Culture Against Society Re: Wool rug and animal rights
From: Wayne Tyson (
Date: Tue, 25 Sep 2012 08:15:40 -0700 (PDT)

The only thing that separates humans from the other animals is their abandonment of their birthright (social interaction) for the mess of pottage called "culture." Thus we set ourselves apart (about ten or fifteen thousand years ago) when we started enslaving ("domesticating") other organisms--plants and animals--and have been compounding the error ever since.

When we hunted and gathered, we took only what we needed, and when we took, say, an animal's life, we thanked our animal brother for providing us sustenance. We took only one leaf from the wild onion to flavor our stew and provide us with Vitamin C, and in other gathering followed the rule of leaving the first plant found, taking the second, passing up the third, and so on. These were not rules or laws, they were social (cooperative) mores that made the difference between exhausting our support system of life and ensuring poverty later and taking only what we need and ensuring the continuance of our brother and sister creatures with whom we are interdependent.

Now we are in a feeding frenzy of insane consumerism. Like the sorcerer's apprentice, we cannot stop--we have forgotten the magic word and we waste rather than conserve. We think we have only two choices--wealth or poverty--forgetting that frugality means abandonment of our habits of waste.

The thing that attracts me to cohousing is its struggle toward cooperating community, and to some extent, frugality. We cannot expect, however, to cure the accumulated ills and errors of ten or fifteen thousand years--the compounding effects of culture overnight--it has us by the throat, as it were.

But we can retrieve our birthright bit by bit, and one day perhaps come to a new understanding of the behaviors that made us a successful species In the Beginning, before we decided that we could profit by abandoning Eden.


----- Original Message ----- From: "Sharon Villines" <sharon [at]>
To: "Cohousing-L" <cohousing-l [at]>
Sent: Monday, September 24, 2012 1:47 PM
Subject: Re: [C-L]_ Wool rug and animal rights

On Sep 24, 2012, at 11:49 AM, Melanie Mindlin <sassetta [at]> wrote:

I was recently at a gathering where differences in attitudes to animal rights was a topic. Some people seem to feel that compassion to animals is an issue of such importance that it trumps all other concerns. Others are looking at animal suffering as only one issue in a large picture of suffering on the planet from all sorts of causes.

Exactly the problem. It is also compounded by the objector not really understanding the issue very well and being very emotional about it. He walked out of our meeting obviously angry and frustrated when he had no counter argument to the argument that a decision to set a budget for a team purchasing furniture was not the place to set policy about animal products in the common house.

We specifically decided not to limit food cooked in the kitchen and have accepted donations of wool rugs. We don't have leather furniture but there are things with leather straps and small pieces of leather in the CH. To ban all animal products would require that we also have an authority who determines what animal free products are. How do we know what is in the glue in the furniture or that a million fish were not killed in the runoff from a cotton processing factory? He can't expect each team to research every product as extensively as it would require to guarantee that there are no animal derived products used.

We ensured that the wool was from New Zealand which by all reports has the most humane animal practices and that no child labor was used in the weaving and knotting. I think he will only be satisfied if we can prove that no animals were "enslaved" to produce a product.

I've asked our residents who are environmental experts to get together and write a policy, but they said, it's too hard. It's six of one and half-dozen of the other. You choose your poison. The best you can do are the obvious things -- recycle, compost, avoid obvously bad companies and products, use low VOC when possible, avoid off-gassing, etc., that we already do.

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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