October 30, 2007
moral collision course?
A story in today's Inquirer illustrates a strange and disturbing irony, and it's the second one of it's kind to make the local news. I speculated about the line between animal hoarding and animal rescue in an earlier post about a Philadelphia school teacher/author/animal "rescuer" whose house had been rendered uninhabitable by a huge number of cats.
This time, Pennsylvania's animal control bureaucracy stands accused of ignoring a much larger, ongoing problem at a professional animal rescue outfit called "Faithful but Forgotten Friends":
The irony here is that the conditions at the animal "rescue" operation are so appalling that had they been found at a puppy mill, the story would have been on the front page. But these people are in the animal rescue business, and they're well-known to the animal enforcement authorities. Moreover, they've filed lawsuits against the latter:
"This was a major enforcement action" against someone who has filed lawsuits against the bureau and tied it up in court for years, said Smith. "It doesn't mean there's a major breakdown here."Quite incidentally (and this is not said in defense of puppy mills), no kennel breeding dogs for money would last long if it kept dogs that way, because even if the adult dogs didn't die, the puppies with their fragile immune systems would. So, even a cruel and callused breeder interested only in making money would have to provide a basic minimum standard of care for his animals, regardless of any laws or enforcement.
Interestingly, the Faithful but Forgotten Friends operation has been in the news before
Normal people looking for a dog would have to go to a considerable amount of trouble to "adopt" a dog from this outfit. From the group's website:
....We have an adoption contract for you to complete. If you want to adopt one of our friends, the adoption fee will generally be $150.00 to $300.00 for a spayed/neutered adult dog and $250.00 to $400.00 for a puppy. At times we do charge a higher adoption fee and such pet is labled as a fundraiser pet. Fundraiser pets are trypically chosen as fundraiser pets because they are in high demand and their adoption can generate revenue needed to care for other animals in the rescue's network.They also refuse to place dogs in households in which the couples are not married.
Cohabitating couples who have not married or joined to each other via a civil union need not apply to adopt our pets. Please do not argue with us; there are many other rescues who will adopt to unmarried couples so we suggest that you contact them.One thing is consistent with all of these animal rescue operations. They believe they are saving the animals from euthanasia. This particular outfit is so against animal killing that they oppose dog abortion:
We do not knowingly abort pregnant dogs or cats. Some rescues do abort pregnancies in their animals. We do not abort for two reasons: first, the babies are living creatures and the abortion is virtually the same things as simply killing them after birth and we do not involve ourselves in the killing of good tempered pets. The second reason that we do not abort is the risk that the abortion will harm or kill the mother. We are always interested in hearing from people who are willing and able to foster pregnant pets and their babies. We provide food and medical care for all moms and their babies in our network.Naturally, they resolutely oppose the breeding of dogs (and insist on spaying and neutering). Somehow, it escapes me how neutered dogs crammed together in unhealthy and crowded conditions are "happier" than puppy mill dogs which are allowed to breed.
It's not as if the dogs know that they are being "saved" -- much less from what.
There are a lot of articles about this organization's ongoing struggle. They have previously complained about harrassment by the authorities, and in 2005 it appeared that they were almost closed, but they engaged in a lengthy dispute. Now that they're closed, the neighbors are relieved.
The whole thing is quite sad. I don't like seeing animals mistreated, whether by unscrupulous breeders or animal hoarders who imagine they're doing unwanted animals a favor when their conditions are as bad or worse than puppy mills.
I suspect there will be more of these stories, because there is a war between dog breeders and self styled animal rescuers. It's a war over two competing views of morality -- one which considers animals property, and another which considers them like death row inmates, or like slaves.
It's an emergent form of morality, and it strikes me as analogous to the culture war (although I think the distinction between man and animal involves more than just a culture or lifestyle clash).
In any event, feminist blogger Jessica Valenti ran smack into it recently, because she committed an immoral act. What did she do that was so immoral?
Jessica Valenti bought a dog.
No big deal. Certainly it's nothing that I consider immoral in the least. (Far from it; it's something I support, and I have repeatedly warned people about the consequences of non ownership of animals, most recently in the Ellen DeGeneres context.)
I think the Salon article exposes a dirty little secret which is not receiving the discussion it should. There are a growing number of people who consider Jessica Valenti's act of buying a dog (a normal and legal act repeated by millions of Americans) to be inherently evil, as literally akin to human slavery. There is a huge and growing cultural disconnect. By admitting to a dog purchase, Valenti generated an uncomfortable moral debate. As Salon puts it,
people were confronting a difference at the very core of their morals and the great lengths people went to show how deeply irrational the other side was being.The Jessica Valenti dog-buying incident generated an articulate and widely quoted post in her defense at the Feministe blog. Unfortunately (but probably understandably), it has been pulled from Feministe but it was cross-posted here. However, the Feministe cache remains here for the time being (scroll down to the entry titled "holy crap"), and I'll quote it in its entirety, because I agree with it and I don't like coverups.
BEGIN EXTENDED QUOTE HEREI can’t believe I just read this. From a thread on Feministing responding to a cute video of Jessica’s puppy Monty, in which several people excoriated Jessica for getting Monty from a breeder, and demanded she justify her decision because she’s a feminist and dog breeding is somehow a core feminist issue:I don't know who "Steve" is, but judging from the tone, I don't blame the writer for missing him.I just — that’s offensive to me on so many levels; I simply can’t imagine how that feels to someone whose ancestors survived the Middle Passage only to be sold at auction and kept in bondage for the rest of their lives; someone whose relatives in living memory were denied civil rights, equal access to education, and subject to lynching for nothing more than looking at a white person funny.
This blogger quoted it, and the issue was interesting enough for Salon.
But it's an issue with which few are comfortable (and I suspect that's why the post was pulled.)
I'm fascinated by the slavery analogy though. Wrong as it is, I think it raises some fascinating points about the morality of reproduction. If animals and people are equal, what gives humans the right to possess intact genitalia, but not animals? If dogs are like slaves, but should not be allowed to breed, does that mean slaves should not have been allowed to breed? Or does it mean that the dogs should be freed from captivity entirely and only then allowed to breed?
Or should humans not be allowed to breed? I mean, aren't there too many unwanted humans?
Frankly, I think the animal rights people are out of touch with reality. If humans are like animals are like humans, then why should there be different standards?
It is not immoral to buy a dog, because dogs are property. What is immoral (IMO) is to create a new morality based on the premise that dogs are like humans and should have the same rights.
This new morality degrades humanity, because ultimately it means that there's no reason that humans shouldn't be treated like dogs. (Licensed, controlled, impounded, sterilized....)
So why isn't it being condemned more resolutely?
UPDATE: Zuzu, the author of the post I quoted above, left a helpful comment below:
The post wasn't pulled from Feministe, but the link in that post isn't working now because Feministe migrated to a new host briefly, then back when it didn't work out as planned; as a consequence, links from that period aren't working. Here's the post: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/09/05/holy-crap/The link works fine, and the post was not pulled as I stated above.
I'm glad to see that I was in error in making that assumption.
posted by Eric on 10.30.07 at 11:00 AM
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