Letters for August 10, 2017

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Superintendent welcomes back teachers, students

With a new school year comes exciting opportunities for various beginnings — new classes, new friends, sometimes-new courses, and often new materials.  Summer and vacation provides us with time to grow and reflect on previous accomplishments and struggles, and as we approach the opening day of a new school year, the end-of-year stress that plagued us in May seem quite remote and inconsequential.

Starting a new year gives us the opportunity to meet new teachers, meet new classmates, and to learn new and exciting concepts and lessons. Teachers have been busy planning and preparing their classrooms for the 2017-2018 school year. Each child brings to school a unique set of gifts to share. We treasure each child and will work hard to ensure that your child learns, grows, and develops into an independent learner who is prepared to succeed after graduation.

We can be proud of what we achieve in the Macon County School system — in our classrooms, in our offices, and on our playing fields and stage — but our achievements are not due to complacency and satisfaction with the status quo.  Our program is what it is because a staff of dedicated, aspiring men and women have a common goal — to do what is in the best interest for students — and are always looking for ways to achieve that goal.

I hope parents and community members will continue their strong support of our schools and our employees. Your volunteerism and donations always make a difference in our classrooms. We need your partnership to continue offering an excellent education to every child. Please communicate with teachers, join us at school events, join the Parent Teacher Organization and support our children by showing that you value the school, its programs and its teachers.

I am anxious to see our teachers on Aug. 14 and our students on Aug. 28. School year 2017-2018 will be filled with excitement and accomplishments.

Thank you for your support.

 

Chris Baldwin, Ed.D.

Superintendent Macon County Schools

Animal rescue center needs your help

Sometimes after meeting someone for the first time I have been asked questions about our organization and our shelter.  Everyone has seen the heartbreaking ads for the ASPCA.  They are very effective in getting donations for their organization.

We see the same heartbreak, the emaciated, the abused and the sick just like those in the commercials.  But we also see the happy wagging tails when their new family is ready to take them home and the purring cats when they have chosen their new person to go home with.  Sometimes this comes only after months of mental and physical rehabilitation and one on one time with the animal.

Most are not aware that we operate only on donations and the income from our thrift store. We receive no funding to help with our daily operational cost of housing and caring for Macon County’s unwanted cats and dogs.  We average 90 animals per month.  Their care includes vet visits, inoculations, spay or neuter, food and countless bags of kitty litter.

The over population of pets can be solved if everyone responsibly had their pets spay or neutered. We work with Humane Alliance to offer low cost alternatives. In past years the Town of Franklin and Macon County have granted us funds so we were able to further help low income families with the cost. We hope to be able to continue this.

Our adoption rate is excellent and that is due to the fact that our staff knows each dog or cat and can pair them up with the right family.  We also do many offsite adoptions to make it easier for those who do not want to come to the shelter.  We not only work with the public but also with Macon County Animal Services. When we are full we ask if the person who has the stray can hold it until we have space, if they can’t the animal goes to MCAS. When they get full they have no other option but to euthanize.  We have helped them in the past by taking adoptable dogs and cats from them when we have the space. It is a win/win for everyone. A life saved is a life saved regardless of where it came from.

We do our best to raise money each month with different fundraising events. Our thrift store is our main source of income.  They get wonderful donations and our loyal shoppers help to make the store successful. We have breakfast fund raisers and an annual auction. We have a Fill the Van event three times per year and collect donated food, cleaning supplies, kitty litter, etc.  Also, dinner night out with participating restaurants throughout the year. Despite our efforts we continue to operate in the red every month.  There may come a time in the next four years when we are no longer able to care for Macon County’s abandoned animals.

Besides our regular operating expenses, we were just advised that we have to replace our security system and the dog exercise area has to be brought up to code to meet regulations.

Thank you, our faithful supporters. I hope that raising the awareness of others will encourage more donations and support for our local shelter.

Cathy Howman, president

Macon County Humane Society, Inc/DBA

Appalachian Animal Rescue Center

Veganism may be settled with one question

Recently a close friend asked me why I have not written a letter to the paper about veganism, given the considerable role it plays in my life and the passionate views I hold about the treatment of animals in our society. It was a fair, yet difficult question for me to answer. I guess my mostly unconscious concern was about the efficacy of writing about veganism in our local paper. Like Tevye from “The Fiddler on the Roof,” people tend to follow the reasonless reason of “tradition, tradition, tradition.”  Eating meat is just “the way we’ve always done things around here” is a common refrain.  And that is that.  If someone comes along, digs a little deeper, asks more probing questions, people get upset and close their minds. Granted, they are usually accepting and even congratulatory of other people not eating animals or animal products. But when a vegan recommends that their interlocutor, the person with whom they are speaking, should stop eating animals also, their mood quickly changes. Rationalizations come with alacrity. Productive conversation usually ends before it begins. If the vegan shows indignation, a condition from which vegans are not immune, things usually turn ugly.

Be that as it may, here is why you should not eat animals or animal products.

All that is necessary is a single rhetorical question: Is it morally acceptable to cause unnecessary pain and suffering to other sentient creatures? That’s it. That’s the argument. It’s not that becoming vegan will make you healthier (it will). It’s not that becoming vegan is the most impactful action you can take to help mitigate the environmental devastation that’s occurring (it is).

Of course, if the health reasons or the environmental reasons are enough for you to stop eating animals, great. Let one or both of those reasons provide the inspiration for you to stop eating animals and animal products. They certainly played a part in my decision to become a vegan. But it was ultimately the ethical implications of eating animals that convinced me to change my ways; the environmental reason is incorporated into the ethical, in my mind.

So in the limited space I have left, I want to focus on the ethical question. The onus is on the reader to justify the moral acceptability of causing avoidable pain to sentient creatures capable of suffering. I cannot. And I have not ever come across a convincing justification for causing unnecessary animal suffering. Please remember, Paleolithic hunter-gatherers necessarily had to cause suffering to animals to survive, 21st century people living in the Anthropocene do not…no matter how much they may personally enjoy hunting animals.

If the moral question cannot be answered in the affirmative (i.e., yes it is morally acceptable to cause unnecessary suffering), then the only recourse one has is to say animals do not suffer. This is a scientifically absurd position to hold. It simply is not true. In fact, the more we come to learn about animals, the more we learn of their sensitivity to not only physical suffering but emotional and psychological suffering, as well.

Raising animals for food under any condition causes them at least some degree of suffering. Raising animals for food, under the prevailing capitalist mode of production, causes more suffering than is imaginable. Discovering the conditions of systematic torture in animal factories is too much for most people to endure, so they make a conscious effort to avoid learning about the well hidden practices of industrial agriculture. I will not recount the horrors of intensive animal farming here.

However, I will explain why animal agriculture under a capitalist mode production causes the greatest level of animal suffering possible. Under capitalism, animals are not animals. Animals are not the handiwork of a creator. Animals are not beings with intrinsic dignity. Animals are profit machines. Profits are all that matter. The well-being of an animal does not enter the profit calculus of the capitalist. Thus animals are packed, crammed, and stuffed into stifling feces saturated cages and pens for the entirety of their lives because it is more efficient for profit making. If a capitalist wants to treat his animal machines with respect, then he or she will be operating at a competitive disadvantage. The coercive laws of competition compel all capitalists to use exploitative practices, lest the “benevolent capitalist” go out of business. The only institution capable of regulating the abusive practices of capitalist agriculture is the U.S. government. And its regulatory agencies have, unfortunately, been purchased by the industries they are supposed to regulate. In fact, as in all industries, the U.S. has the weakest agricultural regulations of all the Western democracies.

I encourage those who care about the well-being of animals, tissue box in hand, to do some internet research on intensive farming methods in America, “organic,” “cage free,” and “grass fed” methods included. The images will speak much louder than my words. Ask yourself if it is morally acceptable to contribute to what you see.

 

Marshall Solomon — Franklin, N.C.

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