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Stop Cruelty to All God's Creatures

By Joel Freedman
March 2009

I stood on a cliff high above the ocean.

To jump or not to jump, that is the question.

Splash! I later emerged from the ocean, uninjured.

My heart pounded as I awoke, but my dream offered an answer to a real-life dilemma about complacency vs. activism.

Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC) is my sanctuary. For decades I have been both a student and a teacher there, and I have appreciated my affiliation with this excellent college. Over the years, people have sought my involvement in occasional FLCC controversies. I said no. After all, I'm usually involved in enough other controversies.

However, as my symbolic dream reminded me, conscience takes precedence. I need to campaign against a situation at FLCC that disturbs me.

As part of a FLCC research project, biology students are expected to go into the woods to cut off toes of live salamanders so the excised toes can be used to identify the individual salamanders for population studies and to genetically identify parent species and the hybrids.

If Dr. Barbara Risser, FLCC's president, allows this gruesome project to begin, the victimized salamanders will suffer, students will be placed in situations that may sooner or later bother their consciences and FLCC's reputation will be tarnished. Unnecessary toe clipping may also violate state laws that prohibit cruelty to animals.

If anyone claims this procedure doesn't hurt salamanders, I will quote Mark Twain: "'Tis said the fishhook doesn't hurt the fish, but 'twasn't the fish who said it."

The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists recognizes "toe clipping is potentially a painful procedure and can result in infection." Simple blood draws or tag systems could achieve the purposes of the salamander project without maiming these animals.

If such alternatives are used, however, students need prerequisite skills to assure animals are unharmed. Because there are many other research projects that don't involve disturbing or injuring animals, why not just leave the salamanders alone?

Developing respect and compassion for all living beings should be part of a college education. Toe clipping or other projects that harm animals undermine such learning objectives. FLCC needs to eliminate all student projects that harm animals.

As U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, in a congressional speech about cruelty to animals, said, "Let us strive to be good stewards and not defile Godís creatures or ourselves by tolerating unnecessary, abhorrent and repulsive cruelty."

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