It has always seemed to me that an atypically high proportion of vegans are cat owners. Alas, this is a subject that continues to elude dedicated scientific study, therefore leaving the subsequent argument tottering precariously on my own powers of observation. Full disclosure, I have a glasses prescription of -5.00 and have been branded a daydreamer by thirteen years’ worth of report cards. What’s more, when I look at the White House, Foreign Office and Manchester United technical area, I find it hard to look beyond all the arseholery to the grand statesmen patently seen by large swathes of the western world. So I clearly, when all is taken into account, have worse than average powers of observation.
But these below-par eyes do allow me to see one thing, and that is the inherent paradox of vegans owning cats. The entire vegan mindset is built around circumventing any vestige of the ‘hunter’ we might retain, such as ‘meat hunger’ or our bodies’ capacity to break down the proteins and fats of meat. Instead, they orientate our position in the food chain around more uniquely human, cerebral traits; they utilise their power as compassionate, rational actors and chose not to support a system that mistreats animals. Which begs the question, why do so many chose to bring into their homes the domestic equivalent of Patrick Bateman? Just like that eponymous American Psycho, the cat is urbane, the sleekest of all household pets, and seemingly the least inclined to dirtying that groomed fur with anything so base as violence. But just watch those violent impulses fire up in the hypothalamus when the next unlucky mouse crosses it path.
You might say that the remit of the vegan is to affect change by making conscientious lifestyle decisions, not by reprogramming the thought processes of an animal. No one who decides to be vegan in their New Years resolution envisages themselves running some quasi-pavlovian conditioning centre out of their garage. However, buying a cat supports the kitten economy, thereby keeping cat numbers high, thereby loosing record numbers of these furry sadists into our neighbourhoods. How many more innocent birds must be dismembered by axe to the strains of Huey Lewis and the News before we act?
Is this not, then, rank hypocrisy? Because it certainly seems like a hierarchical speciesism in which garden birds and mice possess no rights, farmyard animals acquire mythic significance, and cats have carte blanche to murder. The only type of utopia this resembles is that of Stalinist Russia.
What, you might ask, prompts vegans to turn sympathiser to feline bastard? Well reader, to my mind, their affinity for cats has a multitude of conceivable roots, first of which is the mystical quality of the animal (Please see: Ancient Egypt, Norse mythology and Thundercats) which goes hand in hand with the asceticism of a life without meat. More prosaically, when viewed in relation to the rest of the country, an unusually high percentage of vegans are likely to be animal lovers. Furthermore, when you’re giving up meat, it’s probably both a real corrective and, frankly, a bit of a buzz to have continuous interaction with a member of the animal kingdom that you know yourself to be doing right by.
But, whatever their reasons, isn’t it the equivalent of a nuclear disarmament campaigner having a cache of carefully cared for mustard gas canisters in the back garden?
We-ell, maybe not quite. When the situation has all the hyperbole hosed off, it does seem to be a contradiction more akin to two ill-fitting jigsaw pieces than to the classical, universe-ending paradox of science fiction. And the reason for this is that it does not invalidate veganism.
Despite, or perhaps because of, living in the age of information, our world is one in which convictions and life choices (and, ahem, articles) constantly risk being undermined by a new snippet of info. In which case, the only natural response is not to fold oneself into apathy and scepticism, but to make choices and decisions based on what you know and feel, to run the risk of ridicule and being proven wrong.
It’s very easy to mock the holier-than-thou attitude and finickiness of vegans. But, as the environmental impact of concentrated farming increases, as expanding populations put strain on food supply, and as the health implications of excessive red meat become better known, to mock vegans is to find oneself on the same page as Noah’s neighbours, laughing at that fool for setting his whole family to work on such a large, boat-shaped garden feature.
Is it strange that vegans keep cats? Yes, considering everything. But should we chop down each and every movement that aims to do something positive on charges of hypocrisy? Even I can see the answer to that question.