my hope for the new year


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Originally uploaded by maryannodonnell

I have been thinking about the contradictions that shape human lives and how, in turn, those lives are the environment for others – human, animal, vegetable, and mineral.

SZCAT, a part of China’s Animal Lovers Net dedicated to saving feral urban cats announced that on December 26, 2010, a group of animal protectors (as they call themselves) discovered an illegal slaughterhouse and reported it to the Yanshi police as part of a rescue mission in a Hakka area where yes, I ate stewed cat and dog (separate dishes) several years ago.

The Nanfang Daily report on the rescue called it “Stealing Dogs Movement”, emphasizing the human cost of taking the animals. The animal protectors went in to rescue the animals and the local police destroyed several of the shanties that made up the slaughter house. However, as the volunteers were trying to get the animals to safety, many of the residents in the area stopped them because these animals were their livelihood. As a result, the police ended up negotiating a compromise – the volunteers could leave with the animals they already saved, and the rest would be left with their owners, who no longer had a way of processing them.

The results of this negotiation pleased no one. For their part, the migrant workers who make their precarious living by slaughtering and preparing traditional cat and dog dishes took a huge economic hit at the time of the year when they most need to save money for the upcoming Spring Festival. On the other hand, the volunteers felt that inhuman misuse of cats and dogs would continue without any intervention or “respect for law”.

I’m not sure how to think about this situation because I’m sad for all involved. Clearly, migrant workers in Shenzhen resort to all sorts of grayish means to earn a living not only for themselves, but also to support family back in neidi. At the same time, the raising and slaughtering of animals for human consumption is itself the cause of much, unnecessary suffering and inequality; not only do stock animals suffer, but raising cows and pigs and fish and chickens on industrialized ranches and farms damages the environment for other creatures (including humans).

My hope for the New Year is that we find ways of resolving these contradictions in inclusive ways. As long as we frame the debate as a choice between “save the pets” and “save the migrant workers,” we fail to see how all lives – not just the ones we like or agree with or are proud of or believe to be right, but all lives matter and matter beautifully.

Happy, happy 2011. Prosper.

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