WAR IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN: Saving Children and Animals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1992:

press dispatches should have warned the
world. “Rivers and water holes have
dried up for the first time anyone can
remember, starving and burning to death
some 400 hippos,” Associated Press cor-
respondent Angus Shaw wrote from
Zimbabwe in mid-July. “Dead birds have
dropped out of shriveled trees, tortoises,
snakes, rodents, and insects have disap-
peared, and predators are killing more
weakened animals than they can eat… As
southern Africa suffers its worst drought
ever, thousands of animals have died and
officials are continuing to shoot many
more to feed the increasingly desperate
human population. The meat from the
culled animals has been targeted for chil-
dren showing signs of malnutrition.”

By September 16, New York
Times correspondent Barbara Crossette
reported, “Millions of animals are dying.
At least two million people have become
refugees in search of food.” United
Nations relief workers estimated that at
least 18 million people might die before
year’s end, most of them starving chil-
dren. Taking matters into their own
hands, boys and girls barely into their
teens joined guerilla bands in wartorn
Somalia, seized food shipments, and
obliged the U.S. Marines to guard the
U.N. warehouses.
That same afternoon, approxi-
mately 70 participants returned home
from the second in a series of American
Humane Association conferences on the
relationship between child protection and animal protection.
As war, drought, and famine harshly demonstrated, not far
from the site of the Biblical Garden of Eden, what happens
to animals happens to children, too. On the global scale,
it’s the mindless destruction of ecosystems and national
infrastructure to achieve transient wealth and political influ-
ence. On the neighborhood scale, it’s the destruction of
homes by drugs and family violence.
“The identity of the victim is in large measure
incidental,” San Francisco Department of Animal Control
deputy director Ken White observed. “The pathology is the
Agreed Denver Indian Health/Family Services Inc.
executive director John Compton, “No society or ethnic
group has adequately addressed war. All cultures have
failed to deal with this kind of conflict…You can’t just say
you revere animals and children. You must revere the total
Near Habarre, Somalia, former camel trader
Sharif Abdul Nur tried to explain to Jane Perlez of the New
York Times why his ambition in life is to regain some
camels, even though the commercial market for camel
meat, milk, and transportation has virtually vanished.
Camels provided his sense of security and stability. When
he slaughtered his last seven camels to feed his 20 children,
three of whom later died of hunger, he felt his sense of
hope die, too.
Compton outlined the similar feeling his ancestors
had toward dogs. They were pets, they were work animals,
and they too were eaten in a crisis.
As conference participants typed out their notes, a
Russian man who saw his four-year-old brother killed and
eaten during World War II was sentenced to death for mur-
dering and cannibalizing 56 children and young women.
But the AHA conference was not called to dwell
upon the extremes of behavior, nor even to diagnose the
underlying disease. The disease is no secret, explained
Scott McVey of the Geraldine Dodge Foundation in his con-
ference-opening remarks. “The beginning of any investiga-
tion into violence toward children and animals should begin
with violence toward women,” he pronounced. He noted
that while both mothers and fathers may intensely love their
own children, fathers are less likely to generalize that love
and extend it toward other children. Conditioned to fight
for social and economic status, fathers are more likely to
rationalize aggression by professing that the political or
material status symbol sought is to benefit children, even if
the children suffer and die during the struggle to attain it.
Finally, fathers are more likely to project vicarious aggres-
sive goals onto children, especially sons, who grow up
believing they must be aggressive to win parental approval.
This doesn’t necessarily translate into violence––but for
those who are thwarted in politics and commerce, fighting
tends to be the next resort. The immediate need, McVey
said, is simply to, “Reduce the violence to the vulnerable.”
The conference was about how––and how to main-
tain hope. “I am very pessimistic about what our species is
doing as regards the longterm future of the planet,” White
confessed, “but I am very optimistic about what two or
three people can do by thinking globally and acting locally,
in their own community…I have to believe we are doing
some good to keep coming to work each day,”
“Our responsibility is to be stones in the water,”
said Frederick Chapman Green, an inner city pediatrician
for 40 years and a director of the AHA. “We must go out
and have a ripple effect.” Green explained that the medical
prognosis for an abused child is, “as grim as for leukemia,
because we know now that just as many of these children
will be dead in five years.” He urged attention to parenting,
“which is not intuitive or inate. It is learned behavior.
Nurturing,” he emphasized, “includes care not only of our
children, but of our animal companions. We must combat
the great lies,” he concluded, “that the only way to teach is
through fear, and that beatings don’t do harm.” Green
called for the formation of multidisciplinary crisis interven-
tion teams in every American community, including animal
protection workers, who will treat entire families who are
caught in crisis, not just some symptoms of abuse while
underlying causes go ignored.
Until and unless such multidisciplinary teams are
funded routinely, as a matter of public policy, the burden
of intervening effectively for both children and animals lies
upon individual caseworkers. Attorney Patricia Toth of the
Center for Child Abuse Protection in Alexandria, Virginia,
described how long it took her, as a former prosecuting
attorney, to realize that the people hauled into court for
child abuse, spouse abuse, and animal abuse were often
the same people, transferring abusive behavior from one
target to another as opportunity permitted. “Every one of
us, if we look, will eventually see the connections,” she
declared. Humane Society of Pike’s Peak education and
publicity director Phil Arkow noted that Colorado recently
became the first state to add veterinarians to the list of pro-
fessionals, already including teachers, health care
providers, peace officers, and humane officers, who are
legally obliged to report evidence of child abuse to the
appropriate authorities. Utah State University psychology
professor Frank Ascione pointed out that British artist
William Hogarth illustrated the progression of abuse, from
the torture of dogs to the murder of a pregnant wife, over
200 years ago. Inevitably, speakers mentioned Mary Ellen,
the abused child whose rescue by Etta Angell Wheeler and
American SPCA founder Henry Bergh in 1873 marked the
real beginning of the movement for child protection laws.
If there is one activity everyone can advance to
help both children and animals, most agreed, it is hands-on
humane education––already mandated by law in 23 states,
but largely neglected nonetheless. Hands-on humane educa-
tion helps in two ways: by teaching normal children appro-
priate animal care, and by giving abused and deprived chil-
dren the opportunity to interact with creatures whose affec-
tion may be the first unconditional love and respect they
have ever experienced. Hands-on humane education is dis-
favored in animal rights circles, as Nita Natelson of
Concern for Helping Animals in Israel explained, because it
exposes animals to stress. Natelson herself cancelled a pet
therapy project, she said, because while it might have been
beneficial for the children involved, “the needs of the ani-
mals were not being met.” Most humane organizations
including the AHA are opposed to classroom dissection, but
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has rallied sup-
port for the abolition of all animal use in classrooms.
Summarized Green Chimneys Childrens’ Services
executive director Samuel Ross, “Animal protection people
are always worried that children will abuse the animals in
such a program. Some children will. Child protection peo-
ple are always worried about the opposite, that the animals
are going to scratch of bite the children and possibly expose
someone to legal or professional repercussions. Some will.
We have to ask ourselves what level of risk we are willing to
take to give ourselves the chance of touching one of these
young lives and turning a bad situation around.”
Founded over 40 years ago, Green Chimneys is
one of the oldest animal therapy programs for abused chil-
dren in the world, and one of the largest, with an annual
budget of $12.7 million. At any given time, 102 children
live in Green Chimneys’ group homes in the New York City
area and at a 150-acre farm in Brewster, New York.
Another 30,000 to 40,000 school children per year visit the
farm. “Our goal is not to make farmers,” Ross said, “but to
make people who are going to be able to talk to other peo-
ple.” In accomplishing this, Ross continued, “we find it is
very important that all children should have the opportunity
to have the companionship of a pet. To children who are
alone much of the time, a pet is very very important. So we
have pets in our group homes. On the farm, we have
domestic rare-breed farm animals. Because there is a mar-
ket for these animals among hobbyists and fanciers, we
avoid having to slaughter any––we can’t possibly do that
with children who see these animals as pets and compan-
ions.” Although Green Chimneys does still offer meat with
meals, “we do produce a lot of vegetarians,” Ross laughed.
Green Chimneys cooperates with a number of
organizations who have been targets of protest by animal
rights groups. In September, Green Chimneys sent calves
to Egypt via Heifer Project International, a program to pro-
mote modern animal husbandry abroad. Green Chimneys
also works in partnership with the 4-H Club on some pro-
jects; 4-H Club animal programs usually end with the ani-
mal being auctioned for slaughter. But there are some indi-
cations that perhaps because of Green Chimneys’ influence,
the 4-H Club is reappraising this orientation. Barbara
Chamberlain of the National 4-H Council Communities for
Child Safety stood up after Ross’ talk to tell the audience
that selling animals for slaughter is not part of a
husbandry/therapy project for disturbed adolescent girls now
underway in Oregon; the girls work only with heifers who
will be added to dairy herds. In addition, Chamberlain said,
the 4-H Club has commissioned a study of the psychological
effects on children of selling animals to slaughter, with an
eye toward “making some program changes, in keeping
with our primary mission,” which has shifted in recent years
from training aspiring farmers to providing social education.
Incumbent U.S. president George Bush spoke of
his policies as a crusade for “family values.” Challenger Bill
Clinton pointed with pride to his wife Hillary’s years of ser-
vice to children’s causes. Independent contender Ross Perot
said he returned to the presidential race after dropping out
once, “because I want my children and your children to
grow up to have a chance for a decent future.”
Commentators pointed out that children had never before
been so prominently mentioned in a national political cam-
paign, wondering if the rhetoric would translate into action.
In El Salvador, authorities dug up the bones of
791 people, most of them children, massacred a decade ago
by U.S.-trained troops who were frustrated at their inability
to contain insurgents. In the suburbs of Milwaukee, Kathy
Dorrance marked the 17th anniversary of the suicide of her
husband, poet Don Dorrance, whose last words at the end
of his last long poem protesting cruelty were, “We have not
yet learned we must not kill children.” Lynn Loar of the San
Francisco Child Abuse Council supervised several sensorily
deprived and abused children as they tried, for the first time,
to grow a plant––an essential step, she believes, before they
are entrusted with an animal. On Shaw Island, Washington,
Mother Hildegard George read a child a story.
“The very most important thing we can do for
these children,” she told the AHA gathering, “is to give
them exteriority, a point of reference beyond themselves.”
Nur hauled firewood on his back and dreamed of
the time he will again have camels, not so much to work as
to talk to.
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