It’s a fact of life that as a zoophile, you’re probably going to have a different set of priorities than those around you. Some people might buy their dog whatever food is cheapest, because to them the dog is just a fashion accessory to their Facebook photos gallery; as a zoo, you might care to get your dog healthier and tastier food because you care about their health and their happiness. Some people might be annoyed to have to let their dog outside, whereas as a zoo, going out and letting a dog sniff the neighborhood might make our day.
Essentially, we see a whole other world by caring to consider things through the eyes of animals. And for a lot of zoos, this leads down the path of considering where our animal products come from, and whether we want to support these industries that seem to be giving very poor treatment to those animals who we care about.
To be clear, being vegan is not a prerequisite to being a zoophile. You can get very flustered from looking at a pretty horse and also salivate at the thought of ordering some chicken nuggets. You and your clandestine canine friend with benefits can still go out on a little date to McDonalds and share a couple of cheeseburgers together (and she would probably love you for it). It is more than fair to look at the behemoth that is the meat and dairy industry, throw up your hands, and consider anything you do to be no use so you might as well not deprive yourself.
Not to mention veganism is a spectrum, and different vegans may have different philosophies on how to handle certain edge cases. For example, some vegans may make their best effort to avoid meat and dairy, but not consider it “breaking their veganism” if they find themselves invited to a dinner where the host has already made them a steak and it will go to waste if it isn’t eaten. Other vegans may be much stricter, and if they find themselves at that dinner they’ll sit there and have nothing, and if possible save the steak to give to a dog later. For some they may be okay with eating eggs that they consider to be ethically sourced, whereas others may find it objectionable to eat eggs under any circumstances at all. For some it includes not buying leather, whereas others don’t mind, or might only buy it used.
Overall, the objective should be a strong mindfulness towards animal ethics. Even if someone may not have completely eliminated meat and dairy from their diet, they may still be able to say that they’re “on the path to veganism” if they are mindful of making choices that don’t create demand for animal products if the option is right in front of them.
But for those who do go vegan, another fact of life is that you’re going to encounter a lot of people who have not gone vegan. It can feel like a bit of a dilemma. So what do we do when it comes to veganism vs having a social life?
Personally, I do not eat meat, because my honest internal state is that I don’t see food on my plate, I see a desecrated and burned piece of a dead body from a cow/chicken/pig who was probably a cool person to hang out with when they were alive.
With that in mind: literally all of my family and friends who I have ever known in person eat meat.
So, what’s the move here? At one extreme end of the spectrum, I should feel that these people are supporting something that’s very analogous to an animal holocaust. I should be morally disgusted by them and not want anything to do with having them in my life.
But like… that’s everybody in my life we’re talking about. People who I care about more than myself. People who I’ve spent countless hours with joking around, hanging out, chatting about movies, playing games, people who I have deep, longstanding relationships with. People who have put in unfathomable time and love to take care of me, and people who I’ve gone a long ways out of my way to take care of them. It feels like a severe overreaction to categorically turn my back on all of that because of the fact that they eat something which to them seems like a very normal thing to be eating.
Idealistically, we could say that I could maintain these relationships in the hope of changing everyone’s minds and converting them. Pragmatically, I gotta say it ain’t happening. Ever. As zoos, we have a concept that animals are people and should be treated with care and respect, even if it means hardship for ourselves, and that conviction doesn’t go away just because you can’t see the slaughterhouse when you go grocery shopping. The majority of the human population flat out does not have this concept. Period. If you try to talk to them about even reducing the amount of meat they eat they get very uncomfortable, like you’re trying to tell them you were abducted by aliens and that they need to wear this tinfoil hat everywhere they go in public so that they don’t get abducted by aliens too.
So, what do we do with all of this? The answer is probably personal, and different people may land in different places. My thoughts are this: as zoos we care about animals, but humans are animals too. Me, you, your vegan friend, your non vegan friend, all animals. We all have our predispositions, our things we care about or don’t, our “animal instincts” if you like. Do I think that all humans should still reduce suffering by being vegan because we have the option to, yes. No qualifiers, just yes, that is what we should do. But practically speaking, a lot of humans don’t feel like a chicken should tell them what to do. A lot of humans don’t feel like they’re herbivores. My dog certainly isn’t an herbivore, and I love him so much that it isn’t even a question he should get meat every day. How would my human friend not find it laughable if I tell him that he shouldn’t have the same privilege as my dog?
So, as much as it still does bother me when a friend tries to tell me about this amazing meatloaf recipe he heard about, I just say “k” until he’s done and then we can talk about something less divisive like politics.
The world is hard for zoos. Inasmuch as I have advice here, my advice would be to love yourself. And part of loving yourself does include fostering relationships with other humans, even at the cost of letting things go. Stand by your own principles, absolutely, and try to help people along if they seem like they can be helped. But choose your battles, and by the same token, maybe try to choose a sort of grace for those whose eyes simply aren’t open right now.
Article written by an anonymous author (October 2022)
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