Tag: PETA

Did Pope Francis Really Say Caring For Pets Is ‘Selfish’?

Popes have a mixed record when it comes to cats.

Back in the 13th century Pope Gregory IX famously declared cats were at the heart of alleged Satanic rituals in Europe, relying on the account of one Konrad von Marburg, an author of massacres, church inquisitor and all-around idiot known for brutally torturing his victims to elicit “confessions” of heresy.

Von Marburg told the pope that Satanists had a ritual involving a black cat who would walk around backwards while the Satan-worshipers kissed its ass. The pope bought the risible story and believed von Marburg’s accounts of growing numbers of heretics, especially in Germany.

The resulting papal letter, Vox in Rama, did not declare cats were evil and didn’t ask Catholics to kill them, despite widespread claims to the contrary on the internet, but it did contribute to distrust of the animals a century ahead of the Black Plague, when people thought cats were carrying the disease.

The pope who loves cats

Then there’s the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI with two kittens in 2017. Credit: The Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI Foundation.

Cat lovers around the world rejoiced when it was revealed Pope Benedict was a cat lover and had two pet felines of his own. Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, said Benedict was wild about kitties.

“The street talk that the pope loves cats is incorrect,” Mahoney said in 2005. “The pope adores cats.”

Catholics petitioned Benedict to help with animal welfare causes and to lend his support to efforts to help the many stray cats of Rome.

Francis the Saint and Francis the Pope

That brings us to our current pope, Francis. The elevation of Francis was met with approval from animal lovers: His chosen papal name honors St. Francis of Assisi, a Radagast the Brown type figure who lived a life of luxury as a wealthy playboy and party-goer until he had a religious conversion, sold all his possessions and became a monk.

St. Francis believed true faith in God meant having a deep respect for animals. While it’s not clear what’s true and what’s apocryphal, there are stories of Francis preaching to birds, nursing various animals back to health and even convincing a wolf to stop attacking a village in Italy in exchange for the villagers feeding it. St. Francis was by all accounts gentle with animals and appreciative of nature.

St. Francis is revered in the Catholic church and beloved by groups like the Humane Society. He is the patron saint of animals, and on his feast day Catholics bring their pets to be blessed at church.

Pope_Francis
Pope Francis during a visit with former US Vice President Mike Pence. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Pope Francis continued his namesake’s work with Laudato Si, a papal encyclical which endeared him to animal lovers all over the world.

The encyclical was notable for the church’s strongest language yet in advocating for protecting and respecting animals. PETA made Pope Francis its person of the year in 2015, and the pope was feted by many other animal welfare groups across the world.

In Laudato Si, Francis explicitly rejected the idea that animals are resources for humans to exploit, asserted the Catholic view that animal life has intrinsic value, and called on human beings to be stewards of animals and the Earth. Abusing and exploiting animals is “beneath human dignity,” he wrote, and the associated desensitization and heartlessness of practices like factory farming are a stain on the human race.

Animals, the pope wrote, not only have souls but will “take their place” in heaven, “resplendently transfigured” in the presence of God. He also pointed out the disastrous effects we’re having on wildlife by destroying habitats, carving up the remaining land, over-fishing the oceans, poaching and hunting.

What Francis said about pets

So why are people suddenly upset with the pope?

He made some off-the-cuff remarks about people choosing pets over children, said it was “selfish” to choose the former, and brought up the plight of the world’s orphans. He pointed out that people collectively spend hundreds of billions on pet food and products while humans in the third world lack basic things like clean water, food and medicine. He also said “denying” motherhood and fatherhood leaves us spiritually poorer, as the experience brings us closer to God.

As usual any time a pope speaks, his statements are taken out of context and rehashed in the media. That’s expected, especially in the age of clickbait, the 140-character tweet and the 15-second news segment. Pope Francis gets himself into trouble by sometimes speaking too candidly when he should know his message will be garbled by gatekeepers and information filters, leading to strong reactions to things he didn’t actually say.

The pope wasn’t condemning keeping pets across the board, and he wasn’t saying all pet owners are selfish. His comments were made in the context of a larger discussion on universally declining birth rates in developed countries, specifically Europe’s “demographic winter,” also called a “demographic time bomb.”

In simple terms, Europe’s population is rapidly aging and birth rates are historically low. Populations are dying off, there are fewer people to care for the elderly, and there aren’t enough babies to replace the dead. The average age in Europe is 43, which is 12 years older than the average in the rest of the world.

COVID has compounded the problem, partly due to social distancing and partly due to economic uncertainty as a ripple effect of the virus. Of course it isn’t all that simple, and the demographic winter’s wider effects are complex and well beyond the scope of this blog.

It also helps to remember the Catholic Church has a strong social justice streak. Not the kind that involves writing snarky tweets and first world problems, but real social justice through charity, schools, scholarships, food banks, shelters, soup kitchens, hospitals and innumerable other efforts.

The pope’s background as a native of Argentina, a former janitor and chemist who became the first Latin American pontiff, also colors his outlook. He doesn’t hesitate to call out the hypocrisy of first-world nations, and although we don’t like to hear it, most of the time we need to. After almost two thousand years of popes existing in or near the world’s seats of power, for the first time we have a pope who grew up from the outside looking in.

That’s not to say I agree with everything Pope Francis had to say on the matter, but I think it’s also important to recognize that he didn’t just take shots at people who care for pets out of the blue, and he didn’t condemn people for caring for animals.

The Adoptaversary of the King

We’re celebrating Buddy’s belated adoptaversary this weekend. I don’t know exactly when he was born, so we usually mark the occasion on the third weekend in April, which is when I brought Buddy home.

What better way to celebrate than with catnip, Buddy Biscuits treats and his beloved laser pointer?

It’s partay time! Nom nom!
Hilaria buys an Espanish cat, PETA doesn’t approve

Hilaria Baldwin, the indefatigable child collector, has added another little one to her family, but this time it’s a cat. As the San Jose Mercury News notes, as Hilaria “tries to move past her Spanish heritage scandal, she’s been flooding her Instagram with cute family photos from her busy ‘Baldwinito’ household.”

The new cat, Emilio Cookie Baldwin, is a Bengal purchased from a breeder who “specializes in producing pricey, exotic-looking hybrid cats that originate from crossing a domestic cat with an Asian leopard.” In an unusually mild rebuke (the Baldwinitos are donors to the charity), PETA issued a statement saying there’s “no doubt that [the Baldwins] didn’t realize what the impact of buying a cat from a breeder is” and that, “had they known, we’re sure that they would have gone to an animal shelter and adopted a cat who might otherwise die for the lack of a good home.”

No word yet on whether Emilio knows “how you say in English, cucumber.”

Hilaria Baldwin’s Spanish child holds her Spanish cat, Emilio. Credit: Hillary Thomas/Instagram
The First Cat

After announcing they were going to adopt a cat, the Bidens have been unusually coy about the who, what and when. Now Jill Biden says a female cat is “waiting in the wings” and will join the family soon. The arrival of the mystery cat will mark the first time since the George W. Bush administration that a cat has occupied the White House. Before India, the Bush family’s cat, there was the Clintons’ cat Socks, who became so famous the White House had a full-time staffer answering his fan mail. Socks even had his own video game in development, which was sadly unreleased but is available for download as abandonware for anyone who can’t get enough Socks.

Socks was a popular little fellow. Credit: The White House
Plagiarists and content thieves be warned

After I went searching for one of my old posts this week and found it had been plagiarized, a casual search turned up five (!) sites that have stolen my work, stripped it of credit, and posted it as their own content — and that was based on search strings from only three of my posts. Who knows how many others have been lifted?

Two of those posts were stolen by sites that copy the Bored Panda model of finding content on the internet and monetizing it. At least Bored Panda contacts the content owners, credits them and links back to them. These other guys just steal content from people like me, present it as their own and profit off of it.

Take a look around: This site does not have a single ad. I have no Patreon account and I don’t ask for donations. This site is a labor of love. At some point I probably will implement limited and tasteful ads, but in the meantime it’s kind of a slap in the face to find your own content has been stolen and has been used to make money for thieves.

So a fair warning to anyone else who might be tempted to steal content from PITB: I’ll go right to Google, file a DMCA and get your AdSense account suspended. I have zero tolerance for plagiarism and content-scraping. It’s no different than walking into a store, stealing products off the shelves and turning around to sell them. Worse, actually, since writers are rarely well-compensated. Fall back!

Sunday Cats: The Man Who Saves Fukushima’s Felines, Ridiculous Cat Names and More

Saving Fukushima’s Forgotten Felines

It’s hard to believe that March 11 will mark 10 years since the tsunami-caused nuclear disaster at Fukushima. While more than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes to avoid the initial reactor meltdowns and resulting fallout, Sakae Kato stayed to care for the animals who were left behind.

His main focus is Fukushima’s cats, and he cares for 41 kitties who live in his home and a nearby building he owns, per The Guardian, which has a photo gallery via Reuters illustrating Kato’s efforts.

The Fukushima disaster was the worst nuclear accident since the infamous Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. Like the area surrounding Chernobyl, a no-go exclusion zone exists around the disaster site and will not be deemed fit for human habitation for perhaps hundreds of years. While scientists are still learning about the consequences for wildlife, animal populations have flourished in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, where they’re isolated from humans.

Exclusion Zone

Ridiculous and amusing cat names

If you’re planning on adopting any time soon or you’ve got an as-yet-unnamed furball and need some help finding a good name, you might find inspiration in this list from Reader’s Digest.

There are celebrity-inspired names (Kitty Purry, Catalie Portman, Bob Meowley, Cat Dennings, Catrick Swayze), Star Trek-inspired names (Captain Purrcard, Levar Purrton, William Catner, Leonard Nemeow), literary names (Haruki Purrakami is my favorite along with Holden Clawfield and Stelmaria), names inspired by history (Mewlius Caesar, Fuzz Aldrin), and names from the world of sports (Catfish Hunter, Meowhammad Ali). There are even food- and personality-driven names.

Thai sailors get props from PETA

The Thai Royal Navy sailors’ heroics went viral when they rescued four cats from a sinking fishing ship earlier this week. Now they’ve earned PETA’s “Hero to Animals” award.

“These sailors’ courageous and compassionate actions have made a splash with kind people around the world,” PETA senior vice president Jason Baker said. “PETA hopes their example will inspire everyone to keep an eye out for animals in danger and do whatever it takes to get them to safety.”

Declawing: Florida Moves Ahead On Ban, Ozzy Osbourne Joins PETA Campaign

A ban on declawing passed a key committee vote in Florida this week, while Black Sabbath frontman and reality TV star Ozzy Osbourne has become the new face of a PETA campaign against the harmful practice.

Florida aims to become the second US state to ban the elective and harmful procedure after our home state, New York, passed the country’s first statewide ban on declawing in 2019.

The Florida bill, which was introduced in August, was approved by the state senate’s agricultural committee by a 4-1 vote on Tuesday. It’s expected to pass two more committee votes before it goes to a final vote on the senate floor.

The ban would levy relatively stiff penalties for owners and veterinarians who ignore the law. The former would face fines of $1,000 per cat, while veterinarians would be fined $5,000 per cat, as well as discipline from the state’s Board of Veterinary Medicine.

Meanwhile, Osbourne and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have teamed up for a public announcement campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the damage declawing does to cats.

The ads feature a striking image of Osbourne holding up both hands, with his fingers severed at the first knuckle to illustrate what’s done to cats during the procedure. It’s bloody, like Osbourne’s long-time stage antics, and controversial, like many PETA campaigns.

“Amputating a cat’s toes is twisted and wrong,” Osbourne said, per PETA. “If your couch is more important to you than your cat’s health and happiness, you don’t deserve to have an animal! Get cats a scratching post—don’t mutilate them for life.”

Ozzy Osbourne in PETA's declawing ad
Ozzy Osbourne poses for a bloody anti-declawing ad in cooperation with PETA. Credit: PETA