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A Wildlife Veterinarian Wears a Clergy Collar for Justice and Compassion

Leading a Nurture Nature Wild Walk at Jamaica Bay, NY June 2017 (LoraKim 3rd from right)

Well, people often wonder why I always dress in veterinary surgical scrubs and a clergy collar. It’s not easy sometimes, for some do not like being reminded of organized religion, and others have reactions to the medical field, or to the brightly colored scrubs. Still many others appreciate being reminded of the hope, beauty, and affirmation of the deep meaning, wholeness, or sacredness that animals bring to their lives. I wish I could easily convey through how I dress how I want to hug all of life in a global embrace, but instead I often have to explain why I wear a collar. My reasons are much the same as those that Johnny Cash gives in his song, “Man in Black, "I wear black for all those held back, for the countless who have died, and for the poor and beaten down." If I had his musical skill, I would explain in guitar riffs, but instead I will explain with a few short words:

"Bodies matter. All bodies. No exceptions."

The veterinary scrubs say that there is value in caring for animal bodies, and in the relationships between humans and other species.

The clerical collar says that there is value in caring for human bodies, and the relationships between humans and All (some would call this God/Goddess, others would call this Spirit of Life, Evolution, Nature, Life, or Existence).

Participating in the People's Climate March, September 2014, NY (LoraKim with thumb up)

Worn together they say that all species have a “right to ethical consideration.” This sometimes startles people because they might think that I am saying certain individuals of some species have more value than those of others, most specifically, that human individuals matter less than animals, or certain demographics of humans matter more than others. This is why I wear the clergy collar, because I am not placing any individuals on some hierarchal continuum of worth and dignity. I am for all humans, and for all life. When I dress as I do I am strongly witnessing for justice, deeply embedded in many religious traditions. My clothes display my belief that humans are at risk of subordinating other humans on the grounds they are subhuman or that those other humans are the “true animals.” My dress says that I am against white supremacy and racism (and all “isms”). If we say that other species do not merit our moral consideration, then we can say the same of other humans.

Presenting at River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation March 2017

Worn together the collar and scrubs offer my hope that we can achieve a better life for humans, other species, and our ecosystems when we tap into a deeply embedded sense of a shared animality with all of life. As Niel deGrasse Tyson said, “Accepting our kinship with all life on earth is not only solid science, in my view, it's also a soaring spiritual experience.” We live better when all live better.

As a collared veterinarian I am saying that we are here to heal, care, and love one another.

Adapting Johnny Cash’s words:

"There’s things that never will be right I know

And things need changing everywhere you go

So I love to wear a rainbow every day

To try to make other lives more okay

These clothes are worn so that burdens need not be

And so that all of us may one day be free"

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