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1 December 2002 Issue

Money Madness and Animals
By David Cantor - Djcgside@aol.com 
Editor's Comment (from "PSYETA News," Fall 2002, Volume 22)
Psychologists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

As Kevin Phillips explains in Wealth and Democracy (2002), the term "plutomania," the fanatical pursuit of money, went out of vogue in the middle of the 20th century, when New Deal and subsequent reforms appeared to have restricted the extent to which a few people could obtain enormous wealth while millions were destitute or desperately struggling. The recent looting of Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and other publicly held companies at the expense of millions of people logically should revive concerns about plutomania. So should exposure, in The Cheating of America: How Tax Avoidance and Evasion by the Super Rich Are Costing the Country Billions -- and What You Can Do about It (2002), by Charles Lewis & Bill Allison and the Center for Public Integrity.

Meanwhile, psychologists and other experts agree that, beyond meeting basic needs, increasing wealth does not increase its possessors' happiness. The lure of wealth, rather than the results of obtaining it, appear to drive some people's apparent mania for it.

Despite indignation about unethical or unlawful money hauls - and despite such warnings as that issued in economist David Schumacher's popular Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered (1973) that the true costs of production are not acknowledged until we understand that depletion of Earth's "resources" is a capital expenditure - one hears nothing in public discourse about the suffering and destruction caused by the treatment of animals as commodities to mass-produce in the most profitable ways for experimentation, food, or other uses.

Mass-news-media discussions of families who have "lost everything" due to the collapse of Enron or WorldCom can be depended upon to ignore the connection between plutomania and animal abuse. Such discussions never question whether terrible suffering is inherent in an economic system that worships wealth and whether our society as a whole is deluded and in need of genuine education; they restrict themselves to questions of who broke what laws or regulations and what should be done to a very few people who "crossed the line." "Corporate ethics" merely refers to accounting procedures and has nothing to do with choices as to whom is produced, what is produced, or production methods.

A genuine nationwide concern with ethics would have to include those crucial concerns. It is indeed unacceptable to deceive people into losing their pensions and their homes, but when people experience financial ruin, they are not killed at seven weeks of age without ever having spent an enjoyable hour in the sun. Nor are they isolated in cages or tortured with toxic chemicals or experimental surgical or dental techniques.

On December 2, 1999, the president of the Ohio State Senate, Richard Finan, appeared on C-SPAN's morning call-in interview program Washington Journal. A caller asked Finan if he thought it was right for Ohio, then in the process of becoming a major egg-producing state, to permit the operation of battery-shed egg factories holding hundreds of thousands of caged hens per building. Finan answered that such facilities were "the coming wave of the future . You just can't put 'em out of business."

It is naive to think some will not always possess or wish to possess more wealth than others. It is equally naive to think corporate ethics are being addressed in the outcry over current scandals. Most naive of all may be to think justice is related only to the treatment of fellow human beings and not to human beings' treatment of nonhuman animals. PSYETA's groundbreaking projects, its directors' publications, its website (www.psyeta.org), and the Society & Animals journal uniquely insist that humanity must address connections between the mistreatment of humans and of nonhumans. Working together, perhaps we can broaden today's focus on fraud to a more comprehensive discussion of plutomania's consequences for nonhuman animals. Maybe Finan was wrong; maybe we can "put 'em out of business."

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