t come here, b/c i will delete it (insert evil laugh here). I enjoy the diversity of the saints volunteers and atleast if we can’t agree about eating meat or not atleast we will always be in agreement about dessert and it’s value at the dinner table.(Deb, thanks for the brownies and Rae, as a vegetarian I now have a reason to go to M&M meat shops, those squares were amazing.)

  • Carol says

    leila, i just want you to know that i was thinking about what i was going to eat tonight and i did want to try to have a vegie dinner tonight. since all i really know is take out, i had a toasted bagel and cream cheese, an ice cap, and a donut…tim hortons doesn’t have a vegie menu so i had to improvise, but i think it was a start. maybe i can do this if fast food is easy to find without meat.

  • Sheila says

    List of “fast food” vegetarian choices
    -toasted bagel WITH the herb cream cheese at Tim Horton
    -toasted cinnamon bagel with butter at Tim Hortons
    -any egg Mcmuffin or egg bagel at McD (ask for the meat
    to be put to the side and the dogs get a treat)
    -breakfast wrapp at Java hut, bread garden or any gas
    station that has a “bread garden” attached to it
    (I eat the breakfast wrap for lunch alot of the times)
    -Burger King has a veggie burger (so does Mcd but
    there’s suck)
    -Whitespot drive thru’s have veggie burger combo’s.
    -Tim Horton’s egg salad sandwich
    -Baked potatoe with sour cream and cheese at Wendy’s

  • Carol says

    lol…thx sheila! plus everyone except timmy’s has salads now to…maybe i won’t starve to death but i will pass on the egg things…i bet they taste like eggs and not cheese which is how i like eggs to taste and i bet they aren’t free range either which would be a problem cuz i can’t pretend ignorance on commercial egg factories either.

    you know, i quite like eggs (with lots of cheese) and we have a whole chicken house of happy egg laying chickens whose eggs i never eat…how stupid is that????

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