Animal rights, writ too large?
The nuances of the issues involved in the spaying and neutering of pets just don't fit on a billboard.
Meghan Daum July 16, 2009
Have you seen the billboards around town that say "Protect Your Right to Own a Pet"? They show a child hugging a puppy and provide a website, exposeanimalrights.com, flanked by international "no" symbols(a circle with a slash though it) containing the initials PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and HSUS (Humane Society of the United States).
When I first passed one a couple of weeks ago, I was confused. Are we supposed to imagine that a PETA activist is about to snatch the puppy from the boy's hands because it's his "pet" and not his "animal companion"? Or -- and I admit this reaction is the result of living in a neighborhood with, shall we say, "conflicting" philosophies about pet care -- was something else afoot? Was "protect your right to own a pet" code for "protect your sleazy right to keep your dog chained up in the yard all day"?
Admittedly, I can be a ridiculous softy when it comes to animals. Nothing riles me up more than the thought of animal abuse, and I personally don't think it's everyone's "right" to own a pet. But I'm no radical either. I eat meat, I wear leather and I occasionally pay to let my dog herd sheep, which I have a feeling PETA wouldn't appreciate (for the sheep's sake).
So although I was pretty sure I wasn't for this sign, was I necessarily against it? To find out, I had to call Kathy Grayson, a professional dog handler in Riverside County who is behind the signs. She said she was fed up with what she considers unfair legislation -- primarily mandatory spay and neutering laws -- furthered by what are in her view manipulative messages from PETA, the Humane Society and others. Spay and neutering laws punish those who responsibly breed and show dogs, she said. True, you can pay for exemptions, but Grayson maintains that it's too easy for exemptions to be revoked. "I'd drive home from dog shows and pass all these empty billboards on the interstate," she said. "I started to think how great it would be to put a sign in the middle of Hollywood telling people the truth about extremist groups." Read More
I would say that the questions and knowledge of this columnist is pretty typical of many consumers. They think they understand an issue until they are forced to think about it. And even then, they struggle to see the big picture. It’s great that she see thru PETA’s game, but it’s usually harder for them to do that with HSUS. For example, when she called Pacelle to ask their position on pet ownership, he’s not going to tell her what they really want to accomplish there. He claims to support responsible breeders, but he never says what one of those is. Does he think there are any responsible breeders out there? I have talked to animal rights people before that say there is no such thing. It’s important for consumers to look at the actions of HSUS and PETA rather than their words. Congratulations to Patti Strand and her group for helping make these billboards a reality. She runs a great group and is a fantastic friend of animal agriculture.