Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?
In short, yes. I have 15 horses. I had a cat which my grandparents looked after for a while before he died in 2011, and they now have a new cat. My mother has 2 dogs and 3 chickens. My ex-housemate had a dog and a cat, and the cat came back to live with me for a few days.
I tend to prefer the idea of cats to dogs as they’re more independent and less needy, but I love our dogs to bits (scroll down to the two Bichon Frises). They have such great characters and are so different, despite being the same breed and being related. Jack is a real mummy’s boy, always making out he’s ever-so-delicate and vulnerable. He can only drink and eat out of plastic bowls because he doesn’t like it when his collar clinks on metal or ceramic. Eddie has become a bit like a cat in his old age, looking at everyone and everything like they’re dirt. He has a great vocal range as well, making all manner of trilling sounds.
My cat, Lister, was awesome. Most of the time he would look at you with such disdain. Every week he would change his mind about what type of food he liked, and when you served the one that had gone out of taste, he would look at you as though you were trying to feed him his own crap. Other times he would be very playful, but his idea of playful was to scratch the hell out of you! You could see it coming too, because he’d wait for you at the top of the stairs with his tail swishing in that ‘about-to-pounce’ way. And other times he would be affectionate. He would sit on my chest when I was in bed, pawing away and basically ripping through my skin, and purring so loudly I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep. I loved him lots.
The new cat, Shambles, is similar. He’ll take your hand off if you try stroking him when he doesn’t want you to. But my favourite thing about him is how he’ll just sit anywhere. He tends to follow people around, so he’ll greet you at the door. Then if you get chatting in the hall, he’ll just plonk himself down on the floor, in everyone’s way.
I grew up with horses and wouldn’t have it any other way. If I had disposable income, I would probably fill my fields with horses and ponies rescued from all over the place. They are beautiful creatures and I cannot understand anyone who doesn’t like horses. And unlike wet dogs, wet horses is one of the best smells in the world. I frequently wander around them in the rain, taking deep breaths usually just behind their ear. I wish I could bottle that smell!
Veganism and domestic animals is an interesting conundrum. On the one hand, pets are really there for our benefit, are not in their natural environment, and it is wrong according to veganism. But on the other hand, if the alternative is for those animals to die, then I know which I prefer. I definitely think we need to change how we think about animals: get rid of puppy mills and limit any sort of breeding. I think this is particularly important in hard economic times. I’ve lost count of the number of pet rescue posts I’ve seen where owners simply can’t afford to keep their animals anymore. And horse breeders who are selling or giving away youngsters due to overstock. We need to think about the animals that are already in the world before bringing new ones in.