Things Aren’t Always So Black Or White

So I’ve spent a fair amount of my time recently — the past 6 months seems to be a nice round number — thinking, or better yet, re-thinking how I really feel about a number of things. My approach to ethical veganism and animal rights specifics being most significant.

My previous stance didn’t stray too far from the Francione school of thought;

“[T]o provide a clear statement of an approach to animal rights that (1) requires the abolition of animal exploitation and rejects the regulation of animal exploitation; (2) is based only on animal sentience and no other cognitive characteristic, (3) regards veganism as the moral baseline of the animal rights position; and (4) rejects all violence and promotes activism in the form of creative, non-violent vegan education…”

That said, and recent gaffs aside, I can’t say my views have changed all that much. Meaning I still think much of what I thought, but I’m no longer convinced it’s a “strict,” or, more specifically, such a black or white issue…

I don’t mean to misrepresent myself. I’m not saying I, personally, ever participated in anything which contradicted my/said principals. If it could be avoided, and I knew about it, I avoided it. And I will continue such practice. I’m addressing that which, for the most part, cannot be avoided. Car tires and asphalt, just to name two. Being vegan isn’t a purity issue.

But take “service Dogs.” I’m not arguing using a canine in such a manner isn’t seriously problematic, it is, I’m merely saying it’s not all that easily dismissible. By me, at least.

As I pointed out in a previous post, Ridiculously Loved and Sorely Missed, a number of years ago that I attended a “camp for dogs,” and how “I was contemplating getting a ‘service dog’,” but, subsequently, decided “a ‘working dog’ wasn’t something I necessarily needed or, much more importantly, anything I wanted.”

Here’s why; I managed to get a puppy, with the understanding he was to be “trained” as my “helper,” and he was “donated” to my cause. And, initially, underwent just what I’d outlined I had “wanted” him for. But soon after his “training” commenced he started to grow despondent and depressed. He wasn’t into it. I wasn’t about to force the issue. He is a living, thinking, feeling being who, for whatever reason, wasn’t happy being my “helper.” Fair enough. I wasn’t a vegan yet, but I recognized he was reluctant to “perform,” and could no longer be complicit in continuing to expect him to. This was, in part, what convinced me vegetarianism wasn’t enough, and a few months after all this happened, I was a brand new vegan.

In what I now know, and soon realized, was the cruelest sense of irony, I “traded” him for Freddy. Even writing about it today, the slavery implications of everything I just stated are still very uncomfortable. But not to be outdone (like this is any excuse), I did manage to “buy” him back from the “breeder” I “traded” him to, and “gave” him to a friend he so affectionately bonded with during his “stay” with me.

To this day, I still see Jared almost every single day. I’m very happy I was able to make the necessary arrangements to provide him the chance to  live a life I’d like to think he enjoys and deserves. All indications are, and as he leads me to believe, he is happy I was able to, too.

But getting back to my point, I’m not so sure “service dogs” are all that avoidable. Especially in our modern capitalist society. Not that I’m necessarily condoning the practice, or would even participate in such circumstances, but be realistic, how could it be avoided?

In the case of a seeing eye dog, the alternatives to making our world accessible and safe for the Blind, would cost way too much money. Money I’m well sure my government would rather squander on stupid shit, like oppressing its people and other Nations around the world?

Or Dogs who accompany Autistic children to school. The alternative would be (a) parent(s) having to pay an individual to be with that child, all day, watching them, every second. Most families just don’t have access to that sort of monetary resource.

Then there is the physically Disabled — again not that I’d participate — it’s a similar situation to the one outlined above. The alternative is, again, paying another person for parts of the day, to help said Disabled person accomplish certain tasks.

OK, my reasoning may seem (and probably is) flawed, in someways. I’m not the least bit afraid to admit or acknowledge that. But in others, I think it’s sound. Things aren’t always so black or white…