In my previous post I outlined the conceptual reasons I would not be joining up with the new Atheism Plus (A+) movement. Veganism was not one of the main concerns in Jen McCreight’s manifesto and the comments hardly showed a lot of support. As any animal rights person knows “animal welfare” is not animal rights. Furthermore, I’m a libertarian which puts me at odds with the political bent of the movement. There is no place for me in the movement under those conditions. In further consideration, though, there is one big reason I would never join as well: I simply don’t have time.
I’ve read some posts where some A+’ers seemingly castigated others for not wanting to take the time to comb through bulk email or setup folders in order pick out the online petitions that matter. That got me thinking about what I spend my time on, and I realized that my life, the decisions I make, the way I think almost all revolve around supporting the skeptical movement and living the vegan lifestyle.
I’m not a great speaker or writer. I’m not a scientist in the traditional way people consider it (I consider myself a computer scientist). I read the magazines, I buy the books, I donate to the causes, and I try to let people in the skeptical community know how much I appreciate their work. That is how I feel I can best contribute to the skeptical community. Not everyone is good at community outreach or education. Some of us are just good at financial and moral support. I go back and forth in my head on whether that’s good enough or not, and perhaps in my future my skills will evolve and I will be able to take on different roles. I hope what I’m doing helps.
The next thing I would like to talk about is how my life revolves around the vegan lifestyle. I warn you, some of this will come off like bragging, but I don’t know any better way to describe it. Veganism and the support of animal rights has steadily become my very lifestyle and affects my day to day almost on an hourly basis. My wife and I don’t live perhaps the stereotypical vegan lifestyle, but I feel like we’re doing some good. Also, I want to be clear, my wife does a tremendous amount of work supporting our lifestyle, but I only will be commenting on my mindset.
So, the first thing I think of when I consider how we’re living, is that I need a really good paying job. I work extremely hard and I work long hours, taking advantage of my great skill at a particular style of programming , and that translates into good money. I’ve had the same job for the last fifteen years, because it’s a great job, provides good benefits, and allows me to live a lifestyle that helps animals. I can’t be living the life of a twenty year old college student, or be living paycheck to paycheck. Again, I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, but this sets up the next few paragraphs.
Why the focus on money? After all, a fixation on being in the top 5-10% of earners seems almost hostile to the idea of social justice, and perhaps some would think that’s why I have no interest in A+. Well, the reasons start out with eating vegan. Eating vegan the way I eat vegan is more expensive than normal (though probably less than eating a high meat diet). My wife and I do not live on rice and beans, and in fact we do buy a lot of meat analogs. The reason, as far as I am concerned, is to support businesses who go out of their way to produce vegan products. As vegan products become more common, economies of scale will eventually lower the cost of such goods. I eat vegan sausage, vegan hot dogs, two or three kinds of vegan cheeses, vegan pepperoni, vegan chicken patties, etc. There is also the side effect of illustrating to people and friends that eating vegan does not mean eating so called “rabbit food”. We eat quite well.
The next reason I fixate on money is we support eight animals who live in our house with us. We have seven dogs, all adopted, and a cat who was a stray. We used to have another cat, back when we only had five dogs, but sadly he passed away in 2011. In order to have so many animals, you need a large house. Large houses cost money to buy, heat, and cool. It’s worth it to make sure all the animals have enough space. We have a (and here comes the braggy sounding part) five thousand square foot ranch home that gives us plenty of room for couches and beds for all the dogs to lay around on. We have a large fenced in area for the dogs to walk around in. We’re in the process of spending a good chunk of change to redo our walkway so that our fifteen year old one-eyed almost blind dachshund has an easier time getting in and out of the backyard.
We want to eventually rescue farm animals, which is why we bought a place with over twenty acres with a four to five acre pond. We live outside the city limits so there are no laws to prevent us from doing what we do. Because we live outside the city limits we have a septic system, that turns out needs replacing which isn’t cheap either. We have two large beds in the master bedroom side by side so the dogs can all sleep with us at night because they wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had to commute, I would have an hour each way.
Caring for that many animals also costs money. Ralphie, our dachshund, sees a dermatologist and ophthalmologist regularly for his skin and eye (he used to have two, but is down to one). We’ve taken two of our dogs to a special veterinary dentist to make sure we received top of the line care for our dogs’ teeth. I’ve had to rush to the emergency room because one our dogs was bitten by a venomous snake (she is fine, was scarier than it looked), another dog was bitten badly by a woodchuck. One time I took a dog to the emergency room just so my wife could leave on a trip away and know that our sick dog was just a little sick, and had nothing to worry about. We order extra xrays to make sure we Ralphie’s back is ok. We have our dogs’ teeth cleaned, we have their fatty deposits removed to make sure the lumps aren’t anything more serious. When Ozzy, our late cat, was clearly on his last few days, we paid a little extra to ensure he could pass away at home, on his favorite table.
My wife and I do not want kids, so in some respects, all our animals have filled that role. As you can see, my wife and I do a lot for the animals we have, and I don’t know that we can have a more direct effect on improving the lives of animals than we do now. Our vet once told someone in front of me “If you ever die and come back as a rat terrier, you want to live with them.” “Them” referred to my wife and I, as they know how much we care about them all.
So when I think about my time, and what I can do to help in the “social justice” arenas, I think about how hard we need to work to support everything in my own home. Also, my wife does even more on a day to day basis to care for and support our animals, far more than I do, I want to be clear on that. I don’t have time to be more involved in a movement that doesn’t prioritize the values I live through on a daily basis. This is not to denigrate A+, it will stand or fall on its own merits. I just wanted to add something else to the reasons why I and others wouldn’t be joining up. Time is always at premium and if that time wouldn’t be spent supporting my most important cause, I don’t have time for it, sincerely.
As an addendum, I’ll list our current animals and why we have them:
Ralphie – Our fifteen year old dachshund we adopted eleven years ago because a divorcing family didn’t want him.
Peedee – A dog we adopted as a puppy because no one wanted him and he wasn’t going to be a good breeder.
O-Ren – She was supposedly found as a stray, but I believe she was turned over to the pound because she was too hyper.
Kaylee – Adopted with Jayne, she was abandoned in an apartment for three weeks. She was considered a senior and hard to adopt out.
Jayne – Adopted with Kaylee, she was abandoned in an apartment for three weeks. She has a very odd personality and hard to adopt out.
Lemmy – A stray cat we believe abandoned by our neighbors when their house was foreclosed on. He pushed his way into our house and is here to stay.
Mags – A tiny dog with a bad hip that was found as a stray with Finnick. Considered old and unadoptable for supposedly being vicious
Finnick – A small dog that was found as a stray with Mags. Considered old and unadoptable for supposedly being vicious.
Ozzy (deceased) – A cat found as a stray that only really liked me.