Veganism, random acts of kindness, and guilt

April 14, 2008

Early this morning, when I was driving home from David’s, I stopped for gas, and there was a tiny stray kitten sitting around looking sad and forlorn and just a bit hopeful.  As I pumped my gas, I watched him, and considered taking him home with me.  I worried, of course, whether he would have some horrible disease and make Elephant sick.  I would obviously have to keep them separated until the kitten went to the vet and was checked out.  And then, I’d probably have to keep them separated indefinitely because Elephant is so much bigger and might bully the tiny little kitten.  And besides, how was I going to safely transport this little kitten 5 more hours home?

Anyway, when I finished pumping my gas, I figured I’d go think about it while I went inside to get something caffeinated.  By the time I got back outside, the kitten was gone… it was dark, so probably he had just been spooked and was just hiding somewhere nearby.  And now, I feel kind of guilty, and kind of sad, that I didn’t try to catch him when I wanted to.

But why? I mean, I did my part… I rescued Elephant, a 15 lb adult male cat who no one would want. I have no obligation to do that–I certainly have an obligation to make sure animals I have don’t reproduce, and maybe call the appropriate authorities or rescues when I see a stray.  But I’m not even sure I believe that euthanizing this kitten would be better for him than leaving him begging at the gas station.

In the end though, why is it important that I help this kitten?  Why don’t I just go to a shelter and adopt a second cat who would likely be euthanized without my help?  And I guess the answer is that I feel like random opportunities for acts of kindness should be taken when they present themselves.  I can’t control how other people behave (though obviously I would prefer if they felt the same way and acted accordingly), but I can change my behavior.

I think that my recent very strict veganism is related to this.  In the past, I’ve been “mostly vegan”, meaning that I wouldn’t look too closely at ingredient lists, as long as they didn’t contain actual meat.  Whey, once in awhile, was fine.  Recently though, I’ve stopped drinking beers that I don’t know are vegan (isinglass, which is fish gelatin, is sometimes used in the “fining” process), I won’t eat soy cheese which has milk protein (casein), and I never buy anything which has “natural flavors” or other ingredients I don’t recognize.  I tell myself (and others) that this is simply because the idea of eating meat or dairy just really grosses me out a lot, but I’m beginning to think that’s not the case at all, and instead, very strict veganism is a very long string of very small random acts of kindness (at least symbolically).

Anyway, in the end I don’t know whether the right decision was to take the kitten home or not.  My responsibility to care for Elephant as well as possible should come before my random acts of kindness to a stray cat, and I don’t really know how risky this kitten was.  I really hope that poor little kitten in Effingham will be alright, though.

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