Pi, Dorothy, and the qualities of humane leadership
Editorial from ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2013
By Kim Bartlett & Merritt Clifton
The title character in Life of Pi, possibly the most memorable film in years with a pro-animal theme, is a Hindu vegetarian boy raised in Pondicherry, India, whose parents run a zoo on leased land in the city botanical garden. Pi in adolescence becomes preoccupied with a spiritual quest which leads him to become also–simultaneously– Catholic and Muslim. As Pi explains, “There are 33 millions gods in the Hindu religion..We get to feel guilty before hundreds of gods, instead of just one.”
A 1977 change of government means that the family may lose their lease on the zoo site. Therefore Pi’s father resolves to move the menagerie to Canada, where the animals can be sold for more money than in India, and to start a new life in Winnipeg. The family and their animals board a Japanese freighter, but a a violent storm sinks the freighter over the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean. Pi, the sole human survivor, finds himself in a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, a badly injured zebra, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Soon the hyena kills the zebra and the orangutan. The tiger then kills the hyena.
Despite the perils of the situation, in which there is constant risk that as Pi puts it, “A vegetarian Hindu boy may become the tiger’s last meal,” Pi feels a moral obligation to try to save the tiger as well as himself. Adrift for 227 days, Pi tearfully and prayerfully compromises his vegetarian beliefs to catch fish for Richard Parker, and eats fish himself. Twice Pi brings the tiger back aboard the lifeboat instead of improving his own chance to survive by leaving the tiger behind–once in the water, once on a mysterious floating island inhabited only by carnivorous vegetation and an impossibly dense congregation of meerkats, who could not possibly survive in such habitat. By then, however, Pi is quite likely delirious, and the meerkats’ cries are those of sea birds.
Fetching up on the coast of Mexico, Pi watches Richard Parker vanish into the jungle without a look back. Rescuers find Pi some time later. Questioned by Japanese maritime agency investigators, Pi finds that his story is not believed, so offers a different version in which his mother is the orangutan, the zebra and hyena are crew members, and Pi finds the tiger within himself, surviving by cannibalism. Asked to choose which story they prefer, the investigators choose the version with the animals. Pi returns to vegetarianism and, as an adult, raises a vegetarian family.
Despite engaging the moral and philosophical issues that underlie the human relationship with animals, neither director Ang Lee nor Yann Martel, the author of the 2001 book on which the film is based, appear to have had any thought of constructing an allegory pertaining to organized animal advocacy. Life of Pi may be viewed as allegory on many levels, but uses Pi’s effort to save just one animal as a vehicle for introspection into matters of character and culture.
Life of Pi in some ways recalls a very different fictional odyssey by a very different orphan. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum, published in 1900, included much then-obvious socio-political satire. The heroine, Dorothy, is friendly toward animals, and trusts her dog Toto far more than any adult. In the Frank Baum book, Dorothy and Toto are blown far from their Kansas home after Toto runs from a twister and Dorothy tries to save him. In the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and Toto are blown to Oz after Dorothy saves Toto from a Miss Gulch who wants to have Toto killed for biting her. Despite Dorothy’s concern for Toto, and often for other animals, the book version in particular may be jarring to animal advocates today. Seeking a way back to Kansas, Dorothy and Toto befriend the Cowardly Lion, who seeks courage, the Tin Woodman, who seeks a heart, and the Scarecrow, who seeks a brain. The Tin Woodman kills 40 wolves sent by the Wicked Witch of the West to attack them. The Scarecrow kills 40 crows, whom the Wicked Witch sends after the wolves. But together they liberate a winged monkey army from servitude to the Wicked Witch of the West.
The Wizard of Oz himself, an ex-circus performer whose help Dorothy and her friends try to enlist, proves to be a fraud, exposed by Toto. In the end Dorothy saves herself, and persuades the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman, and the Scarecrow that they had within themselves all along the qualities they imagined they lacked.
As with any good allegory, including Life of Pi, the thought-provoking aspects of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz arise from ambiguities. There is general agreement among Oz scholars, however, despite much disagreement over which historical figures the characters were meant to portray, that Dorothy and Toto represent the support base of any great cause; the Wizard of Oz represents power-holders who merely put on a show, rather than leading in any meaningful manner; and the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodman, and the Scarecrow represent aspects of cause leadership.
Regardless of what specifically the cause is, every cause tends to include people and organizations who exercise great influence, with generally good intentions, yet often retard progress through cowardly, heartless, or brainless behavior.
Wizards at work
Unfortunately, while the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman, and the Scarecrow proved to be brave, caring, and intelligent when necessary, it is not difficult to point toward deficiencies in those regards among animal advocacy leadership.
The American SPCA, for example, recently paid Feld Entertainment $9.3 million in consequence of an ill-advised decade-long attempt to pursue a lawsuit that sought to invoke the Endangered Species Act against the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. (See page 1.) The case was based largely on the testimony and claim to legal standing of a former Ringling elephant barn worker whom the court eventually found to be not credible. ANIMAL PEOPLE had reached that perspective at the outset of the case, when we declined to quote the former Ringling worker as a source.
Even if his testimony had held up, however, there was little basis in past jurisprudence to imagine that the Endangered Species Act could be used in lieu of the Animal Welfare Act to pursue a complaint based on animal welfare allegations.
Feld Entertainment continues to seek significant sums from coplaintiffs including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Humane Society of the U.S., which inherited the case through absorbing the Fund for Animals in 2005, and Born Free USA, which inherited the case through absorbing the Animal Protection Institute at the end of 2006. Without sympathizing at all with Ringling use of elephants and other animals, it is difficult to view the case against Ringling as having ever been well-considered, let alone adequately reconsidered at the several points much earlier when the animal charities involved might have cut their losses–including in 2001 when the first filing was thrown out of court.
A case that the Royal SPCA apparently publicized with inadequate attention to the evidence is meanwhile simmering in Britain.
RSPCA inspectors on September 12, 2012 intercepted a truckload of more than 500 sheep at the port of Ramsgate. As described in the September 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, the sheep were unloaded into an improvised holding area in which two sheep were allegedly killed and several others injured by falling into an inadequately covered storm drain. The RSPCA inspectors later shot at least 41 more sheep dead with a captive bolt gun, due to lameness said to make the sheep unfit for transport.
All of this might be defended as necessary in purpose and unfortunate in outcome. More difficult to defend is the RSPCA release as alleged exposure of the live export trade of a photograph described by Guy Adams of the Daily Mail as “a pile of dead sheep, their bodies mutilated and their heads smashed,” whose blood “is liberally spattered over nearby walls” as result of the RSPCA’s own killing procedure.
This should not have been the outcome of proper use of a captive bolt gun.
It is in no way defending live export to point out that when humane societies must kill animals, the killing must meet animal welfare standards. Likewise, when a humane society assails an allegedly abusive industry, the evidence presented of animal suffering should show the conduct of the industry, not that of the investigators.
Animal advocacy charities have long struggled to develop ethically coherent and persuasive policies pertaining to farmed animals. This is partly because the donor base is more like Dorothy, whose attitudes toward animals are inconsistent, than like Pi, who recognizes his own inconsistencies and accepts the necessity of inconsistent actions in extreme circumstances, but strives to be compassionate even in dire distress.
Rather than risk alienating meat-eating donors by advocating vegetarianism, or at least recommending eating less meat, as several major environmental charities have, the RSPCA, ASPCA, Humane Society of the U.S., World Society for Animal Protection, and others have either introduced or joined animal product labeling schemes which supposedly assure consumers that the animals involved were treated humanely.
The Animal Welfare Institute helped to pioneer animal product labeling in the U.S. by promoting an “Animal Welfare Approved” label with standards that exclude any corporate-owned farm. That left a considerable marketing niche for the slightly older and somewhat more flexible Humane Farm Animal Care program, whose “Certified Humane” label requires producers to meet comparable animal care standards.
Instead of unequivocally endorsing either the “Animal Welfare Approved” or “Certified Humane” standards, however, the largest U.S. organizations have endorsed the Global Animal Partnership standards introduced in 2010 by the Animal Compassion Foundation–even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which otherwise promotes veganism. The GAP standards are also endorsed by the British charity Compassion In World Farming, even though the lowest two of five GAP certification tiers fall short of meeting the RSPCA “Red Tractor” standards, which have been widely criticized as being too lax and poorly enforced.
The “Wizard of GAP” is Animal Compassion Foundation founder John Mackey, also founder of Whole Foods Markets. The GAP program evolved out of Whole Foods Markets’ own certification program. These programs may be profitable for Whole Foods Markets, but the GAP standards in some respects fall short of animal industry organizations’ own standards, and do not cover transport and slaughter. Thus, whatever occasioned the RSPCA sheep slaughtering at Ramsgate, and whatever methods the RSPCA used to kill the sheep, GAP standards–had the farmers been GAP-certified–were not violated.
Whether any wizardry was involved in the controversial 2011 agreement between HSUS and United Egg Producers to jointly seek federal hen caging standards, renewed on January 28, 2013 for the current Congress, has already been debated for a year and a half. It is clear, however, that in accepting the terms that it did in 2011, HSUS compromised future negotiating position. Having once sought to establish somewhat larger “colony caging” instead of conventional “battery caging” as the law of the land, with an 18-year phase-in allowance, and having fallen far short of delivering enthusiastic support for the proposed legislation from animal advocates, HSUS will now need help from a few friendly good witches to be able to bargain effectively for anything more.
The ASPCA, WSPA, and the American Humane Association, meanwhile, could scarcely be more compromised concerning farm animals if taken over by the Wicked Witches of the East and West. The ASPCA in May 2012 indirectly became a serious investor in agribusiness by granting $151,100 to the five-year-old nonprofit organization Farm Forward, to be used “to promote humane poultry welfare at the Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch in Lindsborg, Kansas.” The Good Shepherd Poultry Ranch, said the ASPCA media release, “raises pasture-based, vegetarian-fed heritage breed chickens and turkeys free of unnecessary antibiotics in spacious, welfare-friendly conditions.”
As Humane Farming Association founder Brad Miller responded, “It is simply delusional to think that getting humane organizations into the business of promoting meat from heritage breed chickens will result in even the slightest reduction of animal suffering. Beyond the obvious ethical issues from the animals’ standpoint,” Miller continued, “there is also the matter of using charitable dollars to further the commercial interests of a privately owned, profit-driven poultry company. This is just the latest,” Miller charged, “in a growing trend on the part of several major animal organizations to, in effect, merge with the livestock industry.”
WSPA has since 2010 cultivated an alliance with Heifer International, which has from inception in 1944 existed to expand and encourage animal agriculture, and in recent years has specifically promoted “zero grazing,” a term which means that the farmed animals do not go out to pasture. “Zero grazing,” in other words, is intensive confinement, the same practice which when done on a large scale is called “factory farming.” Almost simultaneously, WSPA president Mike Baker has appealed to donors to “keep a wonderful tradition alive–the sight of dairy cows grazing in green fields” by politically supporting elements of the British dairy industry who fear competition from mega-sized U.S.-style dairy operations, whose basic method is “zero grazing.”
These beneficiaries of WSPA support are the British dairy farmers who within recent decades brought the world mad cow disease by feeding calves “milk replacer” made from the bones of cattle, badger culls conducted in futile attempts to fight bovine tuberculosis, the live export of calves to veal crating operations in Belgium and the Netherlands, and resistance to vaccinating cattle against foot and mouth disease, bringing the mass slaughter of more than three million hooved animals before vaccination was accepted as inevitable. Traditional British dairy farmers also often lease land to fox hunters, hare coursers, deer stalkers, and bird shooters.
Baker–and the Humane Society International division of HSUS–also enthusiastically favor the Rural Backyard Poultry Development program, introduced by the Indian Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2009 with the goal of increasing backyard flocks into the range of “20 to 50 birds per [participating] family.” Lampooned by Indian media as the “Rural Backward Poultry Development Program,” the scheme has little chance of slowing down the rapid development of Indian agribusiness, but does perpetuate the fantasy that birds raised in backyard cages and killed with hatchets are somehow more humanely treated than birds raised in corporate-owned cages and guillotined on conveyor belts.
The AHA animal product standards program affords animals little more (if anything) than the lower tiers of GAP. After the 2008 passage of a California farmed animal welfare initiative that pro-initiative campaigners believed would end caged egg production, the AHA agreed with egg industry leaders–a year before HSUS accepted colony caging–that colony cages would meet the requirement of the initiative.
In 2010, 60 years after introducing decompression to kill dogs and cats at animal shelters, 25 years after decompressing dogs and cats was abandoned nationwide as inhumane, the AHA began pushing the use of decompression to kill chickens.
Street dogs & feral cats
Capitulation, failure to think through policies and strategies, dereliction of compassion when compassion requires taking a principled stand, and susceptibility to the advice of bogus wizards unfortunately also characterizes much current humane leadership on dog and cat issues–and not just at the national level.
Most of the humane community worldwide has embraced the ideal of no-kill animal sheltering–popular with the public, a magnet for donors, and a psychologically much easier modus operandi for shelter staff than having to do triage and killing. Unfortunately, the ideal has often become policy long before the programs and facilities are in place that are needed to make no-kill animal care and control viable while protecting the public–and other animals–from dangerous dogs and zoonotic disease. The most necessary prerequisite is that many years, perhaps decades, be invested in successfully promoting dog and cat sterilization, before trying to go to “no kill,” so that there are no longer huge, highly visible, and often problematic numbers of dogs and cats at large.
Introducing “no kill” animal control amid hue-and-cry about “dog menace,” for example, as has been done in many parts of the developing world, is a prescription for clandestine poisoning, shooting, and both public and political defiance. So, likewise, is trying to pretend the “dog menace” does not exist when thousands of people routinely experience bites, harassment by dog packs, and sometimes the threat of rabies.
In the U.S. and other developed nations, the numbers of dogs and cats killed in shelters each year is now lower than the numbers of dogs and cats acquired as pets. Yet, even so, it is a shameless fiction that more adoption promotion can significantly reduce the killing. Despite colossally increased investments in adoption promotion, total adoptions from shelters and through rescue groups peaked circa 20 years ago and have slipped ever since. The animals now being killed in shelters are chiefly potentially dangerous dogs–60% of them pit bulls–and feral cats who cannot be handled.
Many of these animals are unlikely to thrive in homes, even if adopted. Most might fare well in appropriate sanctuaries, but the funding, suitable properly, and personnel needed to furnish adequate high quality sanctuary space to upward of three million unadoptable dogs and cats per year in the U.S. alone simply does not exist, and will not exist soon or ever. Meanwhile, the numbers of dogs and cats rescued from failed sanctuaries in mass neglect cases rose from about 25% of the total between 1982 to 2002 to 50% in 2012. (See page 15 for details.)
The key to reducing shelter killing today, just as it was when U.S. shelter killing increased sevenfold from 1950 to 1970, is to reduce surrenders and impoundments of animals at risk by preventing births–specifically, births of feral cats, births of street dogs in the developing world, and births of pit bulls, the dogs most often involved in abuse and neglect cases, the only dogs commonly used in dogfighting, and by far the breed most often involved in injurious attacks on other animals, as well as on humans.
Feral cat neuter/return programs achieved a 75% decrease in shelter cat intake during the 1990s, but have not reduced shelter killing much since then, as ANIMAL PEOPLE discussed in July/August 2012. Neither has a decade of street dog neuter/return work in India and Turkey accomplished results sufficient, overall, to quell the hue-and-cry to kill dogs, despite remarkable successes where the neuter/return programs have been well managed and adequately funded. Though neuter/return is quite effective, when practiced conscientiously with the goal of eliminating either street dogs or feral cats, neuter/return has yet to be extended to many places where street dogs and feral cats remain, even in communities which have excellent programs working in other parts of town, partly because many of the remaining reservoirs of street dogs and/or feral cats are inaccessible to volunteers, in the case of cats partly because of birder opposition, and partly because neuter/return advocates have become bogged down in endless legal and political battles over problems associated with feeding street dogs and feral cats.
Feeding street dogs and feral cats is a side issue. These animals would not be present in the first place, or be breeding successfully, without adequate food sources. Enlisting feeder support is often necessary to win feeder cooperation in trapping and sterilizing street dogs or feral cats, but this must be done with the understanding that the goal of a neuter/return program is not to turn the animals into outdoor pets. Furtive scavenging dogs are much more easily tolerated by most people than sterilized packs who mob every passer-by carrying lunch or a bag of groceries. Likewise, the presence of mostly nocturnal cats who rarely hunt birds will attract much less opposition than just a few fat, friendly altered cats who lounge by daylight beneath bird feeders.
Every hour of paid lawyer time spent on street dog and feral cat feeding issues is the equivalent in budget of several dogs or cats who are not being sterilized. Every fight with birders or people who fear “dog menace” further rallies opposition to the only tactic which has ever actually reduced street dog and feral cat numbers. The key to further success is to sidestep the costly head-on conflicts, which are lost through waste of resources even when “won,” and get on with the necessary work.
Along the way, neuter/return practitioners need to do a much better job of documenting successes in zeroing out street dog populations feral cat colonies. One of the reasons most often advanced for feeding street dogs and feral cats is to be able to count them, so as to identify and remove for sterilization any unsterilized newcomers. While there is some good data showing the success of street dog neuter/return programs, accessible data bases showing year-by-year reductions in cat numbers at counted fed feral cat colonies are dismayingly few. It is understandable that neuter/return practitioners do not want to post or publish records that will help birders to find and kill cats, yet birders have little reason to believe neuter/return is succeeding when they see more cats by day and see no before-and-after data demonstrating population reduction.
The U.S. already had a large and ubiquitous feral cat population when Frank M. Chapman of the American Museum of Natural History produced the first known estimate of the numbers circa 1908. From then, through the mid-20th century surveys done by National Family Opinion founders Howard & Clara Trumbull, to the most recent available data, the combined total of feral cats and pet cats who go outdoors has remained remarkably steady, rising from 25 million in 1908 to a peak of 46 million circa 1990 before falling back to circa 30 million–about two-thirds pets, one third feral.
Pit bull proliferation is by contrast a relatively recent phenomenon. Pit bulls, by all the names used to describe them combined, were never more than 1% of the dogs listed in classified ads from 1851 until under 30 years ago, and were not even noticed in breed-specific surveys of shelter dogs until circa 1984, when the ASPCA opposed the enforcement of legislation to keep pit bulls out of New York City public housing.
Wicked witches might be blamed for the subsequent explosion of pit bull impoundments and killing of impounded pit bulls, who have usually flunked behavioral screening. Reality is that the humane community itself largely created the pit bull problem by failing to acknowledge it as it developed; failing to recognize the behavioral differences bred into fighting dogs that make them uniquely likely to attack without warning or inhibition; and failing to appreciate that allowing pit bull proliferation to continue would fuel a resurgence of dogfighting. Almost extinct 35 years ago, dogfighting has become again as culturally prominent as when Queen Elizabeth I attended dogfights and bear-baiting events at the Tower of London.
Most of all, much of the humane community has followed bad advice from bogus wizards in opposing breed-specific legislation to mandate sterilization of pit bulls, whose keepers and promoters have proved uniquely resistant to the messages which have persuaded more than 70% of all other dog-keepers to sterilize their dogs. In consequence, U.S. shelters are now impounding and killing more pit bulls–more than 900,000 per year killed on average over the past decade–than the sum of all dogs who were impounded and killed in 1950.
The Best Friends Animal Society in 2007 reaped a publicity and fundraising bonanza from taking custody of the 51 pit bulls who were seized in April 2007 from football player and subsequently convicted dogfighter Michael Vick. Since then, Best Friends, the AHA, the ASPCA, and HSUS–among others–ramped up pit bull advocacy, hoping to reduce shelter killing by boosting pit bull adoptions. Shelter killing of pit bulls fell for two years–and then rebounded to what it was before.
Meanwhile, three rescuers were killed by pit bulls in 2012, more than the sum of all people killed by shelter dogs in the first 20 of the 30 years that ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton has logged fatal and disfiguring dog attacks occurring in the U.S. and Canada. More than 60% of the nearly 4,000 total dog attacks in the log have been inflicted by pit bulls. More than half of the pit bull attacks, including 53% of the fatalities, have come since the Vick arrest. Fatal and disfiguring attacks by pit bulls on other animals are believed to be anywhere from ten to 100 times more frequent than attacks on humans.
The solution to all of this mayhem is simple and self-evident: increase the pit bull sterilization rate from the present 25% or less to the 70%-plus rate prevailing among all other dogs. This cannot be done with purely voluntary programs. One of the most successful voluntary programs, Operation Pit in New York City, from July 2010 to July 2012 sterilized 1,308 pit bulls–but it would have had to sterilize twice as many just to stabilize pit bull intake at the city shelters.
Instead of trying to undo breed-specific legislation in hopes this will help to rehome more pit bulls, the humane community needs to recognize that it cannot adopt its way out of the problem, and instead win laws that put pit bull breeders out of business.
Pit bulls are not produced by accident. Rather, they are line-bred, often sold with the pyramid scheme promise that the buyer can recoup the investment by breeding and selling more pit bulls. Like other pyramid schemes, those involving pit bulls seldom pay off. Instead, speculative breeding helps to keep animal shelters filled to capacity.
The most pernicious “pyramid scheme” afflicting humane work, however, was introduced by an unknown bogus wizard as an intended demonstration of why people should sterilize their pets. Drawings of pyramids of cute puppies or kittens ubiquitously present claims such as that “a female dog and her offspring can produce 67,000 puppies in six years,” or that “a female cat and her offspring can produce 400,000 kittens in seven years,” even though such claims never had any biological basis.
In 2007 ANIMAL PEOPLE joined Wall Street Journal columnist Carl Bialik in tracing this pyramid scheme back to source. The American Humane Association introduced the earliest known version about 60 years ago. The hypothetical numbers soared in a January 1968 press release from the Animal Protection Institute, mysteriously picked up a zero by 1973, and picked up another zero when first applied to cats. In truth, one female cat and her offspring, with normal mortality for outdoor cats, might produce a surviving population of 14 cats after seven years. Dog fecundity tends to be less.
Animal advocates imagine that the wildly exaggerated claims accompanying the pyramid drawings will be persuasive to the public. Instead, the exaggerations tell people that sterilizing pets is futile, because there will always be explosive overpopulation, necessitating killing. In the developing world, the pyramid drawings and exaggerated claims undercut the introduction of animal birth control in place of poisoning. Here in the U.S., exaggerated claims taken from the pyramid drawings often appear in attacks on feral cat neuter/return.
A complete catalog of the self-defeating policies and strategies espoused by animal advocates might completely fill more than one edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE. Our November/December 2012 editorial, for instance, detailed the frequent misuse and misdirection of boycott appeals, focusing on campaigns waged from abroad which have accomplished more to perpetuate than to stop culturally rationalized practices such as whaling, sealing, eating dogs and cats, and bullfighting. Tourism boycotts in particular tend to be self-defeating, especially when the atrocity itself is a tourist attraction, as in the case of bullfighting. Bullfighting promoters, and the hoteliers, restauranteurs, and others whose facilities near major bullrings cater mainly to tourists who attend bullfights, simply do not care if those of us who find bullfighting cruel and offensive stay away.
We may, however, have under -emphasized that there is a great deal that animal charities can do effectively from afar in opposition to bullfighting, though we mentioned that bullfighting persists in parts of Spain and Latin America chiefly through patronage by tourists who attend a corrida for the purported cultural experience, and mostly never attend another. Educating tourists against visiting bullfights, while encouraging visits to attractions that do not harm or exploit animals, is a strategy which supports the efforts of local activists, but now seems to be lamentably neglected.
In addition, activists can help to reduce the frequent equation of bullfighting with Spanish and Latin American culture by protesting the gratuitous appearance of bullfighting imagery in, for example, the decor of Mexican restaurants. A similar strategy could help to reduce the profile of rodeo, the U.S. variant of bullfighting: far more people wear blue jeans advertised with rodeo imagery than actually attend rodeos. Large multinational animal charities could fund and facilitate the campaigning.
Recent promotions of synthetic fur garments by leading humane organizations comparably fail to recognize the importance of advertising in perpetuating cruel practices which are otherwise fading out. U.S. retail fur garment sales, in inflation-adjusted dollars, are now barely a third of what they were at peak, 25 years ago–but fur sales fell fastest when animal advocates emphasized the simple message “Don’t wear fur.”
Earlier, for several decades, the leading U.S. humane organizations energetically promoted fake fur–and wondered why fur sales only kept rising. Furriers knew, by paying much closer attention to marketing data, that people wearing fake fur garments that were hard to tell from real fur were merely helping to promote the “fur look,” and giving other people “social permission,” as well as cover, to wear real fur without fear of criticism. After having finally appeared to learn in the 1980s that promoting anything that can be mistakenly for fur is tactically suicidal, the same organizations today seem to have forgotten everything they ever knew about fur trade economics and the psychology of fur-wearers.
Despite such disappointments and setbacks, we persist, much as Pi persisted in his conviction that the tiger Richard Parker and all other animals have souls, in the hope that the Cowardly Lions, Tin Woodmen, and Scarecrows of the animal advocacy cause will eventually discover the qualities they need to stand up to the bogus wizards.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Kim Bartlett, a leading animal defense activist, is currently the publisher of Animal People, quite probably the world’s most authoritative independent publication devoted entirely to ecoanimal issues.
Merritt Clifton, an award-winning environmental journalist and activist, serves as editor in chief. Kim and Merritt founded Animal People in 1992.