A post by Sarah.
So, although we didn’t end up purchasing the home in the last post, we did buy a different property nearby and are thoroughly enthused about the process.
Tomorrow is D-Day, as in daaaaaang-if-its-not-packed-its-not-making-it-in-the-UHAUL. As with any moving process, we’ve started setting up services at the new location: water, electric, internet, and the always needed trash/recycling.
Unlike our current home, we had options. The City doesn’t appear to offer garbage service on its own, so we were left with several private companies. We began researching them. Cost was an obvious factor as was the availability of recycling (about 90% of our “trash” is actually recycling or compost). But charitable giving patterns caught my eye.
I noticed one of the companies, Tri-County Disposal, prominently displayed its support of rodeo on its website. That’s an instant turn-off for those living out a cruelty-free lifestyle. I shot a quick email off to let them know why I wasn’t going with their company and a link to Shark Rodeo’s website providing info and testimonials of widespread abuse in the industry. I was surprised to find the following morning (a Saturday, no less) a response from the owner of the company, Anthony Rawlings. I had expected to be completely ignored. Instead, I received what I and several non-vegan friends all read into as extremely poor customer service. First and foremost, this is a poor customer service post, but for more about the abuses in the rodeo industry, see Shark Rodeo’s article from a vet/former rodeo enthusiast/former meat inspector here. Or check out the Animal Legal Defense Fund’s analysis here.
He began by saying it was unfortunate that we overlooked the company’s support for a number of important organizations that focus on children. Yes, the company does support a number of wonderful organizations in the local area that support children. That is needed desperately in the area, and my students and I have regularly run food drives to support various organizations. This coming month, we are running a food drive for the East Texas Food Bank with the hope to support their East Texas Backpacks Program. (More than 500 cans donated last semester!) Paragraph one of his response had obvious issues. For one, support for children doesn’t justify abuse of animals. But for the most part it was a forward response and should have constituted the entirety of his message. Maybe with a “Sorry we won’t be gaining you as a customer, but we appreciate your input” or something like that tacked onto the end. Acknowledge and move on, right? Wrong.
Instead, he fired shots back. He sent a link to a California company along with the message that other trash companies support rodeo too. Does that make it right? Jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t make your action right. The leads to dangerous moral justifications. When I can sidestep a discussion about the moral obligations of my actions by simply deferring responsibility to someone else,
I was then informed that I would have to burn my trash in order to “fully be safe from bending [my] standards of ethical consumerism”. A little catty? Perhaps. There actually are other companies that service my county that do not fund rodeo as part of their “charity” projects. I was told “Good luck and thanks for sharing your feelings.”
That would have been the ideal second ending to the email. But it went on…
I was then told that I should consider refocusing my passion for saving animals to saving “hurting children” in East Texas. I got a lecture! woohoo! from someone who does not know what our priorities in life are. The fact that we’re currently pursuing foster parent certification? Or the fact that we donate a lot to the backpack program? Or that I regularly make foster parenting/child welfare awareness runs on Facebook and in the classes I teach?
But let’s look at this a different way. If saving “hurting children” in East Texas is the top priority, why is Tri-County Disposal wasting money on rodeos when there are “hurting children” out there who are a much higher priority? I don’t buy the mutual exclusive rhetoric, but even within their own paradigm, the criticism is laughable. If children are that much of a priority, then why are you funding “entertainment” instead of social justice issues? Entertainment or feeding children? Funding the clotheslining of baby animals or putting food into the backpacks of food insecure children? Funding the cheering of crowds as animals are shocked with electrical prods or buying school supplies? I’m not saying the company needs to embrace the cruelty-free lifestyle to the extent I have, but if children are as much of a priority as the owner states, why are they funding sadistic entertainment anyway?
Maybe I’m a little high and mighty, but I believe in consumer feedback and abiding by my ethical principles. The response in return needed a major revision and lesson in customer service 101. Trying to insult and lecture your potential clients isn’t advisable.
People in East Texas may not agree with my assessment of rodeo, and that’s okay. I’m hear to raise awareness. My mother was on the rodeo team at Lewisville High School back in the day and is now a staunch anti-rodeo voice in a state where that’s an unpopular position. Taking unpopular opinions is sometimes needed in order to reorient a community’s moral compass. The company has the right to disagree, but to question my commitment to children in the area is a complete diversion from the topic at hand and is poor form. Needless to say, I won’t be encouraging people to use their services. If support for rodeo wasn’t enough, then the poor customer service response from the top of the company is enough to seal the deal.
I’ll continue to promote animal welfare in any way I can. I was recently featured in my workplace’s newspaper for my work with dogs and cats. Livestock rescue hasn’t really be on our radars as we haven’t had the land to do so. With this new move, we hope to be able to perhaps expand to the occasional cow or pig.
I never would have thought moving would involve having to seek out an ethical trash company, but apparently it does. I’d like to open a dialogue about supporting companies with questionable charitable practices. There are plenty more that engage in questionable charitable practices (like building wells in third world countries without long term follow through for when they break or need maintenance). But we need to continue to confront these practices one at a time and determine whether the company’s action mean finding an alternative company or simply doing without. In this case, I’m lucky to not have to do without trash service (or burning, as the owner suggested).
Seeing as how MLK Day has just passed, I will end with a quote by the great orator himself: