I am never sure exactly what I think of protective laws, welfare laws. Better than nothing? A waste of time? Not enforced anyway, so what’s the point? A place to start?
All of those, I suppose.
The truth is that there aren’t many laws, and what laws there are have extremely limited scope and poor enforcement in addition. It is easy to be cynical about the laws preventing downed cows from going to the slaughterhouse – mostly it is to prevent a possibly “diseased” animal from entering the human food market – and it is discouraging to realize that chickens aren’t even covered by the farm animal welfare act, despite that (or, really, because) chickens make up the greatest number of individuals being raised for food, by far.
So, do we turn our back on the laws, on legislation in general? What is our end goal, really? For the whole world to be vegan, ideally, but in our ideal vegan world are there laws about this? I think there would be. I think there have always had to be laws against things, such as rape and murder, stealing inheritances from vulnerable elderly folks, and leaving dogs in hot cars, even if the majority of the population believes these acts to be morally corrupt. And, okay, yeah, I have to suspend my distrust of the government in general to make this argument, but is it more naive to think that people will do what is right simply because it is right, or that the government will properly legislate and enforce laws in this ideal vegan world?
I don’t know. pattrice talks quite a bit about capitalism, about the exploitation of humans and non-humans being so intertwined with capitalism, that one can only be broken when both are. I can see her point, but somehow I find it impossible to imagine a world without these behemoth governments standing on our backs.
Honestly, I’m not sure if it is worth our time to fight for legislation, but I do think it is important that we know what the protective laws are. If we see them being broken, we can actually make a citizens arrest. What does that gain us? Well, it depends.
The most obvious is that it could save a life. Think of the dogs (or cats or babies or alzheimer patients) left in hot locked cars, a deadly situation. That there are laws against this means we can take action, and the police will (or should) aid us in the attempt to rescue the individual(s).
Also, as long as there are laws in place (few and limited as they are) for farmed animals, it makes sense to force the farmers to follow them. There are few animal advocates doing this, but there are some. Animal Acres Sanctuary, outside of L.A. is one of them. They have a team of investigators going to stockyards and getting footage, forcing certain welfare laws to be followed. Most of the time this means suffering animals get a humane euthanization. Better than dying of dehydration 20 hours later, I suppose. Sometimes it results in rescues. They believe that with enough infractions against some of the stockyards, some of them might be shut down, or severely penalized.
It is also worth it to know the zoning ordinances; there is one stockyard that is not in compliance with the zoning ordinances in the area, and will potentially be shut down because of it.
When I went to the session at AR07 on enforcing these laws, I was going partially in support for Frank, one of the primary investigators at Animal Acres, who I had met the day before when I’d visited the sanctuary and watched their videos. I didn’t agree with everything on those videos, I felt like they focused too much on cruelty, and as so many have been saying lately in their blogs, when we focus on the cruelty, we seem to be implying that if it wasn’t cruel, it would be okay. Is cruelty-free slaughter possible? Honestly, I don’t care. Cruel, inhumane, or not, I do not think that we have the right to treat other sentient beings as property, deciding for them what their lives will be. Or not be.
Yet, I don’t have to agree with everything in the videos to respect and admire the investigations they are doing – it isn’t easy, but I do believe someone needs to do it.
I know one of the arguments against protective laws is that they more firmly entrench animals-as-property in the judicial system. I think this is a valid concern, especially as relates to welfare laws (as opposed to laws banning cock fighting, for one example), and in some ways it is a concern for me with investigations in general. Yet I also know that some lawyers are using these very laws, these protective welfare laws, to inch their way towards getting “pets” recognized as more than property.
My doubts remain about the laws themselves, but I am convinced that the investigations are worth supporting.
What I didn’t expect to learn in this session was how this relates to Sea Shepherd, international whaling laws, and the reality of the high seas. It seems so obvious now, but it wasn’t obvious to me until Paul Watson began to speak. There are laws against whaling, against so many things that are done out there on the vast oceans, yet who is enforcing them? Sea Shepherd is, and sadly, that is it. This year that might change, but so far the international governments have shown a sad lack of conviction by turning a blind eye to what Japan and other countries are doing to our oceans.
The oceans are vital to the health of the earth. Protecting them is vital. And that means, in part, enforcing the protective laws that already exist.
And the interesting thing, to me, with regards to the laws protecting the whales and other creatures of the sea is that it isn’t an issue of property at all. I don’t believe these are welfare laws, and if anything is abundantly clear, it is that Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd are directly saving lives as they enforce the protective laws.
It makes me wonder, it makes me think again about the laws. What good will it do to get countries to agree to signing pieces of paper that directly impact our future if no one bothers to see that those laws are actually followed? I can’t say that laws are of no worth, however, not when they give the Paul Watsons of the world a chance to be (legal) pirates of the high seas, saving animals.