Every time I see that proverbial doggy in the window—the one with the cute cough of the bacterially infected and adorable underbite of the wickedly overbred—I wonder…what would it take to make unethical and animal-abusive places like this disappear altogether?
Before last November, a vision like this might play out in my imagination like a gritty scene from Gong Li’s 2006 version of Miami Vice—complete with evil puppy mill proprietors aiming AK-47s at my favorite pup:
“Hand over the film or it dies,” they growl across an abandoned, dock-side parking lot. “You’ve interfered long enough in our commercial enterprises!”
In the end, my masterful implementation of a Jedi mind trick leads to a speedy exit in a black cigarette boat with an eight-week-old Puggle under my arm (who I’ll later name Leia in the film’s feelgood wrap-up).
But enough of my self-indulgent fantasies--I actually planned for this to be one of my more serious posts.
In our post-9/11 world, even my tamest reveries—invoking investigative reporting aimed at thwarting the commercial pet trade’s abuses—are a thing of the past. Terrorism’s definition has now been expanded to apply to those who, like me, wish to see an end to the cruel treatment of animals by conventional, peaceful and previously legal means.
A bill has just passed both the House and Senate called the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA). It makes way for strict civil and criminal penalties for those who might interfere in the workings of animal enterprises in such as way as to cause economic or bodily harm to such establishments and their proprietors and staff.
Ostensibly aimed at stiffening penalties for the criminal activities of radical animal rights organizations (ALF, PETA, et. al.—of whose I am no fan) and hardened eco-terrorist groups (such as the Earth Liberation Front—ditto on fandom), the act goes so far as to provide severe penalties (including hefty fines and jail terms) for even the pansiest peacenik protesters among us—as long as an allegedly aggrieved party can construe a scenario through which these activities led substantively to a loss in profits.
Bodily harm?…well…aren’t there laws already on the books for this? Don’t we provide harsh enough penalties for trespassing, breaking and entering, and all other nasty tactics the radical elements in our society might employ to further their goals? If existing laws don’t deter them from fire-bombing labs, I see scant reason for this new law to help mend their extremist ways.
Therefore, I must rationally conclude that this legislation seeks to curb previously permissible activities that may threaten the lifeblood of industries by revealing truths (or otherwise heightening public awareness of issues) that may prove economically destructive to them. It’s no wonder moderate animal and environmental groups like HSUS (the Humane Society of the United States) and the Sierra Club are against it.
As written—though it nominally includes a clause for the protection of free speech and peaceful protest—the legislation is sloppy enough to leave room for wide-ranging loose interpretation. As such, investigative reporting (including photography and distribution of information of animal abuses or other negligent or criminal acts on the part of these establishments) are potentially subject to prosecution.
Even my own favorite tactic—entering a pet shop to point out flaws in health and breeding to would-be buyers—might be construed as illegal. If I engaged in this activity on a regular basis I would certainly be subject to prosecution—as a terrorist(!)—under a harassment provision in the new law. Before November, the shop could have thrown me out—maybe. Now I’d get jail time: six months for a loss in pup sales up to $10,000.
Shamelessly exploiting an explosive concept such as terrorism, our legislators hide behind fashionably irrefutable terminology to protect the interests of industries and corporations that hold no special claim to it. After all, violent, threatening and destructive acts are already deemed serious offenses. Why raise the bar for revealing pertinent animal and environmental information to the public?
If all types of terrorism are so egregiously anathema to our cultural sensibilities, why single out the animal and eco-related industries? Why not challenge so-called terrorism across all industries? Why do not food service, healthcare or manufacturing concerns deserve such protections? After all, the anti-globalism movement often wields the same sword, thereby exposing all multi-national corporations to similar versions of “terrorism.”
The answer is obvious: to do so might leave the human public exposed to ill-treatment by these industries. Special safeguards are not only indefensible; they are effectively unconstitutional. Apparently redwoods, panthers and pets are not worthy of such noble considerations in the eyes of our legislators. “F--- the constitution when it comes to trees, chimpanzees and terriers,” they’d say.
So now that I’ve been successfully deterred from confronting irresponsible pet distributors by direct intervention, I’ve raised the bar for my own imaginative musings. Perhaps my next daydream will implement a Matrix-ish fantasy world where the distribution of blue-pill contents into our public drinking water results in the instantaneous and widespread adoption of Gandhi's assertion: “The greatness of a nation can be judged…by the way its animals are treated.”
Well…a girl can always dream…