Protecting Animals; Destroying Humans

On July 29, 2007, a nineteen-year old girl from Titusville, FL wrote us to say:

I just found out I was pregnant and I was always against abortion but when put in … [that] situation I thought maybe it’s not such a bad idea. But seeing that video of that human life just being cut up and pulled out [convinced me that abortion] should be called murder.

She added that she had come to our site “just looking into abortion but now I’ve made my decision.” And another life has been saved by aborted baby imagery.

There is relatively little public outcry over abortion because so few Americans have ever seen what this girl saw, “… human life just being cut up and pulled out …” Far more viewers have now seen bloody videos of snarling dogs fighting to the death. CNN and ESPN both broadcast uncensored video depicting pit bulls tearing each other to shreds and the public outcry has been deafening.

So much so that confessed dog fighter Michael Vick, the now former starting quarterback of the National Football League’s Atlanta Falcons, has been suspended indefinitely without pay and lost his lucrative endorsement deals with manufactures of sporting goods. Some reports have him out $20 million a year. The Associated Press says some 165,000 e-mail angry messages were sent to Nike through the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) website and if true, consumer anger may have counted more than moral revulsion as Nike decided to can Vick. And as though that weren’t enough, he will almost certainly end up in jail.

Vick might have walked had he merely plead to sponsoring fights but his fate was sealed in the public mind when he acknowledged participation in the killing of “underperforming” animals, some of which were “terminated” by electrocution, drowning, hanging or gunshot. Time magazine quotes R.L. White of the Atlanta Chapter of the NAACP, one of the few voices defending the athlete: “The way [Vick] is being persecuted, he wouldn’t have been persecuted that much had he killed somebody.” Indeed. Especially if that “somebody” were still unborn.

“Persecution” may be a little strong but Mr. Vick is, no doubt, in serious trouble in a culture which increasingly idolizes dogs (and cats) as the new “golden calves” of secular idolatry. Newsweek magazine, August 13, 2007, features a cartoon by one wag (get it, “wag”?) who has Mr. Vick sitting with a lawyer who speculates about Vick’s possible six-year sentence: “You’re looking at potentially, forty-two dog years ….”

On that same theme, ESPN, May 31, 2007, (ESPN.com) interviewed a “confidential source” who also defends Vick with an animal cruelty versus human cruelty comparison.

‘They’ll let this other thing go – what is it called? UFC [Ultimate Fighting Championship] [a televised, pay-per-view, no-holds barred brawl which allows combatants to employ just about means short of weapons to annihilate one another – and it reportedly out-grosses, no pun intended, boxing]?’ he asked. ‘That is every bit as bad – you know, that’s terrible. But then you have thousands of people that cheer, rah, rah, and they really love that. You see guys get their heads busted, you know, and they get their arms messed up, their legs twisted almost off. But then they fuss over this here [dog fighting] is wrong.’

Anyone who has ever seen even a moment of UFC savagery would have to admit that Mr. “Confidential Source” has a point.

And another canine scandal broke at about the same time Mr. Vick was getting sacked (now I see why sports writers can’t resist bad, clichéd, sports metaphors) but in this dog story it was journalists who got the boot. A blogging soldier named Scott Thomas Beauchamp wrote three Iraq War articles for The New Republic, a far left magazine (which reportedly fired one of their own for leaking embarrassing information about the scandal), in which he accused American GIs of amusing themselves by, among other indiscretions, crushing stray dogs with tank-like, armored personnel carriers. Lurid accusations of this sort fit nicely into the anti-war movement’s propaganda template. That is, until The Weekly Standard, a near right magazine, spoiled the fun by reporting that Mr. Beauchamp, under the sobering influence of an Army investigation, had quickly signed a “sworn statement admitting that all three articles … were exaggerations and falsehoods ….”

Nonetheless, as Mr. Beauchamp was casting about for the most sympathetic atrocity victims he could possibly concoct, he must surely have considered the near religious fervor with which America has embraced anthropomorphism (the imputation of human attributes to animals). With the country going gaga over pooches, what could beat dogs, and homeless dogs at that (“homelessness” always adds pathos to any liberal morality play) as the perfect prey for imaginary G.I.s to flatten for sport.

Perhaps National Review magazine, August 27, 2007, summed it up best (“The Week”):

For four years America and its allies have been fighting people [in Iraq] who used poison gas, tortured [under-performing] athletes, ran prisoners through paper shredders [I think it was actually wood chippers], bombed markets, slaughtered villages. They also swear up an down their hatred for the United States and their lust for one, two, many 9/11s. But ambitious writers and the editors who patronize them what stories on American atrocities. Even if they have to make them up.

If only we loved our unborn children the way we love our pets. And it shows in our spending priorities.

CBR is constantly being challenged by pro-abortion partisans to explain how this country is going to afford the expense of all the “unwanted children” who will become wards of the state if abortion is ever outlawed. Perhaps our critics missed the cover story in August 6th, 2007, issue of Businessweek magazine, which reported that Americans now spend $41 billion on their pets each year. “Annual spending is expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to Packaged Facts, a consumer research company based in Rockville, Md.” If we can shell out that sort of cash for dogs and cats, perhaps we can spare some small change for children.

Such extravagant spending is perhaps the most revealing evidence of America’s widespread and nearly fanatical devotion to animals. The Los Angeles Times proved it with a July 10, 2007, story titled “The fur flies over spaying proposal.” The sub-headline said “A bill to require dog and cat owners to neuter their pets rouses emotions on both sides.” The article reported that the bill

… created the largest volume of public response of any measure in the state Legislature this year. According to its author, Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-VanNuys), the California Healthy Pets Act has generated debate that exceeds even what he saw earlier this year on his now-shelved ‘Death With Dignity’ assisted suicide bill.

Public opposition was so fierce that Rep. Levine was eventually forced to pull the bill but not before complaining (Los Angeles Times, July 12, 2007) that “I’ve been personally attacked and vilified ….” He added that he was “very upset” by the fact that “it’s gotten personal.”

Of course it was bound to get ugly. Euthanasia is only about killing People. But spaying, well, spaying is about neutering PETS! On the other hand, if you’re okay with neutering but your dog thinks castration is the unkindest cut of all, you can now help him regain some of his swagger with prosthetic, “male enhancement.” According to the abovementioned Bussinessweek article:

If there’s still any doubt whether the pampering of pets is getting out of hand, the debate should be settled once and for all by Neuticles, a patented testicular implant that sells for up to $919 a pair. The idea, says inventor Gregg A. Miller, is to ‘let people restore their pets to anatomical preciseness’ after neutering, thereby allowing them to retain their natural look and self-esteem. ‘People thought I was crazy when I started 13 years ago,’ says the Oak Grove (MO) entrepreneur. But he has since sold more than 240,000 pairs ….

The article goes on to report that 42% of dogs (the nation now has 75 million) sleep in their owner’s beds. Half of all dog owners “consider their pet’s comfort when buying a car” and “almost a third buy gifts for their dogs’ birthdays.” The number one series on the National Geographic Channel is hosted by a dog trainer and about “77% of dogs … have been medicated in the past year.”

But are killing our dogs with kindness? Businessweek says “pet obesity” is becoming a real problem. “As many as 40% of dogs [and cats] are estimated to be overweight or obese.” Why? Could it be too little walking and too many doggie treats? The article answers that “People who overeat or don’t get enough exercise tend to draw their pets into the same behavior….” That’s bad news for America’s dogs because Timemagazine, September 10, 2007, reports in their “Health” section that “…two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, [and] 60% of the population in 32 states is overweight or obese….” The report says that “In the past year, obesity rates have gone up in 31 states, and no state had shrinking rates.”

There may be something to this “man bites dog” connection. A July 25, 2007, article on WebMD.com (Is Obesity Contagious?) says “’Mutual friends more than triple the risk [of obesity] to each other ….’” Oops! “’If one of the two [mutual friends] becomes obese, the chance for the other to follow suit goes up 171%’”. Could that principle also apply to “man’s best friend?” Maybe America’s pet owners are collectively guilty of more animal cruelty than Michael Vick!” Perhaps it is, therefore, a guilty conscience which motivates chubby owners of chubby dogs (according to Businessweek) to spend lots of money on “… new products like Pfizer Inc.’s dog-obesity drug Slentrol ….” Or “… procedures including pet liposuction, which is becoming more common in cities like Los Angeles where owners are used to getting nips and tucks for themselves.”

Arthur Caplan, however, the director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, says pets are “… still pets. They’re not the moral equivalent of children.” But Dr. Caplan is so yesterday!Businessweek says “PetSmart, for one, has shifted its mission from being the top seller of pet food to helping consumers become better ‘pet parents.’” The article says “… scientists have determined that an adult dog is roughly equivalent mentally to a 2-year-old toddler.” It goes on to quote Mario DiFante, “who staged New York’s first Pet Fashion Week last August…. “As he puts it: ‘Many of us consider pets as the new babies.” He should have added, “as we kill our REAL babies.”

And sure enough, the Los Angeles Time, on August 27, 2007, carried two front page stories, one about a dog over which two women are fighting (sort of the inverse of dog fighting) and the other about enemy combatants in Iraq abusing growing numbers of children, some as young as eleven, by conscripting them into armed combat. The dog story is more prominently placed on the front page, is vastly longer than the child abuse story and carries two large color photos. The child abuse story is photoless. The sub-headline in the dog story reads “One of the thousands of canines [this one named Crown] displaced by Hurricane Katrina is caught in a long-distance custody fight between her owner and rescuer.” The woman who claims to own the dog is quoted as saying “Crown is mine. She’s my baby.”

This thing just gets weirder and weirder. The late hotel heiress, Leona Helmsley, is reported by the New York Post, August, 29, 2007, to have left a will granting $12 million to her dog (although two disfavored grandchildren will receive nothing) during the dog’s life and $3 million to maintain the resting place the dog will share with Ms. Helmsley after its death. According to CNN.com, August 22, 2007, that “resting place” is a $1.4 million, 1300 square foot (almost the size of our house) mausoleum. Ms. Helmsley relocated the remains of her late husband and son to this location from a different cemetery after the view from their former mausoleum was compromised by new construction. Do dead bodies really have a “view?”

Newsweek magazine, August 13, 2007, reported a story titled “Crime “Four in the Backyard.” The article described authorities finding “the remains of four dead infants and fetuses – all believed to be …[Christy Freeman’s].” The story says Ms. Freeman “… told police she gave birth to one twin while sitting on a toilet at home; she waited for it to die in the water below, she said. ‘Freeman stated she took full responsibility for what she did” according to the charging document. When I Googled “Cristy Freeman + fetus” I got 704 hits. When I Googled “Michael Vick + dog” I got 3,600, 000. Dogs beat babies again.

But why do we seem to love our pets so much more than ever? Businessweek quotes New York psychologist Irene M. Deitch who restates the widely-held belief that “animals offer people ‘unconditional positive regard’….” She adds “No matter how we feel, we will always be valued by our pets.’” James A. Serpell, section chief of behavior and human-animal interactions at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine says we prefer animals because “’There’s no … criticism’ …’” from them. What could be more post modern than saving our greatest love for the creatures which are least able to judge us? The article also notes that “The more disconnected we become from each other … the deeper the bonds we form with our pets.”

This sensitivity to criticism, real or imagined, has become so absurdly acute that Ann Kreamer, author of the book “Going Grey,” writes in the August 31, 2007, issue of Time magazine that middle-aged women who dye their hair feel “judged” by middle-aged women who don’t. She says nothing about the sensitivity of hoary-headed men but it seems things which shouldn’t be politicized (like hair color) are — and things which should be politicized (like abortion) aren’t. Whatever happened to Proverbs 20:29 – “The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair the splendor of the old?”

As more of us choose to kill our children, we are also choosing to live alone, work alone, play alone, etc., and in the process, we are using animals to cope with the resulting sense of loss and isolation. Many social scientists have documented a growing preoccupation with self which erodes interest in social interaction. Robert D. Putnam, who wrote the landmark book Bowling Alone (lots of people still bowl but no longer wish to bowl with others) has chronicled in disturbing terms American’s widespread withdrawal from community life. The book’s Amazon.com editor’s review says “Putnam claims that this [tendency for Americans to live their lives alone] has created a U.S. population that is increasingly isolated and less empathetic toward its fellow citizens, that is often angrier and less willing to unite in communities or as a nation.” People would rather pet their dog than deal with their neighbor.

The Los Angeles Times, August 7, 2007, published another “animals are more important than people” story headlined “Judge curbs Navy sonar” with a sub-headline which read “Use of sonic blasts in exercises, which fleet officials argue are crucial for training, is ruled harmful to whales.” This nut-case ruling comes courtesy of U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper, a Clinton appointee, of course.

The Navy, which plans to appeal the decision, said even a temporary ban would disrupt crucial training of sailors before they are sent overseas. The Navy uses the sonar to detect potentially hostile vessels, including quiet diesel submarines, which one captain called ‘the most lethal enemy known’ on the high seas.

Does the term “nut-case” seem a little harsh? Then consider this: “Joel Reynolds, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the judge’s ruling in no way restricts the Navy’s ability to use sonar against real threats or in battle.” Apparently Mr. Reynolds fails to understand that the effective use of active sonar sensors is a complex process which requires rigorous training in the kinds of waters in which subsurface threats are most likely to be encountered. It won’t matter that the ban doesn’t restrict the use of active sonar in battle if you can’t use it effectively in training.

And the Los Angeles Times is just as clueless as the environmentalists, running a photo caption which reads “The sonar ban does not affect wartime maneuvers, just exercises.” JUST EXERCISES! Could we safely guess that the average environmental lawyer and the typical newspaper reporter have never spent a day in the military and have no idea how important effective training is to survival, not to mention victory, in battle?

Then the Boston Globe (Boston.com, August 22, 2007, “Michael Vick isn’t alone”) reminds us that the public’s reaction to dog cruelty is largely determined by whose ox it is that’s being gored (to mix my animal metaphors).

The California-based Greyhound Protection League estimates that in the two decades from 1986-2005, 606,633 dogs from the [greyhound gambling] industry were killed: 184,604 puppies judged to be inferior for racing and 421,129 after their ‘careers’ ended, usually by four-years-old.

Some might point out that this culling process sounds pretty barbaric but dog racing itself is hardly as cruel as dogs fighting one another. Consider the following:

In 2000, the [BostonGlobe quoted John Perrault, the shelter manager for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, on the conditions at [the] Pittsfield [race track]. ‘I saw wounds, gashes, infections, broken legs that were left untreated. I saw dehydration, starvation, infestation of parasites,’ Perrault said. “… Owners made it clear they wanted the dogs killed.’

Two billion dollars is bet at forty U.S. dog tracks every year and the shear economics of the sport might help explain why voters seem more inclined to look the other way when dogs are hurt racing as opposed to fighting. On a related note, the Associated Press reported that “authorities seized 66 [of Michael Vick’s] dogs, including 55 pit bulls….” Ironically, it has been widely speculated that those same authorities will kill at least the pit bulls on the supposition that the animals will never be safe around people.

But the irony of ironies may just be the Los Angeles Times article which appeared July 2, 2007, titled “Animal welfare issue boiling” and “Many firms in the [food] industry have moved to undertake a number of changes in response to customer concerns.” It turns out that our friends at Whole Foods Market care much more about cruelty to the animals whose meat they sell than cruelty to the unborn children whose lives they disregard when their stores support Planned Parenthood:

Whole foods is trying to address the concerns of shoppers by posting its farm animal standards online.

Cattle and buffalo, for example, must live on the range for at least two-thirds of their lives. Calves raised for veal must be housed in groups, and restrictive tethering is prohibited. Lamb must be pasture-raised.

The Austin, Texas-based grocery chain is developing a third-party auditing system that will make sure that farms and slaughterhouses adhere to its rules.

* * *

The ratings will progress up to an ‘Animal Compassionate Gold Standard,’ for meat, processed according to the most stringent animal welfare and compassionate slaughter methods.

No mention of any “auditing system” to ensure the “compassionate slaughter” of unborn children. What would the “Gold Standard” for slaughtering unborn children look like? Anesthesia before dismembering? But CBR isn’t done with Whole Foods Market. Our Corporate Accountability Project is being readied for a CBR store presence which will confront Whole Foods customers with visual evidence of the chain’s disrespect for the welfare of unborn babies.

Still another Los Angeles Times story heaps irony on top of irony (August 17, 2007, A beastly kind of cruelty” and “Drive-by shooters, often youths, are killing farm animals in a growing wave of violence ….”). The article says “Nationwide an increasing number of animal cruelty cases are being reported outside city limits: Horses, cows, goats and other farm animals are being killed, authorities say, often by angry, reckless youths ….” A Sonoma County rancher is quoted in response to shootings in his area: “I though what the hell’s going on in this place?” Could “what’s going” be easy access to child killing that is teaching children the casual killing of animals must also be okay?

Pat Sample lost eight cattle to the snipers. In court a judge ordered that the boys apologize but the rancher refused to hear them. ‘I told the judge there’s something really wrong in our society for kids to act this way,’ he said. ‘Why do they do it?’

Why not, Mr. Sample? If killing a baby is right, why should shooting a cow be wrong? Because the cow doesn’t belong to you? Neither does the life of the baby!

But to me, perhaps the most telling of these Los Angeles Times stories is the August 16, 2007, article headlined “Cat thyroid disease linked to chemicals” and a sub-headline which says “EPA scientists zero in on flame retardants in some home products and pet food. There is concern about humans.” I couldn’t help but notice that the concern for cats was stated before any mention of human vulnerability. Then I wondered why EPA scientists are using our tax dollars to study threats to cats before first investigating the peril to humans? But after reading through twenty paragraphs about cats, the reporter does finally get to human babies: “Scientists say toddlers who crawl on floors and put objects in their mouths also can be highly exposed to the chemical-tainted dust, which has been found in most U.S. homes.” I shudder to think how many cat owners might find nothing problematic with the way the story is reported.

Historians will record that we cared for our animals and killed our children — a fitting epitaph for the most self-centered generation to ever inhabit the planet.

But CBR will continue to make unborn babies as real to Americans as are their pets and the plight of these children as evocative of sympathy and outrage as the plight of any abused dog. And we will build that outrage using the same methods used by the press; with your help, we will make people look at the carnage.

Posted in Social Reform