Orlando Sentinel columnist Beth Kassab wrote two different columns last month that have left me asking, “Are you kidding me?” Words do mean something and some of her commentary left me with the impression she just doesn’t get the importance of animals in the societal hierarchy.
Considering animals to be equal partners is apparently beneath the scope of Kassab’s thinking and quite frankly many others. The time is now to begin shaping a new debate on the status of animals in our society and to bring thinking to a new level of respect for our four-legged children and all the animals with which we co-exist in a shared environment.
In her November 18th column, entitled “Puppy-mill crackdown means well, goes too far”, Kassab calls for the puppy mill business to be closed. She wrote, “It’s inhumane to keep dogs and cats in cramped cages, sometimes in extreme temperatures, and breed them for profit.” On this we agree.
Where we don’t agree is Kassab’s reaction to the City of Casselberry, Florida ordinance banning “. . . pet stores that sell animals from commercial breeders.” While animal activists cheered this decision, Kassab went off on a tangent about “. . . a slippery slope of banning certain kinds of businesses simply because a city commissioner doesn’t like them.” This isn’t about static business operations that sell fast food or inanimate objects, but instead about flesh and blood animals that are raised in cruel and lifeless conditions through no fault of their own. We need to intervene on their behalf because they are powerless to do so and no living creature should suffer because of human greed and a sense of entitled power. Does Kassab not understand the difference between using animals as a commodity and the commodities pedaled by fast food restaurants and department stores?
Yes, we should pursue the puppy mills themselves, and the United States Department of Agriculture and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services should step up as Kassab suggests. “Those agencies are supposed to regulate breeders and make sure their conditions are humane.” But pet stores that sell puppy mill dogs are still part of the inhumane puppy mill chain regardless of how vigilant state and federal agencies might be in their enforcement. They are a piece of the pipeline that must be stopped even if Kassab believes that doesn’t address the problem or are subject to “. . . the whims of whoever is elected to public office.”
Kassab is insistent that you “. . . don’t ban a business simply because you don’t like it.” She asks what kind of message would that send to prospective business owners who want to open up shop in a city where business has been banned. In this case, it would send an endearing message that the city faithful care about the plight of animals. As a prospective business owner, we would see that as a positive action.
It seems Kassab is missing the point here. This ordinance is about acting on behalf of defenseless victims without a voice of their own not an arbitrary government action based on the fancies of one politician or another.
Then there is the issue of bears that has produced nonstop chatter that never seems to fade away. Here too Kassab misses the point in her column, entitled “Final tally shows bear hunt not a disaster”. She wrote, “As so many predicted, the hunt didn’t do a thing to reduce human-bear conflicts. But the final tallies are in, and, as unpopular as this will be to say, the bear hunt was not a disaster.” Because the kill number totaled 304 instead of the original “harvest objective” of 320? Are you kidding me?
Kassab also pointed to other such factors as hunters not shooting each other and to most people following the rules. She wrote, “No one was hurt, except bears . . . That’s hardly a debacle. People don’t like to hear it, but hunting is a legitimate wildlife population management tool here in Florida and many other states . . . If the hunt indirectly begins to address the problem of bears wandering into neighborhoods by raising money for real solutions, such as bear-resistant cans, then the hunt will ultimately benefit the species.” Again, are you kidding me?
One has to wonder not only how insensitive Kassab is to the bears who were hunted and killed, but how she seems to view them with mere indifference as simply disposable inanimate objects. To imply that hunting these magnificent animals to save their own species is like hearing the words of hunters who try to justify their need for bloodlust. We wonder if Kassab feels the same way about the overpopulated human species. Should we hunt them too in order to maintain some human population control? Yes, I know that sounds both extreme and absurd, but no more so than the logic Kassab and hunting advocates want us to believe. Don’t we ever get tired of trying to solve problems by using violence whether it be associated with any species living on this earth?
To her credit, however, in her November 27th column, Kassab does acknowledge Seminole County for their draft ordinance calling “. . . for sensible changes in everyday routines that wildlife officials say should help cut down on the number of bears attracted to suburban streets and yards.” Primarily, this centers on bear-proof trash cans to cut off the inviting food source that bears seek out.
Even a man who has hunted and fished all his life expressed his disappointment at this year’s controversy driven bear hunt. In a letter to the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Williamson expressed his opinion that the real issue of human/bear conflicts was not addressed by the hunt. He wrote, “Bear-proof trash cans and Dumpsters and working to preserve wildlife corridors should be the commission’s top priorities.”
In a November 5th Orlando Sentinel guest column, the executive director of The Nature Conservancy Florida, Temperince Morgan, urges us to work together to keep the bears in the woods. She opined, “Florida’s diverse habitats and wildlife are part of what makes this such a special place to live. We continue our efforts to protect critical land connections, including the woods in which bears and a multitude of other wild species are found. Let us work together to make sure that we will continue to find them there, rather than as unwelcome surprises in our yards and garages, threatening the safety of people and bears. Avoiding fragmentation and controlling food sources in neighborhoods ─ not hunting ─ is the solution to the nuisance-bear problem.” That certainly makes for a far better approach than hunting the bears down and killing them.
Whether here or across the ocean, bears can’t seem to catch a break. It has been reported the British “. . . Ministry of Defence has come under attack from animal rights campaigners for continuing to use bearskins for the ceremonial headgear worn by Buckingham Palace guardsmen.” Are we saying that bears have to die in order to maintain pomp and circumstance? Are you kidding me?
Last year, Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials ordered 127 bearskins. “Bearskins have been worn by British soldiers for 200 years, to symbolise the victory over Napoleon’s bearskin-wearing Imperial Guard at the battle of Waterloo in 1815.” In defending their policy of using real fur, the MoD stated, “Pelts are sourced from Canada and come from animals culled as part of a programme to manage the wild population licensed by the Canadian government. No bear is ever hunted to order. And the Ministry of Defence suppliers only have access to stock made available by the Canadian authorities following a cull.”
In calling for the end of fur-based ceremonial headgear, a Care2 petition makes it known that a number of “. . . designers have offered their services to create some alternatives to using real bear skins to create these hats but the defence staff is not in agreement with any other possible alternative.” As stated by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), it is a very disturbing fact “that the Ministry of Defence spends tens of thousands of pounds each year supporting the fur industry while doing absolutely nothing to further the search for synthetic materials. For each one of the 127 caps purchased, a bear was cruelly killed, either by being shot during a hunt or ensnared, possibly for days, in a painful trap. During hunts, as many as one bear in seven is not killed immediately after being shot, and some escape wounded, dying later from blood loss or starvation. In the case of mothers with nursing cubs, it can mean the slaughter of entire families.”
Furthermore, as reported in the Independent, “. . . the Peta spokesman said: ‘It’s high time these ghastly regalia were brought into the 21st century, just as has been done with the drum major’s apron, the Royal Air Force band’s busby, the Royal Horse Artillery’s busby and the shako hats worn by the rifle regiments, all of which have been modernised with synthetic materials.’” In other words, tradition is not worth a bear’s suffering and death.
Finally, another exclamation of “Are you kidding me” must be asked of a woman named Katie Brown who posted a photo of a dog with its muzzle taped shut to her Facebook page. The photo appeared “. . . with the caption ‘This is what happens when you don’t shut up!!!’”.
The post has created a social media rage and has been shared more than 300,000 times. After people began commenting on the photo, she posted, “I can’t lie. I did it for sixty seconds. It was time out and no more barking.” After the post continued to garner attention, she posted again. “Dont panic everyone it was only for a minute but hasnt barked since… POINT MADE!!!” The point is this woman is an idiot!
Anyone can have an opinion in a free society, but with each expression of thought or action we must remember that animals are made of flesh and blood and are not some faceless object without feeling or emotion. Too often we are asking the question “Are you kidding me” in reaction to yet another human driven act of cruelty and/or neglect perpetuated against the animal world.
We say, Enough is Enough! Learn to understand that animals are sentient beings that deserve our respect, our protection and all the love we can give them.