Animal People readers are different…

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A special note from Kim Bartlett—President of Animal People 

ANIMAL PEOPLE supporters are slightly different from average donors to animal protection efforts. While they are just as passionate about rescuing and sheltering needy animals as anyone else, they also believe as Plato did that “Ideas rule the world.”        

They do your part to change the world one person at a time, but they also understand that a rapidly increasing human population can overtake one-on-one efforts and that the animals need mass communication to reach larger numbers. Many animal organizations have proven themselves effective at using mainstream media for campaigning on behalf of animals, but ANIMAL PEOPLE is the animals’ own media.        

No one has to go naked to get our attention to animals: promoting humane values that will lead to a kinder world is our entire reason for existing. Generating ideas is what we do.     

ANIMAL PEOPLE has been at the forefront in presenting ideas that have gained traction within the humane community over the past 20 years. In addition to providing news reportage, we offer a forum for discussion and debate about ideas and tactics, via letters and guest columns. Major ongoing themes of coverage include innovative approaches to animal care, domestic and wild animal population control, control of zoonotic diseases such as rabies and avian flu, and humane education.      

ANIMAL PEOPLE helped to introduce early-age neutering, neuter/return feral cat control, advertising to achieve high-volume pet adoption, transport of homeless animals from rural areas to adoption centers, care-for-life of exotic and dangerous animals, and conversion of shelters to policies geared to reduce euthanasia rates. Each of these innovations began on a limited local scale here and there before ANIMAL PEOPLE debuted in 1992, but each exploded in popularity and prominence soon after we devoted significant page space to discussion of successful projects.   

ANIMAL PEOPLE provoked debate over the pros and cons of dog and cat licensing and generated an ongoing storm of controversy over the need to stop the breeding of pit bulls–the breed of dog most likely to be abused and abandoned. We called for felony penalties for animal cruelty years before national organizations began working to strengthen state laws. We linked hunting not only to violence against humans in general but to child abuse specifically.   

ANIMAL PEOPLE pointed out that rabies is wholly eradicable by vaccination alone–without culling–everywhere in the world. We explained that the same percentage of an animal population that needs to be vaccinated to stop the spread of a disease—70%—just so happens to be the percentage of an animal population that must be sterilized for a Trap/Neuter/Return project to be successful.        

ANIMAL PEOPLE urged animal groups to oppose environmentalist plans to eradicate non-native species, and warned that feral cats would be targeted along with feral pigs, sheep, goats, and equines.        

ANIMAL PEOPLE continues to make waves by pointing out the hypocrisy of serving meat at animal protection organization functions, and by urging animal groups to acknowledge the sentience of fish and take positions against fishing.   

ANIMAL PEOPLE has explained repeatedly that livestock gift charities don’t really help either animals or people in the developing world–a position also now taken by many anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations.

ANIMAL PEOPLE has observed that efforts by certain animal charities to promote “local” animal agriculture in environmentally degraded regions have not slowed the spread of factory farming. Instead, boosting animal husbandry methods which have already failed–both economically and ecologically–has contributed to ecodisasters. The ensuing diversion of funds donated to help animals into helping livestock farmers recover has made matters worse for both animals and the environment.        

The April edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE features a new “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community,”  which is a manifesto as well as a blueprint for moving forward on laboratory animal issues.        

We are never short on ideas, but ANIMAL PEOPLE also allows representatives of animal groups to introduce their ideas and campaigns, and when those ideas and campaigns are controversial, we do our best to make sure all sides are presented and that all voices are heard–such as in the current debate on proposed federal legislation to regulate caged egg production.    

The animal cause has always been a veritable rainbow of philosophies. On one end of the spectrum are abolitionists who call for the immediate end of all exploitation of animals. At the other end are factions within industries based on animal use that are trying to preserve the status quo as much as possible while acceding to the public demand for more humane treatment of animals–including but not limited to improved standards of animal husbandry.     

Coloring most of the spectrum of the animal protection cause are the related but far from identical philosophies of animal welfare and animal rights. When founding ANIMAL PEOPLE 20 years ago, we deliberately tried to bridge the rights versus welfare divide by making the subtitle of the publication “news for people who care about animals.”    

The way the terms animal welfare and animal rights have been defined and used for at least 30 years is that people who describe themselves as “animal welfarists” believe humans are entitled to exploit animals as long as the animals do not suffer unnecessarily, while people who describe themselves as “animal rightists” believe animals have a moral or natural right to exist free of human interference or subjugation. While theories of animal rights often fail to take into account the fact that humans are part of nature and must draw sustenance from the web of life, animal welfarists often end up in the peculiar position of claiming that the moral superiority of humanity gives people the moral authority to treat animals as animals supposedly treat each other (i.e., “red in tooth and claw”). Obviously, moral superiority would entail greater responsibility rather than increased privilege. Animal husbandry usually refers to agriculture but would also include industries that breed animals for purposes other than food, such as thoroughbred horses or purebred dogs or cats. Animal husbandry might aim towards high welfare standards of breeding, handling, and slaughter (or culling in the case of non-food animals bred for desirable genetically expressed characteristics), but could never incorporate any kind of rights position or be accurately described as “compassionate”–a word now being appropriated by meat producers to describe their operations.      

Animal welfare motivations may certainly be compassionate, and people in animal-using industries may be so motivated, but there is an inherent conflict of interest. It is absolutely essential to negotiate with industries and enter into agreements to improve animal welfare, but animal advocates must never put aside convictions about animals so as to enter into alliances with industries.     

Convictions and principles about animal protection must be held high–like a banner or a flag carried into negotiations so that in the confusion of the fray, we don’t forget for whose interests we stand.

Given the new direction of certain multinational animal charities in supporting small-scale animal husbandry in order to stall the “march of the factory farms,” we were greatly dismayed but not totally surprised to receive a recent email from an animal group in the developing world saying that they were diverting their veterinary resources into helping local livestock farmers fight foot and mouth disease. When we pointed out that this was serving animals less than serving the interests of farmers to get their animals healthy enough to send to the slaughterhouse, the response was, tragically, “Sometimes we have to put aside our personal beliefs and convictions to protect the livelihood of others.” If this was true, animal groups would have to give up every campaign in favor of protecting the livelihoods of seal clubbers, bullfighters, and others.        

That small animal groups in the developing world are being influenced by multinational animal charities to disband their mission so as to cater to livestock farmers shows the power of ideas–but the power of bad ideas to influence people, including people who are genuinely dedicated to animal protection.        

The same can be said of organizations that encourage the adoption of terror tactics in order to intimidate people who exploit animals, or organizations that give a platform at conferences to people who advocate violence and intimidation. No sooner had ANIMAL PEOPLE published its own policy against terror tactics in the January/February 2012 editorial, “The ‘Animal Rights Agenda’ 25 years later,” than a young woman was arrested by the FBI for trying to hire a hit-man to kill someone (anyone) wearing fur. She had been influenced by rhetoric at the website of at least one militant abolitionist website.        

One can, of course, take extreme positions on animal issues without being in favor of violence. Indeed, the issues included in the spectrum of the animal cause are so complex and intertwined with the web of human culture and identity that a person may be at a conservative point on the spectrum when it comes to views on food but take an “extreme” position when it comes to uses of animals for sport or spectacle. One might believe it acceptable to breed animals such as dogs or horses who will become companions but not breed animals who will be kept in zoos or aquariums. Making it an even more tangled web, sometimes breeders market animals for multiple purposes–such as the Russian fox farmer who is currently trying to create international demand for his supposedly domesticated foxes as pets. The ones he doesn’t sell as pets will, however, still be turned into pelts.     

Adding to the confusion, people may be animal welfarists when it comes to domesticated animals but more inclined toward accepting the idea of rights for wild species.   While welfarists may reject the rights vision as unrealistic, animal rights advocates generally tend to accept welfarist proposals that will reduce suffering of animals at the hands of industries they wish did not exist, and do their best to care for individual animals in need, though they may wish those animals had never been born.   Maybe what divides people who firmly hold a utopian vegan vision and those who steadfastly advance incrementalist animal welfare efforts is the degree to which they are optimistic or pessimistic about human nature–specifically its prospects for a massive attitudinal shift, occurring within the near future, that will lead people to recognize their kinship with other animals and abruptly stop eating, wearing, experimenting on, or otherwise exploiting animals.

We believe this better, kinder world will eventually come into being, but are inclined to think it is a remote vision, and think that there will be many steps taken and no doubt many mistakes made before we’re there. Along the way, there is room for a multiplicity of approaches to help animals, including appeals to idealism and a pragmatic legislative strategy.

ANIMAL PEOPLE will continue to cover the entire spectrum of philosophies. We believe that the upward curve of the civilizing process will eventually lead all of humanity to accept that the “Golden Rule” applies to animals, too. The “Golden Rule” is a unifying concept, as it has roots in every ethical, religious, and philosophical tradition.        

ANIMAL PEOPLE donors have always been behind all that we have accomplished. Won’t you please help us transform the world through the power of humane ideas by making a donation today?                        

For the animals,
                        Kim Bartlett, president of ANIMAL PEOPLE




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