What can we here do to prevent cruelty there?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2005:
July 28, 2005–our July/August press date–was only two
minutes old when the U.S. House of Representatives ratified the
Central American Free Trade Agreement, a pact which may in time have
an enormous influence on animal welfare.
Explained Washington Post staff writers Paul Blustein and
Mike Allen, “The House vote was effectively the last hurdle–and by
far the steepest–facing CAFTA, which will tear down barriers to
trade and investment between the United States, Costa Rica, the
Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and
Like the General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs, brokered by
the United Nations through the World Trade Organization, and like
many other regional treaties arranged under GATT guidelines, CAFTA
expedites globalization of markets.
Such agreements also strongly encourage nations to adopt
uniform standards and policies on human rights, environmental
protection, and occupational health and safety.
International free trade agreements tend to be bitterly
opposed at introduction by trade unionists, environmentalists, and
some animal advocates, who often rightly fear that hard-won gains
made nation by nation will be lost.
Some jobs and even whole industries move toward cheaper
labor, less regulatory restraint, less scrutiny, and less
likelihood of encountering protest. An example of particular concern
to us is that animal testing and animal use in biomedical research
are hemorrhaging from Britain and the U.S., under activist pressure,
but are booming in Asia and Africa, with little or no ethical
Some national laws that help animals, like the U.S.
“dolphin-safe” tuna standard, are stricken down under trade treaties
because they are based on so-called “process standards,” which
regulate how something may be done rather than what the outcome is.
Indeed, “process standards” are a traditional means by which
nations protect inefficient or outmoded industries against foreign
competition. Some “process standards” that protect animals and the
environment exist because they also protect politically favored
industries. The U.S.. for example, formerly barred imports of
shrimp from nations which did not require shrimping vessels to tow
the turtle exclusion devices required in U.S. waters, even though
almost all of the shrimp thus kept out came from aquaculture.
Strong environmental arguments can be made against
aquaculture, especially shrimp farming as practiced along coastal
Southeast Asia. Logging coastal mangrove swamps to expand shrimp
farming contributed to the high human death toll from the December
26, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. But mangrove swamps were not a
concern of the U.S. law governing shrimp imports, in part because
U.S. aquaculture is also ecologically damaging.
HSUS breaks ranks & tradition
The July/August 2005 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE featured the
second longest editorial we have ever published, evaluating 81 years
of attempts to enshrine in international law a set of principles now
titled the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare.
Animal advocates have often hoped that such a declaration was
close to passage. An internationally accepted Universal Declaration
would create an instrument through which animal welfare
considerations could be engineered into GATT, CAFTA, and other trade
agreements, parallel to the considerations for human rights and the
environment which already exist, albeit mostly subordinate to the
primary topic of enabling trade.
As our July/August 2005 editorial recounted in much fuller
detail, there have already been some limited successes in pursuing
international laws pertaining to animal welfare. Most notable are
portions of the 32-year-old U.N. Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species; some rulings of the 59-year-old International
Whaling Commission; one paragraph of the 1999 edition of the Treaty
of Rome, which is the charter of the European Union; and
non-binding conventions on animal transport, husbandry, slaughter,
experimentation, and pet protection adopted since 1968 by the
Council of Europe.
Including more than twice as many nations as the E.U., and
almost a third of all recognized nations globally, the Council of
Europe reaches into Africa, Central Asia, and even to the Americas.
This suggests that the Council of Europe standards, progressive in
many respects, have a good chance to become the first formally
accepted global standards.
First, there must be an international framework of law to
which they may be attached. Then there must be evident international
support for the standards. Even within the Council of Europe, this
has yet to be achieved for the convention on pets, since it would
oblige many member nations to bring their animal control and breeding
practices up to norms higher than those of some U.S. states.
In all likelihood, few Members of Congress who endorsed
CAFTA had in mind any positive thoughts about animal welfare. Among
the CAFTA opponents were several of the U.S. Representatives who most
often favor animal welfare, some of whom expressed concern about the
possible effects of CAFTA on legislation now based on process
The animal welfare community split over CAFTA much as did
U.S. political opinion generally. While most of the other pro-animal
organizations that took a stand opposed CAFTA, the Humane Society of
the U.S., with twice the constituency of any other two groups
combined, favored CAFTA.
Hoping to have counted animal advocates among a unified
opposition to the treaty, fourteen infuriated Congressional
Democrats led by Ohio Representative Sherrod Brown on April 28
released an open letter suggesting that the U.S. Agency for
International Development in effect bought off HSUS with an October
2003 grant of $500,000 to support various activities in Central
HSUS “was a strong opponent of Congressional passage of all major
trade legislation over the past decade,” Brown wrote, citing the
HSUS positions on the North American Free Trade Agreement and
normalization of trade with China. Brown et al alleged that the
Humane Society illegally used some of the grant to lobby in favor of
CAFTA, and asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate.
Brown et al seemed to be unaware that HSUS changed leadership
in mid-2004. HSUS had from inception in 1954 allied itself with
Congressional Democrats, beginning with the late Hubert Humphrey,
who pushed the Humane Slaughter Act to passage in 1958 as Senator
from Minnesota and won passage of the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act
in 1966 as U.S. Vice President. Since the Republicans captured
majorities in both the House and Senate in 1994, however, this was
an increasingly unviable position.
Opposing normalization of trade with China was especially
damaging. In taking the losing side, HSUS more-or-less slammed the
door on opportunities to help the fast-growing Chinese animal
Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president since May 2004, spent the
preceding 10 years as HSUS vice president for government affairs.
During those years, while HSUS remained institutionally aligned with
the Democrats, Pacelle developed personal alliances with
Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and other prominent Republicans.
Aware that backing for pro-animal legislation has always cut
diagonally across traditional political divides, Pacelle as HSUS
president quickly made clear that HSUS would no longer allow either
party to claim pro-animal support as a fiefdom.
The USAid grant was actually made to Humane Society
International, the HSUS global subsidiary.
“We began this venture with an invite from the U.S. Trade
Representative office to become involved in helping Central American
countries improve their environmental and animal welfare efforts,”
HSI president Patricia Forkan told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Other groups were
given similar invitations, but we were the only ones to say we would
try to help. Since then we have sent our Remote Access Veterinary
Service into the region, we are helping improve standards in the
Central American meat industry, and have helped wildlife
rehabilitation groups. One of the best things we have sponsored was
a week-long training session for customs officials and others from
all of the CAFTA nations, as well as Panama, on Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species enforcement. We brought in
folks from the CITES Secretariat to do the training. They said no
training had ever been done there before to help the countries
“Because of CAFTA,” Forkan continued, “nations will be
required to enforce CITES. This has gotten everyone’s attention and
has provided the impetus to do some good work. Since then, we have
sponsored actual CITES enforcement in several countries.
“It is usually the big environmental groups who get these
grants,” Forkan noted. In specific, during the tenure of U.S.
President George W. Bush, USAid funding has flowed to organizations
hellbent on projects such as undoing the 1977 Kenyan ban on sport
hunting, in the name of promoting “sustainable use” of the “wildlife
Whether HSUS could have received USAid funding for work in
Kenya is an open question, but in Central America, where there are
relatively few trophy species to hunt, “None [of the big pro-hunting
environmental groups] wanted to do this kind of capacity building,”
Forkan said, “or they didn’t like being associated with a trade
negotiation. We felt that if we could help improve the life of
animals it was worth a try.”
How globalization helps animals
Treaties which strengthen the principle of international law
tend to help the cause of animal welfare in the long run, even if
they do not include specific pro-animal provisions, by strengthening
the premise that certain ethical concepts are above local pecuniary
Whether free trade as presently practiced really amounts to
fair trade may be debated ad infinitum, but establishing social
justice of any kind begins with establishing rules that apply to all.
From that point forward, there exists a structure which may be
adjusted and adapted to better balance the competing interests. Most
often the strongest factions still prevail, yet might no longer
makes right in all situations. Alliances of nations can usually
diplomatically coerce and cajole even those as large, rich, and
independent as the U.S. into general compliance with what the world
International law tends to be a weak and often uncertain
instrument, since it calls upon nations to voluntarily harmonize
rules and values and regulations which have typically come into
effect to reinforce the institutions that create their national
identity. This includes every edifice of culture: businesses,
occupations, customs, pastimes, and religious practices.
Typically the first subjects to be effectively ruled by
treaty are those where cooperation most clearly favors self-interest.
Trade comes first; cultural conflicts external to trade are usually
deferred, even to the point of ignoring genocide in the name of
respecting national sovereignty, until dead bodies choke the rivers
of downstream nations [which has occurred at least three times in the
past 30 years, on three different continents].
Yet the inherent weakness of international law, especially
in the early phases of adoption, does not mean that it has no value
in seeking cultural transformation on behalf of exploited humans and
animals. On the contrary, cultural transformation is most readily
brought about through cultural exchange, and nothing facilitates
cultural exchange more effectively than freedom of commerce.
Globalization permits Walt Disney, Inc., for example, to
successfully market worldwide the pro-animal themes incorporated into
Bambi, Dumbo, the Fox & The Hound, Lady & The Tramp, 101
Dalmatians and sequels, plus many other productions which are
together a most influential corpus of humane screen literature.
Globalization also permits Hong Kong animal advocates to
point out that Walt Disney, Inc. recently contradicted the values it
represents in ordering the capture for extermination of street dogs
at the soon-to-open site of the Hong Kong Disneyland.
The possibility that Hong Kong Disneyland fireworks displays
may disturb nesting white-bellied sea eagles, raised by the Hong
Kong Bird Watching Society, has raised widespread awareness of one
of the rarest albeit most broadly distributed of the eagle family.
Earlier this year, globalization enabled environmentalists
to make gains against the local custom of serving shark fin soup at
weddings by calling an international boycott to protest the presence
of shark fin soup on the Hong Kong Disneyland hotel banquet menu.
Only an internationally prominent corporation can be called
to account in that manner. Only corporations of comparable influence
can change a cruel custom, as Disney is now doing, with a strong
likelihood of succeeding quickly and being emulated.
Walt Disney Inc. is chiefly engaged in the information
industry, the branch of commerce taking quickest advantage of
globalization. Media critics and critics of globalization tend to
decry the tendency of Disney-sized conglomerates to swallow would-be
rivals, to the extent that few cities still have competing mass
circulation daily newspapers or authentic local radio news broadcasts.
Yet while the ownership of old mass communication technology
is increasingly concentrated, global distribution of newer
technology has created the Internet and the World Wide Web. Never
before have more people in more places been able to publish, or had
more chance to find readers–and political allies, and donors to
causes. Never before have animal advocates enjoyed even remotely
comparable opportunity to meet each other and form effective
But international trade treaties are not adopted primarily to
advance activism. Activism comes as an adjunct to commerce, which
caters to whatever customers want now, not necessarily what they may
be persuaded to want later, after present cravings are satiated.
“If CAFTA passes, it will be a disaster for farmed animals,”
warned PETA vegan campaigns manager Chris Holbein. “All the major
front groups for the meat, egg, and dairy industries, including
the National Chicken Council, the American Meat Institute, the
National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen’s Beef
Association, are aggressively lobbying in support of CAFTA.
“Why do these industries, which profit from the suffering of
animals, support this trade agreement? Because CAFTA will open the
doors for enormous animal-abusing corporations,” Holbein charged,
“like Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Smithfield, to pour hundreds of
millions of dollars into building new factory farms in Central
America,” just as Smithfield has already done in Poland and Romania.
“As more and more Americans turn toward vegetarianism, these
industries are desperate to find new markets for their unhealthy,
inhumane products,” Holbein asserted. “CAFTA will make it much
easier for these corporations to peddle flesh, eggs, and dairy in
The sun was barely up on July 28 when Cattlemen’s Capitol
Concerns, a weekly report published by the National Cattlemen’s Beef
Association, lauded “new market access opportunities for our U.S.
U.S. beef growers clearly believe they can grab market share
away from those who have clear-cut Central American rainforests to
expand grazing land in recent decades. That may eventually permit
some wildlife habitat recovery.
The U.S. meat industry argues that it will also raise Central
American standards for animal husbandry and slaughter. This is
doubtful, since what standards exist in the U.S. are poorly
enforced. There is little good for animals and a great deal of
suffering to be seen in the prospect of U.S. factory farmers and
slaughterhouses invading Central American markets, even if the
scenario is not entirely one-sided. Meat consumption and the numbers
of animals killed are sure to rise.
But that would probably happen anyway. Throughout the world,
wherever people have felt deprived of animal products by poverty or
politics, the rise of prosperity has brought a marked rise in animal
product consumption. This occurred after the Great Depression and
World War II in the U.S. and western Europe, after the fall of
Communism in eastern Europe, and is happening now in China and India.
A generation later, per capita animal product consumption
drops, as those who have grown up not feeling deprived voluntarily
turn away. Americans in each ten-year age bracket younger than 65
eat less meat than those in the bracket ahead. The same trend
appears in Europe, and 15 years after Communism, vegetarians and
vegans are helping to win some local political struggles against
factory farming in Poland, assisted by Compassion In World Farming,
Animals Angels, and the Animal Welfare Institute.
Factory farming was invented by Communists as much as by
capitalists. Forced collectivization was begun in Russia and China
to try to make factory farming succeed. Peasants who resisted were
literally sent to slaughter, or were abandoned to starve.
Individual farmed animals did not suffer less before
globalization, though there were fewer of them because of the lack
of economic incentive in the Communist system. Those animals merely
suffered without the notice or help of organizations such as CIWF,
Animals Angels, and AWI.
Without globalization, there was no opportunity for animal
advocacy to grow, no opportunity for an international animal
advocacy community to assist local efforts, no means of educating
the public, and no real hope of change.
ANIMAL PEOPLE might even be described as a product of
globalization. The experiences bringing our staff together occurred
in multiple nations on multiple continents. About a third of our
readers are outside the U.S., and about two-thirds of our coverage
concerns international issues.
We confer almost every day by Internet with sources and
colleagues on every inhabited continent, many of them in nations
which were inaccessible to casual communications of any kind barely a
This enables us to answer ever more emphatically the question
which has most vexed the humane community since the dawn of the
humane movement: what can we here do about the problem there that
gives us nightmares?
Activists have usually responded in two ways.
If the abuse is sufficiently outrageous and those responsible
are sufficiently intransigent, like the Atlantic Canadian seal hunt
and dog-eating in Asia, irate letters and declarations of boycott
represent symbolic declarations of war.
This approach usually fails, because the innocent and the
uninvolved tend to be injured and offended as much as the guilty,
and in any event are usually incapable of doing any more about the
abuse than the aggrieved foreigners.
Alternatively, if opportunities for intervention appear to
exist, donations may be raised to send missionaries, who will go
wherever to do good deeds and preach sermons, at possible risk of
martyrdom but greater risk of being ignored.
Neither declaring war nor sending missionaries has ever been
especially effective against abuses with a cultural defense. Only
finding and empowering brave and conscientious people within a
culture consistently succeeds in eroding the cultural pretexts for
Yet before the combination of accelerated international
communications and globalization, which have together knocked down
the barrers, there was not much else that anyone could do. We here
did not know the people there. There was no direct way to assist
those of similar concerns in far-away places, certainly not in a
That has markedly changed, as will be especially evident in
Southern California during the week after the September 2005 edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE goes to press. Sponsored by ANIMAL PEOPLE,
representatives of outstanding humane organizations in China, India,
Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Argentina, Romania,
and Ireland will attend a special two-day training seminar at the
Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe.
Following the Helen Woodward Animal Center seminar, the
foreign representatives will attend the Conference on Homeless Animal
Management & Policy in Anaheim as guests of the North Shore Animal
League and Pet Savers Foundation.
While in the U.S., many of them have arranged speaking
opportunities, visits to donors usually located via the Internet,
and tours of animal shelters and zoos.
This will be the fourth international training program in
which ANIMAL PEOPLE has had a part in 2005. Previously ANIMAL PEOPLE
collaborated with the Yudisthira/Bali Street Dog Foundation and the
Tsunami Memorial Animal Welfare Trust to facilitate sterilization
surgery camps in Sri Lanka; collaborated with the Blue Cross of
India to conduct a veterinary workship in Chennai; and helped to
organize the Asia for Animals conference in Singapore, hosted by
ANIMAL PEOPLE is not involved in presenting the International
Companion Animal Welfare Conference, to be held in October in
Dubrovnik, Croatia, but will attend, demonstrating our support of
We have escalated our involvement in teaching, training,
and mentoring because we have seen dramatic results from past
efforts, especially conferences. Introductions can be made and
information exchanged with ever-increasing ease through electronic
media, but inspiration and trust-building occur most easily when
people meet face-to-face.
We have seen time and again that the fastest-growing and most
successful pro-animal organizations, of any kind, are those whose
leaders invest in attending conferences, to educate themselves and
At the December 1997 Animal Welfare Board of India
conference, for example, we met bank clerk Pradeep Kumar Nath, who
shook with intensity as he declared his intent to end municipal dog
electrocutions in Visakhapatnam, and Geeta Seshamani of Friendicoes
SECA and Kartick Satyanarayan of Wildlife SOS, who promised to build
a bear sanctuary. Among them, they had next to nothing–but with
the aid of Help In Suffering trustee Christine Townend, whom he met
at the conference, Nath ended dog electrocutions in 1998, and built
the Visakha SPCA up from one room of his family’s home into one of
the most impressive in India. Seshamani and Satyanarayan opened
their bear sanctuary near Agra in December 2002. In addition to
assisting a national crackdown on bear poaching and smuggling, they
are setting a new standard for quality captive wildlife care in India
and distinguishing themselves in disaster relief.
The way for us here to help abolish atrocities and misery
there is to help encourage and enable people there to do the job
This too can be frustrating, as when post-tsunami
sterilization workshops brought the instructors into conflict with
Sri Lankan and Indian veterinarians who believe that overdosing
animals with antibiotics is more efficient than practicing proper
surgical asepsis and doing incisions of minimal size, to promote
However, such attitudes can and will be overcome. There are
now some veterinarians in Sri Lanka and India who use aseptic
technique and are conspicuously more productive than the rest. As
word of their example gets around, others will learn. The key is
that the positive examples are being set there, by surgeons who come
from there, thereby demonstrating possibility in an accessible
Globalization is about access. Indeed it does mean more
access to foreign markets for U.S. factory farmers–but it also means
more opportunity for the 2,800-year-old Asian concept of reverence
for all life, basic to Hinduism and Buddhism, to cross-pollinate
with activist and veterinary knowhow.
The notion that being kind to animals is too impractical or
distant an ideal to reinforce through international law will yield to
the cultural transitions now underway, as people who care about
animals become less isolated, learning to recognize and aid each
other, even from the far side of the world.