Animal law field expands — too late for some

Tuesday, March 3, 2009 | 11:45 p.m. CST; updated 9:32 p.m. CST, Wednesday, March 4, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. — Some things shouldn't happen even to a dog. But they do.

In Pennsylvania last year, a warden ordered two kennel operators to examine some of their charges for fleas. Instead, Elmer Zimmerman of Kutztown shot 70 dogs; his brother Ammon, who had a kennel next door, shot 10.

Horrible, yes, said Jessie Smith, the state's special deputy secretary for dog law enforcement, when the killings were reported. "But it's legal."

No more. Partly because of outrage over the shootings, dogs in Pennsylvania kennels now can be euthanized only by a veterinarian, and the state keeps a tighter leash on the "puppy mills."

Changes in animal law have come, and not just to Pennsylvania. Other incidents of abuse and a shifting national conscience have made this one of the fastest-growing fields in the legal profession. In 1993, just seven states had felony animal cruelty laws; today, all but five do.

"Animal law is where environmental law was 20 years ago. It's in its infancy but growing," said Pamela Frasch, who heads the National Center for Animal Law at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, where she has been an adjunct professor for 10 years.

Lewis & Clark opened the first Animal Legal Defense Fund chapter in 1992. Today it has branches at more than 115 law schools in the United States and Canada.

In 2000, nine law schools had animal law studies. Today, about 100 do.

"The reason it is getting taught is student demand," said professor David Favre, who teaches animal law at Michigan State University College of Law and is a top authority in the field. "It's not because tenured professors wanted to teach it; it's that students want to take it."

Favre said most animal law cases in private practice deal with issues such as dangerous dogs, divorce settlements, purchases or other property-related activities.

But it is the animal rights cases that draw attention. And although there have been advances in recent years, some issues remain unsettled. Should pets have more rights than livestock or wild animals? Are some species more deserving of protection?

In George Orwell's words, are some animals more equal than others?

State laws vary widely.

For example: At a Montana campsite, Gunner, a chocolate lab, was killed by a camper who cut off the dog's head with a chain saw and threw it at the owners.

Russell Howald, 30, was sentenced to the maximum: two years.

But in Iowa, undercover video shot by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals shows farm workers hitting sows with metal rods, slamming piglets on a concrete floor and bragging about jamming rods into sows' hindquarters.

"I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!" the employee yells as he hits a sow with a metal rod. "Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! Hurt! ... Take out your frustrations on 'em."

Scott Heiser of Portland, a former district attorney who now is criminal justice program director for the Animal Legal Defense Fund, said Iowa's general animal cruelty law exempts livestock from protection. If charges were brought against the workers, they most likely would be misdemeanors, at most.

Animal law, Frasch said, is a mix of incongruities.

"In the past, if someone did something bad to your animal, there wasn't much you could do," Frasch said. "But if your animal was stolen and well-treated, it could be a felony. It was out of balance.

"A mouse as a pet has protection. A mouse as a pest can be killed at will. Research mice have no protection. It is the same animal, but it is a matter of context."

Portland attorney Geordie Duckler practices animal law exclusively, but with animals as property. Animals, he said, gain instead of lose value over time as owners build affection and investment.

"Someone who runs over a dog may ask why he should pay the owner thousands of dollars instead of just buying a new dog. That might work with a piano," Duckler said.

The concept that animals have rights, as humans do, appeals to many. But not Duckler, who noted in a legal column in Bark magazine that an owner can have a dog euthanized or end an animal's pregnancy.

Duckler, who also holds advanced degrees in biology and zoology, said writings and advocacy by animal rights activists tend to be limited to mammals alone.

He asks why earthworms — simple and senseless, but animals nevertheless — "are left out in the legal cold" while others soak in "soapy tubfulls of nonscientific nonsense that we are not all that far removed from our animal ancestry."

Yet there is a middle ground.

Princeton professor Peter Singer, a pro-animal rights scholar, is quoted in a recent New Yorker article as saying he doesn't think his cats should vote or call on him in the hospital, though he wouldn't object to the visit.

"The right category for pets is closer to children, who can't vote, can't own property, but you can't inflict pain on them, either," Singer said. "The law is catching up with societal beliefs."

Well, some of them are, and not just for pets.

In November, California voters banned cramped metal cages for chickens being raised for food and gestation crates for sows and crates for lambs that leave the animals barely able to move. Other states have passed more limited measures, and similar proposals are floating around Congress.

"People are starting to ask questions about things they don't see, and animal abuse mostly happens in places we don't see it," said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of litigation for the Humane Society of the United States and adjunct professor of animal law at Georgetown University.

"Most legal protections were drafted in the 1800s," Lovvorn said. "They've upgraded a few of them, but the overall framework is not a modern one. Hamilton and John Adams would not be surprised by our cruelty codes today. They would be very familiar to them."

Lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund are busy helping overworked prosecutors try abuse cases, such as those of aggressive cruelty and cases of horses abandoned to starve because owners cannot afford to feed them.

Heiser says he concentrates on helping prosecutors who increasingly cannot ignore animal cruelty cases. "Some may need five hours of research and don't have time for it. We will help them."

Political pressure to require aggressive investigations and prosecutions began building about 15 years ago, he said. Before that, some prosecutors were giving away cases "for a song at the plea level," he recalled.

Pockets of resistance remain, he said. Some prosecutors tell him "it's just a dog" or "I've got real crime to prosecute. I'm too busy."

But new laws in many states, he said, put animal abuse on par with drunken driving cases where prosecutors are prohibited from "dealing," or plea-bargaining, down to a lesser offense.

He said the law students he has met who are devoted to animal law "are very skilled and talented young men and women. Of course the empathy is there, but most have faith in the legal system to effect change," unlike some animal rights activists who resort to violence.

Few areas of the law inspire greater emotional response — or more contradictions.

"Companion animals are especially caught up in this," Heiser said. "There are people who would risk their lives to save their dog or cat. But they still eat meat."

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Charles Dudley Jr March 4, 2009 | 5:18 a.m.

Do these laws also include the proper cleaning and upkeep of all animal care facilities of all kinds around the nation on a daily basis?

Do they advocate inspections by the A.S.P.C.A. on a surprise basis?

Do they include prosecution in a court of law of any or all employees of any given facility for their lack of proper cleaning procedures?

If not they should.

As a long time dog lover and especially of small house dogs is why I ask these and other questions here on this site as well as other like minded forums.

Do you let your own pets live in filth or dirty conditions?

Then why should any facility in this country ever be allowed to sink into this form of an atrocity towards our four legged animal friends.

All it takes is one person willing to stand up,be heard to begin to get others thinking and moving forward too.

Think about it and act/speak up accordingly.

(Report Comment)
Cia Johnson March 4, 2009 | 10:40 a.m.

So, a paper in the same city as the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine and Division of Animal Science prints an article that quotes PETA and HSUS about "animal rights" that has absolutely no input from the two parties who are the experts in "ANIMAL WELFARE". There is no input from veterinarians or animal scientists. As a 4th year veterinary student at the University of Missouri I find this completely unacceptable and a true journalist would have done a better "unbiased" investigation. Your title says you're going to talk about animal law but the content is obviously pushing animal rights.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken March 4, 2009 | 10:55 a.m.

Cia, this was a story written by the Associated Press from Portland, Oregon, not a local story. However, I agree that if the Missourian wanted to breach this topic they should have done it on a local level and gotten credible sources (not PETA or HSUS, both radical organizations) especially if they wanted to put it front and center.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 4, 2009 | 10:59 a.m.

"A mouse as a pet has protection. A mouse as a pest can be killed at will. Research mice have no protection. It is the same animal, but it is a matter of context."

Actually research mice have a great deal of protection. What a researcher does with a mouse has to be approved by several layers of administration, including lab animal vets, and the people doing it must be specially trained in what they are doing. Pet mice have no such protection (although mine do :-) ).


(Report Comment)
Cia Johnson March 4, 2009 | 11:05 a.m.

Amber, your comment is exactly what I was getting at. I knew that this was an AP article but for this particular area I felt that they should have gone to the experts for their input.

Mark, I absolutely agree with you about lab animals. I worked with laboratory animals for 3 years and they receive exceptional care.

(Report Comment)
Melissa Austin March 4, 2009 | 11:18 a.m.

I completely agree with Cia, Amber, and Mark.
As a senior veterinary student, I would like to extend an invitation to the Missourian to come to the campus of the MU-College of Veterinary Medicine and speak to EXPERTS on this issue and collect facts from the TRUE animal advocates. Its a shame that animals have articles written on their behalf without the veterinary perspective. The Missourian can and should do better.

(Report Comment)
john borzillo March 4, 2009 | 11:22 a.m.

I find it very unfortunate the Missourian chose to head up the front page with an article touting the "forward thinking" of a state such as Oregon, which has scrambled with reckless abandon to embrace radical thinking without so much as a moment of forethought. The implications that ANY laws designed by unreasonable animal advocates will have on law-abiding Midwesterners (particularly those who make their living on animal agriculture) is far beyond the scope of our wildest imagination. Furthermore, this article boasted the input of such "expert" voices as PETA and HSUS, but failed to include even a side note from any of the experts at our own University of Missouri. We boast a veterinary college as well as a respected Division of Animal Science, yet these were never consulted prior to posting this article. Does the Missourian not trust our own institution? Or perhaps there is a lack of actual news in the Columbia area? Whatever the case, the Missourian has completely abandoned the number one rule of journalism - to remain unbiased.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 11:36 a.m.

Peronally, I'm glad to see a story that doesn't rely on the usual supposed "experts" for perspective. The fact is that this is an emerging issue that the establishment simply hasn't wrapped its mind around yet.

Veterinarians and animal scientists are *not* the experts when it comes to animal care. Animal scientists, especially, have little claim to expertise here. What they're experts at is animal *use* and *maintenance*. One of the points of this story is that animal *care* is an entirely separate issue, one we're starting to wake up to as a culture.

This isn't a personal indictment of the individuals speaking above. I'm sure they're responsible people who take what they do seriously. Personally, I find the perpetuation of animal science to be unethical, immoral, and a largely profit-driven enterprise, and its existence in this community is a testament to the university's desperation for corporate research money. Almost all areas of science have moved beyond animal testing as a necessity; to cling to it is to contribute to our own obsolescence. It's not the long-term future for MU or any other entity.

That's my opinion. That's what this story is about: evolving ideas about what's acceptable in society. We always hear from the status-quo "experts"--why should an alternate view be so quickly shouted down, as it is above?

Because people don't like change, especially when they have a financial stake in it. And especially when they might end up on the wrong side of the ethical line when society matures and moves on.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 4, 2009 | 11:53 a.m.


What society has not made "use" of animals in some form, either as prime movers or as food? As we find we have to use less oil as a prime mover, I'm suspecting we will see a greater use of animals for farming and transportation. What rights do you see a draft animal having? Or a horse that someone uses to haul their produce to market (like the Amish)?

If animal science can engineer a stronger, more disease resistant plow horse or ox, would you consider this unethical?


(Report Comment)
Ayla Kremen March 4, 2009 | 12:04 p.m.


Just FYI, a Missourian reporter is actually working on a similar story right now. Originally his story was going to run today, but due to the Missourian's new printing schedule, he could not make the new deadline. If I'm remembering correctly, his story will be published sometime next week. Thanks.

Ayla Kremen

(Report Comment)
Matt Y March 4, 2009 | 12:23 p.m.

Everyone knows that there's a dog heaven and a cat heaven. Is there a bacteria heaven?

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 12:42 p.m.

Mark, those are good questions. I think the whole purpose of the animal-rights issue is about that: questioning about our basic assumptions. For too long, we've been blind followers of progress at all costs, and now that we've reached a point where exploitation is no longer a necessity (if it ever was), I think it's our responsibility as a culture to step back and look very critically at what we're doing, especially at the industrial level.

My own personal beliefs are still evolving as I learn more. I have ideals that tell me we shouldn't use animals for any purpose of our own; and I have more gradually evolving ideas that are rooted in our history of animal use as a civilization and how embedded we've become in the existence of so many species, and the line can get fuzzy when looking at that.

What I often come back to is the issue of suffering. The work for a plow animal is hard. There are stresses involved with any animal used in farming. But there are degrees of suffering, and there are entirely uneccesary types of suffering. That, to me, is where a society begins to do actual harm. I think we can move forward with looking at where the real, unecessary harm is being done without having everything figured out. No current use of animals should be above serious questioning and investigation. None of it should be taken for granted.

I understand the point about science making a better plow animal, but my problem with it is that such pursuits are often rooted in more broadly destructive activities. For example, animal science's focus on treating and preventing disease in livestock is largely in furtherance of unsustainably large, polluting factory farm operations. Putting animals in places like those is an entirely unnatural state, and causes great unecessary suffering, all for the sake of little more than our fattening population's wasteful overconsumption. It's science, but I don't think it's for the greater good. It enables our worst tendencies as a culture.

I think we've fallen prey to a great fallacy: that nature is somehow insufficient to provide for us, so it needs to be manipulated and twisted to keep up with our needs. The results are not only harmful to the animals involved, but to the people and ecosystems as well--polluted rivers, less-nutritious food, less self-sufficiency and more reliance on distant corporations, family famers sued out of existence by Monsanto, and an alarming depletion of topsoil due to large-scale monoculture operations.

Science is one of our society's most powerful and valuable tools. But the second it gets detached from ethical examinations of its motives and all of its effects, it becomes a monster.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 12:47 p.m.

Ayla, I hope that the local complementary story you mention won't be shaped as a "response" the "radical" views that the first few commenters here complained about. To use their characterization of this story--which I think is a good, thought-provokong story--two wrongs don't make a right. I'd like to see a story that includes both the views of the local animal-use-based establishment, and also local voices of advocacy for animal rights beyond what the establishment considers necessary. That would reflect the true scope of the ongoing debate--which might not please the MU departments thriving on agribusiness grants, but would honor the complexity of what our society's really feeling.

I've been really happy to see the kinds of challenging stories the Missourian has taken on, especially in the last few years. I hope this one will be addressed at a local level with the usual good mix of views.

(Report Comment)
Cia Johnson March 4, 2009 | 12:56 p.m.

Quote "Veterinarians and animal scientists are *not* the experts when it comes to animal care. "

Kevin, if you did have an animal where would take that animal to receive medical care and treatment and advice on general health and well-being.

(Report Comment)
Matthew Cavanaugh March 4, 2009 | 1:46 p.m.

As a Mizzou Animal Science graduate I am slightly taken aback with how generally you condemn those who pioneer the science. Am I suddenly unethical or immoral because I studied the maximization of animal production? The goal, of course, being the development of better more efficient production techniques to provide better, cheaper food to a larger portion of people?

I've been dealing with "animal rights" groups my entire tenure at Mizzou, and you have spewed nothing more than the generic talking points. Never ONCE has a serious alternative to our standard animal farming system is offered that is anywhere near sustainable, nor do you viewpoints truly put people first.

Animal Science does a great deal more than "violate animal rights." I, personally, have worked in cancer research labs on campus. I've studied gene therapy to provide humans with cross species alternatives for transplants. These are practical AND quite necessary topics for study. Would you silence and entire field of research because you are afraid a mouse didn't live out it's entire year life span?

What do you define as abuse? Never once have I seen a single animal under abuse. Animals are not empathic, nor do they seek emotional fulfillment. Their brain chemistry isn't wired that way. They respond to stimulus and react according to predetermined instinctive action patterns. I could show you a 24 hour video of chickens in a barn with the door wide open allowing any of them to leave. I promise you, as sure as the sun does rise, that those chickens would prefer the warm and comfort of the barn where their food is located. Not one of them would wander out in the cold where predators can get them or disease can infect them.

Get off your high horse. Animals are not people. However, I promise you that, if they are raised in the U.S., they have all their needs met for the duration of their lives.

(Report Comment)
Jason Lenhart March 4, 2009 | 2:08 p.m.

I everybody - My name is Jason Lenhart. I'm the reporter Ayla mentioned.

First I'd like to apologize on behalf of the Missourian. We have a new center spread schedule that has recently gone into effect that cut the deadline down. My editor pitched me this AP story asking me to do a local perspective but there was not enough time to have it done for today's publication. I have been reading your comments and I'm hoping to try to address the issues as best and as fairly as I can.

On that note, any and all advise would be greatly appreciated. If you have specific people/professionals that would you feel would be great sources, please, let me know. I'm currently in line to interview some people involved with the LAW aspect of animal abuse/neglect, which is what the original intent of the story was. Please, if you have some advice or carry some knowledge on the topic, please feel free to e-mail me at

I'll be trying my best to get you the story you want.

Thanks - Jason Lenhart

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 4, 2009 | 2:51 p.m.

Jason Lenhart keep on doing the best you can and it will all wash out in the end.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 3:04 p.m.

Jason, no need to apologize. This is a good story, but people tend to feel personally offended if their personal viewpoint isn't included, or rather, validated without question. This entire story is a question--that's always valid. Every story is incomplete is some way. What's illuminating here is how strongly certain groups react to their accepted place in society being questioned.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 3:54 p.m.

A few reponses to Matthew Cavaugh's characterizations of what I've said here:

1) I don't believe you're "suddenly immoral" because you chose animal science as a field (nor did I claim that). But what you do is not immune from questioning. You've made a value judgment about the appropriateness of your work--everyone else can, too. I believe that too much animal science work is directed toward unnecessary, materialistic ends. That's my opinion. I don't know anything about your personal work.

2) I disagree about your statement about "not putting people first". Many people seem to believe that if you in any way question a human's right to do anything they want, at any scale imaginable, to any other creature, you're anti-human. In truth, this isn't an all-or-nothing question. Society gives people rights, and it sets boundaries on those rights. It's natural.

3) Your complaint that I haven't offered an alternative plan for everything we currently use animals for is a bit silly, as what I'm talking about is *questioning* what we're currently doing, and then looking for opportunities for improvement. It would be irresponsible for me to offer some kind of all-inclusive plan for all of humanity. Your remark seems disingenuous, to deny the possibility of alternatives.

3) "Would you silence and entire field of research because you are afraid a mouse didn't live out it's entire year life span?" You're misrepresenting me. It's true that certain specific examples of animal science have had effects beneficial to man. Others have had a destructive effect that is more about financial profit than human health. Again--why make this such a black and white issue? There is good work, and there is bad work, and we need to keep evaluating. I'm not silencing anyone by voicing my own opinion.

(continued below)

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 3:55 p.m.

(continued from above)

4) "Animals are not empathic, nor do they seek emotional fulfillment." This is incorrect. For example, I suggest you look into elephant behavioral studies to see how wrong you are. They are one example of an intelligent animal with a highly-functioning emotional network that operates entirely separately from their base needs. Your field of study relies on there being no distinctions among animals, but complete distinction between animals and humans. A position that's becoming outdated.

5) "Get off your high horse. Animals are not people." I never said they were. Again, you seem to be looking at this as an all-or-nothing issue. I believe that humans are the most advanced life forms on Earth. But other life forms have strong degrees of awareness, emotions, and capacity for suffering, and I believe they have inherent rights and should have protections accordingly.

Now, if you believe that humans have an inherent right to dominance over all other lifeforms, then you're deriving that from somewhere besides science--religion, perhaps? If so, come out from behind the cloak of science and say so.

6) "I promise you that, if they are raised in the U.S., they have all their needs met for the duration of their lives." This is widly false. There are so many documented cases of abuse, neglect, disease, & trauma in all aspects of animal use in this country--agriculture, science, recreation, etc.--that this is a meaningless statement.


It's interesting to me that almost all of the animal science-supporting opinions here are so stridently dismissive of any outside opinions--they dismiss those with different views as "radicals" who are "spewing" their opinions. This, as much as anything, highlights the need to keep asking questions.

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 4:14 p.m.

Cia, your comment points out an unfair general statement I made. My point was to distinguish between the concept of "care", extending to the complex emotional needs and interactions that animals have, and the "use & maintenance" approach that animal science often takes for animals which are used for an agricultural or investment purpose. Or put another way, distinguishing between animals' inherent purpose, which is their own, and a human-industrial purpose. In doing so, I left veterinarians hung out to dry, so to speak.

Veterinarians are experts on animals in many ways, and I take my animals to a vet whenever I need help, because there are many things they know much more about than I do. And most also have a good deal of knowledge about what makes animals happy or unhappy. I have great respect for all the veterinarians I've ever dealt with and their expertise.

Maybe an analogy would be better--would we consider doctors to be the ultimate experts on parenting? If all we're concerned with is keeping a child alive, doctors can tell us what we need to know. But there's more to it than that, and while doctors can tell us many things, and are an essential part of the picture, they can't tell us everything. We can acknowledge that without undermining their value.

My point wasn't to completely invalidate any profession, so if I did so, I apologize.

(Report Comment)
Matthew Cavanaugh March 4, 2009 | 4:42 p.m.

1) "I believe that too much animal science work is directed toward unnecessary, materialistic ends."

Please quantify this. What actual experience do you have to lend any questioning you do real gravitas? Likewise, you very clearly defined the entire field as "unethical" and "immoral." Any rationale person reading that would assume that it logically follows that those that practice the field (since any field of study is holistically comprised of people and nothing more) would be similarly characterized.

2) When you seek to eliminate a field of study (as PETA and the HS do) you are in essence making a statement about the hierarchy. The animal rights groups have a very microscopic view of issues. "One cow on one farm" or "one lab in one school" are the battles they choose to fight. Billions of people are able to eat more nutritious food in great quantities because of this research. ANY and ALL steps backwards would be taking much needed food and knowledge out of people's hands and mouths. Yes, it is an all-or-nothing issue not to mention an incredible slippery slope to argue on.

3) If you are going to generalize about an entire field of research, backpeddle to seem altruistic, then claim that the act of questioning is a civil service then you can at least present a sound alternative. There are thousands of people working millions of hours a year to improve laboratory techniques and production values. Your questioning is silly. I am not the individual that stepped into a discussion with some moral complex without honestly understanding anything about the field. Even then do you fail to offer finite definitions about what criteria should be used to judge animals worthy of rights or what the rights should be. Your argument has merit because something somewhere is somehow wrong and someone needs to do something to fix it? My asking for an alternative is hardly "disingenuous."

(Report Comment)
Matthew Cavanaugh March 4, 2009 | 4:43 p.m.

4) "Others have had a destructive effect that is more about financial profit than human health."

So we penalize the good to weed out (what you deem) bad? Why is financial gain viewed as bad? Farmers and producers must make money correct? Cheaper food prices are better for everyone correct?

5)"But other life forms have strong degrees of awareness, emotions, and capacity for suffering, and I believe they have inherent rights and should have protections accordingly."

You are playing with vagues terms to promote an visceral response in readers. Is a bacteria "aware" of its surroundings? Is a plant "strongly" aware? Is a dog "happy" to see you or does the animal just react to previously enforced behavior? Nothing I have ever read, seen, or studied would indicate animals possess these traits which the animal rights movement cling to.

6) This is widely false how? So many cases of documented abuse? I have the actual law that MUST be enforced to back-up my statement. You have vague, "No I'll just refute what you said with a no because I want to" on your side. Where are you acquiring this information? Are you really under the assumption that most animals in this country are abused or diseased? Your statement speaks volumes of your actual experience with animal operations and laboratory settings. I highly suggest you get some experience before you make yourself look more silly with your pedantic, general statements with little evidence.


It's interesting to me the only person asking questions is the same person who knows little to nothing about the laws or practices behind which he is questioning.

(Report Comment)
john borzillo March 4, 2009 | 5:16 p.m.

There is a distinct lack of objectivity throughout this thread:

FIRST: Yes Mr. Gamble, humans do have "dominion" if you will over animals; just as all higher organisms have over lesser organisms. Or is it wrong to say that the bird still preys on the worm? Social Darwinian, Christian or other, this is a scientific fact.

CAVEAT: As higher organisms, we understand concepts such as responsibility. Therefore we MUST be good stewards of natural resources; be it oil, water, plants, animals, etc... So yes we do need to insure WELFARE for animals, but never at the expense of Human welfare or rights and certainly not on radical terms.

SECOND: For me this remains an issue of bias. The bias in this case lends credence to radical (yes I said it) ideas, because PETA IS RADICAL. As proofed by these tenants from their website:

* Animals Are Not Ours to Eat
* Animals Are Not Ours to Wear
* Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On
* Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment
* Animals Are Not Ours to Abuse in Any Way

If these are held to be true, HUMANS suffer, which brings us to point three.

THIRD: Two marks of a nation that has moved out or is moving out of the third world are: a thriving agricultural industry and consumption of animal protein.

FINALLY: As a scientist, my goal is to feed, care for and promote quality of life for humans first. If the use of animals for this purpose is required, then it is certainly warranted. Do I love animals? Certainly! Do we need to insure their proper care and use? Yes! However, if I were to take these feelings too far, as PETA does, we would not be able to control diabetes, we would not have transplant technology and we will never cure cancer.

So I ask, when we live in a society filled with people that range from Ingrid Newkirk to Michael Vick, who should decide what constitutes the "right" of an animal? This question seems to have plagued this discussion all day long without resolution.

For this reason, the best we can hope to do is use our animal resources wisely and punish those that fail to do so; but never to the extent that the human right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness is diminished.

So Mr. Lenhart, write your piece without bias and you will have my praise.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 4, 2009 | 5:30 p.m.

And, yet I see this article from a more local perspective. We live in a town that has an annual blessing of the animals.
Ninth annual pet blessing service promotes respect for all animals ...
Aug 17, 2008 ... Before the service, Erickson explained the goal of the animal blessing in detail, emphasizing humans' connection to all animals. ...
while we allow our city to pay off $100,000 of our local "Humane Society's"
$900,000 annual budget, to "guilt-free" kill healthy pets due to their age and lack of space. Meanwhile, the old Sinclair Farm, just South of Woodcrest Church, has been sitting empty for years.
My question is, if we wanted to treat our "transitional living" pets in a humane setting, alive and well, why hasn't the Sinclair School of Nursing, MU Veterinary School, our local animal shelter, PAWS, Second Chance and our city partner together to provide our healthy pups, dogs, kittens, cats, hamsters and bunnies, with the kind of care they deserve?

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 5:30 p.m.

Matthew, you've again misrepresented what I've said. You seem to be responding more to the sum total of accumulated frustrations than to my actual words. I hate to make this place a field for this, but I want to clarify a few things:

1) I'm not interested in quantifying anything for you, because I'm not approaching the issue in an all-or-nothing way, as you keep claiming I am. I'm expressing an opinion, and if you don't like it, you're free to disagree. You seem hell-bent on proving me wrong, when I'm not even claiming I'm right. I'm saying this is what I believe--not telling you to believe it. If you think I shouldn't feel the way I do, you're doing the worst possible job of convincing me to feel otherwise.

2) Your claims are too one-sided here. You're looking only at raw quantity of food, without considering what is lost--at both the micro and macro level--when a need is met by a corporate-agricultural mechanism. Yet again: it's not all or nothing. There are places where your type of work has a net benefit. There are places where it doesn't. By not acknowledging any flaws whatsoever in your field, you become an evangelist, not a thinker.

3) How do you know I don't understand anything about the field? I know more than you seem to think. Unlike you, I'm not claiming to know more about you than I do. I also freely acknowledge that I don't know everything. No one does. Tell me something you really believe strongly in, and don't be insulting while doing it, and we'll be getting somewhere.

4) How am I punishing anyone? I'm just expressing a personal opinion about the need to take an honest look at why we're doing things the way we are. Who's being punished? Yet again, it seems black and white for you. Making money isn't bad, but in some cases the pursuit of it can lead to bad things. Low prices aren't inherently bad, but they can sometimes result from unethical practices on the back end. Please accept that issues have some complexity.

5) My point is that animal life forms differ widely in their complexity and mental & emotional depth. Your statement about never reading anything to the contrary demonstrates that you are missing vital information about this issue. Which, since animals are your field of study, is a greater concern. My advice, again: learn about elephants. That's a great start.

6) Are you using the existence of a law to prove that a law is never broken? That makes no sense. Once *again*, I'm not making an all-or-nothing statement that every use of an animal in this country is bad and mishandled. Never said that, don't mean it. Hundreds of investigations and criminal cases exist that reveal examples of abuse in every setting where animals exist. To me, that highlights a need to keep looking at what's being done, why it's being done, and to weigh its benefits and detriments.

What part of that do you find so offensive?

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 5:36 p.m.

John Borzillo, thank you for that thoughtful response--almost certainly the most realistic so far (mine included).

One thing I'd say about PETA is that yes--they are a radical group. But there is a valuable place for radicalism in a society. They may never change you, but the work of radicals at the boundaries, I believe, is critical to a healthy society. One can disagree with all of their basic points and still see their objective value. Hopefully.

(Report Comment)
Christina Nelson March 4, 2009 | 5:40 p.m.

No matter what an animal is for, whether it's companion, research, agriculture, etc., they deserve to be treated properly, and not abused. I think we can all agree on that. However, to what degree an animal is protected is the real debate here. It seems that this debate has turned into whether or not the use of animals in certain fields is ethical or not. That was not what this paper is trying to focus on.

The original article was trying to determine what type of legal action needs to be taken to protect animals. The problem I have with this article is that they quote mostly advocates of animal RIGHTS. Not advocates of animal WELFARE (and yes, Veterinarians and animal scientists are the leading experts in animal welfare. A lot of their job is simply to ensure that animals are healthy and cared for properly, even if that animal is going to end up as roast beef on someone's plate, they still deserve to be treated properly while still alive).

An animal cannot and should not have rights. There is NO way we would be able to legally distinguish which animals can have rights, and what those rights would be. That would be a political and legal nightmare. So quoting those who feel that animals should have the same rights as humans, is unrealistic and very one-sided. I hope the coming article can focus more on laws protecting animal WELFARE, and stay away from some of the radical views expressed both in this article and this debate.

(Report Comment)
Matthew Cavanaugh March 4, 2009 | 6:01 p.m.

So to sum up Kevin's entire argument:

I am not claiming I am right, but I am asserting that we need to question animal science practices. I'm not sure exactly how these questions should be addressed, or how to rational why they need to be questioned in the first place. What I do know, however, is that from the information I've read and seen, animal abuse in America is widespead. Just don't ask me to identify my sources. Likewise, because animals like dolphins, apes, and elephants can be anthropomorphized from cherry-picked research reports, we should give all animals rights. Don't ask me how we decide the criteria or what these rights are because I am not trying to be right. This is my opinion however, so don't expect substantiation. Disagree if you choose, but I thought I would contribute in some way.

This is the general theme of your arguments Mr. Gamble.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken March 4, 2009 | 6:05 p.m.

Exactly as Christina said. Kevin, I fail to grasp your point behind all your circular arguments, back-pedaling and "my opinion" defenses.

(Report Comment)
Brady Bennett March 4, 2009 | 6:16 p.m.

Mr. Gamble,

Another graduating veterinary senior weighing in here. You've provided many interesting points from your side of this very emotional issue. Thank you very much.

I think that many us (the vets on this board) feel so strongly against the tone of the article because we are aware of some very far reaching implications beyond the "bare bones" suggestion that people should simply reconsider animal ethics and specifically restructure animal law. Generally, PETA (or like groups) use articles like these to generate support for very radical issues or social changes and unlike YOU - most people do not critically evaluate them - they just jump on the bandwagon.

A great example of this is the animal rights movement to make people the "guardians" of animals. Most people who read this article probably didn't even catch it.

Quote: "The right category for pets is closer to children, who can't vote, can't own property, but you can't inflict pain on them, either," Singer said.

The word "guardian" is not used here but it is most CERTAINLY implied. At first glance this seems harmless at best, or possibly even a decent idea. FAR FROM THE TRUTH FRIENDS! The minute our laws reflect statements such as these our society will no longer be able to have pets, and hunger will become a world problem because the American people and our producers will not be able to economically support this change. Trust me PETA KNOWS THIS and is banking on it.

You mention having a dog. If she/he had a severe injury or was at the end stage of a terminal disease would you elect humane euthanasia? Even if this choice is not for you - surely you support the rights of others to choose? If you were your dogs "guardian", euthanasia would not be a choice you would WATCH him slowly suffer and die. Be thankful you are an "owner".

So by all means, critically evaluate how our livestock and our pets are treated as long as you ALSO critically evaluate articles like this one and those yet to come because most reporters who write on these issues are either biased or don't fully comprehend the implications of what some of their interviewees are saying.

Like it or not, the fact that we are owners is why you have a dog at home to love and food on your plate.

(Report Comment)
Charles Dudley Jr March 4, 2009 | 7:24 p.m.

ray shapiro because that is the way they have always done it.(said with alot of nasal inflection into the wording)

(Report Comment)
Kevin Gamble March 4, 2009 | 10:24 p.m.

Brady, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Unlike Matthew, Christina, and Amber, you don't seem to be afraid of and misunderstanding of a simple conversation. You're exactly right that the context we all find ourselves in is a result of our accepted distinctions between 'classes' of animals and different norms for their use.

I have a few cats, and I consider myself their owner (and consider euthanasia an important option, for their welfare and my peace of mind). I'm a vegetarian, though I eat some (organic) cheese, eggs, and occasionally milk. I'm aware of the implications of all of those actions, and of the inherent contradictions. And as you suggest, I am grateful for the choices that our societal norms provide for me.

What Matthew, Christina, and Amber all fail to grasp is that unlike them, I'm not afraid to question my basic assumptions and admit I don't have all the answers. Christina states in no uncertain terms, "An animal cannot and should not have rights." She's not interested in balance, or lack of bias, or anything else other than validation of her chosen immutable truth. I'm here asking questions, without all the answers already decided for everyone else.

And frankly, I'm shocked at how resistant so many people are to an open examination of the issues. There's mostly just dogma. Even though I know it's rooted in passionate defense of something that's very personally important to them, it's disappointing and has a chilling effect on free exchange. Instead of discussing ideas, I've spend too many paragraphs here just defending myself from misrepresentation, feeling like a proxy for all the groups, campaigns, and ideas they have problems with.

So what these three see as back-pedaling and ambiguities, I see as simple honesty, lack of denial, and acknowledgment that our society is evolving and changing. Animal science and veterinary work have played crucial roles in our understanding of this issue. PETA, like it or not, plays a crucial role in our understanding of this issue. They do have an agenda, and they have a right to that agenda. We can all choose to accept it or not. And in the meantime, they're also doing a lot for animal *welfare*--fighting luxury use of animal parts, exploitation and mistreatment of animals for entertainment, investigating and exposing genuine examples of animal abuse in some specific scientific and agricultural settings, and helping us question what is moral and acceptable.

The sum total of all of this, and everything in between, is where our changing world view comes from. I'm grateful for this article, and for the comments from Brady and John, from whom I've learned something and who are more interested in expressing their reasoned views than in attacking someone who thinks differently. It'll reflect better on us as a community when we're able to do that right off the bat.

(Report Comment)
Amber Hanneken March 4, 2009 | 10:43 p.m.

Kevin, you were the one who came in here already on the defensive and then lashed out at veterinarians and animal scientists unnecessarily. Then when people asked you to simply elaborate on what you meant, you just ran yourself in circles saying a lot but really saying nothing at all.
What Christina, Matthew and I said was basically the exact same thing John and Brady said.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 5, 2009 | 3:41 a.m.

I don't know where to start here, but I'd like to add a few perspectives from a little different angle.

I notice the attitude in sustainability circles that our corporations and institutions are exploiting us for profit, and if we regulate or nationalize them, that we will get rid of their evil influence and have a more sustainable world. Remember who the driving force for all this is - the consumer. Monsanto would not be in the position it is if they were not making money for farmers, and farmers would not be making money if they did not raise food that consumers wanted. And it's not just our overfed, wasteful society. McDonalds sells some of the most universally popular products on the planet, and it's not just their advertising. People like their food (for better or worse).

Animals have served consumers since the dawn of man, whether as prey or purpose-bred. Ruminants, in particular, can increase an area's food supply because they can convert cellulose into protein that humans can digest. Humans have exploited this for millenia, and the factory farm is the logical end product of this evolution. You are correct, it is unsustainable, and as such, will not last in an age of scarce and expensive fossil fuel. But we'll still want beef, and milk, and leather, just like people did before the factory farm.

I am sure that farms throughout history are filled with children who have witnessed slaughters, or castrations, or other livestock operations and expressed their concerns over the welfare of the animals. I am also sure that they were told "Kid, we have to eat", and practically, this answered it for them. Animal husbandry benefits humans, that's why we have done it so long, and have gotten so good at it. I don't think it's practical to elevate the status of a food animal to that of a human child - certainly if it were a question of me or the animal, I'd take me every time. Virtually anyone would.


(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 5, 2009 | 4:08 a.m.

Concern over the feelings of an animal (or other related social justice concerns) are largely things that only rich societies worry about. PETA would not have supporters in Africa, and even in China. They are a uniquely Western organization, because we as Westerners have the luxury of not having to worry about our food supply (now).

PETA is big business also. They have the same need to make money as any agribusiness corporation does, and they do it by producing products that their customers want. They can take a moral "high ground" perhaps, but only in the context of a well-fed populace that can afford their message.

I'm not saying we should neglect the feeling of the animals we use. But there is a balance between that and the desires of the humans these animals have been bred to serve. People have been promoting veganism and anti-vivisection for centuries, and consumers have largely rejected them. Agribusiness, and science, are merely serving the desires of consumers.

Knowledge, in itself, is universally good. Whether that knowledge is used for "evil" (a relative term) is not the responsibility of the discoverer of that knowledge. Science, or profit, should not be blamed for environmental damage, or unsustainability. We all share part of that blame, for living, and consuming. Remember some of the greatest environmental disasters have occurred in socialist countries, where private profit was not a factor.

All of us, animals and humans, suffer for profit to to an extent. A lot of people find their work unpleasant, and unhealthful, but they do it because they profit from it. Humans simply have the capacity to understand the whys better than an animal might. That's just the way the world has turned out - we may question it, but it's not likely to change much. The best we can do is live according to our own principles, and leave others to do as they may.


(Report Comment)
Tess Hunt March 5, 2009 | 4:51 a.m.

"Animals are not people. However, I promise you that, if they are raised in the U.S., they have all their needs met for the duration of their lives."

Did you happen to see the documentary this weekend "Food Inc."? Those downer cattle, for instance, all their needs were met? Dear God.

(Report Comment)
Zeke Levine March 5, 2009 | 7:34 a.m.

The bottom line: Human beings have betrayed the creatures of our planet. Turning a blind eye on the legalized animal cruelty practiced in research laboratories, funded by our tax dollars, and the unforgivable cruelty animals experience in the hell holes of Industrial animal production/transport and brutal slaughter is a collective shame for our nation, and citizens of the world. Purposely bringing pain and suffering to a living, breathing being for the benefit of human beings and protecting the torturers is a shame we, as a people, share collectively. Fortunately, people are waking to this atrocity inflicted upon innocent, helpless animals and are speaking for those who cannot speak. None of the defenses or excuses stated here in the comments for inflicting pain, terror and agonizing death to animals holds water! (Though these human beings certainly use every excuse, including their false perception that they have the right to do these crimes.)

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking March 5, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.


I'd like to know how the "legalized animal cruelty" purportedly practiced in laboratories compares to the life of a wild mouse or rat, for example.

A lab mouse always has enough to eat, warm, dry quarters, the company of other mice (usually), and may have to endure a few injections, bleedings, or possibly an aseptic surgery, under anesthesia, before they are humanely put to sleep.

A wild mouse has to find it's own food, endure extremes of heat and cold, defend it's young, spend it's life running from predators, until it's swallowed by a snake or torn apart by a cat or bird. I know which one I'd rather be.

The explosion of scientific knowledge that gene knockout technology in mice has made possible is amazing. In life, one always has to compare drawbacks vs. benefits. Lab mice have a pretty good life, and we have learned so much that we wouldn't have any other way. Eventually, we will no longer need to use them, just as we no longer need to test cosmetics on animals. But sometimes there's just no other way to learn something.


(Report Comment)
skippy gray March 6, 2009 | 1:23 p.m.

The ar movement is using the problem of no remedy for fleas to there advantage. The flea problems havent worked for a good long time. But animal breeders now have the flea pill. Dont kill them, pill them.

(Report Comment)

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