What’s the difference between slow-roasting a pig and slow-roasting a man over an oil fire? The average person might answer “one is an animal and the other is a man.” An animal-rights activist might answer “both are sentient beings and shouldn’t be killed for consumption, convenience or education.” The civil-rights activist would doubtless answer “the man was cooked alive.” 1
But what happens if the animal activist does not care about the civil-rights viewpoint, and seeks to use the civil-rights movement in furtherance of animal rights?
When animal advocates choose to ignore the historical and current implications of their campaigns, they do a disservice to animal rights and human rights at once. PETA activists recently dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes to protest the treatment of dogs at the Westminster Dog Show, drawing an explicit analogy to the KKK’s pure “Aryan race philosophy” by noting “pure breeds only,” and an implicit analogy to the way kidnapped Africans were inspected on America’s shores after enduring the Middle Passage. 2 This demonstration presents an opportunity to establish a paradigm for determining when one can effectively analogize between slavery/Jim Crow and the current state of domestic animals. I propose a three-step analysis: accuracy, appropriateness and productiveness. Following this simple paradigm, PETA had three compelling reasons not to run this campaign.
Accuracy is the first — and, perhaps, the simplest — criterion. Imagine an SAT analogy question: “Dog show participants are to show dogs as _________ were to American Slaves.” Suppose the answers were “A) Jews; B) KKK; C) Nazis; and D) 17 th, 18 th and 19 th century well-to-do Americans.” The answer of course, is D. Wealthy Americans in the 17 th, 18 th and 19 th centuries owned American Slaves as property; human participants in dog shows own dogs. The KKK does not own, but rather menaces, African Americans. Another question could be: “the KKK’s attitude to breeding is least like A) The Nazi regime; B) Apartheid in South Africa; C) the caste system in India; or D) competitive dog breeding system.” Once again the answer is D. This is not because the answers A through C deal with humans, but because A through C have theories on a master race in addition to a prohibition against miscegenation. Any breed can win a dog show; only one race is superior under Klan philosophy. Moreover, I do not understand an animal-rights perspective to be the promotion of mixed breed dogs as equal to pure breed dogs, but rather to question the domestication of these animals altogether. In that sense, PETA's campaign is not even accurate from an animal-rights position.
A related criterion is appropriateness, because any analogy carries with it a certain nuance based on a familiarity with the analogized group’s history. Starting with the most obvious problem, the PETA campaign uses imagery that evokes pain and outrage in African Americans. KKK hate crimes are not an item of the distant past, but a continual oppressor of African Americans in this country. 3 The callous use of this imagery is inappropriate. Moreover, African-Americans have been likened to nonhuman animals throughout their history as a justification for slavery and the second-class citizenship that followed for a century thereafter. 4 Admittedly, there is a very real and significant difference here. African-Americans were likened to animals by racist forces to push African-Americans down, while animal advocates are doing it to pull animals up. But this comparison is still problematic. These analogies generally ignore the fact that oppressed people have a voice. They can talk and they can write, even if our courts refuse to recognize them. Overlooking this important difference suggests that some animal advocates are ignoring the voice of African Americans. That their voice is ignored by PETA is clear — otherwise PETA members would not don their white robes and hats. Nor would they attempt to purchase an advertisement on the U.S.-Mexico fence, a sign of oppression, if they listened to the voices of migrants. 5
The final criterion is productivity. An unproductive campaign can either fail to accomplish its objective while reversing other social progress, or severely alienate potential supporters of veganism and animal rights. Whether you’re pushing African-Americans down or trying to pull animals up, creating an intellectual link between them forces individuals to think of the two groups the same way, that they deserve the same rights. If forced to choose whether both are elevated or both are lowered, society may very well choose the latter.
The case becomes difficult when a statement meets the first two criteria. One example might be a statement that slaves, like animals today, were legally characterized as chattel. It is true that human slavery is the only other context in which a sentient being is actually owned. But it is still possible for an accurate, appropriate statement to be counterproductive, particularly when an opposing campaign might take the statement out of context and use it for negative propaganda. The use of slavery/Jim Crow analogies runs a serious risk of alienating African-Americans while fueling the general perception that animal-rights advocates disregard the feelings and dignity of human beings. Rather than drawing potential vegans into the cause, an accurate statement that ignores their viewpoint alienates a significant number of potential vegans, and their acceptance of veganism is delayed, if not prevented.
It is somewhat intuitive to think that advocates for progressive social change are natural allies. Unfortunately, history offers many important cases that suggest nothing could be further from the truth. Women advocated for voting rights with the argument that if an illiterate Negro could vote, why couldn’t a college educated white woman? 6 Some African-Americans have said that since Japanese Americans were given reparations for their internment during World War II, African Americans deserve reparations for their treatment as slaves from 1619 to 1865; such arguments run the risk of implying that the Japanese Americans were not deserving of those reparations, rather than merely advocating for African Americans’ rights to reparations. Native Americans and Japanese Americans were both owed compensation by the U.S. government (inadequate in both cases) but comparing and contrasting the cases can appear to reduce legitimate claims to squabbling among oppressed groups, while giving the majority the ability to deny reparations with a slippery slope argument.
Advocates for social change, after finding their front and beginning to fight on it, must proactively take steps to bridge gaps and create a dialogue that at least prevents the ideal situation for the common enemy: two small voices yelling at each other. It is unfortunate that the best one might be able to hope for is not stepping on another’s toes while fighting for a place on what appears to be an ever-shrinking amount of moral bandwidth. All social activists must remember that change is not a zero-sum game, and respectful campaigns can be crafted to advance one cause without harming another, and often to advance multiple causes together.
None of this is intended to support dog shows, which are a symbol of societal exploitation of animals. If you approach me about it in jeans and a Friends of Animals t-shirt, I would gladly engage you. But please, leave your robe and hood at home.
- 1. “Without Sanctuary is a photo document of proof, an unearthing of crimes, of collective mass murder, of mass memory graves excavated from the American conscience. Part postal cards, common as dirt, souvenirs skin-thin and fresh-tattooed proud, the trade cards of those assisting at ritual racial killings and other acts of a mad citizenry. The communities’ best citizens lurking just outside the frame. Destined to decay, these few survivors of an original photo population of many thousands turn the living to pillars of salt.” –James Allen, www.withoutsanctuary.org.
- 2. See “PETA Dresses in KKK Garb Outside Westminster Dog Show” — USA Today (10 Feb. 2009).
- 3. See, e.g., “Klan Sign Found on Yard in Metairie” — Times-Picayune (12 Mar. 2009); see also Southern Poverty Law Center, “‘Sons of Dixie’ Leader Indicted For Klan Initiation Murder”; available at http://www.splcenter.org/blog/2009/02/18/sons-of-dixie-leader-indicted-for-klan-initiation-murder/ (dated 18 Feb. 18, 2009; last visited 11 Apr. 2009). The oppression of the KKK is not limited to Southern States; it happens in New York, the same state as the PETA protest. “Hate Crime Charges in NY Cross-Burning” — Fox News (18 Jan. 2008).
- 4. The treatises justifying slavery were overflowing with such comparisons. Thomas Jefferson referenced breeding practices used on animals and suggested they be applied to owned humans in order to keep the supposedly inferior (because supposedly more animal-like) race separate and subjugated. Of course, given Jefferson’s place of reverence in American history, it is understandable that PETA did not choose to dress as he did. More information available at http://www.africanamericans.com/ThomasJeffersononSlavery.htm.
- 5. See “PETA Wants to Advertise Vegan Message on Border Fence” — Houston Chronicle (12 Aug. 2008).
- 6. The women’s suffrage movement was not isolated from the general politics of the day, including racial politics. Instead of providing a united front against the white male dominated power structure, many black men opposed women’s suffrage and many white women were willing to include a clause forbidding black women to vote. Visionaries — including Frederick Douglass, who attended Seneca Falls and realized that the fate of women and blacks were mixed — were in the minority. More information available at http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~elk/suffrageblackwomen.html
I don’t know where to start. Since she became Alaska’s governor in 2006, Sarah Palin has committed so many crimes against Alaska’s wildlife, it’s hard to keep up—even for someone who’s lived in Alaska year-round, day in and day out, for nearly 25 years. I never imagined Alaska’s wildlife could suffer so much at the hands of an elected official. For Alaska’s wild animals, Palin’s is a reign of terror.
Stunningly, Palin pulls this off with a cheery down-home drawl about how much “we Alaskans love our animals.” This was her claim to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, just before she assured him offshore oil drilling wouldn’t harm polar bears or gray whales. Trust us, she said, we Alaskans know how to take care of our animals.
I hope he doesn’t believe her. It’s quite the opposite: Palin’s wildlife management rivals our nation’s frontier-day prosecution of predators.
Since her run for governor on a platform of trustworthy and transparent government, Palin has subverted public will, distorted science, catered to special interests and outright lied to advance her own political career. Nowhere is her lust for power at any price more obvious than with wildlife. Evidently, she’s never met a predator or an endangered species that she hasn’t wanted to nail to her wall.
Palin, and her appointments to Alaska’s Board of Game and Department of Fish and Game, quickly adopted regulations authorizing private hunters to kill 60 to 80 percent of the wolves on over 60,000 acres of state and federal lands. Though they claim this massive slaughter aimed to boost moose and caribou populations for Alaskan subsistence hunters, most of these areas are used primarily by urban sport hunters, and remain open to non-resident and commercially-guided sport hunting.
Palin’s appointees have resurrected methods considered beyond unethical in all but the most extreme circles: wolves are gunned down from the air by private citizens, slaughtered from state-chartered helicopters, decimated on the edges of Alaska’s most visited national parks and in nearly all areas adjacent to Alaska’s urban populations. Palin even tried, unsuccessfully, to institute a $150 bounty on wolves. She did manage to use state funds to shoot down a ballot initiative which would have limited aerial predator control.
But killing 2,000 wolves every year isn’t enough, evidently, to artificially increase moose populations. Palin’s Board of Game shocked and awed with their latest provisions to turn wolf dens into gas chambers: after obliterating adult packs from planes and helicopters, biologists will now gas the orphaned wolf pups in the very den in which they were born.
Not content to rid Alaska of wolves, Palin and her posse have set their sights on bears. In one area (conveniently adjacent to Palin’s neck of the woods, Wasilla), the state aims to kill 60 percent of the black bears—including sows with cubs. In the McGrath area, they’re targeting both black and brown bears. They’ve expanded the methods of torture as well, allowing hunters to use both tree and ground snares to trap bears by the paw. Hunters then stop by at their leisure to shoot the suffering bears. But that’s not all: they will now allow children as young as 10 years old to officially participate in predator control, assuring another generation who believes they’re being good citizens by killing bears lured in by buckets of slop.
While her predecessor, Frank Murkowski, reinstituted aerial wolf kill programs, Palin’s war against wildlife is more extreme than at any time in Alaska’s history—even since before statehood, when there were bounties on eagles and seals and wolves. How did so much happen, and so quickly?
Most proposals (based not on peer-reviewed science but on wafer-thin anecdotal evidence) originate with area biologists hungry to be the top wolf-killer for their region, and much of the frenzy is stirred up by the urban hunting advocacy group the Alaska Outdoor Council. Essentially, a small band of wildlife biologists/hunters have been lying in wait for an opportunity like Palin.
Some years back, I witnessed that small band of men. After a wolf-control debate, a group of men, all in black leather jackets, chuckled over a nascent bear-relocation program near McGrath; they were plotting a much more devious plan against those bears. These men—Ron Summerville, Mike Fleagle, Ralph Seekins, “Machine Gun” Kellyhouse—had been trying to ramrod predator control down Alaskans’ throats for decades. In Sarah Palin they found the perfect Trojan horse to carry out their master plans.
But the bloody pool of blame lies solely at Palin’s feet. It is Palin who created a new position, “assistant commissioner for abundance management” (talk about subterfuge!), and hired Corey Rossi, known in some circles as “gopher choker” for his aggressive “pest management.”
It is Palin who has appointed new members to the Board of Game who are—though I couldn’t have thought it possible—even more extreme. Her latest appointee advocates killing wolves from the air in Denali State Park, increasing predator control regions by a third, and letting citizens use planes to spot, then land and shoot brown bears.
It is Palin who pillages state funds to sue the federal government over not one, but two, endangered species listings: polar bears and Cook Inlet beluga whales. She reprogrammed a $2 million appropriation by the Alaska legislature that was intended for an endangered species conference, using it instead to fund the state’s lawsuit against the federal listing of polar bears. This, after she lied about her own state biologists’ findings that the polar bear listing was, indeed, justified.
And it’s Palin who attempted to appoint Wayne Anthony Ross as her new attorney general. Ross, who displays his initials—WAR—on the license plate of his red Hummer, has been the voice of the Alaska Outdoor Council for decades. The state legislature rejected Palin's appointment of Ross. It's the first time in state history a head of a state agency has failed to be confirmed by the legislature.
But Palin, in her singular focus on her own political future, knows how to silence Alaskans: recall the $1,200 blood money—I mean, “energy rebate”—she paid every Alaskan adult and child in 2007. (Never mind that she refused federal stimulus funds for education.)
Alaska ’s wildlife—more than ever before—needs the rest of the country, and the world. After years of Palin’s reign, Alaskans who truly do care about “our animals” are discouraged, weary and spread thin. New threats to Alaska’s wildlife arise daily, even as pressures for resource exploitation escalate.
We need federal intervention to stop Palin’s wildlife genocide. Passage of the “Protect America’s Wildlife” amendment to the Airborne Hunting Act would help curtail aerial hunting. Secretary of Interior Salazar could place restrictions on the millions given Alaska every year for “wildlife restoration,” under the Pitman-Robertson Act, so these federal funds could no longer be used to support a state agency hell-bent on wolf- and bear- killing programs. Restricting these funds, which amounted to $14.2 million in 2009, would help dry up Palin’s war chest.
Wolves and polar bears, whales and caribou don’t know or care about political boundaries. Denali State Park or Denali National Park, Alaska or Canada, it’s all the same to them. These wild animals being tortured and massacred belong not to Palin, not to Alaskans, but only to themselves—and they need all of us to act now. Sarah Palin’s war on wildlife must come to an end.
Marybeth Holleman is author of The Heart of the Sound: An Alaskan Paradise Found and Nearly Lost and co-editor of Crosscurrents North: Alaskans on the Environment. Her essays, poetry, and articles have appeared in dozens of periodicals and anthologies, including Orion, Christian Science Monitor, Sierra, Solo and The Future of Nature. See www.marybethholleman.com.
Primarily Primates is in the best shape the sanctuary’s been in three decades. As a Friends of Animals refuge, the expansive site has a renovated infrastructure, beautifully expanded and renovated living spaces for birds and primates, and on-site veterinary support. The doors are open even to chimpanzees owned as pets, a class of primate made tragically newsworthy by the case of a confused adolescent chimpanzee attacking a human being in Connecticut.
We can tell the public how dangerous and downright wrong it is to buy animals and lock them up in cages in their homes. And we can do everything possible to stop it from being allowed. But in the meantime, people are still able to do these things, and when the situations go downhill, here come the animals, needing refuge. Animals need Primarily Primates.
Unfortunately, a few lawyers in the animal-advocacy community are, as they have been for well over a decade before Friends of Animals stepped in to save the refuge, trying to stop Primarily Primates from taking any more such animals.
The first lawsuit Friends of Animals addressed was filed in 2006 and named nine chimpanzees as plaintiffs, alleging animal abuse. This suit was dismissed for lack of standing, with none of the allegations ever substantiated. A subsequent lawsuit, filed by the Texas Attorney General’s Office at the behest of the same cluster of ill-advised animal lawyers, alleged financial mismanagement. This allegation too proved unsubstantiated, and the attorney general voluntarily agreed to dismiss the lawsuit.
Still, the refuge’s opponents refused to help it move on and gain the support it needs. Instead, they persuaded people living nearby to become suspicious of the sanctuary and to get involved in new lawsuits.
Although these plaintiffs’ lawyers initially refused to explain who was funding the lawsuit, they were later forced to admit at a court hearing that the entire suit is being funded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
This latest attempt to shut down Primarily Primates’ vital work to support chimpanzees alleges that the sanctuary is violating the state’s “dangerous wild animals” statute. Thus, the suit expects the court to force out of Texas more than 60 chimpanzees, an African lion and several baboons.
Of course, the “dangerous wild animals” statute was meant to stop the trade in undomesticated animals — not to ruin shelters and rehabilitation sites. Hensley has admitted that Primarily Primates is an animal shelter, but his lawyers continue submitting documents arguing that it’s not. The attorneys then go on to argue that even if Primarily Primates is an animal shelter, it is violating the rules and regulations governing animal shelters unless the sanctuary agrees to pave over its grassy outdoor enclosures with concrete, and separate primates’ family groups and birds who live compatibly today.
It is not clear why People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is spending its donors’ hard-earned money on this litigation, but it is clear that were they to prevail in such arguments, no sanctuary homing certain difficult-to-place animals could exist in the entire state of Texas.
This lawsuit does nothing to help any of the animals in Primarily Primates’ care. Instead, it threatens to take money away from the animals and put it into litigation. That’s immoral. We are asking for your help to stop it. These expensive and time-consuming assaults can continue so long as the animal-advocacy community stays on the sidelines. But that’s not advocating for animals. So, speak out. Raise a fuss. And please, support our sanctuary today.
Kindly send your donation to:
P.O. Box 207
San Antonio , TX 78291-0207
Or make an online contribution: www.primarilyprimates.org
There's been a lot of talk about President Obama's budget proposal scaling back charitable deductions and the anticipated effect on charitable giving. Should it really affect your contributions? Tax lawyer Leila Fusfeld spots the issues.
A U.S. taxpayer who itemizes deductions rather than taking the so-called “standard deduction” can deduct money or property donated to a charitable organization during the tax year if the individual has a receipt or record of the donation. The deduction for charitable giving is generally limited to 50 percent of adjusted gross income. Contributions that exceed this limit can be carried forward for up to five years.
President Obama’s 2010 federal budget proposal threatens to limit the value of charitable deductions for high-earning taxpayers beginning in 2011. In an effort to raise tax revenue for healthcare reform, Obama’s proposal would limit the value of deductions to 28 percent.
Under the current system, a taxpayer in the 35 percent tax bracket who makes a $100 donation to a charitable organization reduces tax liability by $35. If Obama’s proposal is adopted, this same deduction would be worth only $28.
So what does all this mean? First, most taxpayers are in brackets that will not be affected by the limitation. For 2009, a married couple filing jointly needs $372,950 of taxable income to reach the 35% bracket.
Second, the proposal will not affect this year's or next year's charitable deductions for any taxpayers.
And third, taxpayers affected by the limitation will still receive substantial value for their charitable donations, because organizations like Friends of Animals, Primarily Primates, and Marine Animal Rescue have never needed your support more.
Leila Fusfeld is a vegan attorney at Drinker Biddle and Reath LLP ( www.drinkerbiddle.com) specializing in business and individual taxes and tax-exempt organizations. This article does not constitute legal advice. You should contact a lawyer with respect to your own circumstances.
*Leila Fusfeld is a vegan attorney at Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP specializing in business and individual taxes and tax-exempt organizations. www.drinkerbiddle.com
This article does not constitute legal advice. You should contact a lawyer with respect to your own circumstances.