Re-Post: I’m Open for Argument (originally posted February 21, 2012)

I am an animal advocate. I spend most of my time trying to make life a little better for animals in my community and beyond. I also eat meat. Does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t know. . . but I DO know that humans were designed to eat meat, and right or wrong, I don’t fight that. When I can, I try to eat meat that is humanely raised by local farmers and ranchers. (Thank you, Davis Family and Meagher Family.) I also believe that when we kill an animal, we should respect the life that was given for our consumption. We should use all of the animal that can be used. Waste does not respect life. I do not hunt, but if a hunter offers me meat, I accept it gladly and gratefully, and I do not judge the one who has generously offered me his bounty.

I know people who are vegans or vegetarians. This is a path that they have chosen because they do not want to participate in the killing of animals for human consumption. That is their moral choice, and if they wish to share their opinions, I listen to them. I have definite opinions about almost every moral choice under the sun. However, I am not so arrogant as to believe that I am always right. In fact, in my 40-odd years on this earth, my opinion has been swayed many times by good, persuasive argument. I also have swayed the opinions of other opinionated people like myself.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love a good argument. Sometimes I even change sides in the middle and play “Devil’s Advocate.” I frequently do this when I believe that my challenger is less-skilled at the art of persuasion. Sometimes changing course confuses my opponent into changing course also. I delight in this. When I was in law school, I arrived late to a class (something you should never do in law school), and as soon as I walked in the door, the professor instructed me to stand in front of the class and argue one side of a case we had read for class. When I finished, he asked the class for counter-point. No one volunteered, so I offered counter-point to my own argument. I’m proud to say that I won.

Argument, or the art of persuasion, is the respectful and thoughtful exchange of ideas. Emotions get in the way of a good argument. When I become emotional, I know that I am going to lose that argument. There is a difference between being emotional and being passionate. Passion gives fire to an argument. Emotion extinguishes reason, incapacitating the one who has lost rational thought. When I can listen to your ideas, consider them thoughtfully, and then offer my own ideas and reasoning, I can give both of us the opportunity to grow. As iron sharpens iron, the careful exchange of ideas brings wisdom to all who listen with open minds.

As an animal advocate, I believe that it is morally wrong and irresponsible to allow dogs and cats to breed. I believe that ALL dogs and cats should be spayed or neutered before they reach sexual maturity. I believe that this is in the best interest of the individual animal, and it is in the best interest of animal welfare at large. Again, am I a hypocrite? Maybe. I have purchased dogs from breeders. Several years ago, I allowed my Chihuahua to have puppies. (Something that I now acknowledge was a HUGE mistake.) Last year I purchased a cat from a breeder. On several occasions, I have purchased Labrador puppies to offer to non-profits to raise money in their Live Auctions. That doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that adoption is the best option. It only means that I am imperfect and sometimes contradict myself. Who doesn’t?

However, I still feel an urgency in getting out the Spay/Neuter Message. Over 8 million pets are abandoned in our nation’s shelters every year. Over half of them are euthanized–no murdered–for no reason other than there is simply not enough space to house them until a suitable home is found. That’s four million pets killed in our nation every year, or approximately eleven thousand every single day, or four hundred and fifty in the next hour, or about seven or eight this very minute.

Many people consider animals disposable, and dump them as soon as they become tired of them, or have a baby, or move, or realize that having a pet isn’t always cuddles and warm noses. It’s also poop, and pee, and mud, and veterinary bills, and . . . well, there’s always another “and.”

Backyard breeders and puppy mills are churning puppies out by the thousands while dogs and cats of all breeds, ages, shapes, sizes, and temperaments die. The owner of a beloved lapdog dies and the family dumps a terrified Chihuahua who has never known anything but love and safety into a shelter where it dies from “kennel stress.” Shelter workers quit in tears because they become emotionally fatigued by the bodies they carry to the dumpster. It happens every day. The madness has to stop somewhere.

But people like me try to get that Spay/Neuter Message out there–try to get people to stop breeding their dogs and cats, try to get people to help stop the madness, and we get emotional “shut up” arguments thrown back at us. Or “I’ll do what I want to do and you can’t stop me.” Or the infamous “pitbull” frenzy begins and all of a sudden hysteria and hype rule the day. And the argument, along with the opportunity for anyone to gain any wisdom from an exchange of ideas, is lost.

So. . .

Hey. You. Yeah, you. If I communicate my opinion to you and you have a thoughtful, well-reasoned response to share, please share it. I will listen and respect your thoughts. You may not change my mind, but then again, you might. And in return, please respect my opinion. It is garnered from years of working in the animal care profession and years of volunteering in shelters and rescues. I actually have some research, knowledge and expertise backing me up. And I may not change your mind, but then again, I might.

And if you can’t communicate without getting emotional and name-calling and slamming me and everything I believe. . .

Well then, just shut up.

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