I remember when being a vegetarian in Montana was about as bad as being a communist at a Republican rally. For my first couple of plant-eating decades, I understood I was fair game for all those pig, chicken, fish, and cow eaters. These days I can even find vegetarian entrées in small-town restaurants, and if someone is going to sneer at me, they usually have the courtesy to do it when my back is turned–and after my check is paid.
To me, the mathematics of meat eating never made much sense. Concentrating all those resources into a slab of meat for a single meal didn’t seem as smart as feeding the grain and water to needy people. Meat injected with chemicals and hormones seems especially unsafe, and animal fat is a demonstrated hazard to human health. When you add humanitarian issues and the conditions for humans who work at slaughterhouses and packing plants…Well, I’m not the least bit tempted by a plate of steaming flesh.
I wanted you understand that I was pretty much a wild-eyed radical before I started complaining about an organization to which I’ve belonged for over a quarter of a century: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. I still support the basic tenants of PETA, I’m a big fan of spaying and neutering, adoption from responsible animal shelters, banning animal acts in circuses, eliminating factory farms, and drastically cutting animal experimentation in favor of human prevention, like putting plant-based diets into public schools and being sure that everyone gets plenty of exercise every day. I am not, however, in support of a $265 doghouse.
Recently I received in the mail a solicitation from PETA for a “$265 donation for one sturdy warm and dry dog house for a dog in need”. For a moment I thought this was a typographical error. When I saw I could buy a fractional sponsorship–part of a dog house–for only $60, $90, $120, or “other”, I knew it wasn’t a mistake. Insulated dog houses are readily available, beginning at about $90 for a small dog, and going up to about 200 bucks for a good-sized huntin’ dog. Spending $265 for a single doghouse seems to be a shameful waste of funds, especially at a time when so many humans are suffering…and the Holidays are around the corner.
In that same stack of charitable donations I found a request from the Montana Food Bank Network. Their solicitation claimed that “a single dollar provides enough food for eight meals.” I am really bad at math, but–even though I pass the meat–I am pretty good at food. This mailer for the annual Food Bank Network’s Thanksgiving campaign claims that “$35 will provide enough food for 280 meals.” It doesn’t say “help provide” or “contributes to” or that they’ll need“500% matching funds.” I want to know where the Food Bank is shopping, and I want to know what we are giving our hungry Montana neighbors for dinner fortwelve cents per meal? I understand the food bank deserves government subsidies and private donations, and matching funds from other charities, but how can the food bank feed 280 people with less than it costs me to buy half a bag of groceries?
I want the Montana Food Bank Network to share their charitable alchemy, their secret for stretching a dollar with the folks over at PETA, so maybe my animal loving friends can slice the cost of those doghouses from $265 to say, oh, fifty or sixty bucks. I’ve given generously to both of these charities in the past. The Montana Food Bank network can’t possibly feed anyone with twelve pennies on a plate. PETA? You’re in MY doghouse this year.