The ‘No-Kill’ movement’s historical trouble with momentum and the factioning that’s not helping
When Nathan Winograd’s groundbreaking book Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America came out a few years ago, those of us who were true animal welfarists — not that faction of animal welfare that was leaning dangerously close to animal rightism — finally had a voice. We rejoiced because we love animals and didn’t want to see them needlessly killed. (And it’s not euthanasia to needlessly kill perfectly adoptable animals in shelters. Killing in shelters for reasons other than illness and a few other exceptions isn’t mercy killing; it’s just needless killing.) And I finally understood why some shelters, Animal Controls, animal rights groups, and even some animal welfare groups didn’t want to save perfectly adoptable animals.
As Winograd pointed out in Redemption, the elimination of domestic animal ownership is in keeping with an ideology called “nativism.” Winograd defines nativism as the,
“…belief that the value of an individual animal comes from lineage and that worth as a species stems from being at a particular location first” (79).
In the minds of many environmentalists and animal rights activists, since you can’t set domestic animals free (after all, they are, according to them, unnatural human creations), you must necessarily kill them. So, in their view, in order to return to the “natural order” of things, indigenous species should take precedent over human encroachment, which includes human domestication of animals, because wild (i.e. natural, indigenous), animals were there first. Another way to put that is some animal rights and animal welfare organizations, as adherents of nativism, may not have an interest in saving pets’ lives, but may in fact be willfully seeking to exterminate them because pets are domesticated, not wild.
To these radicals, domesticated animals are, as Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States put it, “creations of human selective breeding.” Pacelle goes on to say that the HSUS has,
“…no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals” (Animal People, May, 1993).
So what does the extremist animal rights death crusade mean for adherents of No-Kill? Well, when Winograd tweeted a link to this post today from the O is for Onward blog, I just had to add my two cents. The O is for Onward blogger wrote:
“If you’ve been fighting for No Kill in your community long enough, it’s a safe bet you’ve reached that moment when you just hit the wall. The politicians don’t care. The rescue groups are afraid to speak up for fear of being retaliated against by the shelter’s management. The status-quo animal-welfare groups are obstacles to reform. And the press seems at best, uninterested, and at worst, an entrenched defender of the status quo. At moments, it feels like no one cares but you.”
Yes, to all of this, but why? Are shelters just lazy? Are animal welfare groups just stuck in an archaic mentality? Does the press just not get it? No!
After reading Winograd’s own explanation of nativism and tying it to Wayne Pacelle’s and other animal rights groups’ quotes, I can only conclude that there is an agenda to wipe out domesticated animals. And that’s why No-Kill has had trouble with momentum. That’s why the HSUS and PETA push breed-specific legislation. That’s why PETA kills animals. That’s why the HSUS pushes so-called “puppy mill” bills: To so severely scrutinize domestic animal ownership that step by bloody step no one is able or allowed to own domesticated animals, including agricultural animals.
Breed fanciers of the dogs mislabeled “pit bulls” are in particular aware of this death crusade since radical animal rights organizations have put their money where their mouth is and pushed breed-specific legislation (BSL). And we all know at this point that innocent dead dogs are always the result of BSL. So there ya go. But why, for instance, can’t farmers opposed to the HSUS’ and PETA’s tactics ally with those who oppose BSL? Why are we all so factioned unto ourselves?
The adage, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” comes to mind here too. So you may find yourself allied with animal welfarists on some points, like pushing No-Kill, and not sharing common ground on other points, like “puppy mill” legislation. Unfortunately these differing viewpoints can faction and splinter people. For instance, I would prefer not to be called a “dog fighter” simply because I advocate for the most abused breeds in the world (those dogs erroneously called “pit bulls”). That kind of slander is quite disrespectful to the work I have done rehabilitating abused bulldog breeds and volunteering at shelters. Similarly, I would prefer not to be called anti-animal when I oppose tethering legislation that is ill-conceived and at times unconstitutional, especially since I have a dog that I dearly love who was rescued, legally, from an abusive tethering situation. (I suppose, too, that it escapes these slanderers’ attention that when tethering legislation is logical, reasonable, and constitutional, like Illinois’ HB 1247, I support it.)
I also take umbrage with being accused of making money from breeders or even, God forbid, dog fighters because I defend breeders’ rights to breed and because I argued for Michael Vick’s due process rights. (You know, the same due process rights radical animal rightists are entitled to when they get busted for things like trying to blow up scientists’ labs?) I assure you I have never made money from what I do. In fact, to suggest otherwise would be laughable if it weren’t so slanderous.
And indeed, what is my defense when a supposed animal welfare group decides to slander me using their e-mail list? People don’t take the time to listen to your side of a story; they just assume the worst about you because it’s easier. I don’t mind someone calling into question my politics and arguing with me on those points as long as they are civil. What I mind is the slander and the harassment of my family and myself at the hands of radical animal rightists and even animal welfarists because they are unable to argue me down on my politics.
The point here is not to list my experiences thus far with animal rightists and animal welfarists; it’s to illustrate how unnecessary all this infighting is. But that’s just the way it is I suppose. Your ally in one circle will be your seeming enemy in another. But while all this energy gets wasted in all this nastiness, the causes, like No-Kill, suffer, which I think could have been an additional point that Winograd and the O is for Onward blogger could’ve made. It’s not just the nativism thing. It’s also the discord. People tend to faction themselves and as a result cannot even side with like-minded individuals on one issue, if these same individuals are not like-minded on all the issues. I’m not a vegan. So what? Does that mean I can’t stand with Nathan Winograd in his crusade to push No-Kill? Hopefully not, because I absolutely believe in the No-Kill movement. After seeing so much carnage with the unnecessarily killed “pit bulls” in so many Animal Controls and shelters, how could I not be?
So in closing, I extend an olive branch. I suggest we all start getting along, stop the infighting, stop the slander, and fight our common enemies: the HSUS, PETA, and any other organization that won’t adopt a No-Kill stance because they not only don’t want to save domesticated animals, they endeavor to kill them.