Sunday, February 21, 2010

Losing Friends Daily

I caught up with my best friend from childhood recently. She lives in Boulder and although we don't talk but a few times a year, once we do it's like no time has passed at all. I love having a friend like that.

We talked about the things we are involved with, and how both of us as we get older, find ourselves wanting to do things that make a difference in areas we believe in, but that in making any attempt to "make the world a better place" we seem to be losing friends. That is difficult for me. I liked to be be liked (who doesn't?) I pride myself in my ability to use diplomacy to resolve conflict in my work and personal life. I work hard to use verbiage in person and in my writing so as to make my point but not offend. I have always believed in the "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" and find more people will be on your team if you play this way.

But sometimes, when you become a voice for something you believe in you lose friends.

My Boulder friend is a teacher, and in her many years working with children she has seen the best and the worst scenarios, and has become a voice for those without one in situations of suspected abuse, neglect or extreme family dysfunction. She also speaks up about teaching personal responsibility to kids and their parents and raising expectations without over-rewarding kids for just doing what they ought to to. She's lost a few friends.

Another friend who now lives in California has a child with learning disabilities. While always a great mom, she went from being what most of us would consider a "normal" wife and working mom to an amazing advocate for children with similar disabilities in our public school system. Her being a voice for these kids didn't win her any popularity contests and there were many challenges she faced in getting changes made. But her accomplishments are many in this area and many children (and parents who didn't have the time, dedication or courage) have benefited from her work.

Advocates for people with disabilities, for children, for the elderly, and a bit further back for civil rights or the women's movement did not have it easy. At the very least they were scorned and abandoned by many. At the very worst they were beaten, jailed or killed for their cause. Thank God for the people who were passionate for causes that now, with the hindsight of history--were good.

Over the last 10 years, my eyes have been opened to the unbelievably cruel business of growing animals for food inside factory farms.  I have learned that if you make people feel uncomfortable about choices they are making, they get angry. In raising issues that seem very common sense, it is easier to label me as "a crazy liberal or PETA activist" (of which I am neither) than to just have an open mind an listen with the defenses down. If I could beg your indulgence, I ask your indulgence on what I feel are 3 common sense points on my position for animal welfare:

1) Factory Farming. I am NOT telling anyone to stop eating meat. I am asking everyone to get educated on what is being done to our food supply in factory farms. Anyone who does the slightest bit of research, visits a large factory farm, watches the movie Food Inc or the HBO documentary or Meet Your Meat will see that our country's large factory farming practices are corrupting our nations' meat supply and hurting our nation's health. The sidebar is that it is also horrendously cruel to animals. I didn't know then what I know now. Now that I do- I want others to know. I want laws to change. I want our food supply safe. I want animals treated well. And if people choose to eat meat, to support local farmers who raise they animals in a free range environment. Laws need to be passed. I believe if people knew, if they saw what goes on, they would be sickened and would want laws changed. It is the "extremists" who publish hard to watch videos that are helping to get the word out. If you saw a pigs being de-skinned while still alive., or baby calves living in a box with only small holes and no sunlight so they are tender for veal? Or lambs having their legs tied to they don't move? Or chickens de-beaked so they don't poke each other? Or hens in cages so small they can't spread their wings or turn around. Or cows going into the slaughter machine still alive as they are cut up piece by piece. (They are suppose to be "stunned" first-most are not.) If you heard heard the screams--you'd agree there needs to be change.

2) Puppy mills. 7 years ago I bought my purebred Sheltie from a pet store. Many in my life have pure bred dogs from breeders. Many breeders do it right, and treat their animals well. But many don't. So there needs to be more regulation. Pregnant moms in a puppy mill don't lay on the floor of the family room by the fireplace. They are kept pregnant to bear litter after litter and live in a cage their whole lives. Most are euthanized after her 7th, 8th or 10th litter. The Amish in Ohio are known for their extreme cruelty in managing their puppy businesses. Undercover farm hands on an Amish Maltese farm witnessed atrocities that would melt the coldest heart. Many dogs are so in-bred they have numerous health issues and 60% of purebred dogs from puppy mills end up in shelters or worse. I didn't know then what I know now. Reputable breeders suffer from not having laws than punish those that run puppy mills.

3) Chaining dogs. Why have a dog if all you do is chain it to a tree to live in its own waste in the hottest summer and the coldest winter? I'm talking 24-7 365 day a week chaining. I've seen collars grown into the necks as dogs slowly choke to death. Frostbit paws. Dogs dead from starvation at the end of a chain. Shouldn't there be laws to discourage animal cruelty and punish those who break it? Many states are passing laws preventing this cruelty. All states should.

I'm for common sense. I'm for doing what's right. But because so many don't, we have to have some regulation. My Republican friends call me a liberal because I want "more legislation" and yet--without legislation for extreme unfairness, whether its for children the elderly, the disabled or for animals with no voice--how do we make change happen?

PETA may negate much of the good they could do and loses credibility with some of their antics and can the point be made without showing the horrible videos of the puppy mills? Or calves being nailed into their crates for veal?

How do we force change when people just don't want to know what is really happening? And are these causes worth losing friends?