The power of our choices and the lives of animals…
I start out each morning with a cup of coffee and the Wall Street Journal…no wait…back up…after I have pottied, fed and hugged each of my pets…I start my day with coffee and the Wall Street Journal. One particular article in this week’s journal made my jaw drop… Walmart is beginning to pressure its meat and egg suppliers to reduce their use of anti-biotics and offer more humane conditions for livestock. All I could think of was…”holy shit…our choices really can matter”. Let’s be brutally honest…what moves a corporate behemoth like Walmart to make a change like this is consumer demand…demand for humane and healthy products. Our choices as individuals drive important change. I am not naive…change takes time… and Walmart’s new guidelines aren’t mandatory…but it sure will make cruelty free suppliers more competitively advantaged and sets a much better trajectory for animals than we were on. Sometimes…a new law or regulation won’t cut it…people living lives of compassion in this case made a change…our choices are so much more powerful than any law. Kindness to animals brings out the best in all of us!
This is nothing to scoff at. Walmart is the largest retailer….at $288 Billion in sales last year…they call the shots for meat and egg suppliers. Nearly 50% of Walmart sales are groceries…like Walmart or not…we need them to move the needle towards humane treatment of our food supply. Case in point…the article cited that “overall egg sales are flat, but sales of more expensive eggs that tout “cage free” or similar attributes are booming.” How awesome is that? Bret and I won’t buy anything but cage free eggs…I thought this was a small and insignificant choice (well not so insignificant to the grocery bill). But clearly the collective choices of consumers to purchase a humane product does matter.
When we lived in Minnesota we would take a lot of motorcycle rides in the country…passing many chicken, turkey and pork farms…the sight of some of these farms made us sick…especially the turkey farms…animals packed in so tight they couldn’t move…and the noise they made…it was like cries of terror. We vowed to start buying free range and grass fed or just go without. I am pleasantly surprised to see meaningful choices really can make such a difference…If you are one of the folks who made the cruelty free choice…God Bless You…it made a difference…if you aren’t there yet…won’t you think about it?
So this brings me the fate of companion animals…why can’t our choices make it better for them? We are an abundant nation who loves animals…caring for and spoiling our animals has become a $60 Billion dollar industry. Yet millions of homeless animals die in shelters each year…5 per minute! What does it take for our choices to increase the demand for rescue animals so high that it pushes the shelters nearly out of business? It shouldn’t be complicated…almost 3 million cats and dogs die in shelters every year…yet 17 million families get a new pet each year…this should be an easy problem to solve…but it lingers…and each year more suffer and die.
What do we have to do to make clearing out the shelter the fashionable thing to do? How do we create a “Rescue-ista culture?” Why do we have a hush, hush culture about how many animals die in the shelter…why is their so much resistance to change…to asking the community to be involved in solving the problem. In most cases…I don’t believe people know that shelters, on average, are killing 50% of the animals…in some areas of the county…that number is significantly worse. I don’t have the answers…its a heartfelt question.
Do you talk to everyone you can about rescue? I do…especially anyone considering adding a pet. I am not a self-righteous rag about it…I just make a heartfelt plea to encourage people to choose rescue…I give the staggering facts…how many die each minute…shelters are full of pure bred dogs…they are full of puppies…you can find any type of dog you want through rescue and no…a shelter pet is not damaged goods!
I don’t know what the specific magic beans are to save more lives…but I know what the over-arching theme is…a community that cares…that cares how the animals are treated. How the animals fare in our communities is one (of many) benchmarks by which we can measure the spiritual health of our communities. I wonder how we make rescue fashionable? If things as ridiculous as mullets and bell bottoms can be fashionable than why isn’t pet rescue? I wonder how we make pet rescue part of our spiritual journey? I don’t have the answers…but I am sure looking for them.
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