Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Thoughts on the Killing of Oreo

People who care about animals are legitimately outraged at the cruel final betrayal of Oreo by an organization charged with rescuing victims of abuse and offering them better futures. We call dogs our best friends, but in the case of this one our friendship has proven itself to be fickle for the second time. People committed to animal liberation must ensure that the outrage over the killing of Oreo doesn’t end with this one dog. We must use this tragic opportunity to fight for recognition that killing health animals is no more “euthanasia” than the death penalty is a humane response to crime. Saying “we are all working towards the day when no animals will be killed in shelters” is a cop out. Animal organizations need to say that killing animals for any reason other than preventing acute suffering in terminal cases is murder, plain and simple -- not “some day, when we’ve cut populations through spaying and neutering” -- today, right now.

Once we start deciding that we are entitled to take animals’ lives, we embark on a slippery slope that butchers the logic of animal rights. We also cannot allow organizations that kill animals because they are “unadoptable” to call themselves “No Kill.” It’s a horrible abuse of language and undermines both the concept of “no kill” and “shelter.” The argument that “no kill shelters just defer the problem to kill shelters or allow animals to stay on the street” is absurd. No-kills aren’t asking the kill shelters to kill, and no one would make this argument about any other kind of shelter. No one would ever argue that battered women's shelters are allowing women to stay in abusive situations by not killing women who stay in them too long to make space for new ones. Applying a double standard like this is blatant speciesism.

And who are we to say that animals are better off dead than on the street? I’ve know a cat that vociferously chooses to live on the street and will run away any time he’s taken in. By what right do we have to say that death is preferable to his chosen living situation? We need to move beyond the
paternalistic speciesism of “animal protection” and start asking ourselves what it truly means to be in solidarity with the liberation of autonomous beings.

The bottom line is that every time a humane organization kills an animal, it diminishes the perceived value of an animal’s life and delegitimizes outrage over the killing of animals, forcing animal advocates to claim they are only against suffering and not killing to avoid being perceived as hypocrites. Compare the human rights movement to the so-called “humane movement.” Human rights groups protest, vigil, write letters and make calls against EVERY EXECUTION. And what this does, even if these are often futile efforts to stop executions is send the message that EVERY HUMAN LIFE MATTERS. In the
process they elevate and legitimate the cry for human rights everywhere and validate our innate sense of horror at the taking of life.

What message is sent about the value of animals’ lives when shelters treat them as disposable commodities? Think about the underlying message of the term “unadoptable.” It essentially reduces shelters to pet shops selling adoptions with unadoptable animals as the spoiled and damaged merchandise that they discard. And it tells us that we should look at shelter killing as at best tragic and unfortunate, but NOT as unacceptable -- because if it was unacceptable, the people who claim to defend animals WOULDN'T DO IT.

Rest in peace, Oreo. May your death be a turning point that forces the “animal protection movement” to wash off the blood on its hands and to stand instead in defense of the lives of ALL animals -- including the “unadoptable.”


Mr. Chips said...

Well done. It's crazy how we have turned the word "euthanasia" into a catch-all phrase to describe cold-blooded killing.
We will not forget you, Oreo.

Dog Rescuer said...

Hi. I am sorry to hear about Oreo. I am familiar with the story of how Oreo was injured but did not know she was put to sleep.

I am wondering why did the ASPCA decide that Oreo was NOT adoptable?

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