Thursday, October 23, 2008

a letter to our elementary school

Today I'm waiting for a call back about whether I can return my dear foster kittens, Helen Keller and Ray Charles, today. Poor Helen and Ray, unaware of their impending eviction from their happy childhood home, are curled up in my lap. I couldn't bear to disturb them and took advantage of their snuggling time to write the following letter to the head of Iris and Lucy's elementary school:
I hate to complain about anything done at the Fall Festival, as I know the parents who organize it work very hard, but there was something which appalled me and upset my daughter Iris this year. It was the fur covered toys for sale at the fairyland area.

We was shocked to see real fur used in toy kittens, and these fur toys were displayed very prominently. They were the dominant item at the fairyland area. Iris and I had gone to the fairy area on our arrival at the fair, and we had actually intended to make at least one purchase there to add to our fairyland at home (we had bought a fairy house the year before). Iris, a sensitive animal loving child, was so disturbed by the fur that she asked to leave. This cast a pall over our afternoon at the fair, as Iris couldn't get her mind off the dead rabbits used to make these toys and asked me such questions as "Why do people hate rabbits?" and "Why can't the bunnies be smart enough to escape? Why do they have to die?"

I was rather disturbed by the hypocrisy that the children were being encouraged to pay to pet and feed live rabbits at the petting zoo, just yards away from where they were being urged to buy the skins of other rabbits, who had met an unkind demise in order to make cheap toys.

There was another level of hypocrisy, which I suspect but can't prove: the fur-covered toys were from China. Not all of the fur appeared to be rabbit fur. It is an established fact that in China, cats --- the same sort of cats we keep as pets -- are commonly raised for the fur trade. [See, e.g.,]. Some of the kitten toys I saw at Burke's appeared to me to have been covered with cat fur (as a long-time cat fosterer and rescue volunteer, I know cat fur). It's frankly hideous to sell a toy cat to a girl which required the death of a real cat to make.

Fur has become controversial in our society, with an increasing awareness growing that the animals raised for fur are killed in spectacularly inhumane ways (the most common way is anal electrocution so as to preserve the fur). I am glad Iris doesn't yet know about that aspect of the fur trade, but I suspect some of the upper school girls do. Is that something Burke's wants to be affiliated with? Is that something to teach our girls, that although we enjoy petting rabbits, we think it's good to kill them in an agonizing way to make a toy that will be probably discarded when the girl tires of it?

I expect to see fur if I go to Neiman Marcus, and I make my shopping decisions accordingly. I don't expect to see it showcased at a Burke's family festival, though, and I am disappointed in the school. Please consider making a policy that fur won't be sold at future festivals.

While I'm on this uncomfortable subject, I should also state that I've been troubled -- but have hitherto held my tongue -- about the practice of giving out the goldfish at KDBS. It's a common sight to go to a Burke's family home and see a large number of goldfish being kept in a tiny, undersized globe. These fish should have a lifespan of 30 years if cared for properly and require a large, aerated tank for comfort. The way they are given out, as though they were disposable, seems callous and definitely doesn't teach the girls to respect animal pets and care for them accordingly. At the very least, there should be a sheet of instructions for the proper care of goldfish given out with the fish. (I would be happy to draft such a thing). I also witnessed parents being displeased when their child showed up at their side with a fish. It seems inappropriate to give out a living creature to a child without the parents' consent and implicit commitment to keeping the fish.

I hope Burke's can do better than this.


Joyce said...

you really love animals. i love that about you.

kaila said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly. We just had our Fall Festival at my son's school. They did not have any fur or free goldfish. They did, however, have some very creepy dude watching the kids in the bounce house and the water slide all day. Said creepy dude was not there with any children. *shiver*

Anonymous said...

DH- Congrats on writing that letter- you made excellent, valid points regarding the school's role in the treatment of animals, (Poor rabbits! Poor fish!) and I hope they change their ways. Keep us posted on the school's response!

Silliyak said...

I think you just sealed your fate vis a vis vegetarian dishes at pot lucks. Powerful forces will insure that ONLY meat based dishes are presented and your (1)vegetarian dish will be consumed (or tossed out) immediately. You are so doomed!

Missy said...

Where I work, the school carnival prizes are donated gently used stuffed animals. All of the prizes are recycled. (except for the liters of soda you win by tossing a ring, LOL)

Maybe the school can consider doing that next year--collecting gently used items (including the little toys in fast food meals) instead of buying anything.

The only purchased items are for the silent auction baskets.

Missy said...

Oh and that was me, Missy, signing in after a busy week. Nice to be able to catch up finally!

So sorry about the car dent! I have a sizeable door ding I got one day from a boisterous boy getting out of his family's car at church.

Even now when I see it--five years later--it bugs me!

Anonymous said...

OMG, this is the first time i have ever heard of REAL fur on toys! Atrocious! I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for such things next time.


Captain Steve said...

As I'm staring Lazarus Poe (the cat) in the face right now, I don't think I can deal with real cat fur on stuffed animals. And after pondering the fate of my former albino bunny Fergus, I don't think I'm ok with bunny fur either. I would think more parents would be writing about this as well.

Anonymous said...

Jut to be a Devil's advocate... No, actually, I kind of think animal loving vegentarian PETA-freaks are just a drag on or society. We should get to eat them. But, differenet stroke for different folk, as my aunt used to say. You're still idiots, though.

That said, (and internalized, grok'd, accepted, whatever...), for us that gladly eat meat and enjoy the occasional brace of Thumper meat, what should we do with the fur? Why not sell it? Are there bunnies devoid of fur that we should be saving it for?

And in China, isn't it commonly accepted American jingoism that the Chinese eat cats? You know the old joke, there's never any stray cats around a Chinese food restaurant.

This reminds me of a drunken prank in college. We called up a local Chinese restaurant and told the manager that we had a stray cat and asked if he could give us some recipes. He responded that if we brought the cat into the restaurant, he'd fry it up for us, with some Hoisin sauce.

I'm pretty sure he was screwing with us, perhaps hoping to lure us down there so he could give us both a well-deserved beating. But, you never know.

In any event, get over your veggie self!

Anonymous said...


You're right.

I missed the Name/URL option.

You should think again, about eating chicken shit. Have you ever tasted it? I've only smelt it, and the combined smell of chicken crap, straw and chicken feed brings back memories of the forced childhood bondage I had to endure.

I'm pretty sure I'd never want to eat it, though.

A burger? Much better. Veal Parm hero, even better!

Anonymous said...

Wow! You people are cranky.

Rascist[SIC]? (It's as if vodalus knew m was gonna misspell it, so he even emphasized it before she posted!) Doesn't anyone know what jingoism is and that it's normally considered a perjorative?

But I'm not a buh-logger and I don't have a web page, so what do you want me to enter for a URL? I guess I could use

You're still not gonna "know" me, any more than we now any of you mommy/cat/veggie buh-loggers from your anonymous buh-logs!

Anonymous said...

Honey, don't go picking on people's spelling when yours is no diamond of flawless character (it's "pejorative").

You have an argument about fur being left over... but it's a weak, lame, little argument. Animals ARE raised for fur at fur farms (there are also cows which are raised specifically for leather). Fur-covered things aren't made from scavenged bits left over from virtuous people's dinners.

As for saying that vegetarians and animal-lovers are a drag on society: I think the world would have a lot less pain in it if fur weren't farmed. I'm not so egocentric to think that my comfort and whims outweigh a lot of hideous animal suffering.

But as far as my stridency goes, you, dear blogless Alan, are just as obnoxious and strident as I am. I wrote a letter complaining about something, and you wrote a few comments bitching about my letter-turned-blogpost. In my personal experience meat-eaters are more in-your-face and outraged than vegetarians are, and you're not exactly striking down that stereotype. Thanks for reading, anyhow.


Silliyak said...

My question is for AA (Anonymous Alan). Did he put his cranky pants on as recommended in the title.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Dearest Drunken Housewife,

Where to begin?

First, I concede that there are animals raised for fur. Who would eat a Chinchilla, after all? I don't know... People eat a lot of weird crap. I have family from Brazil and they eat wild cavy (Guinea pigs), and a Chinchilla isn't too far from a Guinea pig, in my eyes.

But raising cattle solely for leather? I couldn't even find evidence for that claim on PETA's web site. Even they say that leather comes from three sources: beef cattle hides, end-of-production milk cow hides and veal calve hides. What would the profit motive be to waste the carcass and use only the hide?

Now, stridency -- I'm at least as obnoxious as you. Personally, I think I'm MORE obnoxious. Being an omnivore, I have more energy! I spent the weekend thinking about your comment about meat-eaters being more in-your-face and outraged, and in my experience, it's just not true. Which got me thinking; what colors this type of perception? Do we notice opinions that diverge from our own and feel them more intensely than our own opinions? I have no empiric proof of this, but I think that this is the case.

But I offer an example that I've had personal experience with and I've also read about in your buh-log. I've went to a luncheon a few weeks ago that didn't have a vegetarian option and some woman was raising holy hell with both the event organizer and the facility manager to get her a vegetarian entree of some sort.

I'm familiar with dietary restrictions, since I have my own and I have to be pretty careful when I go out to eat, so generally at the luncheons or dinners like this, I'm chewing on cruddities (cru d'etat) waiting until I can go home and eat something. Then it struck me, WTF -- I'm sitting here eating God Damn vegetables and this woman is raising a stink because there's no veggy option? What does she want? Some soy based imitation of a dead cow?

So yeah, one anecdote doesn't make a trend, but my feeling is that if you;re going to be different than the vast majority of the world (and I'm one of those different people), then you;re the one that has to suffer, not the rest of the world.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Dear Alan, thanks for your more temperate comment. I am sure we won't change each other's minds on this topic, but if we can muster a bit of wit as we discuss it, perhaps it's not a complete waste of our time. Sadly my wit is a bit lackluster today.

I do run across a lot of people who get angry at someone's vegetarianism. I have the sorts of friends who think it's funny to march in the annual it's-so-Berkeley parade in the People Eating Those Animals contingent, throwing meat at bystanders. I've had coworkers and relatives get red in the face, veins pounding, as they harass me for politely passing by the meat. Did you know that in the Old Testament, it says that God gave the animals to Adam to be as plants to him? Well, believe me, there are a lot of people in the world who love trotting that little bit of scripture out to piss off their mild-mannered vegetarian relative.

I actually did write -- but deleted --- a complaint in that email to the school about the lack of vegetarian options at the festival. I decided to limit myself to the fur and goldfish issues and not be an All Around Vegetarian Crank. I usually suck it up in silence when there's a lack of vegetarian food (and then later I go into a rage when I'm at home). I can live off my reserves for a few hours; missing a meal isn't too big a deal. But as far as the fur goes, I don't want to acquiesce silently to a barbarity. The fur kittens really did upset my nine year-old, and that seems worth pointing out to HER SCHOOL. It's not as if I took her to Neiman Marcus and then got all high and mighty that my precious child had been traumatized by the fur coats on sale there.

cheers, the DH

Anonymous said...

I think you are taking this a little too far. Your child would be exposed to death of animals eventually. Since your daughter dressed up for death as Halloween, I think she is getting a clear understanding of the issue. This is not the school or administrators fault for your daughter's lack of exposure.

the Drunken Housewife said...

Actually my child has, if anything, been overexposed to animal death. We've had numerous rats die, a very much loved elderly cat die, and as I foster kittens, we lose several kittens a year (and there have been human deaths in our family as well).

There is a big difference between deaths from old age or illness and killing a healthy young animal for fur. One is a natural course of events; the other causes one to think about deliberate cruelty. Iris Murdoch once had a character define evil "in two words: roast lamb."

the Drunken Housewife said...

I thought about the comment that my child was too sheltered some more.

When we took our last foster kittens in to be examined by the shelter's vet, we walked into the room with a dead golden retriever lying on a table with a syringe sticking out of its poor heart. The vet winced as she saw my small children with me and pushed the gurney into the next room; obviously she'd just euthanized that dog moments before telling the staff to send us back. My kids didn't get freaked out about that poor dead dog; we discussed it calmly. These children aren't sheltered. I would contend that instead Iris has a highly honed sense of appropriateness and outrage.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this has taken me months to respond, but there are more important things to worry about than a fish in a bag. I think someone has a little too much time on her hands. Maybe a certain someone should get a job.

the Drunken Housewife said...

There are also more important things in the world to worry about than my employment state (I sometimes work for pay, incidentally) and amount of free time. You're no sterling model of tending to what's important, Anonymous Mean Person, if you're checking back months later to leave more anonymous nasty comments. Are you raising YOUR daughter to leave angry and cowardly anonymous notes? I'm raising mine to speak out about what is important to her, and to do so under her full name.

Thanks for reading and checking back, though, in your busy, busy, important world.

Anonymous said...

I think people confuse the First Amendment with the amendment that gives the right to say something particularly antagonistic to people who have no desire to hear it....which, you know, really isn't an amendment. I've become a solid fan, DH. You handled these trash responses with grace.....Keith

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