Editorial: Cruelty cannot be stopped by one-party politics
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 1999:
Our July/August 1999 cover feature on the Korean failure to enforce often promised
bans on torturing dogs and cats to death as human food notes that the “victory” the humane
community thought was long ago won in Korea was unusual among global issues––because it
did not come through linking the abolition of cruelty to protecting an endangered species.
The only similar example coming quickly to mind was the 1991 European
Community passage of a ban on imports of leghold-trapped fur. To have taken effect on
January 1, 1995, the ban was repeatedly delayed and finally killed on the pretext that it would
hurt Native Americans––who have never in the 20th century accounted for more than 5% of
the total North American trapped fur volume. Yet as early as 1985 the Native American argument
caused Greenpeace to scrap opposition to trapping, sealing, and indigenous whaling,
showing the wildlife use industries how to hide behind so-called “endangered cultures.”
Many other signal “victories” of the 1980s have now unraveled, often through the
offices of “environmentalist” presidential candidate Albert Gore. Each such “victory” incorporated
rhetoric which seemed to make species abundance the sole issue, to the exclusion of
language which made plain that cruelty is of at least equal public concern.
Permanent abolition of all cruelty is a fundamental humane goal. A moratorium on
cruel behavior, or regulation thereof, can be a worthwhile first step, but only if there is no
agreement built into it that the cruelty may resume, for cultural or economic reasons, if the
victim species is not at risk of extinction.
Repeatedly, the humane community has eagerly and gratefully accepted apparent
concessions from governments and international regulatory bodies which do not include specific
language addressing cruelty. Among the outcomes:
• The 1984 suspension of the Atlantic Canada offshore seal hunt lasted 10 years, but
ended after fishers and sealers accused seals of “overpopulating” and depleting overfished cod.
• The 1986 global moratorium on commercial whaling cracked in 1993, when
Norway resumed killing minke whales because they were not endangered, and may now disintegrate
under the claim that whaling is justifiable to preserve “endangered” human cultures.
• The 1989 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species ban on international
traffic in elephant ivory shattered in 1997, as Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe
complained of having too many elephants and won permission to resume ivory exports.
Mozambique, whose elephants were nearly poached out during 15 years of ivory-funded civil
war, in June 1999 announced that it, too, is to resume killing elephants and selling ivory.
• The 1990 U.S. passage of “dolphin safe” tuna legislation was dismantled this
spring by the combination of opposition from free trade advocates and the argument that it is
more ecologically necessary to protect sharks and sea turtles––who are less jeopardized by netting
tuna “on dolphin,” but would be better protected by not eating tuna at all. Incidentally,
Atlantic bluefin tuna are themselves now in danger of extinction.
Self-defeat through compromise
The humane community accepted compromise on each issue from an endemic feeling
of political weakness. Much like an abused and fearfully dependent housewife who feels
she cannot survive without her hunter/trapper husband’s economic support, though she loathes
his stench of blood, humane organizations cozied up to hunter/conservationists to borrow their
clout. Along the way, self-compromised humane movement leaders were protected from criticism
by the perennial and deeply misguided hunger of activists for “movement unity”––much
as many worthless husbands avoid rejection, and hence an imperative for reform, because
their wives dare not disturb a fragile and superficial family harmony.
The early antivivisectionist Oscar Wilde called efforts to maintain a “foolish consistency”
the “hobgoblin of petty minds.” As ANIMAL PEOPLE has often pointed out, misguided
attempts to establish “movement unity” by suppressing real conflicts of outlook, tactics,
and goals do the animal protection cause more harm than any hobgoblins of open discord.
Indeed, the quest for surface unity only intensifies behind-the-scenes conflict by elevating
the stakes of infighting—because whoever sets the public agenda “wins,” and everyone
else must then support that approach or be accused of breaking unity, even if they think it is
100% dead wrong and counterproductive.
Trying to keep conflicts hidden helps the corrupt and incompetent to get away with
it, helps agents provocateur to hide, and allows foes to tar the whole cause with one brush
––such as asserting that humane activists support terrorism. The number, for instance, who
denounce Animal Liberation Front arsons, bombings and other vandalism are so few that in
Utah the Jordan School District and Salt Lake Area Gang Project in April convinced U.S.
District Judge Dee Benson that banning the word “vegan” from clothing worn to school as
being associated with violence is, in Benson’s words, “reasonable…based on experience.”
Veganism is historically rooted in Ahimsa, the 3,000-year-old Jain tradition of practicing
absolute nonviolence, even to minute insects and vegetables. Yet not even one U.S.
group advocating a vegan lifestyle submitted a friend-of-the-court brief pointing out a record
of uncompromised opposition to violence misguidedly committed in the name of veganism.
Most important, seeking homogeneity abandons much potential public support for
humane causes, because instead of seeing a variety of views to choose from, the public sees
only one, and often feels uncomfortable with all the baggage attached to it. Retailers learned
long ago that more choice means more sales, but the humane cause has yet to notice.
“Movement unity,” meanwhile, was the strategic approach of the Marxists, who
spent most of the 20th century sneering at the chaos of multi-party politics, and during it
accomplished mainly their own effective extinction, after massacring tens of millions of people
and inventing factory farming in their worship of standardization at any cost.
Because the Republic of Korea was created by the conflict between free enterprise
and Marxism, and because humane opposition to dog-and-cat-eating indirectly but substantially
aided the cause of Korean political freedom, we had much reason to contemplate the virtues
of vibrant disunity as we researched our cover feature.
Predictably, though Korea has just two humane societies, and several other concerned
but independent voices, there are deep divisions among them. The Korean Animal
Protection Society first defined the issues, as the first Korean humane organization, and set
forth the approach endorsed ever since by the major international players.
Twenty years and many failures later, mainly due to the reluctance of the Korean
government to forthrightly keep pledges to stop cruelty, others have some different ideas.
KAPS and the U.S.-based support group International Aid for Korean Animals hold
that halting dog-and-cat-eating must be the single focus of Korean humane work until it is at
last really achieved; that the emphasis must be limited to dogs and cats because they are the
species most egregiously abused; that the only worthwhile approach is to seek a total ban on
any dog-or-cat-eating; that the immediate goal must be strong legislation; and that the best
campaign tactic is to boycott Korean corporations until they help to stop dog-and-cat-eating.
Alternate views include that suffering is the issue, not which species are the victims;
that the focus should be on halting all cruelty, in part because a society which does not tolerate
flogging a horse is less likely to tolerate beating dogs and cats to death; that regulating
dogs and cats as livestock might be a way to enforce some humane standards; that the effort
and time required to abolish dog-and-cat-eating may be no greater than what might be needed
to create a broad-based vegetarian movement, especially since 47% of the population are
already Buddhists (49% are Christian); that changing social values precedes successfully
effecting change through legislation; and that instead of alienating Korean corporations,
humane advocates should seek strategic, supportive, and culturally transforming alliances.
Not all of these alternate views are shared by all of the people who agree that dogand-cat-eating
must be abolished yet tactically or philosophically disagree with the KAPS
approach. Certainly the KAPS and alternate views don’t neatly divide into the “welfare” and
“rights” camps familiar from U.S. and European debate. Some aspects of each agenda may be
internally contradictory, and most of either agenda conflicts somewhat with the other.
But all of this is advantageous. Acknowledging differences and competing for favor
with the public, the media, and the power-holders, advocates of each position advance realization
that the status quo is unacceptable. They can draw support for their shared goals from
more people by offering different ways to get there, and thereby increase the pressure on the
power-holders to respond.
The development of alternate approaches also usefully changes the shape of the
political game. The more humane players ante up, the greater the hope that one can broker a
winning hand, as they all watch for under-the-table dirty dealing.
Successful politicians, meanwhile, try to please everyone. If “everyone” appears to
be at least two humane factions with public backing, against one uncontestably abusive animal
use industry, even a divide-and-conquer artist will find making serious humane concessions
strategic, and will be better able to defend concessions against industry complaint.
Maintain unity against mayhem
The place for unity is in not compromising essential goals. Differing humane
approaches and philosophies must compete, but any humane society betrays itself and the
cause if it goes beyond grudging temporary acceptance of what for the moment it cannot
change, and instead endorses the cruel practice.
The most flagrant and pointless betrayal of humane goals by a major humane society
that we have seen in some time came recently when the Montreal-based Canadian SPCA, at
reported urging of executive director Pierre Banotti, in June 1999 endorsed a so-called
“bloodless” bullfight to be held at Olympic Stadium in August––for 25¢ from each ticket sold.
A CSPCA policy statement adopted in April 1990 states unequivocally that “The CSPCA is
opposed to the use of animals in circuses, rodeos, greyhound racing, and bullfights.”
Humanitarians have been virtually unanimous since the dawn of the humane cause
that the first abuses to address must be those which set, by open example, the threshhold for
societal tolerance of cruelty. Cruel and unjust punishment of alleged human criminals was one
of them; animal fighting of any kind, cat-burning, dog-bludgeoning, captive bird shooting,
and sport hunting in any form were among the others.
That the Montreal bullfight is to be “bloodless” and that the bulls are to be put out to
pasture afterward are not mitigating circumstances: the fight remains a message that tormenting
animals for sport is acceptable to the CSPCA, if it gets a cut of the action. And it is an
expansion of bullfighting into a place where it has never before had visible support.
If a humane society in Madrid or Mexico City were to successfully promote “bloodless”
bullfighting in place of the traditional mayhem, a gain for humane values could be
achieved. Montreal, however, is not such a venue. Maintaining meaningful movement unity
requires so stating, in no uncertain terms.
[Address Banotti c/o CSPCA, 5215 Jean Talon St. Ouest, Montreal, Quebec,
Canada H4P 1X4; fax 514-735-7448; >>firstname.lastname@example.org<<.]