Thanks for joining us for the next installment of the Jim Willis interview. If you haven’t read Jim’s work AND you’re an animal person I can only tell you you’re in for a treat. Okay, a lot of his writing will make you cry but it’s the good kind of crying that makes you want to DO something positive. His “Pieces of My Heart” has inspired animal defenders all over the world.
My apologies to all for the day’s break in the interview. My computer decided to die yesterday. I’m not back up to full speed again but I wanted you to know why Jim’s interesting interview was missing from the blog yesterday.
Joy: Are you a vegetarian?
Jim: I wish I was personally, but as a consumer who has to feed rescued carnivores, I will always contribute to the meat trade. I make a homemade diet for my dogs that contains human-quality meat. I was vegetarian during my first marriage, but when that ended, I fell back on convenience and my old ways. Still, I eat little meat and prefer fish and salads. I welcome the growing move to vegetarianism and that the younger generation is more conscious of the health benefits than my generation.
Joy: So you dont believe in vegetarian diets for dogs and cats?
Jim: They have their proponents, but I believe in biologically appropriate diets for all animals. That means the animal should eat what he would choose to eat in the wild. They choose to eat what their body tells them they need to survive. Dogs and cats were not meant to eat grains, neither were horses and cows. Im convinced weve introduced a lot of illnesses and conditions into animals by managing their diets so artificially. Thats completely evident in what occurs today with domestic dogs and cats, including the high rate of obesity and growing cancer rates. Weve sacrificed some common sense for convenience and the recent petfood recalls demonstrate its time to pay better attention. Humans fed their dogs for thousands of years without being able to reach for a bag of something.
I dont try to make anyone feel guilty about not being vegetarian that would be hypocritical but I believe that being a consumer of meat carries the responsibility of compassionate consumerism.
Joy: How do you become a compassionate consumer?
Jim: Because I buy so much meat for my animals, I try to stay informed about issues affecting factory farming, slaughterhouse cruelty and abuses, artificial additives to products, etc. Since we consumers are helping to fund those industries, we should strive to make the practices as humane as possible. Ive participated in some advocacy and legislative campaigns on those issues.
Everyone can go to the websites of the national organizations that deal with those issues; most offer free newsletters, legislative alerts, and petitions. By participating, we can each help make a compassionate difference. Pass the groups e-mailed newsletters on to your address books and encourage others to do so as well. And when you can, try to buy from local farmers whose practices you know, especially those who raise livestock organically.
Im not sure Id recommend what I did as personal penance a couple of years ago. I fell in love with a steer who was about to be sent to the butcher. I paid fair market price for him and then paid to have him moved three times to different no-kill sanctuaries until I found the perfect place for him. Now, he lives at a sanctuary owned by a veterinarian, who also has a program there for special needs children. You dont want to know what all that cost, but I think it makes him worth more per pound than any cow Ive ever met.
Joy: What is the connection between humane practices for livestock and humane practices for pet animals?
Jim: Philosophically, I wish there wasnt a distinction made. To an animal, an animal is an animal. As Ghandi said, A nation and its moral progress are reflected in the manner in which they treat animals.
Scientifically, we know that some studies have shown a pig to be more intelligent than a dog. We know the enormous benefit horses have provided in programs for handicapped and special needs children. We know the value of pet therapy programs and resident animals in nursing homes.
Legally, in the USA, it is all over the place, some states are making progress, other states are still applying archaic laws, or have an absence of laws. Horses are still regarded as livestock, and although the last US slaughterhouse for them has been closed, they still endure cruel transports to Mexico and Canada, where they are slaughtered for meat. Most states enforce only a bare minimum of care for an animal in order for an owner to be in compliance. Some state laws ignore cats entirely. Some municipalities have changed language in the law and refer to guardian instead of owner for companion animals; in some states dog theft is a felony, but cat theft is a misdemeanor. In some states, animal abusers get off with only a slap on the wrist.
In general, at state and federal levels, most policing of animal practices falls under departments of agriculture that are understaffed and underfunded. Naturally, their principal focus is livestock, so companion animal issues receive little attention.
Its a much better situation in most western European countries, where there is more uniformity and attention to animal matters.
Join us tomorrow when Jim talks about European animal protection.