Animal Rights vs. Animal Welfare in Ontario
There is a very fine and often fuzzy line between Animal Rights and Animal Welfare.
I think the best definition of Animal Rights is the desire to end ALL use of animals for human purpose. This, of course, includes pet ownership. It is not a huge leap to grasp why Animal Rights organizations are in favour of pit bull bans, since it is a small step in the larger objective of ending pet ownership. This objective has been publicly stated by many AR groups, including PETA.
Animal Welfare, on the other hand, is concerned with a) allowing the APPROPRIATE use of animals for human purpose (e.g., pet ownership, animals working for humans, etc) while discouraging INAPPROPRIATE use (fighting animals, the use of animal testing for non-disease related research, etc) and b) ensuring the humane treatment of those animals while under human care.
I'm not saying that I agree with all Animal Welfare objectives nor do I disagree with all Animal Rights objectives. However, as I will discuss further down, there are some actions by MANAGEMENT PERSONNEL of the Animal Rights groups that make it impossible for me to support them financially despite the other laudable actions that they may do.
I would like to quote some of Michael Bryant's presentation to the Ontario committee hearings to give you some idea how the Animal Rights agenda of ending pet ownership makes it way subtly into dog legislation.
First, the effectiveness: Nothing is more effective than eliminating the animal that is causing the harm over time from the community. Fewer pit bulls are going to mean fewer pit bull attacks. Fewer pit bull attacks mean fewer people victimized by pit bulls. That is effective. It is rationally coherent. If you, over time, eliminate the dog causing the bite, over time you will eliminate the bite.
This makes sense to a lot of people. Eliminate the thing that causes harm and you eliminate the threat. However, this is an argument that has been used by the Animal Rights groups to eliminate ALL pit bulls despite the fact that most of them do not pose a threat. What appears to initially be a logical and rational argument actually results in the extinction of a breed. This is OK with AR groups because the breed was initially created by man and is considered to be a mutation of the original wolf, an abomination. The only acceptable result, from the AR point of view, is an end to all breeding so that, over a relatively short period of time, the only wolf-like creatures remaining will be those in the wild.
Then the issue comes down to this one of humanity, which for dog owners and lovers has been an excruciating one, particularly when many, many, many people with a great emotional investment in this subject, involved in humane societies and otherwise, are aware that there is some kind of problem with pit bulls and yet they can't, in their heart of hearts, say it is humane to support a breed ban.
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What if there weren't any pit bull ban? Let's consider the humanity of that. I'd like to turn the humanity argument on its head in this way.
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Without this legislation, we have an increasing number of pit bulls living out lives in the humane societies and the dog pounds of Ontario. Some will live out their entire lives there and some will be put down because they are unadoptable. That will depend upon the policy of the particular humane society. Where is the humanity in that, I ask? An increasing number of a particular breed making up a disproportionately high number of dogs in the humane societies and dog pounds, living out their lives in these shelters or being put down because they are unadoptable: Where is the humanity in that?
I ask you to imagine a situation 10 years from now without Bill 132, without the pit bull ban. I envision an increasing proliferation and population of pit bulls. There is no doubt in my mind -- and we haven't heard anything to the contrary from any of the veterinarians or humane societies -- that the pit bull population will increase. Explode? I don't know. But it's increasing, maybe slowly. Even if it stays the same, we have a situation 10 years from now where our humane societies and dog pounds are bursting at the seams with unadoptable pit bulls that are living out their lives in the humane society or dog pound or are being put down. Over 10 years, that's a lot of dogs living in humane societies and that's a lot of dogs being put down.
Again, this seems to be a logical argument. If you have a huge number of a certain type of dog being abandoned to humane societies and the problem seems to be primarily with this type of dog, then a simple ban on breeding will eventually eliminate the need for so many of these dogs to end in shelters. Mandatory spay/neuter is an option that is often supported by responsible dog owners who choose not to breed non-purebred dogs.
However, again, this is a ban on ALL breeding, regardless of the objective and responsibility of the breeder. Responsible breeders producing quality dogs for the right reasons are also being targeted. Thus, the end result of this approach can only be one thing: the complete and total elimination of a breed. Who are the people who want this to happen? Based on their own mission statements and public statements by their management personnel, it is the Animal Rights groups.
Consider the aforementioned pit bull and chihuahua in Toronto that had a confrontation. The chihuahua died. The pit bull was put down within two days. Two dogs alive one day; two days later, two dead dogs. Where is the humanity in that?
Consider the victims of pit bull attacks, and the pit bull is often put down after the attack. The victims themselves have told stories of what has happened to them. We know of a person who went into intensive care; we know of people who still wear their scars; we know of a postal worker who lost her ear. But more often than not, afterwards that pit bull is also put down. Where is the humanity in that?
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You also have increased victimization of other pets and people by the pit bulls. We've seen the pattern and we've seen the incidents. That has happened and will continue to happen. Where is the humanity in that?
Or, I submit to the committee, with a phased-in ban, we will have fewer victims, fewer injuries to pets and humans alike, and, over time, fewer and fewer pit bulls in the humane societies and dog pounds because, as fewer are born and imported into the province, fewer go to the humane societies and dog pounds. And with it, you get the freedom of those who do not own pit bulls to enjoy their streets and parks and fields and backyards without the possibility of a pit bull attack taking place against them, their child or their pets. I say that is a humane result for all concerned.
Again, a very logical argument. Why have injured or dead victims AND a dead dog? If we ban the breeding and importing of the dogs that are attacking, then not only will humans and pets be safer from attack, but there will be no need for us to be killing the offenders because the offenders will gradually be reduced. Again, this makes an assumption that ALL pit bulls are the problem and that ONLY they are the problem. I ask again, what is the end result and what organizations are the ones that want that result?
We know, from cases in the United States, that when new dog legislation is being considered, particularly in response to vicious attacks or fatalities in the local area, authorized representatives of Animal Rights groups have provided advice and consultation to the local lawmakers in order to promote a ban on certain types of dogs.
We believe that a similar thing occurred here in Ontario, although we cannot of course prove it without documentation or testimony from the parties involved and that's unlikely to become available to us.
Michael Bryant used some statistics during his press conference where he introduced the proposed legislation. Here is his statement:
It turns out that it was not "study after study" that produced these numbers, but only one "study" (and I use the quotation marks deliberately here) from an Animal Rights magazine in Washington State called "Animal People". The editor of that magazine, Merritt Clifton, by his own admission, used ONLY media reports over a period of 20 years. It is inevitable that this type of study must result in a biased conclusion, since we know that media, over many years, has focused on certain breeds in their stories and has ignored similar actions by other breeds.
I find it curious that Mr. Bryant used only that study when asked about statistics. Is it possible that one or more Animal Rights organizations have "helped" his office do their research? Who knows?
Updated September 26, 2007
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