People who work at my humane society often get into debates about euthanasia. It just happens. We are exposed to death way too much. After a meeting regarding euthanasia one of my coworkers stated, “They should just call it the death society.” Poetic. But depressing that she sees her job in this light. I can almost predict when she will quit. I have seen way too many people, good people, leave this job. All had very good reasons. About a month ago we had a new person start up front. When we went to the preserve freezer and I pulled out a dead cat, I saw her face turn green. Immediately stopping, I asked her, “How much experience have you had with death?” When her response was none, I knew she wouldn’t make it the week. Trying to comfort her I said, “Don’t worry if you every feel uncomfortable just grab one of us and we’ll do it. There are many days when I can’t go back here.” No good. She was gone by weeks end.
A new person who recently started working there has refused all together to be certified to do euthanasia. I, myself, also do not wish to be certified. I have held plenty of times, but as one of our newly certified staff members has stated, “Holding and injecting are two entirely different things.” To refuse this certification means he could be fired. It is in his job description that he must do it. Yet, for whatever reason, he cannot find the cause or structure within himself to do such acts. A different coworker of mine finds his decisions almost revolting. She has to be certified as well. When we were talking about it, she refused to offer him any kind of leeway. I tried to stand up for him saying in the euth room you go beyond confronting death; you have to deal with the fact that you just killed something. She called this hypocritical for as she sees it, killing an animal in the euth room is no different than eating a chicken sandwich.
But it is much different. When I kill a chicken, (although someone else far away does my butchering) I do it because I need to eat. Some people would argue that eating beans or peanuts could offer just as much protein but there are a lot of doctors who would argue otherwise. And in any case, killing something because you are taking part in the natural food chain is not wrong. There is a reason why we say grace before we eat. Perhaps those who don’t are just disconnected to what is in front of them. I am not blind to think that something else died for me to have a meal. If I had the money I would live on my own farm and raise my own meat. I would give them wonderful lives until their purpose brings them to their end.
The euth room is completely different. The people doing the injection often times are not the people who made the decision to put the animal down. The euthanasias are not unjustified, but killing a cat or dog in American culture often seems very unnatural. Sometimes otherwise fantastic dogs that are just scared and need time are put down because of space. We simply do not have the resources to train dogs to not be aggressive. Cats that are good but just aren’t adjusted to people are killed because we don’t want them spreading diseases to our own pets or over populating. We don’t want dogs that attack people or other animals. Still, when these animals die, even though we know it had to be done, there seemingly is no larger purpose at play. We don’t use their bodies to get nutrition. They didn’t serve us as guardians or protectors or companions. They are just gone. The person who is certified has to justify that. Has to confront that. Sometimes they feel okay about it and can see they were making our community better, safer. But other times, it feels so far removed that they can no longer understand the reason.
Animal lovers come to work at this job. It is extremely difficult when we are faced with the idea that not all animals should live. Many people quit and leave and someday I will too. In the mean time though, we offer what we can to the living. We hug them, name them, offer them treats. We will always argue about the euth room. It is good that we do this. Debates challenge our assumptions. For my own part though, I very much intend on to continue eating chicken sandwiches.