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Our next President will inherit a country at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, an economy in recession, a collapsing housing market and a society that abroad is more detested than respected. As overwhelming as these obstacles are, the most critical challenge facing our country is improving how we treat animals. The majority of the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the medicines we take, and the personal and household products we use come from, or were tested on animals. Sustainable solutions to our country’s most serious health and security threats demand a president who can build a modern day ark.
The United States has its greatest opportunity since World War II to improve its position and reputation as a world leader by providing an innovative and sustainable solution to a global problem. Human welfare can no longer be separated from the welfare of nonhuman animals and from that of the planet all species depend on. The answers to many of today’s most pressing dilemmas; the costs and effectiveness of health care, the control of emerging disease(s), the security and safety of our food supply and alleviating water shortages and catastrophic weather events are directly connected to animal-welfare issues. A pro-animal agenda will improve human health and safety, increase property values, and balance and protect an ecosystem that is meant to protect us from floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters. When it comes to humanity’s treatment of nonhuman animals we have for too long put the cart before the horse, cow, and yes, our own safety and security.
All species play a vital role in the web of life and human suffering is inevitable when ecosystems become unbalanced. Recent food shortages from Pakistan to Nicaragua were caused by rodent infestation due to a staggering decline in predator populations related to habitat loss. In Nicaragua an ecosystem went out of balance when declining ocelot numbers left an unchecked rat population to invade and devour grain stored for human consumption. Offshore, an 80% decline in the world’s shark population has created economic loss for fishermen from Vietnam to the Chesapeake Bay, as fish usually eaten by sharks increase in number and devastate fish stocks and local economies. In the coming decades the economic and geopolitical repercussions from food shortages related to declining predator populations will dwarf that of terrorist activity. We need a president who will end deforestation and habitat destruction, as well as protect the health and balance of our oceans, the world’s largest ecosystem.
Government and corporate mistreatment of animals also puts American lives at risk. The use of tax dollars on ineffective animal testing instead of state-of-the-art medical technologies is delaying cures to breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases. The horror and shame of factory farming; an unsustainable and dangerous practice, promises eventual large-scale food contamination from mad cow disease, avian influenza or e-coli, and the concentration of food production within limited geographic corridors puts our food supply and national security at risk from a terrorist attack. Regardless of one’s feelings about animals and the environment, economically it has become more expensive to be cruel than to be kind. The financial, security, and human health repercussions of animal and environmental cruelty are staggering. We need a president who understands that when we invest in sustainable and compassionate animal policies we all live healthier and more secure lives.
Finally, let’s demonstrate that the United States really is the most compassionate nation on earth. Two by two let’s march the most abused and exploited animals to safety, the monkeys and chimpanzees inside biomedical research labs, the cats and dogs being burned and poisoned in pointless consumer product testing and the abandoned circus tigers and elephants being shot on canned hunting ranches. By treating vulnerable animals with reverence and mercy we will not only save their lives, but also many of our own.
KELLY OVERTON is Executive Director of People Protecting Animals & Their Habitats. Email: KhoPhaNgan@aol.com