Late last year President Bush signed the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) into law days after six young Americans began serving federal prison sentences on charges they caused economic damage to Huntington Animal Sciences, an animal-testing corporation. Sadly, jailing activists is the American way.
The imprisonment of the group, known as SHAC 7, is nothing more than history repeating itself. Those who first called for an end to slavery were imprisoned. Those who believed women should vote went to jail. Civil rights activists, supporters of gay and lesbian rights, and now animal rights activists have all been jailed. The only thing sadder than the imprisonment of animal rights activists is that they are fighting for a losing cause; for we now live in a society that slaps the wrist of a person who harms the neighbor’s dog yet subsidizes the systematic annual killing of billions of other animals for food, clothing, research and sport.
The recent allegations of both illegal wire-tapping and politically motivated firings of U.S. Attorneys by the Bush administration should set off an alarm regarding the legality of the green scare; the administration’s monitoring and imprisonment of environmental and animal welfare activists. – and AETA isn’t the only new tool corporations have to eliminate pesky activism.
The NYSE’s recent decision to trade Life Sciences Research (an animal testing corporation) on the ARCA exchange—an electronic platform that provides market makers anonymity—signals that financial markets have also joined the war against social activism. With help from the Bush administration and the NYSE, we may be nearing a day when all of our country’s flora, fauna, and public land will exist as little more than raw materials for corporate profit.
The reason nonhuman animals lack protection is simply due to the economic repercussions that would accompany such protection(s). Compassionately caring for animals is expensive and by demanding corporations treat food and research animals humanely activists are asking nothing less than a fundamental reworking of the world economy.
Sadly, any further success activists achieve at home will only expedite sending corporations that mistreat animals offshore where animal welfare regulations and activism can be made non-factors.
We no longer live in a society, we live in an economy where right and wrong is determined not by fairness, but by profitability – and where the law no longer dictates corporate behavior, but corporate behavior dictates the law.
AETA, Three Strike Laws and toothless environmental regulations protect profits – not people (or animals). A society would care if animal protection activists (including the SHAC 7) were right about corporate mistreatment of animals – but in an economy only the financial cost of activism matters.
The truth is that nonhuman animals don’t need rights or legal standing Such rights have done little to improve the lives of the majority of the world’s people. For it is not just nonhuman animals that are losing their habitats and their ability to live with dignity – the majority of the planet’s humans now live truly desperate lives.
Today it is not legal, but economic standing that protects a life – and it is not a lack of rights (human, civil or animal) but a lack of empathy that is the problem; a problem that promises lives of misery and despair for an overwhelming majority of the earth’s creatures. Instead of fighting to establish rights for animals, maybe activists should work to instill compassion in humans.
As a society we need to imagine others’ horrors as our own. What if the sex worker was our child? The homeless woman our mother? The research dog our family pet? The unjustly imprisoned activist our child?
Only when we decide the pain and humiliation of others is not worth economic gain will the need for rights, human and animal, disappear.
KELLY OVERTON is Executive Director of People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats