Whenever I pass the neighborhood pet store, I try not to
see the puppies who will be sold to anyone who buys them. I know some
puppies will be fortunate enough to be sold to loving people but others
will be bought by people who have no concept of the inherent value of
They will be sold to people with preconceived notions of
what a well bred and perfect dog should be; and they will wind up in a
shelter, or destroyed by a private vet, if they fail to meet
expectations. Pet stores never fail to remind me of several young dogs
who were destroyed because their "owners" (my neighbors) were
dissatisfied with them, and so replaced them with a "better dog" within
days. So it's easier for me to look away.
But this weekend I was struck by a big sign in the pet
store window. It read: "THESE PUPPIES COME ONLY FROM LOVING,
CONSCIENTIOUS BREEDERS." Really?
We may be tempted to congratulate ourselves for our
effort against puppy mills for it seems to have made its mark on selling
dogs, but what that sign doesn't say is that each of these puppies is
seriously at risk when sold to an open public. It is only by luck that
they will find a loving home.
Certainly, no one can rightfully claim to love these
animals when they sell them as a commodity and expose them to this risk.
No one can truly claim they love dogs if they continue
to manufacture them while millions are dying in shelters. Big signs and
tangential measures are like putting a bandage on a splinter. In
reality, it doesn't work.
Yet similar advertising is being used to sell meat with
a label that reads: "Certified Humane Raised & Handled". Like the sign
in the pet store window, it will appeal to people who are concerned with
factory farming but who aren't willing to give much thought to whether
this project is realistic. At best it will reduce the suffering of the
comparatively few animals raised and slaughtered on participating farms;
but if the project reaches the main meat industry as planned, it is
unrealistic to believe any such effort could address billions of farm
Factory farms exist not only because agribusiness has
taken over family farms, but because billions of meat and dairy
consumers require that farm animals outnumber humans by at least 3
to 1. It is impossible to enforce either humane laws or standards
nationwide when billions of animals are assembly lined. That is the
In addition, as presented on CBS News, this project will
pay the USDA to check if participating farms adhere to their standards.
CBS News | The 'Humane' Seal Of Approval | May 23, 2003
That's right, the same USDA which has ignored the suffering of circus
elephants and which claims it cannot control Class B dealers who sell
stolen dogs to research.
Yes, the same USDA which Dateline found negligent in governing puppy
The Animal Trust
The same USDA, forever loyal to industry, that lets meat contaminated
with ecoli, salmonella, campylobacter and even deadly listeria pass
The Meat Recall Sham
The reliability of the USDA checking or enforcing standards hardly seems
And like the sign in the pet store window, this label
ignores the bigger question, i.e., What is humane about killing healthy
animals, no matter how they are handled? We know that natural predators
and some human populations depend on eating other animals in order to
survive, and we understand they have no choice. Even so, because
predation will always benefit the predator at the ultimate expense to
the prey, the first moral consideration is how this benefit compares to
the personal cost of the prey's life.
While we always favor less suffering than more, there
was a time when animal life was not taken for granted. We've lost touch
with our hunter-gatherer ancestry, our cultures which killed to survive
but which did not disregard the animal's personal interest in living. So
great was the respect for animals that some cultures found spiritual
ways to apologize to the animals for harming them.
Now in our affluent societies, we are not bound by the
same necessities of survival and it is too easy to disconnect from the
animals that become food. We may falsely take for granted that animals
exist for our benefit but truly no species exists solely for another.
Each species has its own innate protections because each exists for
itself. If we choose to eat meat and animal products, it should at least
be an honest choice.
I find it disappointing that some animal welfare
organizations are endorsing companion animal breeding and so called
humane killing. If the fundamental rights of animals are to be
recognized, we need an honest and central focus, rather than tangential
measures which make it easier to exploit them. These only put a bandage
on splinters that need to be removed.
Go on to Drawing New Lines: Activism & Human-Animal Boundaries
Return to 7 December 2003 Issue
Return to Newsletters
** Fair Use Notice**
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been
specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this
not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the
copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright
Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your
own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright