Tiny, She’s Shiny
My name is Pam Ahern and to many people, I have become synonymous with pigs and farmed animals—for after all, it was a pig who trotted into my world in 2003 and changed both of our lives forever. But what not so many people know is that it was a little one-time stray cat named Tiny who first ignited my fascination and love for animals in all of their glorious forms—something the passage of time has failed to extinguish.
Little Tiny and her “plus one” Blackie were the first animals to ever grace my world. Rounding out the four-legged contingent of our family was Laddie, an affable yet goofy black Labrador who often mistook me for a tree as we became constant companions and together navigated every inch of our family’s backyard.
To Laddie I was the most important person in the world. Through his gentle presence, I learned of the unreserved loyalty of dogs that so easily lends itself to the self-sacrifices dogs make in saving their humans.
While I loved all three dearly, they were all different. If Tiny was sweet and affectionate and never complained as she became my surrogate doll, indulging me all the while I pushed her about in a pram, Blackie was not. Standoffish, aloof and most unaccommodating of my childhood whims was he. While Tiny loved cuddles and would often dribble in delight, Blackie preferred his own company and would ferociously defend his self-imposed demarcation zone with hisses and scratches—woe to anyone foolish enough to try and cross this line.
Eagerly anticipating my slumber time, she could be found waiting on my bed; patiently she sat as I arranged myself, then she would paw at the sheets, and then it was her turn for arranging herself. I would gently move my hand to her tummy where it would become lost in her fur and she would purr and purr. My mum told me that magical sound meant she was happy, and because I loved my dear Tiny, I would try to stay awake as long as I could to oblige her. All too often, though, sleep pulled me away and Tiny didn’t get all that much of a tummy rub. But I gave her my solemn promise that when I grew up I would get a job that paid me lots of money so that I could employ someone to rub her tummy.
Sadly, though, as I have grown and greyed, I never got to fulfil that promise to dear Tiny, as I heartbreakingly learned that our animal friends do not live as long as we humans. But I stand here today to in some way honour the lives of those three beautiful individuals who enriched my life so. And I stand here today to speak up for their not-so-fortunate brethren, the ones who will never know the kindness and warmth of a young girl’s love or the safety provided by a loving family of which they could become an integral part.
Sadly, though, as I have grown and greyed, I never got to fulfil that promise to dear Tiny, as I heartbreakingly learned that our animal friends do not live as long as we humans. But I stand here today to in some way honour the lives of those three beautiful individuals who enriched my life so.
I doubt there would be a person present today whose life has not felt the gentle paw of a cat or soft tongue of a dog as both left an indelible mark on your heart. Chances are that’s why you are here. And no doubt too that same heart and your mind have not escaped a hauntingly distressing image of cats and dogs who have been crudely, cruelly and without an ounce of compassion trussed up for the cat and dog meat trade and no doubt your heart and mind have been sickened. With culture and custom being no justification for cruelty, compassionate hearts around the globe are rightly demanding an end to this needless and barbaric trade that is a blight on us all.
We here in Australia pride ourselves on being an animal-loving nation: we shower billions of dollars each year on the animals who share our hearts and our homes, and we have enshrined our staunch protection of animals into law. It is called the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, but, as many of you know, when it comes to our protection of animals, we truly have been guilty of playing favourites. Treating animals not on their ability to suffer or experience the world and all of her magic, but rather the form an animal has taken, our familiarity with that animal, along with the intended use we have for that animal, has shaped the protection they receive. It is for this reason I have long championed the cause of the animals who are farmed for food and fibre. But the inconsistencies in our animal protection laws are not that simple, nor do they end here.
In October 2002, a man was seen in an outer Melbourne suburb clutching a plastic bag that contained a 10-week-old Staffordshire cross puppy, gesturing to shocked onlookers that he intended to eat the hapless animal. What followed next sent animal lovers into a spin and media into a frenzy, as our flawed animal protection legislation was shown to be even more flawed as it became evident that cats and dogs had too fallen through the gaps that had long claimed farmed animals. You see, provided that man did not kill the puppy in a manner that contravened the act nor sells the meat, he had not broken any law. Sixteen years on and little has changed, for in every state and territory of Australia, except South Australia, it remains legal to eat cats and dogs.
The fact that so little has been done to close this loophole begs the question: Why? Why have we lacked the courage to do so? Why is it that we are so quick to point a judgmental finger at other nations whose treatment of animals is less than stellar, yet back here at home we haven’t even gotten our own house in order.
It is after all an accident of geography that the family dog is our friend and not our food. I think the answer as to why our society has side-stepped this important issue lies in a couple of quotes that came out as a result of the puppy in a plastic bag incident just mentioned. The puppy’s owner was quoted in the press as saying, “People in Australia go and get a pie, not a dog” and ethicist Nicholas Tonti-Filippini was quoted as saying that he was not ethically opposed to people eating dogs “Providing they’re not somebody else’s dog”. These two statements say far more about our society and our ability to desensitise ourselves to the suffering of some animals than it does about dogs themselves. The then State Minister for Agriculture, Keith Hamilton, vowed he would toughen the meat industry laws to prevent the consumption of dogs and cats—but he didn’t. And so Pandora’s Box remained open.
One of the many things that I truly believe makes our country great is that our laws reflect public thought, they do not drive it. What this means is that we as individuals have enormous power to shape our laws. And I can think of no better time than now, on this Worldwide Dog and Cat Meat Awareness Day to start, and to keep this conversation going with our elected members of government, to be the true best friend of animals and close this loophole and inch us closer to being that kinder world we know is possible. Please, if you haven’t already done so, sign the petitions that are being passed around today and make sure you take this important issue up with your elected representative of state and federal parliament.
W Bruce Cameron, in his thought-provoking and often heart-warming book, “A dog’s purpose”, weaved a tale that looked at the many and varied relationships we humans have with canines. It tugged the reader along to the irrevocable conclusion that love never dies and that every being who treads, paws, clip-clops, swims or flies upon this earth has a purpose. And although as a small child I thought my purpose was to rub the tummy of my dear cat Tiny, I have now given myself over to the grander one of championing the cause of all animals, knowing that regardless of the form they have taken, they belong in our hearts and not our stomachs.
Petition to end dog and cat meat in all countries https://www.change.org/p/pass-resolution-to-end-dog-and-cat-meat-in-all-countries-around-the-world
Petition to make illegal the eating of cats and dogs in Australia https://www.change.org/p/victorian-government-ban-the-dog-cat-meat-trade-in-australia?recruiter=877385931&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=facebook_link&utm_campaign=share_for_starters_page
Looking to get started on a kinder way of eating www.veganeasy.org