It was a “Q&A” letter in the magazine of my church’s denomination several years ago that first made me mad. Someone had spent around $800 on their sick cat and was feeling guilty about it. Was this OK for a Christian? The “expert” conceded that there was no point in feeling guilty, but that we must always remember to not spend exorbitant amounts on animals when there are suffering people in the world.
Strangely, I never saw any letters asking whether it was acceptable to drop a thousand or two on a family vacation once a year. No letters about whether it was OK, on the day that celebrates the birth of the man who told us to sell all we have and give it to the poor, to spend hundreds of dollars on unnecessary gifts for our families and friends.
My husband and I haven’t exchanged Christmas or birthday gifts since we got married. We haven’t been on a vacation in the past 10 years. However, we have no problem coughing up the $360 it costs at our friendly neighborhood vet clinic when one of our rats needs a tumor removed, even if it probably isn’t going to live for more than another year. (In my defense, rats only live two to three years, so that’s at least a one-third increase in life span.)
I don’t really see how this makes me a bad person — that I will spend money on animals — when other people spend money on clothes that aren’t from garage sales or on second cars or whatever else people spend their disposable income on. All while there are suffering people in the world.
It’s been everywhere lately. Outrage from both pro-lifers and liberals concerned about race. Whether it’s backlash to the outcry over the killing of Cecil the lion or the Aug. 17 Star Tribune commentary, “The sad tales of a dog and a family,” everyone asks: “How can people care so much about animals when there are suffering humans in the world?”
First, being in rescue, I can assure the author that if her small, purebred dog had been a pit bull, or if it had been a cat, she would not have received the quick response that she did. With millions of animals euthanized for lack of space in this country every year, it’s not all rainbows and unicorns over here in animal rescue, either.
Second, it’s not the right battle to fight. People who care about animals are not the enemy. Most of us care deeply about people, too. I sponsor a lynx at the Wildcat Sanctuary and a little boy in Africa. I’ve looked at the Hennepin County list of waiting children like I look at the special-needs animals on petfinder.com. The reality is I don’t have an extra bedroom in my tiny house and wouldn’t be eligible for a foster child. I can keep a momma cat with her litter of kittens under the sink in my bathroom. Sorry not sorry, but I’m doing what I can.
Last Saturday, I spent my toddler’s nap time at PetSmart, where I helped a family pick out a new cat. In fact, I convinced them to take two, which opens up crucial space for my rescue group to save more. My husband stayed home and rearranged his Star Wars collectibles. I spend most nights after my toddler goes to bed answering e-mails from fosters, volunteers and potential adopters, while my husband is upstairs watching the Twins or “SportsCenter.”
Note that I have nothing against my husband or how he spends his time and that I only use him as an example because he won’t mind. But why am I the one who must re-examine my priorities because I “care more about animals than about people”?
I go out to eat every Friday. I spend too much time watching “Friends” reruns. If you’re going to question my morality on something, let it be that.
Why is it always about the comparison between how we care for animals vs. how we care for people? Why not instead consider the comparison between how we care about all of the other materialistic, privileged, pointless things that we do all day every day vs. how we care about people and animals?
Megan Crosby lives in St. Louis Park. In addition to working full time, she is assistant director for Gentle Touch Animal Sanctuary.