ANIMALS IN THE NEWSEthics class led woman to be a vegetarian
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Plain Dealer Reporter
And animal people, too. I'd like to start introducing you readers to each other. Do you work, play, live among, study, raise, loathe or otherwise interact with nonhuman animals?
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Tell me about it, and meet 28-year-old Kristen Falkenberg of South Euclid.
Among the college students returning to campuses this month are 30 attending Ursuline College in Pepper Pike who will take an unusual philosophy class. Nearly 200 students will have taken "Animals and Ethics" since the course was first offered in the fall of 2004.
Falkenberg is an Ursuline graduate who majored in early-childhood education and earned an A in "Animals and Ethics." It wasn't an easy A.
At first, professor George Matejka showed " 'happy videos' about the intelligence, abilities, preferences and personalities of all types of animals, from pigeons to pigs to porpoises. I was totally unprepared for the onslaught of images that we were exposed to next," she said.
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Watching graphic videos of animals being slaughtered for food and fur coats, she fled the classroom several times to cry. She struggled with feelings of guilt, wondering why she had never thought about how meat got to her plate or how alike a dog and a pig are, a parrot and a chicken, a cow and a horse, she said.
The ethics class changed her life. She became a vegetarian, like many who have taken the course. Her mother became a vegetarian, too. They visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, N.Y., to try to numb the images she had seen in class. It did her good to see cows contentedly chewing their cud in a lush pasture, she said.
Fellow student Julianna Fazio, 21, of Jefferson in Ashtabula County, said the class led her to have discussions at the family dinner table that "not all the members of my family appreciate." And that's fine, she says. "We all have to make responsible decisions for ourselves."
Vegetarians getting sneers and jeers from family, friends or co-workers can get support from members of Mercy for Animals, which hosts local vegetarian events, mercyforanimals.org, and the national Christian Vegetarian Association, christianveg.org.
The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention says that 43 percent of dogs and 53 percent of cats are overweight. I guess we Ohioans shouldn't be surprised. Our obesity rate is the 17th highest in the country, according to the Trust for America's Health. Learn how to help pets lose weight at petobesityprevention.com and WebVet.com, which recommends workout routines pets and their people can do together.
Several surveys have found about 4 million dogs and cats were put down in shelters across America last year. And nearly half of the 2 million dogs killed were pit bull breeds that in many cities have been banned or were too costly for low-income owners to keep after legislators passed requirements for special insurance and fencing.
The latter is the case in Cleveland, where about 1,400 pit bulls are killed each year. Most of those dogs had never misbehaved, yet they paid the price for the few among them who did and their irresponsible owners, who let them run loose or trained them to be aggressive.
The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes pit bull bans, or any other breed-specific regulation, saying that more than 25 breeds have been involved in fatal attacks on people. Rather, the association recommends enforcement of leash and anti-dogfighting laws, mandatory neutering (which minimizes sexual/territorial aggression and roaming) and instruction in responsible pet care in schools.
Use key words "pit bull ban" or "breed-specific legislation" to see just how heated the issue has become over the last 20 years.
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