Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 28 February 2002 Issue
By JULIA SZABO
February 3, 2002 -- A tasteless joke published in a recent issue of Maxim
magazine has animal lovers in an uproar. The source of the outrage, submitted
by a San Francisco reader named John Kelly and printed in the
December 2001 issue, goes like this: "How do you make a cat go woof? Douse it
with gasoline and toss it into a fireplace."
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals here in New York City has noticed that "Maxim has a history of insensitivity to animal cruelty," said Dr. Larry Hawk, president of the ASPCA. "About a year ago there was a similar comment in Maxim," Hawk added, "and we wrote a letter appealing to the editors' sensitivity, but the distasteful comments about animals continue. I appeal again to the Maxim editors - and to all magazine editors - to be more sensitive to our animal friends. We don't need jokes about animal cruelty."
The ASPCA wrote another letter to the editor in chief of Maxim, Keith Blanchard. So did the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in Washington, D.C., and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in Maryland. These organizations' concern was expressed in polite, respectful terms.
The HSUS letter read, in part, "We understand that Maxim is a magazine with an edge, but this time you went way over it. There is nothing funny about cruelty to animals. It is a real problem in our society that needs to be taken seriously."
PETA's letter tried to fight cruel humor with subtle wit, appealing to Maxim's appreciation of beautiful babes: "Please give us sex humor, not sick humor." None of the organizations got a response from Maxim.
Animal activist Gary Kaskel, co-chair of the Manhattan-based Shelter Action Reform Committee, used harsher words. "This disgusting example of hateful frat-boy humor is revolting and simply outrageous," he wrote in a letter to Felix Dennis of Dennis Publishing, which publishes Maxim. "If I were you, I would fire all the pathetic jerks on your staff who allowed this to go to press." He didn't get a response, either.
When this reporter called Maxim's offices seeking a telephone interview with Blanchard or Dennis, the magazine passed the request on to its public relations agency, Four Corners, whose president, Drew Kerr, promptly called back. The response? "Maxim is not commenting," Kerr said. When asked why not, he said, "They don't want to."
If words fail, perhaps Maxim might respond to numbers. Animal lovers could simply cancel their Maxim subscriptions - and make it known why they did so. Maybe then the editors might consider putting an end to endorsements of animal cruelty, which happens to be a felony in 28 states, including New York and New Jersey.
Individuals convicted of this felony face serious punishment. In December, Robert Hunlock, a prison guard at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, N.Y., was convicted on all counts of aggravated animal abuse for taking five kittens he found in an inmate's cell and throwing them down a trash compactor. Hunlock will be sentenced on March 19, at which time he could get two years in jail, plus a $5,000 fine.
Animal cruelty is no laughing matter: Thousands of intentional animal-cruelty incidents occur in the United States each year, and many of them involve cats that have been set on fire. According to the HSUS, at least 63 percent of these animals are killed or must be euthanized as a result of their injuries, and the perpetrators are overwhelmingly young men.
Which is why Maxim's insensitivity is so relevant. If a magazine perceived as cool, with a readership of 2.5 million, endorses intentional animal cruelty, chances are impressionable boys and young men will act on what they read - and many animals will suffer.
But even if you're not an animal lover, you should care about cruelty to animals, whether real or suggested. "Animal cruelty often occurs in tandem with human violence," explained Virginia M. Prevas of the HSUS. "Research clearly shows that animal cruelty does not occur in a vacuum, and individuals who engage in this behavior may be predisposed to other crimes such as domestic violence, child abuse, arson and even murder."
Copyright 2002 NYP Holdings, Inc. All rights reserved.
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