Check out NY Mag’s article titled ‘The Rise of Dog Identity Politics‘. If you’re a dog person you really shouldn’t need much convincing but it’s also interesting in giving a nuanced view of the spectrum of the animal protection movement:
As often happens, the success in moving toward some of the movement’s most basic goals has only increased the doctrinal conflict among various groups…The rescue people don’t agree with the animal-welfare people, and both can’t stand the animal-rights people…It’s a struggle for the Future of Dog, a little like Russia in 1917, with weakened conservatives and radicals of many stripes, all trying desperately to invent a future.
Famously, the touchstone of the animal-rights movement is Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation. Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s leader, seems to dream of a world in which pets have been abolished, and she is a particularly reviled figure among many dog people. Although PETA’s mission statement includes language suggesting that each animal life is intrinsically valuable, the organization’s actions describe a more nuanced picture. PETA kills a surprising number of the animals it takes in. In the decade beginning with 1998, PETA euthanized 17,000 animals, 85 percent of those it rescued.
Dog-rescue people oppose PETA and its ilk bitterly. They see numbers like this and think mass murder. Regarding human nature, Newkirk is a pessimist. In her view, we’ve botched this whole dominion thing, creating an Island of Dr. Moreau of animal horrors. So the best thing to do is to end our agency over animals, to disengage, build a wall around nature and stay on our side. The dog, in particular, is polluted by human influence. The animal-rights movement can seem as much about keeping humans free of guilt as keeping animals free of suffering, which is another kind of solipsism.
Agencies concerned with animal rights issues would do well to learn these distinctions. Even though those who violate the law in the name of animal rights usually jump back and forth between legal and illegal activity there is a disturbing tendency to view the entire movement with a suspicious eye. I’d say things have gotten better over the past couple of years (although I could be wrong about that) but to be honest this issue has really been off my radar for awhile.
I’ve never liked Newkirk but never thought of my dislike being a function of me being a ‘dog person’. I always thought my contempt for her was due to the fact that she demanded that reality conform to her psychotic interpretation of it. She has a glorified, romanticized vision of nature and suffers from the same mindset that brought us racist paternalism only instead of saving the savages from themselves and bringing them all the benefits of civilization she wants to override evolution itself to conform to her political views.
Still, given PETAs opposition to animals as pets perhaps my opinion of the organization runs a bit deeper than ideological differences.
For the record, I’m also not a fan of the AKC which really promotes the disfigurement of dogs through breeding and surgery.