Holistic Stewardship: Feral Cats and Kale

Yesterday it was dairy; today it is kale.

I apologize that this witch’s blog has become more about food[1] than anything else, but dang.

A friend was making comment about the unavailability of kale in her town. I suggested that she might benefit from taking a break from kale and allowing her thyroid to rest from the oxalates.[2]

Oh my god. You would think I killed a puppy[3] in the public square.

She deleted my comment and sent me a text asking me not to be offended because she only wanted to be perceived as “super-positive” online. I don’t have a thing against representing oneself on public forums as “super-positive.” Personally, I’d rather be perceived as thoughtful and veracious. Meh. That’s me.

This friend happens to be cowan but I run into this with witches all the time. “I only want positive energy,” “I don’t like to allow room for darkness,” “I’m trying to surround myself with white light only.” That’s all kinds of unbalanced in my opinion, but OK—do whatcha gotta do.[4]

I also don’t have a thing against vegetables–especially kale, which I have fed the kids since they were little.[5] It’s the principle of “it” vegetables.  Foods that gain celebrity status can be, like I mentioned yesterday about other moral food choices, problematic.

Look. Kale is good for you; kale is a wonderful food (when prepared correctly; I have had some badly cooked greens in my day). I’m talking about juicing a pound of kale every morning, including kale in every meal, forcing your plate to, what was it, “revolve around” kale—therein lies the problem.

You see, whenever a new “fad food” comes along,[6] large-scale industrial commercial production shifts farming priorities. This whacks all the farms (and soil and water use and, and, and) out of balance.[7] If you are vegan (as she is), you might be interested to know that it also requires clearing massive amounts of animal habitat and killing those animals which invade the fields of kale “production.” If you are a vegan or NOT, you will want to look into what The Environmental Working Group calls, “The Dirty Dozen”: those crops most likely to be tainted by pesticides and fertilizer.

Oh, the fertilizer. Kale as a crop is very harsh on the environment, water supplies suffer, leaching occurs—it’s hard to grow kale, ladies and gentlemen. Try it sometime. Say, in your own backyard.

I’m serious.

Then eat *that* amount of kale.

It’s not the vegetable I have trouble with, it’s the marketing of it and the obsession with it and the subsequent farming of it that makes me scratch my head and say, “So you’re doing this because you love the environment?” Got it.

Like the people who practice trap-neuter-release (or return) because they feel it’s humane. More on that in a minute. Shortsightedness is the downfall of any ideology.

On the surface it seems like consuming massive amounts of cruciferous vegetables is a grand idea—boy won’t this make me healthy?! And I won’t even have to think about it!! Or chew!!

And then the reality.

Moderate amounts of cruciferous vegetables in balance with a complete diet that take actual thought and  planning (and chewing, sorry 365 juicers[8]) are what’s best for the body.

And, it turns out, the environment.

Likewise, trap-neuter-release (TNR) programs. On the surface this seems like neutering feral cats is the best, most responsible, most humane thing to do. Turns out it’s not actually.

Many veterinarians like the idea. Scientists and ecologists, not so much.

From birdingisfun.com, “The Three Greatest Threats to Our Native Birds”

In short (and without great detail, sorry), the problem is that neutered cats still hunt and kill local wildlife. Cats are collected, neutered, and dumped into an area where they continue to do harm to birds and small mammals, thus disrupting the native ecosystem. House cats are not indigenous to North America and should not be an apex predator—that roll should be reserved for our mountain lions, wolves, and coyotes which we have diminished and de-habitated.[9]

Here’s a thing, when we raise money for TNR programs the only thing it does is make us feel better. Fiduciary misconduct aside, the money would be better spent on human education, in my opinion. When we force local animal shelters to be the ones who euthanize unadoptable cats, we create them as an unfair focus of public disapproval—all while forcing them to deplete the funds we want them to be using to SAVE animals. I find it a bit self-serving.

We don’t want animals to die. Clearly. “Hooray! Euthanasia!” said no one ever. But when we abhor and fear death , we give Death the power to cause us to make irrational decisions. Consider this. We bankrupt the health-care system by preventing death in the elderly and already dying.[10] All in an effort to circumvent death. Often, we only delay it a little at a terrible financial, emotional, and spiritual cost. “Hooray! Death!” said no one ever—but there’s gotta be a value to death.

Ask anyone dedicated to the sacred tasks of The Mór-ríoghain, Kali, Santa Muerte, Hel, Maman Brigitte, or anyone who has served any roll as psychopomp.

Back to cats. America does a better job in most animal shelters now that we have outlawed less humane disposal methods. In fact, we regularly euthanize animals more humanely than we exact Capital Punishment—we still screw that up often. Look at Dennis McGuire of Ohio.

The humane society is just around the corner from my house and I spend some time there. Our kindred makes annual contributions of food, supplies, money, etc. I have former students and friends who work at the shelter and I laud them and the difficult work they do. In a recent conversation, on friend said, “We live in a disposable society. Sadly, too many people apply this to animals.” She went on to tell me that, in my county, we must kill more cats than we can ever hope to have adopted. A vet friend explained that TNR might “help” feral cats in a few locations where there is no threat to wildlife (like large urban areas), but it doesn’t help everywhere and certainly not in rural areas. She says TNR is not a panacea; it does nothing to address current population and homelessness. And wildlife conservationists agree. A student studying native birds was telling me about his research which shows that in areas where scientists “removed”[11] local cats rather than releasing or returning them had an overwhelming return of native wildlife, including several bird species that had been gone for decades.

Here’s another thing—know what? I’ll just let you read the whole article from The Wildlife Society.

It seems to me that the problem with kale, cats, dairy, all of it, is the same problem: holistic stewardship. When we stop favoring one type of life, one being, one culture, one gender, one sex, one race, one economy, one intelligence (and source of intelligence) over another, we will be well on our way to a better form of global stewardship.

Until then? It’s gonna be all feral cats and kale, man.[12]


[1] Really arguments about food.

[2] In case you don’t know about kale–it is the new “it” vegetable being downed by juicers and scarfed by chewers alike. (P.S. I love kale. But I’ve always preferred turnip greens. Childhood thing.) However, scientists and doctors warn that too much kale can go hard on the human body. Particularly the thyroid.

[3] Or, what was it? “sliced a kitten open”?

[4] And when there is a disagreement between witches, it’s not always about magic or theology or anything related to witchcraft.

That is to say, sometimes it’s not a “Witch War.” Sometimes there are just fecking arseholes out there who just happen to also be witches.

[5] Over a decade-and-a-half ago. My god, time flies.

[6] Not that kale is a new vegetable, just that its celebrity status popularity is new.

[7] Not that large scale agriculture of any crop is good for the earth.

[8] I juice. Four times a year. It’s awesome. It’s not good for 365 days a year though—that’s what I mean. And yes, people do that.

[9] Is that a word? It is now.

[10] I had a fascinating conversation with a kindred member and initiate last week that has me thinking about this dilemma in great detail. Enough so that it has me thinking about dead cats.

[11] Yes. I mean killed.

Perhaps ironically it was conservationists that euthanized the cats. Goes to show that “conservation” doesn’t mean “everything” and “at all costs.”

[12] Feral cats, kale, and arguing on Facebook about food and animals.

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