Editorial: Wins, losses, and self-defeats
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1998:
A single flash of lightning in mid-afternoon on October 12 presaged a brief rain
shower, apparently struck a telephone line, and blew out the main ANIMAL PEOPLE
We’d thought we had adequate surge protection. The stray voltage bypassed it.
We thought we’d had all essential items backed up. We were catastrophically wrong. We
lost the core of our November edition, as it stood, one week from our original press date.
For almost a month we made do with a system cobbled together from a low-powered
1992-vintage laptop hooked to an external hard drive, giving us just enough electronic
memory to allow limited use of our layout program, plus reference access to our
archives. It wasn’t quite enough to put out a complete newspaper, but we hoped for two
weeks, while service centers dithered, that our old system would soon be repaired and our
lost data could be recovered.
We had just learned those were false hopes, and were contemplating stretching
our credit to buy replacement equipment, when Leo Grillo of DELTA Rescue surprised us
by donating a state-of-the-art whole new set-up. It came with the reputedly superfast Mac
8.5 operating system pre-installed. But that brought another glitch: all our production software
was designed for much more primitive systems. Another week elapsed while we
reconfigured everything, finally purged the malfunctioning 8.5 in favor of the only slightly
older 8.1 system, and repeatedly rewrote the entire November edition to keep it current.
We’ll be unavoidably late with our December edition, too, containing our ninth
annual report on the budgets, assests, and top salaries paid by the 100-odd most prominent
animal and habitat protection charities. We hope to get back on schedule by early 1999.
Meanwhile, the lightning flash did enable us to report in this edition the results of
the November 3 animal welfare referendums: big wins in Arizona, California, and
Missouri over cockfighting, horse slaughter, and some forms of trapping, offset by equally
lopsided losses in Alaska, Minnesota, Ohio, and Utah, all against hunting and trapping.
Building a humane society is the process of improving human perception of fundamental
relationships––or, as our late friend Henry Spira put it, ever broadening the circle
of compassion through seeking “stepwise incremental progress,” so that each reform
both expands upon the accomplishments of the last and sets up the next.
Spira’s last words for publication, urging direct opposition to meat-eating,
appeared in our October edition, alongside a guest column by fellow student of tactics
Steve Hindi. Mocking the “goofy rooster mating strut” of bullfighters, Hindi noted that
boxers, wrestlers, and judokas almost instinctively realize the importance of finishing each
maneuver in position to start the next.
The same precept applies in politics. “Progress” made in a manner that forestalls
further progress is not really progress at all, especially if one must then expend resources to
defend a marginal gain against a vigorous backlash.
This is why ANIMAL PEOPLE has been critical since May 1997 of the language
used by the Humane Society of the U.S. and other sponsors of Proposition 4, the
California anti-trapping initiative, which bans body-gripping traps “for the purposes of
recreation or commerce in fur,” along with the use of Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide
to kill wildlife––at high cost to momentum and position.
The initiative banned trapping for “commerce in fur,” but not “commercial nuisance
wildlife trapping,” and exempted “federal, state, county, or municipal government
employees or their duly authorized agents.”
This language allows most predator trapping to continue––which is most trapping
in California. The public now thinks trapping has been banned in California, yet most
California trappers can conduct business as usual. Many years may pass before enough
Californians realize that trapping has not been banned to once again rally against it.
Establishing principles in law and then strengthening the law by amendment is traditionally
effective, and indeed is the process by which all significant animal-protective
legislation has evolved. Proposition 4, however, was taken to the public in the first place
because the agriculture committee within the California state assembly has for decades
blocked anti-trapping legislation favored by public polls. The same committee will sidetrack
efforts to favorably amend Proposition 4. Yet Proposition 4 will come under
attack––leaving California anti-trapping activists to defend a still unsatisfactory status quo.
California Proposition 6, banning the sale of horses to slaughter, may be hard to
enforce, as critics charge, and may only stimulate the transport of horses to slaughter auctions
outside the state. Yet Proposition 6 was sounder in concept than Proposition 4,
because it forthrightly sought and attained the whole objective––and even if it does create a
black market in horses for killing, it made that market illegal.
As well as fighting Proposition 4, the hook-and-bullet crowd mustered everything
they could against the Ohio initiative seeking to restore the state ban on dove hunting,
against the Alaskan initiative seeking to ban wolf snaring, and in favor of Minnesota and
Utah state constitutional amendments which guarantee, respectively, that hunting, fishing,
and trapping shall continue “forever,” and that any referendums pertaining to wildlife must
be passed by two-thirds of the voters, instead of a simple majority.
This may well be found unconstitutional. Though favored by voters, the Utah
amendment was opposed as a bad political precedent by both major Salt Lake City newspapers
and the American Civil Liberties Union.
Like similar measures adopted in 1996 by the voters of Alabama and Michigan,
the Minnesota and Utah amendments reflect the desperation of an establishment which is
uneasily aware that the clout it once had is waning, just as surely as hunter and trapper numbers
are declining––especially relative to the total U.S. electorate. These measures buy time,
obliging animal advocates to reverse them before proceeding to seek piecemeal reform.
Don’t deny the issues
Because pro-hunting and trapping campaign strategists know that killing animals
for kicks is already unacceptable to most Americans, their chief defense for years now has
been to associate hunting and trapping with getting meat and protecting livestock.
A secondary defense has been equating hunting and trapping with “scientific”
wildlife management, while arguing that animal advocates are anti-science because most
oppose laboratory use of animals.
Sustaining those themes, Ohioans for Wildlife Conservation, managed by the
Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, put $2.4 million into a pro-dove hunting campaign
featuring TV spots, one of which asserted, “Out-of-state extremists want to close down our
cattle, chicken and hog farms, and close down your right to eat meat. Their plans destroy
farms and send food prices through the roof. Save the family farm. Vote no on Issue 1.”
Claimed another, “Our twins nearly died in a house fire. They’re alive thanks to
fine surgeons and what they learned on animals. Extremists want to ban research on animals.
Issue 1 is their first step.”
Save The Doves on October 1 won a ruling from the Ohio Elections Commission
that there was “probable cause” to believe that four of the OWC spots were “misleading and
false,” but failed to press the complaint before the election because Save The Doves chair
Ritchie Laymon was out of town on the date the commission originally set for a hearing.
That was perhaps the blunder that assured defeat, this time around––but some of
HSUS senior vice president Wayne Pacelle’s comments may have done more longterm
harm. According to Columbus Dispatch statehouse reporter James Bradshaw, Pacelle said
HSUS “opposes activities such as cockfights, dog fights, and ‘unnecessary’ testing on animals
for cosmetics, but has never promoted vegetarianism or opposed medical research.”
Further, Pacelle said, “Michigan doesn’t have dove hunting, and they haven’t
turned into a vegetarian society.”
This is all true. HSUS––and The Fund for Animals, the other major funder of the
Issue 1 campaign––have had little to do with either advancing vegetarianism or opposing
use of animals in biomedical research. HSUS positions on meat-eating and laboratory use of
animals have actually somewhat trailed mainstream public opinion in recent years, while
The Fund has always focused on wildlife.
Tactically, it was worthwhile to remind voters that Issue 1 was about dove hunting.
As mainstream media often mentioned, dove hunting was banned in Ohio from 1917
until 1995 except for the two years 1975-1976. Thus seeking to reinstitute the ban was
merely seeking to restore a long prevalent norm.
But Pacelle could easily have said as much without seeming to deny that meat-eating
and animal use in biomedical research are central humane concerns––as just about the
whole public knows. Far from reassuring the voters, he just seemed to confirm the hunters’
allegation that animal rights actvists were concealing their further agenda.
Even more important, meat-eating is the fundamental issue in animal protection,
and humane spokespersons should never flinch from addressing it. As Spira pointed out,
99% of all the animals who suffer and die in the U.S. are bred, raised, and killed for meat,
mostly exempt from any humane standards.
If the foes of Issue 1 convinced the public to equate shooting doves with eating
chicken, more doves might be shot (until all hunting becomes socially unacceptable), but
far fewer chickens might endure misery in ruthless “animal factories” before being
eaten––and though hunters kill more doves than any other species, cutting U.S. chicken
consumption by even 1% could prevent more animal-killing than banning dove hunting
A “stepwise, incremental approach” to reducing animal suffering favors banning
recreational hunting of any creature, any time possible, but never at cost of ignoring or
denying the suffering of others.
Chicken suffering was on the ballot, sort of, in Arizona and Missouri. Each
banned cockfighting by an overwhelming margin.
Paul Sloca of Associated Press reported on October 16 that according to foes of the
Missouri initiative, “Under the definition of animal harassment written into the measure,
amateur state rodeos not sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association could
be considered harassment.”
Those of us who find rodeo inherently inhumane may note that it has now been
prominently equated with cockfighting, which was already illegal in 45 states.
Scientific use of animals wasn’t on any ballot, but in at least six states hunters and
trappers’ campaign literature accused animal defenders of being “unscientific” in expressing
concern for animal suffering. Yet if animal experiments have established one fact over the
past 200 years, it is that animals suffer pain and fear exactly as we do. It is only scientific
to respond to that fact, supported further by the discovery of social science that the violence
humans direct toward each other tends to echo whatever violence is done toward animals.
Let animal abusers rally around the meat ax. Let animal defenders point out that
hunters, trappers, and cockfighters are rarely rocket scientists, nor scientists of any kind––
and that though we may disagree with some biomedical researchers about how they use animals,
the weight of scientific evidence favors vegetarianism.