Steps in the Right Direction

I saw an interesting bit of performance art the other day on the Seattle waterfront. Four people, dressed in black, wearing the masks that Anonymous has made famous, were all silently holding screens that had streaming videos on them. Upon closer inspection, those videos were of slaughterhouses, and they made me squirm.

Members of the group Anonymous for the Voiceless were working the crowd, handing out cards with more information about animal cruelty. I left there feeling horrible that I had just had fish for dinner. I hate animal cruelty. I really do. But am I a vegan? No, I am not.

However, I am proud of the fact that I eat about one tenth the amount of meat that I ate when I was growing up. I do love my veggies, and there are just so many delicious meatless options out there nowadays that meat is not nearly as necessary as it used to seem to me.

I went home and tried watching some of the videos that they mentioned in their literature. Some were too disturbing for me to sit through. Others were a bit too radical for me to take seriously, like the one that said that the domestication of animals was tantamount to slavery. (That one made me look at my rescue dog and ask him if he was happy. He gave me a big old sloppy kiss and went back to chewing his butt.)

Here’s the thing (and yes, there’s always a thing): I agree with most of what these people were trying to say. I just take exception to the way they were saying it.

Implying that anything but perfect behavior is utter failure is nothing but emotional abuse. Because none of us are perfect. None of us.

I may not subscribe to your religion, but that does not mean I’m going to hell. I may not eat what you want me to, but that doesn’t make me incurably evil. Life is not black and white. It’s shades of grey.

I do believe it’s important that we know where our food comes from, and the environmental impact its production causes. I do believe that there are a lot of moral incentives to going vegan.

I just think making me walk away feeling like sh** about myself is not the best way to convert me to your cause. We should all be praised for the positive efforts we make in any and all walks of life. Steps in the right direction are just that: steps in the right direction.

Maybe stop focusing on the ultimate destination and appreciate the well-considered journey. Baby steps are important. Not everyone is going to reach your finish line, but all efforts theretoward are praise-worthy.


I wrote an actual book, and you can own it! How cool is that?

Laika, First Creature to Orbit the Earth

When I was a little girl I learned about Laika, the dog the Russians put into space on this date in 1957, seven years before I was born. All I really heard about her was that she died up there, and I imagined her little doggy skeleton, still in the spaceship, going round and round the earth for all eternity. It really upset me. It still upsets me.

Little did I know there was even more to be upset about. For starters, those scientists never intended that she would survive. And her training was horrendous. To get her used to the idea of the confines of the capsule, they put her into smaller and smaller cages for as much as 20 days. Due to the stress she stopped urinating and defecating, and she became increasingly sick. She was also placed in centrifuges and in machines that mimicked the sound of the launch.

But all that “training” didn’t fully prepare her for the reality of it, apparently, because during the flight her heartbeat more than doubled and her respiration increased to 4 times its normal rate.

I often wonder about the type of scientists who were capable of such cruelty. They clearly became attached to her. They said she was quiet and charming. One of the scientists took her home to play with his children just before the launch. He wanted to do something nice for her, because he knew she was going to die. And someone kissed her just before closing the door of the craft. And yet they still sent her to her doom.

They kissed her, after putting her in a harness in a capsule so small she couldn’t turn around, attaching her surgically to cables, and fitting her with a urine bag.

For many years it was said that she died of oxygen deprivation about 6 days after launch. And the Russians tried to claim that they euthanized her with poison food. But in 2002 the truth came out. She barely lasted 6 hours. The temperature in the capsule went up to 104 degrees, and she died from the heat.

But the young me needn’t have worried about her skeleton. A little over 5 months after launch, Sputnik 2 burned up during its re-entry into the atmosphere.

Poor Laika. Rest in peace.