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From 15 June 2003 Issue

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By Eilene Robbins Rohde - egress@dotnet.com 

In my work for the Pet Facilities Law for the State of Wisconsin, I have talked to many legislators. Tonight, one of them called me to report that despite his efforts, he is running into opposition for the law from other legislators who view our advocacy as nothing more than the work of "a small bunch of animal rights activists."

Why is the term "animal rights activist" used in an attempt to belittle and marginalize humane-minded people? As children, we are taught in school, in church and in scouts to be actively "kind to animals." Scout troops give children merit badges for animal work...our whole culture tries to teach children kindness. But when we, as adults who learned our childhood lessons well, speak out for animals and express the "humane-ness" that has become part of our personalities... we are labeled as crazy, "humaniacs" or tagged as "animal rights activists" as if our activism were a disease.

This is a sad and tragic aspect of our culture...that humane people have to defend their very spirit of kindness...and to those who "represent" us, at that.

People who speak and work for animals are in the company of great scholars like Jane Goodall and Albert Schweitzer, great authors like Jim Willis and Mathew Scully, and great statesmen like Mohandas Gandhi. I am far more comfortable in their company than that of any legislator who would belittle our efforts with trite tags and insulting labels. I am satisfied knowing that we understand natural beauty, incredible loyalty and unconditional love from animals. And I, for one, could do without "representation" from anyone who viewed our compassion as a liability. I'd rather not have "lawmakers" who would discredit us for being "humane".

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Eilene Ribbens Rohde is the director of an effort to pass the important Pet Facilities Law in WI, which was recently "gutted" by a state finance committee, and the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project. For more information on the PFL (and a model website on a legislative effort), see: http://www.egressetch.com/WisconsinPFL/ 

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