Dear Straight Talk: I'm an animal lover and try to do what's right by animals, whether volunteering at a shelter or donating to animal charities. Recently I visited with PETA members and our conversation got ugly when I mentioned going to the zoo. It got even uglier when they discovered I owned a pet. They feel that eating meat, wearing fur, and testing life-saving medicine on animals should be considered criminal. Now I'm questioning how I treat animals. How far should animal rights go? — Anonymous, 16, Irvine, Calif.
Catherine, 23: Listen to your heart. Obtain facts. Read books like The Omnivore's Dilemma and The Jungle. Large-scale farming is causing incredible problems for animals and our environment. I seek the smallest footprint possible. For some that means hunting or raising your own meat, for me, abstaining. Unlike many vegans, I don't blame others. My friends eat meat, wear leather, and think being vegan is crazy. We do abuse and overuse animals and your question means a lot to me. Ignorance and apathy are the poisons of compassion and progress.
Ashley, 22: Throughout history, humans have been eating and domesticating animals — how do we think we got dogs? However, the food industry abuses animals horribly with greedy mass-production. Hunting your food is fair, as is shopping from local farmers where the animal had a natural life and diet. Regarding pets, my dog came to me skinny, tick-infested, his eyes filled with worms. He is a healthy, happy dog now, a companion and protector! Forget what others say, do what you feel is right.
Leif, 21: Behind most nonnegotiable viewpoints lives a dose of fear. Develop a personal conviction. Think about your relationship with animals, decide how you want to respond, and live that response consistently.
Lennon, 23: Garter snakes eat frogs, the bottom half digesting while the top half struggles. Raccoons rip the backs off chickens, take their eggs, leaving them to bleed. Canines usually eat their prey before it dies. Nature chases, poisons, constricts, eats-while-still-alive, often targeting the young. No hunter wants to injure his prey or take the young. Other than the factory-harvesting of animals, which I don't condone, we are the most humane killers on earth. Much nicer than your sweet tabby.
Winter, 18: My vegetarian mother has no problem with her kids eating meat, so I often ate meat out, but rarely at home. Last March, I went vegan for three months and now I'm a vegetarian. I'm not against people eating meat, but I do think it should be organic and free-range. People often get frustrated that I'm vegetarian. They attack me with questions and insist I try things. Why can't we just respect each other's choices?
Dear Anonymous: All the know-how, human resources, and spiritual consciousness exist to produce all the food and medicine needed on this planet organically and sustainably, with honor and respect for animals. Change is mostly a function of how we shop. Thank you for igniting an important conversation.
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