Operation Nix-the-Petting-Zoo, Part Deux
Coincidentally, last night was a board meeting for our homeowner's association, and though I wasn't on the agenda there's always time for homeowner comments about, say, the petting zoo and pony rides that are scheduled for the spring "BBQ" (here's part one of this story).
I printed pages of information about petting zoos from the Internet, mostly about health risks but also about animal treatment. Of course none of them come close to the most important reason for my objection: that we have no right to use animals for entertainment or other reasons that are not necessary.
I knew that if I talked about the Center for Disease Control's recommendations about washing stations or proximity to food (which is ironic, considering many of the nonhumans in the petting zoos are also considered "food"), I'd just get a rehearsed statement about the practices of the vendor being in full compliance. And there's not much from the health angle for pony rides. Most important, the event will require scores of dead animals to nosh on, so objecting to using animals for entertainment is a less-than-optimal approach.
The event will also have a bounce house and a handful of other activities for children. Basically, it's for children who eat animals and their parents. There's really nothing there for people like my husband and me; we're not the target market. And realistically, availability of a vegan burger isn't going to make me want to participate.
As for the creation of the picnic, there was no event committee. The board made the decisions based on what other communities have done (uneventfully and successfully, by their standards).
Here's what I learned and will do:
- Though I recently ended a complete nightmare of an experience on a couple of boards of directors and have sworn off them, I might have to get involved, perhaps at the committee level. At the very least, I can keep informed about the activities that are being chosen and always send a letter or comment at the meeting from the vegan perspective.
- I touched on all points, focusing on the petting zoo, and will investigate the vendor in case there are any complaints against them. But I should have presented a stronger use argument. When I uttered the words "not everyone in this 350 home community eats and wears animals or believes in using them for entertainment," all board members looked at me as if I was not speaking a language they understand and I think I lost them.
- I couldn't help but ask what kinds of animals were in the petting zoo, where they came from, where they are housed, and whether the kids would get the opportunity to pet the same kinds of animals they would be eating at the event. Is the point a before and after scenario? The reason they gave for the petting zoo and pony rides was that other communities have done them and seemed to like them. Clearly, not a lot of thought went into this decision and it wasn't by consensus of the community. That's what happens when people don't participate.
- Our clubhouse is a large house, complete with a kitchen made for entertaining and I'm going to survey the neighborhood for interest in a vegan cooking class.
- I'm going to send a letter to the board and request that it be added to the minutes, stating my position more clearly.
Did I accomplish anything? That depends. If my goal was to present a perspective the dominant culture isn't used to hearing about, maybe. From the looks on their faces, everything I said was a surprise to them. They should never play poker. If my goal was to nix any part of the event, no chance did I succeed. But at least I showed up and was one tiny voice for the voiceless.