Should I mourn the death of a police dog? Should I salute the dog?

In college I lived in a trailer with a roommate who had a German shepherd named Tonya. Tonya was one of the nicest people I ever met.

Ben Sweeney and Ed Lehman

Ben Sweeney (left) and Ed Lehman, old friends of mine. Ben and I rented a trailer at Penn State in 1977-’78. Ben and Ed also went to high school with me, and Ed was/is an occasional guest wherever I lived. He loved Tonya, too. Both Ben and Ed are veterans, serving in the U.S. Air Force.

The other day on Facebook a post showed up in my newsfeed. It was about a dog named Jethro. The post gave me pause. Because I’m a meat eater. I’m married to a woman who is trying to become a vegan. She makes some exceptions for shrimp, salmon, and other seafood. But she’s cutting down on dairy and eggs. And other than that, she’s doing great. And probably will continue to meet whatever requirements are out there for being vegan. The point is, she wants no animals to suffer in any way from her diet.

I’m not in the same place. I don’t want animals to suffer, but I like some kinds of meat. For example, beef, chicken, fish, and pork. But for my 2016 New Year’s resolution, I promised her I’d give up pork. That includes bacon. Damn.

The post about Jethro, though, upset me for another reason. Jethro was a police dog who was killed in the line of duty, and a couple of men were saluting his casket as it was carried out of a building and deposited in the back of an SUV. Here’s the video.


Posted by Keith Riffle on Sunday, January 10, 2016

Although the video had a couple of million views and plenty of comments, I was compelled to post the following:

Keith Croes I don’t know what to think of this. I’m an Army veteran. I know people who have died in the line of duty. Justice must be the goal of every act of law breaking. But we kill animals every day in order to eat meat. How do I differentiate between Jethro and a cheeseburger at my favorite pub? Can only vegans mourn animals? I’ve loved animals in my life; I’ve mourned their death. Especially dogs. But even cats! I mourn for them. Yet I’m still a meat eater. I don’t know whether I’d salute Jethro or not. It gives me great pain not knowing that. A salute is something special. All animals are something special. Yet I still like meat. Why did God make me this way? Evolution made me this way. There are friends and foes in the animal kingdom. Yet I’m torn now, because mankind is at the top, and can kill them all, and in some places, are busy killing them all. And if it came down to them or me, I’d kill them. It is such a tough predicament. Thanks for listening. Sorry if I’ve gone on too long.

That’s it. That about covers my problem here. I guess it’s all about saluting. Native Americans used to thank their kill; in effect, they’d salute the body of the deer that they just slayed. Maybe I need to think that way. On the other hand, they were meat eaters. There are just too many variables for me to process in this process.

I’d never eat Tonya or Jethro. But I’m not sure I’d salute them.

I’m simply not clear in my thinking about this. Your input would be welcomed.

 

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About Keith Croes

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Posted on January 11, 2016, in Animal rights, Animals, Autobiographical, carnivore, Country living, Cultural observations, omnivore, Uncategorized, vegan and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Their salute is whatever they choose it to mean and yours is yours. I see the dissonance that points you in a good direction, (over-)simplified as “are animals worthy?” but you could be vegan for ethical reasons and still legitimately not salute, so let’s decouple those two issues for now and come back around to that at the end for a sanity check. Sound good?

    But first, I have to say, pigs are smarter than dogs and make great pets. Farming pigs is tragic. Factory farming pigs is probably the most tragic meat that money can buy. So it’s great you’re not part of that anymore! Congratulations!

    “There are just too many variables for me to process”.

    Our ethical choices must and should be different in different situations, so don’t worry about how ancestral Cherokee hunters did things. It’s too easy to think that by adopting a noble aesthetic, everything will be alright. We can try to emulate an element of nobility we see in their ways but our situation is different from theirs and as such demands different outcomes. For the same reason, don’t worry about what group you can be a card-carrying member of. Let kindness guide your actions and you’ll probably arrive at the right conclusions.

    I spent a lot of time processing widely and deeply the variables of this topic, and I have to say, most of those many variables aren’t very relevant. Most are distractions, the subconscious aim of which is to provide justifications for remaining comfortable and immature.

    “I don’t want animals to suffer, but I like some kinds of meat.”
    That’s the heart of it, and I’m impressed you can just say it like that.

    Let’s be even clearer then. A paraphrase of that is, “I don’t want to experience a portion of an animal’s suffering (via empathy) but I’m immature enough to cause, out of my sight, many times more suffering than I can handle and additionally death, because I’m often in the mood to experience a great taste instead of a merely good taste.”

    Is that fair to say? Did I dramatize or misrepresent anything?

    I don’t mean to trivialize that difference between great and good taste. It is trivial, but even so, if you’ve been living in a self-indulgent and privileged way, it can be truly painful to give up what should never have been, which makes you a hero, by the way, every time you choose it, even after it stops being painful. Of course, if you undervalue complex animals, it’s difficult to see a person saving them as a hero, but set that aside for now.

    If you believe in a creator-god, shouldn’t you thank her for this challenge rather than being upset you’re designed this way? Finally a major personal challenge in life where the opportunity for growth is huge, and the parameters are almost entirely within our own individual control. And dramatic life-and-death stakes too! And without any likely harm to ourselves!

    That being said, because of your bloodline, you may not be able to go as far towards veganism as your wife may. Unfortunately for those of us with unusual nutritional requirements, mammals tend to be high in protein, among other things. I couldn’t stay vegan but I seem to be stable enough health-wise eating seafood and eggs, some chicken, and occasionally wild hunted mammals. Wild animals are lower tragedy because, among other things, they’re not generally children, unlike in farming. But it seems seafood is nearly enough, and they’re very low-complexity creatures. It’s distressing, but it’s a balance.

    Back to the main point:Good taste versus great taste. Let’s say for a ballpark, you can be vegetarian or pescatarian to meet nutritional needs. Beyond nutritional needs, eating meat is because it pleases us. In other words, we kill innocent individuals when we don’t have to, because their bodies bring us pleasure. That’s not said with the impassioned tone of an activist or advocate, but with the clinical detachment of describing phenomena and dynamics clearly.

    Oh, but I can do drama too if that’s more motivational: It’s hard to see the ethical difference between eating meat and watching snuff films, or being a cannibal whose favorite victims are severely mentally-challenged kids!

    Anyway, you get the idea. No matter how mild or severe the estimation of harm, what remains is that it’s extremely selfish and destructive. The trouble is we’ve been indulging in this for so long that it’s all but invisible.

    That brings up an important point. It’s almost impossible to see animals for what they really are, or think clearly in general about this, while you’re still causing them torment and death. “I’m simply not clear in my thinking about this.” No wonder! Again I’m impressed. Most people aren’t clearheaded enough to know they aren’t clearheaded. If you fully realize the truth about animals used as food, before having taken major steps, it can be devastating. It’s probably best to process these truths slowly enough to incrementally forgive yourself as you progress incrementally.

    The psychology of this catch-22 is simple. It’s easier to mistake what an animal is like than to alter your worldview and give up a major source of pleasure in your life, especially when it’s so culturally acceptable to just keep doing what you like and ignore the repercussions for the victims, not to mention the indirect victims of climate change which is now known to be due as much or more to animal farming than to burning fossil fuels.

    A lot of people can’t just give up a major joy without repercussion though, so I suggest lining up something you also enjoy to replace meat. Cupcakes (in smaller amounts obviously)? Pats on the back? Music purchases?

    Coming back around to the topic of saluting then, it turns out there isn’t much point right now in trying to parse someone’s saluting an animal, nor your reaction to it. You probably won’t see it clearly until some time after you’ve give up eating animals, or at least similar animals. After all, what judge can be expected to properly do his/her job while entertaining such a deep conflict of interest?

    Can only vegans mourn animals? No, but maybe only vegans can mourn them fully, because maybe only they can appreciate them fully?

    Like

    • Before responding here, for a reason that I can’t precisely recall at this moment, I did a quick search for “Paleo diet.” The first headline of the first search result was “There Was No ‘Paleo Diet’ – Ancient People Ate What They Had.”

      So…they had no trouble not eating those things they did not have. I’m suddenly feeling that my entire post was written with the same clumsiness as that headline.

      A confession: I may have difficulty processing the variables, but my aim to be “comfortable and immature” is not all that subconscious. I have been successful thus far this year (more than 2 weeks!) in avoiding pork consumption (unless there’s a pork product in one of the many comestibles found in my home, and by extension, perhaps, in the homes of millions of Americans who, like me, shop at the nearest chain supermarket).

      It appears that I’m pretty far from the Paleo anything. Except when it comes to self-indulgence and privilege. Regarding them, I’m positively Neolithic.

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. It deserves a more careful study than I’ve been able to give it, which I promise to attempt in the near future.

      Like

  2. Great article about life’s journey. Seems like my journey is about to begin. Failed friend who has just taken all my love and support and getting nothing in return. Best regards to all who suffer from life’s journey.

    Like

    • Just last night I listened to a YouTube post from Paul Romano. It’s worth a listen/view. Life’s journey begins right now. I feel your pain. If you’d like me to remove your post from my blog, please let me know. I have a feeling that you’ll feel differently, well, maybe right now. Meanwhile, one foot in front of the other. And if a friend failed you, that must be where his journey was taking him.

      Like

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