Animals. Like clockwork, some incident of animal cruelty or some new revelation about the poor handling of animals for slaughter (or egg production), brings our relationship to animals into uncomfortable focus. An interview in salon.com with Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Kill, explores our conflicted relationship(s) with (other) animals, spurred by the recent youtube viral viewing of a couple of very nasty instances of animal mistreatment.
I specifically said “other” animals because I happen to believe that part of the problem is how far we have removed ourselves from the natural world, or perhaps how far above the natural world we see ourselves.
Everyone I know has a story to tell about animal cruelty. A recent experience taught me that we can only make a difference if we press for laws with real teeth. Briefly…I called the animal control officer to check out a home where I had seen dozens of dogs being kept indoors 24/7–most in cages, except for one dog that was tied up outside the home 24/7. As it turned out, the person owns almost 80 dogs–she’s a hoarder. The animals were healthy enough, no malnourishment. However, all were unlicensed and none had had current rabies boosters.
Aside from insisting on the licensing and administering of vaccine, the officer had no basis for taking any of these animals out of the home. The laws don’t permit it. The owner of these animals “loves” them. She also works full time. I don’t know about you but I find it hard enough to give a couple of dogs sufficient attention. What is a caged animal’s life like? Is this cruelty? Is it borderline? What does the law provide in the way of animal protection for this kind of just-short-of-dramatically-abusive treatment? As it turns out, there is no protection. And, there is no law prohibiting round-the-clock tying up of animals.
While I occasionally read about a herdsman arrested for neglect of a barnful of cows, I rarely hear about any significant consequences for those who abuse or neglect small animals or small numbers of animals. Michael Vick was clearly an unusual case because of his celebrity status. I am still kicking myself for not getting the license plate number of the man who stopped at my farm last year asking if I had any roosters to sell him for cock fighting.
I hope that in the not-too-distant future our poor treatment of animals will be looked at with horror, just as we look at our history of human slavery.