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On Thanksgiving Responses and Black Cat Days

The Final Chapter
The colleague who sent me the Thanksgiving letter that was accompanied by the turkey quiz responded to me with:

Thanks for giving me this important information, Mary…

I’m appreciative of your making me more sensitive to this brutality….and
the implications of animal eating to the environment….

You are a friend and passionate advocate…..My kind of person!

All my best….

Who knows if I made a real difference, but at least I planted a seed. And this is a man who puts his actions where his beliefs are. Maybe he’ll shift his belief system and begin to consider other sentient beings. Maybe he won’t. But at least I tried, and I did it with kindness, which is a far cry from what I would’ve done 20 years ago.

Black Cat Day

"Saturday is ‘black cat day,’ in Italy, an initiative by an animal rights group to try to stop the killing of thousands of the cats by superstitious citizens convinced they bring bad luck." Where did the people of Italy get such a ridiculous idea?

None other than a papal edict in the middle ages said that cats were indeed tools of the devil. And because of that edict, thousands of cats are slaughtered each year.

The Italian Association for the Defense of Animals and the Environment-AIDAA (hey, we need one of those) estimates 60,000 cats were slaughtered last year for several reasons: to ward off bad luck, as part of satanic rites, and in cosmetics laboratories.

And all of that is indeed horrible. But here’s my question: when it comes to abject cruelty that is a result in superstition and outside of institutional uses of animals, why is this about animal rights? Isn’t this a law enforcement issue? Isn’t it against the law to kill cats because you think they’re bad luck? Why did it take an animal rights group to get Italians to see the insanity of their ways? Is the satanic rite an institutional use of animals? Is that why?

Superstition is a tough nut to crack, especially when it’s reinforced by the Pope. Pope Benedict seems obligated to try to turn this thing around with an edict of his own, and use the fact that people will do whatever he says to save some kitty lives. Animal rights groups can do outreach all day long, but if the Pope gets involved, we’ll see some real progress. Write him at

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Most people object to using animals in satanic rituals because they aren't satanists themselves and view this as incredibly cruel and unnecessary. To be fair the founder of the Satanic Church of America was vocal against animal cruelty, so I'm not sure how common satanic animal abuse is.

    In my community there is a lot of Santeria. Actually I know people who grew up in Regala de Ocha (the correct term for what we call Santeria) or even in Vodoun and their families never sacrificed animals. For them it was just the worship of the Orisha. Sometimes I go to the park here and I see veves drawn in white corn meal and I know a peaceful ritual took place there recently. Anyway, many people vocally speak out against Santeria and particularly against the sacrifice of animals in Santeria. Every now and then a bunch of animals are rescued just before sacrifice and people donate money to their care and it often becomes one of those happy ending stories.

    I think we need to turn this on its head and talk about what's really going on. If you object to someone killing a cat in a religious ritual, then stop supporting vivisection, which kills far more cats and other animals in even worse ways. If you think it's barbaric that some people are killing live chickens in a ritual, then don't put a dead turkey in the middle of your table this Thanksgiving. That turkey probably suffered more than the chickens (who are typically raised like pets until they're sold to be killed–they are supposed to look good, not debeaked, etc), and again people are only putting the turkey on the table as part of a ritual they repeat endlessly, often just performing the ritual by rote without really contemplating thanks or peace or any deeper meaning.

    If someone thinks it's cruel to kill black cats out of a belief that they bring bad luck, then work with your local shelter to improve adoptions of black cats and dogs. They are the least adopted and in essence are being killed because people don't like the color of their fur.

    It's ok to get enraged because it seems like animals are being hurt for no reason, but we need to direct that rage toward improving our own culture and making a difference for the largest number of animals. That said I wouldn't discourage anyone from writing to the pope or sending a letter to the editor.

    November 20, 2007
  2. That black cat thing makes me wanna cry. I remember when we were adopting our cats, I kept hearing from various folks involved in rescue that black cats were the first that got killed in kill shelters & the last to be adopted, generally: because either people were superstitious & didn't want them, or they just thought black cats were boring. One of our cats is a 6-year-old (or so we're guessing) black cat who is THE most snuggly, cuddly cat ever, & it makes me cry that he was in a foster home for 2+ years despite being a pretty perfect kitty & super-adoptable, probably for these reasons (that & being an older cat).

    Oh, & yeah–why is this an animal rights issue? I agree, shouldn't the police be involved here?

    Re: Thanksgiving–do you know of any vegan words to say on the day? Not necessarily prayers (in that I'm not looking for anything religious), but just peaceful words? I know I could say something off the cuff, but I've been doing a little googling for inspiration & haven't been able to find a ton. I'm hoping you or your readers might have some ideas! I like John Robbins' "may all be fed, may all be healed, may all be loved" (I think that's it), but can't seem to find anything specifically Thanksgiving-ish.

    November 20, 2007
  3. I think of the pope as a celebrity. People listen to him. A lot of them. And if he comes out against eating animals (fat chance, although I know he has come out against factory farming and I recall he doesn't eat meat) or against this one issue of the treatment of cats/black cats, that could save thousands of lives each year (tens of thousands, even), and I do think it's worth an e-mail. I know it doesn't address the larger issue, but these days, I take every discontinuing of the usage of an animal that I can get.

    I will think about a short message, and also a longer one for you all, and post it early tomorrow.

    November 20, 2007
  4. I hope this inititive has great success. But of course other peoples ridiculous beliefs are easier to see than our own. We farm animals to and mutilate them willingly to serve other old and newly invented superstitions like the use of deer velvet to enhance male virility or the drinking of milk to lose weight.

    November 20, 2007
  5. I'm a big fan of the idea that what we have is a case of "newly-invented superstitions" when it comes to animals and their body parts and their secretions. From the rabbit's foot to manly men eating beef to, as you said Emily, drinking milk to lose weight, as have certainly managed to convince ourselves that animal parts make us better people. Interesting . . .

    November 20, 2007

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