Well, I have another presentation due for my communication class. This time it's an individual project instead of a group project, which is good because I can say whatever I want without having to consult with the rest of the group, but it's also a bit more nerve wracking since I will be up there all by myself. Oh well. Anyway, I decided to do my speech on the various ways the United States government supports animal cruelty.
We all have different ideas about what our government should or shouldn’t do. We’re always debating about where our tax money should be going, what sort of programs the government should be supporting, and what we should be doing about public health and threats to our safety. But what if I told you that our government was using our tax money and to fund animal cruelty? The United States government spends billions of dollars every year on subsidies that support animal agriculture. They spend billions more on animal research, most of which has little to no benefit for us. And they enact laws to prevent anyone from trying to stop these things. Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” If this is the case, I’m afraid our nation will be judged very poorly.
A subsidy is monetary assistance granted by a government to a person or group in support of an enterprise regarded as being in the public interest. Sadly, it turns out that a huge amount of money is being given out to enterprises that are in no way in the public interest. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, the U.S. government awarded 277.3 billion dollars in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2011. 3.7 billion of that went to livestock and 4.9 billion went to dairy. The largest subsidies went to corn with nearly 82 billion dollars in the same time period. This may not seem related to animal agriculture but it is. Corn is the principle ingredient in livestock feed, so corn subsidies are benefitting animal agriculture by keeping feed prices low. Researchers at Tufts University have estimated that between 1997 and 2005 industrial animal agriculture saved over 35 billion dollars on feed costs as a result of government subsidies. Most of this money is available only to large industrial farms, not small family farmers. So not only is this policy encouraging animal cruelty, it is also helping to drive small family farms out of business. The government also supports animal agriculture by allowing ranchers to use public land for grazing. According to the Bureau of Land Management’s website, they are responsible for 245 million acres of public land and they allow ranchers to use about 157 million acres of it for their own animals.
According to Source Watch, part of the Center for Media and Democracy, our government spends around 12 billion dollars every year on animal research. In 2005 they funded 28,937 separate projects for animal experiments. Besides just the obvious issue of pain and suffering for the animals, this reliance on animal experiments can have serious repercussions for humans as well. The National Antivivisection Society stated “There is very little consensus among researchers about what the “right” animal model to use is in many instances, because in reality, there is no such thing.” An excellent example of this is Thalidomide. In the 1950s it was used as a sedative and treatment for morning sickness. It had been found to be safe when tested on animals but resulted in devastating birth defects in over 10,000 human children. Penicillin on the other hand had been found to be ineffective in rabbits and toxic to guinea pigs, but later proved to be quite effective for treating bacterial infections in humans. Aspirin caused birth defects in rats and mice, but has been very beneficial for humans. New technology, such as in vitro tests and computer modeling, has been developed that, if explored, could easily be more effective than animal testing and without the inherent cruelty. Thomas Hartung Director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing said “We’re trying to find out how we can save animals and make risk assessment of consumer products more reliable.” Despite all of this, animal testing is mandatory for all pharmaceuticals and many chemicals in the United States.
Besides just paying for animal abuse with taxpayer money and mandating it for pharmaceutical manufacturers, the government also demonizes and, if they can, imprisons, anyone who dares to try to stop these abuses. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was signed into law on November 27, 2006. This replaced the Animal Enterprise Protection Act of 1992. It is a slightly stricter version of the old law, but the real problem comes from the name of the law itself. While the old law claimed to protect animal enterprises, this one automatically labels animal rights activists as terrorists. According to this law anyone who “intentionally damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property (including animals or records) used by an animal enterprise, or any real or personal property of a person or entity having a connection to, relationship with, or transactions with an animal enterprise;” is considered a terrorist. This contradicts the US government’s own definition of terrorism, which states that an act of terrorism must involve a violent act or an act dangerous to human life.
Every year billions of dollars of our money is being wasted to support industries that are already absurdly wealthy and research that is unreliable and inefficient, all while causing terrible and unnecessary suffering to countless animals. Meanwhile, new laws are being created to unjustly persecute those who try to stop it. This is unacceptable. Whether you believe in animal rights or not I hope we can all agree that our government should not be forcing us, as taxpayers, to fund cruelty or labeling us as terrorists if we dare to protest it.
*Photo- Gilbert from Farm Sanctuary.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)