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A capuchin monkey riding a dog. Tim Lepard, owner and creator of the Monkey Rodeo, says his animals are treated humanely.
by LINTON WEEKS
October 25, 2012
Before Sam, a white-throated capuchin monkey, threw out the first pitch at a minor league baseball game in Frederick, Md.,
on a midsummer Friday night, and before Sam and other monkeys ’ dressed as cowboys and riding shaggy dogs ’ rounded up longhorn sheep on the baseball diamond as part of Cowboy Monkey Rodeo promotion night, angry animal rights protesters gathered outside the front gate.
In 2013, the Pennsylvania-based Nonhuman Rights Project, led by attorney Steven Wise, plans to file a series of lawsuits in hopes that one high court in one American state will finally recognize that a nonhuman plaintiff can be a legal "person" in the eyes of the law.
If Wise and his group are successful, they will break new ground by securing humanlike rights for nonhumans. The result could open all kinds of possibilities for the rights of other nonhuman entities.
Advocates for plant rights and robot rights are already planning for the future. If they eventually succeed, it could bring sweeping changes to the way we live. This three-part series on the Future of Nonhuman Rights explores the people and ideas that may bring radical change to legal systems ’ and societies ’ around the world.
The handful of activists at the ballpark of the Class A Frederick Keys waved poster boards reading "No More Monkey Rodeos" and "Inhumane & Demeaning Spectacle." Among the protesters was Kelly Myers, a professional pet sitter from Frederick, who helped organize the rally. Notice of the protest was posted on the website of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
In a post-protest interview, Myers expresses her concerns. The capuchins, she says, "belong in the wild. These sensitive, intelligent monkeys are meant to climb trees and forage for food all day. Being cramped up in a traveling road show and eating Pop-Tarts is not in their best interest."
'A Better Life'
Tim Lepard, the man who feeds Pop-Tarts to the monkeys, tends to disagree. A rodeo entertainer from Mississippi, Lepard is the owner and creator of the Monkey Rodeo. For years he has taken his animal act all over the country. He rebuts the idea that his stunts are inhumane or demeaning to the animals. He says he takes in fragile monkeys ’ who probably would not survive in the wild ’ to "give them a better life."
On this night, the star of the show was Sam, a 19-year-old
primate who has been riding in Lepard's show for 14 years. Lepard says he treats Sam humanely.
"I don't tie them on the dogs," Lepard says. "I don't make them ride." He says his animals' living conditions are inspected several times a year by the Agriculture Department.
On the other side of the fence from Lepard ’ literally and figuratively ’ is Alan Kellerman, a high school teacher from suburban Washington and one of the placard-waving protesters. According to Kellerman, "Animals need to be afforded the rights to live their lives free of confinement, abuse, torture, murder and all forms of exploitation from humans."
Animals, he says, paraphrasing a PETA mantra, "are not ours to eat, wear or experiment on."
And that, in a nugget, is why some humans are vocal supporters of the rights of some nonhumans ’ in this case, animals.
When An Animal Is A Person
If Steven Wise gets his way, next year could be a game changer for animal
rights in America.
Wise is the director of the Nonhuman Rights Project, an organization of human beings working toward gaining legal rights for other species. Wise says that he and 70 volunteers have logged 30,000 hours over the past four years to prepare the initial test cases to be filed in 2013.
The group is looking for clear-cut cases, sympathetic judges and amenable jurisdictions. And they are crossing their fingers that one high court in one American state will finally recognize, as Wise puts it, that "a nonhuman animal plaintiff is a common-law legal person." With the attending rights.
For Wise ’ and many animal rights activists ’ that would be a landmark victory.
"Once a court recognizes that a nonhuman animal has the capacity to possess a legal right," Wise says, "its determination of whether she actually has the rights she claims will appropriately shift from the current irrational, biased, hyperformalistic and overly simplistic question 'What species is the plaintiff?' to the rational, nuanced, value-laden principles- and policy-laden question: 'What qualities does the plaintiff possess that are relevant to the legal right she claims?' "
In the past 30 years, there have been some key moments in the push for animal rights. Here are a few:
1975: The publication of Animal Liberation by philosopher Peter Singer. In his book, Singer introduces the idea that speciesism ’ i.e., humans are superior to other species ’ is a type of oppression.
1979: The launching of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Founded by attorneys, the group works to protect animals and promote the field of animal law.
1980: The founding of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Today, with more than 3 million members and supporters, PETA bills itself as the largest animal rights organization on the planet.
1983: The publication of The Case for Animal Rights, a moral argument, by Tom Regan.
1985: In Defense of Animals stages an organized, nonviolent protest at the University of California, Davis Primate Center. A number of activists are arrested and put in jail for civil disobedience.
1995: Compassion Over Killing, a nonprofit animal advocacy organization, is founded.
2012: After 30 years ’ and amid protests mounted by various activist groups ’ the use of chimpanzees as research subjects is phased out at Rockville, Md.- based Bioqual labs.
’ Linton Weeks
In an address delivered in April 2012, at Pace University law school, Wise likened animals today to human slaves in 18 th century England ’ invisible to the legal system, beings without rights. He cited the ruling of the British judge, Lord Mansfield, in the 1772 Somerset case that opened the door for the abolition of human slavery in England.
Now Wise says he is looking for a modern-day Mansfield, a "substantive common-law judge" who might rule ’ under the general rubric of "dignity" ’ in favor of an animal's right to bodily liberty and bodily integrity. He feels that the breakthrough will come if one state high court declares that a nonhuman is a legal person ’ in the eyes of the law.
One reason for extending fundamental rights to humans, Wise says, is because they possess the dignity associated with autonomy. He calls the minimum autonomy sufficient for rights "practical autonomy." His tripartite definition of practical autonomy: 1) Is the being cognitively complicated enough to desire something? 2) Can she act intentionally to achieve her desires? 3) Does she have a sense of self enough to know if she has achieved these desires?
If practical autonomy is a sufficient condition for extending rights to human beings, it should be the basis for extending rights to any beings. He argues that research proves some animals, such as apes, chimpanzees and Atlantic bottle nose dolphins, possess cognitive abilities far beyond practical autonomy.
"Because it appears that many, perhaps most, mammals and birds have emotions, are conscious, and have selves," Wise writes in his 2002 book Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights, "the burden of proving at trial that an individual mammal or bird lacks practical autonomy should be shouldered by the one who wants to harm them."
Richard A. Epstein, a professor of law at New York University, doesn't agree with Wise. In a 2000 essay spurred by another Wise book, Rattling the Cage: Toward Legal Rights for Animals, Epstein ’ who has provided frequent counterpoint to Wise over the years ’ wrote: "No one can deny the enormous political waves created by animal rights activists ... But it is another thing to endorse the agenda of the animal rights movement."
Rules that prohibit and prevent "gratuitous cruelty to animals" should be broadly supported, Epstein says, because animals suffer regardless of their level of consciousness, and because animals ’ both domesticated and wild ’ are of "enormous value" to humans.
"It is, however, one thing to raise social conscience about the status of animals," Epstein wrote. "It is quite another to raise the status of animals to asserted parity with human beings. That move, if systematically implemented, would pose a mortal threat to human society that few human beings would, or should, accept. We have quite enough difficulty in persuading or coercing human beings to respect the rights of their fellow humans to live in peace with each other."
When it comes to using animals for testing, Epstein says today, "there are real questions of whether animal studies are needed for medicine, where the tendency is ’ rightly ’ to cut back but not to eliminate."
But when it comes to the proposed test cases in 2013, "I don't think that they will win," Epstein says. "The rights in question have to be limited to freedom from harm, which can be justified without rights on humanitarian grounds."
'The Rights Of All Creatures'
Getting to this crossroads has been a long journey for animal advocates. Some historians trace the timeline of animal rights activism back to antiquity. But in the past few decades, there has been an acceleration of the movement and an increasing number of notable milestones.
And yet we don't really need a list of monumental moments to see that the animal rights community's influence is everywhere.
Scores of celebrities from Pamela Anderson to Betty White speak out often for the rights of animals. Director Oliver Stone made a video recently for PETA decrying the killing of more than 10,000 live animals "in crude and cruel trauma-training exercises" by the American military and its contractors. When thoroughbreds died during the filming of HBO's Luck, animal rights advocates protested and the show was canceled.
More and more menus and entire restaurants are now tailored to vegetarians and vegans, purposefully or inadvertently protecting the welfare and rights of animals. Increasingly, grocery stores display offerings that promise to be cage-free, range-free, grass-fed and certified humane. The intensified scrutiny of the fur industry, the demise of horse slaughtering, and the end of live animal use in commercial and scientific testing all point to new levels of respect and protection for animals.
Myers, the pet sitter, says she already sees the world changing in favor of the animals.
"The locavore and green lifestyles are leading to more plant-based diets and more money being spent on humanely raised meat," she says. "I don't think animal rights will be won in my lifetime, but we're certainly on our way."
NPR Digital News editor Amy Morgan contributed to this report.
Humane Society in the doghouse over budget
Oct. 24, 2011
by Sergio Bichao
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Humane Society.
No, not the Plainfield Area Humane Society. Or the Associated Humane Societies, which operates at Popcorn Park Zoo in Lacey.
This is the Humane Society of the United States, the national animal-advocacy organization that counts 11 million people as members and rakes in nearly $100 million a year in grants and donations. While it may share part of the name with several local animal shelters, just a fraction of the Humane Society’s coffers trickles down.
In New Jersey, the organization donated $21,178 to 10 shelters and animal groups in 2009 and 2010, according a report released last week slamming the Humane Society for not giving more money to local groups.
The report was published by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a business lobbying group that has dogged the Humane Society for several years.
The report claims less than one-half of 1 percent of the organization’s funds went to local shelters, even though a poll found that most people believed the Humane Society is an "umbrella group" representing local shelters.
Responding to the criticism, the Humane Society says on its website and blog that it never claimed to operate local shelters.
Instead, Internal Revenue Service tax documents show, the organization ran a $20 million deficit in 2009 using Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick in a campaign against dog fighting, passing legislation against killing prairie dogs in 14 states, boycotting Canadian seafood as a part of save-the-seals campaign and sterilizing dogs in the South Asian kingdom of Bhutan.
The Humane Society in 2009 also paid its president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, nearly $270,000 and paid about $20.9 million in other salaries, the same IRS documents show.
Nearly $20 million was spent on mailings and marketing.
Meanwhile, "very rarely" has the Human Society donated to the Plainfield Area Humane Society, Executive Director Susan MacWhinney-Ciufo said.
"The Humane Society does serve a purpose," she said. "They address legislative issues, and they do help with disaster relief, but we request that if you want to give to animals in your community, give to local shelters."
Nora Breen, director of Second Chance for Animals, whose volunteers support the Franklin Township Animal Shelter in Somerset County, said it was "disappointing" that more money isn’t going to local groups.
"In a small organization (people who donate) can be guaranteed that the money we raise from them goes directly to help the animals," she said. "We don’t pay salaries to any volunteers. When you get into these larger organizations, you don’t know where the money is going."
Second Chance received $2,000 in 2009 from the Humane Society.
But the Associated Humane Societies, which runs shelters in Newark, the Forked River section of Lacey and Tinton Falls, was not as fortunate.
"They don’t give very much of their donations," Executive Director Roseann Trezza said.
"The thing is they have a huge mailing list and put out a lot of press releases," she said. "A lot of people are confused because (the name is) ‘˜Humane.’ It’s not only us; it’s other humane societies, too, that people think the money is being filtered down to the local groups."
In 2009, Second Chance collected $85,000 in grants and contributions, nearly 90 percent of its budget, according to most recent IRS tax documents.
Breen said her budget also covers the wages for two part-time employees at the shelter, which costs township taxpayers $150,000 a year, according to the municipal budget.
Associated Humane Societies collected $4.5 million in grants and contributions, nearly half of its 2009 budget.
Plainfield Area Humane Society collected $256,000 in contributions and grants in 2009 ’ a year that ended in a $43,000 deficit despite $360,000 total revenues.
The bulk of the funds collected by the local groups were spent on veterinary fees and food for animals.
hooray for this guy!
Washington, Mar 30, 2011
Alaskan Congressman Don Young refused an award this evening from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Humane Society Legislative Fund that would have honored his work for animals in 2010. While capitalizing on the good work of local humane societies that shelter, spay, and neuter animals, the HSUS does not own, operate, or directly control a single animal shelter in our country, despite a budget of well over $100 million.
‘HSUS are hypocrites, plain and simple, and I will not join them by accepting this award,‘ said Rep. Young. ‘Local animal shelters and humane societies do excellent work by caring for neglected and homeless animals, and through their spaying and neutering programs. This organization, however, has absolutely nothing to do with animal welfare. Instead they prey on the emotions of big-hearted Americans. They flash images of abused animals on our television screens to raise money that will eventually go to pay their salaries and pensions, not to helping better the lives of these animals. They run anti-hunting and anti-trapping campaigns and are of the same cloth as PETA and other extremist organizations. I can only guess that I was to receive this award due to my support of the Wildlife Without Borders program, which develops wildlife management and conservation efforts to maintain global species diversity. That program is true conservation; what this group wants is preservation. To accept this award would be supporting their manipulative ways and misguided agenda, and I want no part of that.‘
While Americans across the country have entered the political game to save our country, moving that proverbial ball of freedom towards the end zone, we’ve been sacked. Blindsided. We’ve been so focused on legislative elections (and rightly so) that most Americans don’t even know they’ve been hit ‘“ and hit hard.
But not by some big, burly monster like voter fraud or corruption. No, we’ve been knocked flat by the ignorance of the conservative electorate and cute little puppies licking our stunned, what-the-heck-just-happened faces.
Well, I’ll tell you what just happened.
It’s called the Humane Society of the United States cowardly hiding behind animal cruelty, lying to our citizens and taking our constitutional rights away ‘“ one state at a time.
This radical animal rights organization (HSUS), who spends less than 0.5% of its $100M + budget on actually helping animals, is using the referendum process to slowly, systematically eliminate food production in the United States.
In California, HSUS has decimated the egg industry forcing chicken farmers out of business and consumers to buy imported eggs. In Florida, for all intents and purposes, HSUS eliminated the pork industry. (Wondering why pork prices are going sky high?) They’ve also crippled numerous other agribusinesses ‘“ dragging connected industries down with them.
This November, HSUS is after the dog breeding industry in Missouri calling the bill the ‘Puppy Cruelty Prevention Act‘. Great name. I mean who wouldn’t want to keep someone from being cruel to a puppy? The problem is Missouri already HAS laws protecting animals ‘“ all animals. So what’s the real agenda?
Simply to get rid of ALL dog breeding in Missouri ‘“ the unlicensed AND licensed breeders. Missouri’s Proposition B makes it a ‘crime of cruelty‘ for a piece of dog food to be in a water bowl or for a dog breeder to treat their own pet if they become ill (even with something as simple as a cold). To add insult to injury, HSUS has exempted themselves and shelters from these same laws. Apparently, they’re allowed to be cruel, but no one else is. (No folks, I don’t make this stuff up.)
This would almost be comical if it weren’t for the OTHER, more insidious parts of this bill that hit at the very core of our liberties. This bill forces breeders to limit the number of dogs they can own ‘“ regardless of care. Think about this a minute . . . . Should the government have the right to limit the number of houses a realtor can sell? Or the number of cattle a rancher can raise?
These new regulations will put almost every breeder in Missouri out of business forcing the price of dogs to sky rocket and allowing pet ownership only for the very wealthy. But this bill is just a stepping stone. HSUS eventually wants to extend this law to ALL animals. Their idea of utopia is a United States with NO animal ownership; NO meat to eat; NO pets; NO hunting; NO fishing; NO service animals. If chicken farmers would be forced to own no more than 50 chickens they could no longer afford to stay in business. The same will hold true with hog farmers and cattle ranchers. Eventually, agri-business will be forced to go over seas, just as our manufacturing and tech industries.
But even the extinction of our food industry isn’t the scariest part of this whacko liberal agenda. A law is only as good as it’s enforced. And HSUS is happy to fill the void. HSUS has now become the self-appointed law enforcement of the animal world. In some states, HSUS employees are running around with guns and police-like badges breaking down doors, confiscating animals and business papers, and obtaining warrants with false information. Lawsuits are cropping up against HSUS, sheriffs and governments for blatant violations of the most basic of constitutional rights.
Enough is enough. We have to draw the line and hold these radical animal rights activists back. The battle this year is in Missouri. If we do not all enlist and soundly defeat this deceptive bill, you can expect your state to be next.
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