The Ghosts In Our Machine

LUSH Vancouver Ghost-Free Journey: Day 3, Part 1

Photograph by Jo-Anne McArthur

So far, we have explored diet and fashion aspects of  living Ghost-Free.  You are all looking more closely at how your food comes to your table and how clothes wind up in your closets. Ghosts are all around us….

Animals as Companions/Animals in Captivity

Today, let’s explore how we view non-human animals from the perspective of sharing our lives with them, learning about them, and learning from them.  As an example: have you ever thought about the ethics behind breeding vs. adopting from a shelter or rescue group?   How do you feel about visiting a zoo or aquarium to learn about animals or to teach children about them?  LUSH is known as company against animal-testing, how has this impacted your views on this topic?

For the Ghosts,

Coaches Rosemary and Donna

The opinions we express as GFJ Coaches are ours personally. We are not professional health practitioners.  Neither are we treating a specific health care issue.  That means we are not offering advice on health-care problems. If you  are experiencing a health-care problem, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. However we are experienced, practicing vegans and we look forward to coaching you on your journey.


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  1. Laura May 15, 2013 at 10:49 am

    I’m definitely vehemntly pro-rescue when it comes to pets. I fostered for years, and my pup is a rescue, too. I love dogs, and I am so happy to have mine in my life, but there are definite questions about whether it’s ok or not to have animals as companions? I don’t know. Karlo (my dog) is definitely not eating vegan this week, and likely never will, which means I am still buying and cooking chicken as the week goes on. Does having pets in the house, and being able to buy them, encourage people to think of animals as commodities rather than sentient creatures? Or does the bond that you make with a pet allow you to have more compassion for the ghosts?

    In terms of zoos/aquariums… I am of two minds again. I know zoos have breeding programs that have helped preserve some species from extinction. And I think that learning is important, and that seeing the animals in person is a great way to facilitate interest in them, and in protecting them and their environments. That being said I know that conditions are often deplorable. Maybe the answer is better regulation? My answer to everything is always “more government involvement” lol.

    • Jennie May 15, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      I am also still feeding my dogs a raw (meat-based) diet. It may seem like a contradiction since my husband and I are not eating any animal products, but I just can’t wrap my head around switching to vegan dog food. I know that dog’s are omnivores and therefore could have a plant based diet, but I am reluctant to make the switch since my fur kids wouldn’t be able to tell me if they were not feeling good on the new food. Earthsave published an article on feeding your dog a vegan diet in a recent newsletter if anyone is interested;

      I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts!

      • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm

        Hi Jennie!
        I have 3 Italian Greyhounds, they all eat vegan food and are thriving and healthy. I feed them V-Dog, and they absolutely love it on its own, or accompanied with sweet potato, tofu, carrots, etc. I can understand your reluctance to try a new regimen, and may not know how they feel with the change. You may know just by their fur, skin, eyes and demeanor though…just a thought.
        I haven’t read this article, but thank you for posting…I will have to read it.

      • Coach Donna May 15, 2013 at 7:53 pm

        Jennie – I struggle wth the same issue about feeding our dogs a vegan diet (even though I have been vegan for such a long time). The last 4 dogs that we have adopted were great pyrenees who seem quite wolf like. They will not eat veggies (other than french fries)and though I know many people who successfully feed their dogs a vegan diet, I have the same worry that you do and each time that I feed our dog, I feel terribly guilty and hypocritical.

    • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm

      These are great questions, Laura. Sometimes there is such a fine line on these issues, as you point out. Maybe you can share your own personal thoughts about them? You surely have compassion for animals, and a bond with your Karlo, not to mention being active in the rescue/fostering of animals. I think for some people like you, having animal companions is an extension of their compassionate expression, and for some (unfortunately), it for other reasons such as greed, dominance, or objectification. That’s where the government comes in! lol.
      Great questions…let’s keep the discussion going!

      • Laura May 15, 2013 at 5:34 pm

        I guess I am in a position where I don’t have a firm opinion. I see more than one side and I’m not sure what’s right! Obviously having Karl is the best thing to ever happen to me, but if there wasn’t a system churning out abused animals, maybe it would be better for them.

        As long as there are pets to rescue, and I have the means to do it, I will.

        As for zoos/aquariums, I think there needs to be a system overhaul. If they could all be more like sanctuaries, that would be best. I just feel hypocritical coming on here and saying I want them shut down when I did enjoy them when I was younger (and honestly, even more recently than that: seeing penguins was a pretty cool thing!). I sometimes find it hard to reconcile how I feel intellectually with what I want.

        • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm

          Laura, I think it’s great that you are thinking so deeply about this. Thank you for tossing around some thought-provoking ideas for everyone to think about and consider. We definitely need more people like you to rescue and foster!
          I can understand what you mean, when you say you are feeling hypocritical about wanting to shut down zoo’s when you enjoyed them so much as a youngster. We have all participated in the use of animals in some way, shape, or form. You are obviously a very empathic and compassionate person! Now that you are more aware of the Ghosts, your choices will be out of awareness and consciousness.
          Feeling like you’re in conflict about what you feel and what you want can be a very difficult dilemma to reconcile for sure! Melanie Joy, the author of “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cow’s” talks extensively about this (cognitive dissonance) in her book. Another favorite of mine…check it out, you may really like this if you haven’t already read it.

        • Coach Donna May 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm

          Laura – I couldn’t say it any better than Rosemary. The fact that you are thinking so deeply about this is wonderful. It’s easy in many ways to think of things as black or white. Seeing the shades of grey makes for lots of soul searching – exactly what this journey is all about.

        • Kendra May 15, 2013 at 11:46 pm

          I think this is a really difficult thing to take a definitive stance on. For me, I rationalize my decision as an adult to not visit zoos a lot the same way I do for not eating meat. Yes, I would really like some bacon, but I just choose not to now that I can. The same goes for zoos: a lot of animals are so cool to see and I want to see them, but when I realize they’re subjected to a life lived in difficult conditions, I can make the hard decision to not give my money to support this treatment. Maybe their is a penguin rescue or sanctuary you can visit somewhere Laura, lol?

    • Melissa May 15, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      I think that Laura brings up a really interesting question, which is one that I think about quite often myself- “Does having pets in the house, and being able to buy them encourage people to think of animals as commodities rather than sentient creatures? Or does the bond that you make with a pet allow you to have more compassion for the ghosts?” I have been an animal lover my whole life, (often preferring their company to that of humans, lol) and I can’t help but feel it is because I have always had pets in the house. In addition, I have experienced the loss of a pet multiple times, which I feel has made me a more empathetic, and compassionate person in general. I realize that there are some blurry lines between whether or not it is okay to have animals as companions, but I also feel like having animals in my home has made me so more aware of the part that they play for me. For example, I remember at age 9 telling my mom that I would never eat meat again because a chicken could be my companion just as easily as my cat was. It’s difficult though because you can absolutely see the other side as well…

      • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

        Some deep reflection and thought for these questions!

        Here is another resource that examines the topic of dominion over animals from a legal and philosophical perspective in detail, written by Lee Hall, JD. “On Their Own Terms”.

        Another one of my favorites, that looks at this from mainly a historical and spiritual perspective, is “The World Peace Diet” by Will Tuttle.

        • Melissa May 15, 2013 at 3:48 pm

          Fantastic! Thank you, Rosemary. I will absolutely be checking those out.

        • Kendra May 15, 2013 at 11:34 pm

          These sound like really awesome references, and I too will be sure to check them out. Maybe one as a book club read, Melissa?

  2. Elizabeth May 15, 2013 at 11:31 am

    I got stuck in the “I want a specific puppy” mindset and that is why I purchased my dog from a breeder. I did like the fact that I could go to my breeders house, meet her family, see where the dogs were raised, and meet his parents. Would I do this again? I don’t think so. I brought Gaston (my French bulldog) into my life at a time where I gave little to no thought about these types of questions. There are so many furry friends that need a good home that I would love to adopt next time.

    I am with Laura about the Zoo/Aquarium question. I love love love animals and it always amazes me seeing them in person. I also feel that the conservation programs are important. I think conditions/regulations definitely need to be better. I also think it is important for Aquariums and Zoos to focus on educating the public rather than putting on a show for us.

    • Kendra May 15, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      Bitsie, I specifically had you and Julia in mind when I was thinking about the positive experience with breeders. I don’t think you should be made to feel guilty about having such a lovely pup, and it’s so encouraging to see that you’d consider getting a dog from a shelter or rescue in the future! As you know from our LUSH chihuahuas, there are a lot of groups that exist now that recover specific breeds, so maybe there will be a group like this that you can go to for a rescue instead.

  3. Nina May 15, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I have learned through Jo-Anne McArthur’s work that there is a very big distinction between sanctuaries and zoos. Sanctuaries are designed around the needs of the animals, not human entertainment. If human entertainment/education is in the equation at all in a sanctuary, it is secondary to the real needs of the animals. Zoos are designed to entertain humans, sometimes under the guise of research and/or education. I am 100% for sanctuaries but I find zoos deeply depressing.
    Aquariums – based on the interviews that were conducted during the Ghosts In Our Machine, I learned that highly intelligent mammals do not thrive in aquariums. If only we could create more marine sanctuaries…

  4. Kelly May 15, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I struggle a lot with this one. On one hand, the time I have spent with animals has turned me into the animal lover I am today. On the other hand, I really can’t be ok with how animals are held in small cages. It is unnatural that these beings are captured even if their basic needs are met. I have made a vow to only visit animals in the wild and in sanctuaries. I will have more on this later…

    • Jennie May 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm

      I wonder if someone is planning a trip to the pig sanctuary??…Kelly?

      • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

        Wonderful idea! The personal 1:1 interaction with farmed animals is so much fun, powerful and eye-opening. One visit to Farm Sanctuary in NY, and that was the day that I began my vegan journey 🙂
        Do you have many sanctuaries in the area?

        • Kelly May 15, 2013 at 2:19 pm

          I will contact the Pig Santuary… let’s discuss some dates, Jennie!!

          • Laura May 15, 2013 at 5:28 pm

            I would LOVE to go too, if possible!

          • Elizabeth May 15, 2013 at 5:47 pm

            Me too!!

      • Melissa May 15, 2013 at 2:56 pm

        I want to go! I have never been near pigs!

        • Coach Donna May 15, 2013 at 8:10 pm

          How wonderful – sounds like you are all going to have a fantastic field-trip!!

          • Kelly May 15, 2013 at 10:32 pm

            I will try to organize something for all interested peeps!

  5. Bojana May 15, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    Although I loved visiting zoos as a kid because animals were so interesting to watch,as a grown up, I stay away.Last time I visited zoo was couple of years ago and I decided that would be my last time,as I left feeling sad.I remember thinking how zoos perpetuate the idea that animals are our property and therefore we could do whatever we want with them. Also,I couldn’t help but to think that zoos are created for the purpose of profit and as such, the animals’ rights and welfare are often compromised. Most zoos give the animals too little space and not enough mental or physical stimulation.Also,their habitats are not even close to those in nature.So,like Nina,I am 100% pro sanctuaries and same applies to aquariums.Sanctuaries can also be educational and are certainly less depressing.

    • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

      Bojana, I completely agree and share the same experience. Thank you for sharing your thoughts 🙂

    • Elizabeth May 15, 2013 at 2:02 pm

      Bojana, I had that experience when visiting the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Even at a young age, I vowed to never go there again. All the animals looked so depressed and were in extremely small cages.

  6. Jennie May 15, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    Liberation BC has a great list of local animal groups on their website. Perhaps visiting some of these rescues or getting involved with animal welfare volunteer or fundraiser activities will be a good alternative for families who want their kids to learn about animals, but who don’t want to support zoos and aquariums?

  7. Aimee May 15, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    My family and I do want a pet, and will 100% adopt. We aren’t ready yet–we’ve just moved this spring, and we’ve told our 5 year old (desperate for a dog) that it’s like getting a new brother or sister, so we really have to all be ready for it.

    I’m not wild about animals in captivity, (puns always intended, sorry) but I don’t know as much as I’m sure there is to on this. I don’t readily go to the Zoo, even though I think San Francisco’s is nicer than many–and I was shocked to learn on the GFJ website how few are accredited. Sickening.

    As a parent this kind of thing comes up all the time–field trip at the Aquarium, birthday party at the Zoo, oh look! the circus is in town and Grandpa bought you two tickets… I can make my own fashion choices (and theirs, for a few more years) and other things (though there was revolt over Almond Milk)
    –but I anticipate this aspect of our journey will be pretty complicated for me, and my family. I just hope I can shed light for them what I am learning, and if nothing else, open up conversation and get my kids thinking bigger about these things. Would love pointers on books or other resources to introduce kids (5, and 2) to these topics as well. Many thanks!

  8. Aimee May 15, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Thank you! After I posted I remembered a book I do have (and have read a lot) to my kids that I got from a Chimpanzee Sanctuary. It’s probably still boxed up but I will try to find it this week, it’s a good one aimed at kids. I’ll post it once I find it.
    We have visited several sanctuaries as a family, those seem much happier spots for animals to live, and are much easier on my conscience!

  9. Sasha May 15, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Today i found a video from one very famous circus in Russia. It was made by one of there employees. She recorded how they treat animals there. It’s horrible.. And unfortunately it happenes not only in that specific one. Kids like cercus it’s fun but not a lot of people think what happening on the back of the stage.. I stoped going to the zoo long time ago.. it’s hard for me to see big animals being trapped in the cages.. I think there lots of different ways to learn about animals..
    I don’t mind have pets at home. I have a pitbul (she is in Russia with my mom now).

  10. Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Sasha, the video sounds heartbreaking and difficult to watch. I wonder how many people would stop going to circuses if they

  11. Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Just a reminder, please take a look at the
    “Learn” section of this main website and click on “Zoo’s and Aquaria” for more resources and information 🙂

  12. lizmars May 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Hello Friends of the Ghosts!

    Take a moment to join THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE facebook page and share some of your acquired practical wisdom. We have been fostering dialogue and community for 2-years, with people all over the world. We want them to come here to this online forum and read and comment!


    Liz Marshall

  13. Melanie May 15, 2013 at 4:00 pm

    Hiyall!!!!! Hope i’m not too late!!!! I have to say that you guys are all AWESOME for doing this journey!!!! speaking from experience, I’m coming up on 2 years now and it has definitely changed my life!!!! We’ve expanded our family with the rescue of our Abbey & Maggie and couldn’t see our lives without them!
    I was never a big meat eater to start off with, but the help & support I received was something you’ll never get anywhere! Rosemary, Donna & Nina and the rest of the team are a wealth of knowledge and always there when you need them and i’m so proud & honoured to call them my FRIENDS!!!!!

    • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 4:09 pm

      Thank you for joining in, Melanie!

      For those who have not seen the film yet, you may not know about Abby and Maggie’s story. Melanie and Mark adopted Abby and Maggie (in the feature photo above) from a teaching facility. Melanie decided to do a GFJ almost 2 years ago.

      When it comes to the issue of captivity and confinement, sweet Abby and Maggie have come a long way from those days. Melanie, you are such a devoted and loyal Mum to them both. They are lucky and so are you! xo

      • Nina May 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm

        I second Rosemary’s statement – Melanie it is really wonderful to see how you and ‘the girls’ are all transforming together. You are such a tender caregiver!

    • lizmars May 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm

      Melanie: You have participated in this project on so many levels. You and your family are a featured story in THE GHOSTS IN OUR MACHINE documentary, and you have gone much further, learning about all animal industries. You have a huge heart, and you are a wonderful mother to Maggie & Abbey – your 2 rescued beagles.



    • Melissa May 15, 2013 at 4:57 pm

      Melanie, I got a chance to see the film last week and you and your story was so incredibly heartwarming. I have a soft spot for Beagles after sitting for one for a couple of weeks and I can only imagine how amazing it would be to share a home with those two beauties! Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Coach Donna May 15, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      Melanie – YOU are awesome. The love that you and Mark have given to Maggie and Abbey is truly beautiful. It was a pleasure to be a part of your journey. xoxoxo

    • Danielle Legg May 15, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      Melanie, it’s SO amazing to see how far you’ve come! I remember when you were participating in the GFJ, meeting you, and just getting to know you over time. It’s been so inspiring! I’d give you a giant hug if I could xoxox

  14. Kendra May 15, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    This topic is definitely a more difficult one to broach, I think. The loss of my cat a few years ago was one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with. I think I alienated a lot of people around the time it happened because I couldn’t believe how unsympathetic/empathetic people were. I spent more time with her than my own parents and siblings, and yet I was treated so strangely when I wanted to grieve. She was more than a companion, she was honestly one of my best friends, even if we couldn’t communicate through language. I think a lot of people are careless or even reckless when assessing the responsibility of having a pet because they think pets are lesser in some way. I think if pets are loved and their human providers have the means to support them in any imaginable circumstance, then people should definitely commit to finding one. Having a pet is as enriching as having a wonderful human friend, or even more so. The next time I am ready to get a pet, I think I’ll definitely get one from a shelter or rescue as opposed to a breeder. I know there are a lot of reputable breeders, but I also know a number of people that have had devastating experiences with bad breeders and the awful outcomes, such as inbreeding. Plus, there are just so many animals that need adopting.

    I grew up close to the Vancouver Zoo as well as one that used to exist in Penticton. The one in Penticton seemed more like a sanctuary, as a lot of the animals were able to roam in acres of free space, but I remember even then (back in the 80s) thinking how sad it was to have zebras and other crazy foreign animals in the climatically diverse Okanagan. The Vancouver Zoo was always depressing to visit, right from the first time I went. To see such majestic, powerful beasts confined to such indignant conditions was so, so sad, and the VZ is probably one with good conditions and care. Committing animals to a lifetime of display, mistreatment, and abuse in zoos and circuses is not right. I know I learned more from school, textbooks, and the internet than any zoo or dissection ever taught me, so I think we should do away with these altogether if this is the reason they continue to give to keep these institutions/programs around.

    • Coach Rosemary May 15, 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Thank you for sharing your profound experience with us, Kendra. The deep connection you felt is something that many people don’t understand or may have never felt themselves. I hope the joyful times with your kitty is held in your heart forever. <3

      • Kendra May 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm

        Thank you for the supportive feedback Rosemary. It’s definitely easier now to look back on what a great companion dear Misty Blue was than to be sad that she’s gone, although I do still have those days where I really, really miss her. There’s a quote that I really like from Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which in the novel reflects the death of a human friend, but that I adopted to deal with the end of any beloved life: “And how can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?”

    • Coach Donna May 15, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Kendra – I’m so sorry that you had uncarung and unsympathetic reactions when you lost your beloved cat. It can make the experience doubly painful. There are still people who have not experienced the intense bonding with an animal that you have. Because of the lack of this wonderful experience, they are sometimes at a loss of what to do or say.
      I remember many years ago when I just started a new job. My boss was an older man who loved his dog very much. He always talked to me about his dog because he knew how much I loed animals. When his dog died, I was the only one that he told – he told me that he was afraid that if people weren’t sympathetic, he would lose it.
      How sad that in our time of needing consolation we are afraid to reach out to others because they might lack the sensitivity and empathy.
      I completely agree with how enriching it is to live with a companion animal – the love is so pure and beautiful.

      • Kendra May 15, 2013 at 11:22 pm

        Thank you Donna for your personal reference on this point. Sometimes I feel crazy the amount I love animals, and it literally sickens me when people can be so callous and apathetic toward their welfare.
        I am sure your boss was so grateful that he had you to confide in about his loss, and that he was able to draw such invaluable support from you.
        Although my cat’s death showed me the vacuousness of some of my friends at the time, it also showed me that I was fortunate to have others that understood my grief and who supported me. Melissa and my sisters probably especially, but also my dad. I had never nor have since seen him cry except the day Misty finally past away after a long illness, and it was such a terrible and awesome moment. I realized that so much of my empathy came from him, and I never knew this until her death because he was so steely most of the time. I know I am fortunate to have such support.

    • Emily May 15, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      Some parts of the issue are very clear cut for me, I think animals in captivity for entertainment or research is absolutely wrong. I feel like there is no enclosure large enough for animals like Cetacea or wolves.
      I feel more conflicted about pets and companion animals, I think that there should be more rigorous regulation on having pets, and the pet industry.
      I’ve read that dogs and humans pretty much coevolved, dogs got the benifit of shelter, food and protection from larger predators, and humans were able to domesticate sheep with dogs to protect the flocks from predators. I feel like dogs and humans are able to connect deeply and that we both still benifit from each others companionship. When it comes to animals like snakes or rodents feel like there are more cruelty/confinement issues that make me uncomfortable but I haven’t had any real contact with these types of animals.
      Does anyone have or know someone with a pet that lives in a cage/tank? Do you feel like the animal has a fulfilling life?

      • Kendra May 16, 2013 at 12:08 am

        Emily- I used to work with a guy that bred Ball Pythons, which grew to be huge and were kept in probably the largest tanks that someone can have in their home (about 10x8x8′). He loved and cared for them deeply and would take them to elementary schools all of the time for educational purposes. They were definitely able to recognize him as their provider, and it was really touching watching them interact with him as I never thought that reptiles could have such an obvious recognition and caring interaction with a human. However, I could never help but think of the freedom they would have as kings of their environments if they were free in a jungle or forest somewhere, so it was again always difficult for me to reason what would be best for these creatures.