Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Wet Food For Captain


Charlie Feher-Peiker

Walking down the shiny, fluorescent aisles of Wal-Mart this weekend, making my usual weekly foray into the tiled hell that is everyone’s favorite grocery conglomerate to hate, I thought about the irony of myself, a card-carrying member of the Socialist Party U.S.A. and self-defined Anarchist shopping at Wal-Mart, the grey bricked bastion of multinational, modern Capitalism.

So, as I pushed my rain-sprinkled cart through the store, past the hunting-camo-suited blow up Santa Claus and bins of corn-syrup based Halloween candy, I filled my cart with the vegetarian foods I defiantly planned to eat in protest of the inhumane treatment of animals by the meat producers of the American agri-elite, bought from Wal-Mart, grown from Monsanto seeds, the same company producing the seeds that grow the feed corn that feeds the millions of cows, pigs and chickens in feed lots all over the country, who are raised for slaughter and then vacuum packed for sale in the very same Wal-Mart from which I indignantly buy my kale and my zucchini squash in resolute opposition to such barbaric and deplorable practices as factory farming.

Suddenly I found myself laughing at the painful irony of the whole enterprise. Which was only made more painful and ironic as I carefully compared the prices of canned wet food for my cat, Captain, a hairless rescue from Fort Worth, Texas, who only eats wet food ––for kidney health reasons–– in warm water because I am a pushover and I worry that he won’t enjoy it as much if it’s cold.

As I did this, I realized that I was completely negating all the self-righteous purchasing choices I had made thus far during this already paradoxical shopping excursion and became more and more frustrated while I attempted to avoid buying any foods that would support the despicable institution of factory farming and the unconscionable exploitation of farmers in the third world harvesting produce year round for the American market, for myself while buying exactly the opposite for cute little Captain.

So loading my cart with Special Pet brand “Beef Grill Paté,” “Salmon Delight” and “Turkey Giblet Dinner,” it struck me just how hilarious, pathetic and futile it is to be a conscientious food buyer. Especially when you are the kind of annoyingly doting pet parent I am. My girlfriend and I even bought the little guy a new sweater this weekend; he gets cold being a hairless breed.

Cats have to eat meat, unlike humans who can consciously decide to be vegetarian or vegan, or gluten free or dairy free, cats simply need meat in their diet to survive. More than that, their lives are drastically shortened by not eating real meat, that is, meat that is dried, processed and reduced to it’s component proteins and then fed to them in pellets consisting mostly of carbohydrate fillers like corn and soy. Felines have evolved with highly efficient kidneys so they can get every last bit of moisture from the meat they consume and thus have a very low thirst drive. If they don’t get water with their food they can get dehydrated easily eating dry food, causing kidney failure and death at an early age. So wet food it is!

But when it comes to dry food alternatives, there are really only two options; canned, premade cat food and homemade, raw cat food. Being a conscientious meat eater, that is, I only eat meat when I know where the meat came from and can verify that the source is certified humane and organic (which is much harder than it should be, hence I pretty much exclusively eat vegetarian) buying meat for myself is expensive and not really worth the trouble, so doing the same for my cat is more than this pampering pet owner is willing to do. But then there it is, I contradict myself. I don’t buy meat unless I know it’s certified humane and blah, blah, blah… unless it’s for my cat, who has to eat meat, because unlike me who chooses not to eat meat, he is a cat and cannot be held responsible for the evils of global Capitalism.

It’s maddening! No matter what you do, the immoral nature of our global economic system is there, at every turn, ever present to sabotage every attempt you make to subvert it while remaining sane and not turning into a hermit, hunting and gathering, living a solitary Thoreau-esque existence, alone in the woods, neurotically trying to escape the blistering irony of it all.

Sadly, of course, being a college student, living off campus and attending classes full time, who would be able to afford organic, grass fed, pasture raised meat for themselves, let alone to feed their cat with and also put in the time necessary to process and prepare their homemade cat food? I don’t even have time to make more than coffee for breakfast in the mornings.

So we pick our paradoxes. In some cases we literally do as we compare the prices of canned wet food, all made from the leftovers of the meat used to make McDonalds’ Quarter pounders, while also filling our shopping carts with spaghetti squash, certified humane eggs (which I might add are only $1.00 more expensive than the factory-produced, very much inhumane eggs), and organic lettuce.

My cat’s longevity is very important to me, so I guess my commitment to opposing the evils of factory farming comes second. Strangely enough, as I write this he is laying across my lap, asleep with his head on my right arm, making it very difficult to type.

In the end, thinking like this is enough to make a person feel the need to wrap their head with tinfoil and hide in a basement, researching conspiracy theories. So I recommend doing it as infrequently as possible. Getting into it too much, you start to wonder if it even matters. You wonder if the few measly dollars you have to spend actually makes a difference in this crazy world, the same crazy world where people like Donald J. Trump, the picture of privilege and the avatar of the American political establishment, claim to be an anti-establishment champion of the working class. But thinking like that is counterproductive and it kills your will to oppose the forces of greed, selfishness and bigotry, which in the end are the real enemies, right?

We all choose our hypocrisies, and try our best to live according to our principles. Each of us can only do so much, being just one in 7 billion, living in an unjust and woefully unfair world run by the Steinbeckien monster of our own creation. A monster that must feed and grow at the expense of the people who feed it, otherwise it will die and with its death would come a collapse of such unfathomable proportions that it cannot simply be allowed to fail but must rather be phased out.

This monster is the neo-liberal, global capitalist money machine and we won’t live to see the day when it is no longer controlling our lives, we who are it’s creators and caretakers. So for now, I have my cat, who has just started licking himself on my lap, and hopefully he will be around for a long time to come thanks to the wonderful wet food and warm water I feed him twice a day, and I have my certified humane eggs and my organic kale. I guess in the end, even if it doesn’t make much of an impact in the big picture, at least in the end we can say we tried.