The commercial retail sale of dogs and cats begins with their breeding of dogs in puppy mills and cats in kitten factories. As to those infernal mass-production hell-holes, in ISAR’s Anti-Breeding Statute Monograph we wrote:
An elaboration of this sordid story of puppy mill and kitten factory horrors could fill many volumes, dramatizing conditions and practices which are immoral and inhumane no matter where they are found. But for them to exist in the United States somehow seems worse.
Being in the United States, however, a nation which prides itself on possessing high standards of humaneness (at least in certain respects), much more can be done to ameliorate the plight of the countless wretched animals captive in the [companion animal] trade . . . if only our legislators and political leaders will take the matter seriously and not, as they have repeatedly, say one thing but act differently.
For example, the related issues of animal cruelty and pet adoption were brought to national attention during the 2008 presidential election. While campaigning, then-Senator Barack Obama replied to a question about animal welfare by stating, “I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other. And it’s very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals.” The cited article states that in the book A Rare Breed of Love: The True Story of Baby and the Mission She Inspired to Help Dogs Everywhere, Obama specifically advocated pet adoption as a means to end puppy mills. However, an examination of the book itself reveals that Obama actually made only a vague, general commitment to stop animal cruelty. Obama was even photographed in front of the Lincoln Memorial holding “Baby,” a puppy mill survivor . . . .
However, despite [his] campaign promise to adopt [a] shelter dog, the President acquired a dog which had originated with a breeder. The Vice-President, despite his earlier promise to adopt a shelter dog, obtained one from a Pennsylvania puppy mill — one which had actually been cited for violations. Unfortunately, the cynicism of these two politicians regarding the humane treatment of animals is widespread through the executive, legislative and administrative branches of the American government and undercuts efforts to deal with the blight of puppy mills.Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, has correctly articulated one of the reasons why puppy mills are a blight on 21st Century America: “[I]t’s precisely because we are intelligent and powerful that we have responsibilities to these animals. They are helpless before us, and they rely on our good conscience.” Pacelle continues, “[T]he terrible thing is the inhumane treatment of these animals at the puppy mills. It’s awful. It’s contributing to the larger pet overpopulation crisis, which is resulting in over 4 million dogs and cats being killed every year.”
No one can dispute that government has a moral and political obligation to protect children from harm.
At common law, before the enactment of modern statutes, it was the consistent policy of government to look after the interests of children (although the form and extent of that protection often left much to be desired). Laws protected children from their own folly and improvidence, and from abuse by adults. From the time of their birth, children were considered wards of the state. These common law principles have been enacted into statutes in every state in America. Modern child-protection laws reflect governmental humane concerns with physical and mental wellbeing, neglect, abuse, food, clothing, shelter, education, vagrancy, capacity to contract, lack of capacity to consent to sexual acts, and much more.
The principle underling all modern child protection legislation unites the cause of children’s rights with the parallel cause of animal rights, and [seeks to end] the immoral and inhumane treatment of [companion animals].Government intervenes to prevent or remedy a child’s fear, hunger, pain, suffering and abuse because children are incapable, mentally and physically, of protecting themselves from these conditions. So, too, are companion animals. Like children, they are alive but defenseless. Like children, they can experience fear, hunger, pain, suffering and abuse. Like children, government has a duty to protect them (though the line-drawing about which animals should be protected, in what manner, and to what extent continues to bedevil everyone from legislators to moral philosophers . . . .).
This proposition — that government has an obligation to protect animals, at least some, in some manner, and at least to some extent — is not novel. The fact is that existing animal protection legislation in every state and at the federal level is an explicit recognition by government of its responsibility.
The genesis of that moral and legal responsibility, and the ensuing legislation, is not widely known.
Lewis Gompertz (1779-1865) was a founding member of the British Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (later the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and probably the first public person in modern times to opine in the English language about the rights of animals.
In his Moral Inquiries into the Situation of Man and of Brutes Gompertz wrote that:
The dreadful situation of the brute creation, particularly of those which have been domesticated, claims our strictest attention.[] * * * Who can dispute the inhumanity of the sport of hunting, of pursuing a poor defenseless creature for mere amusement, till it becomes exhausted by terror and fatigue, and of then causing it to be torn to pieces by a pack of dogs? From what kind of instruction can men, and even women, imbibe such principles as these? How is it possible they can justify it? And what can their pleasure in it consist of? Is it not solely in the agony they produce to the animal? They will pretend that it is not, and try to make us believe so too, that it is merely in the pursuit. But what is the object of their pursuit? Is there any other than to torment and destroy?
It seems that the crime of cruelty proceeds greatly from improper education. Subjects of moral inquiry are too often chased from the attention of youth, from a false idea that they are mere chimeras too difficult to enter into, that they only serve to confound us and to lead us into disputes, which never come to a conclusion; that they cause us to fall into eccentricities, and unfit us for all the offices of life, and at last drive us into downright madness.
Forbid it that we should give assent to such tenets as these! That we should suffer for one moment our reason to be veiled by such delusions! But on the contrary let us hold fast every idea, and cherish every glimmering of such kind of knowledge, as that which shall enable us to distinguish between right and wrong, what is due to one individual-what to another.
Some two hundred years later, Gompertz’s words eloquently remind us that cruelty to animals continues to demand a moral inquiry, including asking and answering questions about the consequences of dog (and other companion animal) overpopulation.
Anyone who looks closely at how animals are treated in America today cannot help being confused. Hunters cherish their hunting dogs, but kill and trap wildlife without conscience or regret. Stylish women coddle furry house pets, but think nothing of wearing the skins of animals. At animal farms and petting zoos, parents introduce their children to a world of innocence and beauty, but see no harm in exposing them to circus acts which degrade animals, and to rodeos, which brutalize them.
The law, too, is contradictory. It is legal to butcher livestock for food, but not to cause them to suffer during slaughter (although federal law contains an exception: “ritually” slaughtered cattle are allowed to suffer). It is legal to kill chickens for the pot, but not to allow fighting cocks to kill each other. Animals can be used for painful laboratory experiments, but they must be exercised and their cages must be kept clean. Kittens can be drowned, but not abandoned. Certain types of birds are protected, but others are annihilated. With a permit, one can own a falcon, and with a falcon, one can hunt rabbits; but rabbits cannot be dyed rainbow colors and sold at Easter Time.
It is not surprising that countless contradictions exist today in man’s relationship to animals, because never has there been a consistent humane principle to guide him in dealing with those dependent creatures who share his planet. What is surprising is that animals have been accorded any decent treatment at all, considering the overwhelmingly dominant attitude, from the earliest of times, that animals could be used, abused, and even tormented, at the utterly capricious will of man. Absent from the history of ideas has been even a semi-plausible notion to the contrary, let alone a defensible, fully integrated theory of animal rights.
The problem of animal rights antedated Lewis Gompertz by thousands of years, and begins with the Book of Genesis: “And God said: Let us make our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.” Later, after the flood, “. . . Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar, and the Lord smelled the sweet savour . . . .” To express his gratitude, “God . . . blessed Noah and his sons and said unto them: Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all wherewith the ground teemeth, and upon the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all.”
In short, the view expressed by scripture was that animals were put on earth by God to be used by man.
The predominant Greek attitude, as expressed by its most influential philosopher, Aristotle, was no better: “. . . we may infer that, after the birth of animals, plants exist for their sake, and that the other animals exist for the sake of man, the tame for use and food, the wild, if not all, at least the greater part of them, for food, and for the provision of clothing and various instruments. Now if nature makes nothing incomplete . . . and nothing in vain, the inference must be that she has made all animals for the sake of man.”
As to the attitude of the Romans, one need only recall history’s bloody forerunner to today’s bullfights and rodeos — the Coliseum — where no distinction was made between animal and human victims.
When pagan Rome gave way to Christianity, men may have fared better, but Christian charity was not extended to animals. Indeed, early Christian thought seems obediently to echo the Genesis thesis: animals exist merely to serve man’s needs.
Hundreds of years passed, with no discernible change in attitudes toward animals. With the advent of St. Thomas Aquinas in the 1200s, the concept of animal servitude was reinforced. Aquinas, drawing on the Old Testament and on Aristotle, not surprisingly concluded that since all things are given by God to the power of man, the former’s dominion over animals is complete.
Aquinas’ theory of dominion says nothing, one way or the other, about the nature of the animals being dominated, but renowned Christian philosopher-mathematician Rene Descartes had a great deal to say on that subject. He held that animals were automatons — literally. He asserted that lacking a Christian “soul,” they possessed no consciousness. Lacking a consciousness, he concluded, they experienced neither pleasure nor pain. His conclusion was a convenient one: It allowed him to rationalize dissection of unanesthetized living creatures.
Although Descartes’s hideous experiments purportedly were done to advance the knowledge of anatomy, they properly earn him a place in history as the Seventeenth Century soul mate of Mengele, the Nazi concentration camp doctor who experimented on human beings.
Although the existence of the dominant Genesis-Aristotle-Descartes view of animals, and the resultant lack of an appropriate theory of animal rights, is reason enough to explain more than fifteen-hundred years of man’s maltreatment of animals, there is a related explanation: during this same period there was no appropriate theory of the rights of man.
From the days of the Pharaohs to the threshold of modern philosophy in the 1600s, man’s status fell into one of two categories: oppressor or oppressed. The tyrants of Egypt had much in common with the despots of feudal Europe; the Hebrew slaves who built the pyramids, with the serfs who tilled their lords’ estates. It is not surprising that cultures which regarded some men as other men’s chattels would treat animals, at best, as plants, and, at worst, as inanimate objects. Accordingly, when man’s lot improved, the lot of animals also improved, albeit very slightly.
The historical turning-point for the Rights of Man came with the 18th Century’s Age of Enlightenment. It was a time of Adam Smith and laissez-faire capitalism, of John Locke, and of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Man was recognized, at least by some, to possess inalienable rights, among them the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. By no means had the world’s ideas about liberty changed, but a fresh wind was blowing for man, one which would soon lead to the creation of a new Nation — one, as Lincoln would say nearly a century later, “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Surely, it is more than coincidence that at about the same time, thinkers like Voltaire, Rousseau, Pope, and Bentham were questioning man’s maltreatment of animals.
Yet, despite these questions, for another two centuries the lot of animals did not improve noticeably even in the civilized world, because the attitudes of most people remained rooted in the ideas of Genesis, Aristotle, and Descartes.
Before change could come, these ideas had to be discarded. Although it was a long gestation, finally, in the last quarter-century, a handful of philosophers, scientists, theologians, and lawyers — among them Brigid Brophy, Andrew Linzey, Richard Ryder, Peter Singer, Gary Francione, and Steven M. Wise — have launched broadside attacks on the basic ideas which for so long have served to rationalize man’s brutalization of the only other living species with whom he shares this planet.
But as important as that is, merely exposing fallacies and immoralities does not itself constitute propounding anything affirmative. Recognizing this, today’s animal rights activists have begun to build that affirmative, defensible theory of animal rights.
An inevitable result of this growing inquiry into the rights of animals has been scrutiny of various aspects of the abuse of companion animals generally and of dogs [and cats] in particular — a particularly monstrous example of which are puppy mills [and kitten factories].
That scrutiny has led to some successes in society’s efforts to alleviate, though not nearly eliminate, the puppy mill [and cat factory] abuse.
For example, to HSUS’s great credit in recent years it conducted several investigations into U.S. puppy mills. It campaigned, and filed a class action lawsuit against, Petland, the largest retailer of dogs acquired from puppy mills. HSUS lobbied for an amendment to the Farm Bill that bans the importation of dogs from foreign puppy mills. And numerous dogs were rescued from puppy mills throughout the country by HSUS itself, and through its efforts.
Public awareness was also heightened through several puppy mill exposures featured on such television shows as Oprah Winfrey, featuring Main Line Animal Rescue (an organization that has rescued over 5,000 animals from puppy mills), Animal Planet featuring Philadelphia’s SPCA, and National Geographic featuring Cesar Millan (the “Dog Whisperer”).
All well and good. But after all these good works and many others by countless people from every walk of life, the moral question remains: By what right can humans treat companion animals — or for that matter, any animals — as if they were soulless automata, existing solely for man’s pleasure?
How to contact APHIS to demand prohibition of retail pet store sale of companion animals:
4700 River Road, Unit 84
Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
Phone: (301) 851-3751
Fax: (301) 734-4978
2150 Centre Ave.
Building B, Mailstop 3W11
Fort Collins, CO 80526-8117
Phone: (970) 494-7478
Fax: (970) 494-7461
920 Main Campus Drive
Raleigh, NC 27606-5210
Phone: (919) 855-7100
Fax: (919) 855-7123
Center for Animal Welfare
Beacon Facility mailstop 1180
9240 Troost Ave
Kansas City, MO 64131
Please copy ISAR with all letters, emails, and faxes.
1 All the following text though not blocked nor containing quotation marks is taken from that Monograph.
2 Author Who Featured Obama in a Book About Adoption Speaks Out About His Broken Pledge, Examiner.com, available at http://www.examiner.com/article/author-who-featured-obama-a-book-about-adoption-speaks-out-about-his-broken-pledge
4 Id. The USDA’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement warned the puppy mill’s owner about drainage and maintenance violations during an inspection in Jan. 2009, just after Biden had purchased the six-week-old puppy. During a follow up inspection, investigators found “the conditions had not improved.”
5 Investigating Puppy Mills, Oprah, available at http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Investigating-Puppy-Mills.
6 Lewis Gompertz, Moral Inquiries On The Situation Of Man And Brutes, Fontwell Sussex: Centauer Press, Ltd, 1992, 22.
7 Gompertz, 29.
8 Gompertz, 30.
9 Gompertz, 30. Emphasis in original.
10 Genesis 1:24-28.
11 Genesis 8:20-21.
12 Genesis 9:1-3.
13 Aristotle, Politics, Bk I, Ch. 8, Random House, 1941, 1137.
14 Regrettably, as of Aug. 9, 2009, HSUS’s complaint was dismissed. See Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Petland and Hunte – For Now, Mar. 21, 2009, available at http://www.animallawcoalition.com/.
15 Why Must Puppy Mill Regulations Raise Hackles?, HSUS, May 6, 2009, available at http://hsus.typepad.com/wayne/2009/05/puppy-mills.html.
16 Investigating Puppy Mills, Oprah.com, available at http://www.oprah.com/ .
17 Inside a Puppy Mill, Animal Planet, available at http://animal.discovery.com.
18 Inside Puppy Mills, National Geographic, available at http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/. Millan is a dog trainer, TV host of the “Dog Whisperer” (seen in 80-plus countries), has received two Emmy nominations, and is a best-selling author.