Their Silence is Deafening
Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Photo: Dead animals, some in body bags and some not, stacked in grocery carts outside Associated Humane Societies in New Jersey.
The idea that remaining silent in the face of injustice makes you a participant in it is not a new one. It goes back millennia and is universal. The Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it like this, "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor." "Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor," is how Ginette Sagan phrased it.
Whether the topic is sexual harassment, bullying, predatory lending practices or animal abuse and killing in animal shelters, one thing is constant: if you know about it and say nothing, you are part of it, which makes the deafening silence from the large national animal welfare organizations, like American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Maddie's Fund (MF), Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS) and others relating to chronic, ongoing atrocities in our nation's animal shelters problematic, particularly since they all profess to be leaders in the animal sheltering field.
If ever there was a year that provided ample opportunity for them to take public stands relating to abuses in animal shelters, 2017 was it. From coast to coast and from north to south animal shelters have been in the news for needlessly killing owned and microchipped animals, shelters killing animals without holding stray animals for the required holding periods, shelter directors misrepresenting their outcome statistics or even doctoring their books, shelter directors being charged with animal cruelty, shelters killing healthy or treatable pets when rescue options were available to them and shelters and animal welfare organizations misleading lawmakers in order to avoid oversight or regulation. (Note: the links above are just some of the examples in each of these categories from 2017 alone. Throughout the year, there have been many more stories like these.) And, it is not just No Kill advocates saying this. Many of these things are known because of city, county and state-level audits of animal shelters, like this one by the Long Beach City Auditor, or this one from the State of New Jersey.
If you get your animal sheltering news from the big, national organizations listed above (collectively referred to as "the alphabet soup organizations"), however, you should be forgiven for not knowing about any of these, or other similar stories. Though they profess to be the biggest voices in the animal sheltering industry, they have been virtually silent about these and other stories like them. From the collective voices of all of these organizations these things have either not taken place, or are not worth mentioning.
Similarly, they have been more than quiet about the needless killing in animal shelters in general. It has been known since the mid 1990's that animal shelters don't have to kill healthy or treatable pets, and the overwhelming, vast majority of animal shelters still continue killing anyway. And, the agencies that profess to be the experts in animal sheltering sit quietly by while shelters needlessly kill millions of savable animals annually and mislead their donors about the killing. These organizations continue to condone all of that with their silence.
"If you are neutral [or silent] in situations of injustice,
you have chosen the side of the oppressor."
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Think about it this way: It has been widely known in the animal welfare community for decades (reported in the news and by former employees for countless years) that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) routinely steals pets or lies to people in order to get those people to give their pets to PETA, wrongly believing the pets will find new homes. Then, PETA kills them, sometimes in mobile "euthanasia vans" it deploys so they can kill even more pets than they kill at their Norfolk, Virginia "shelter," which state inspection reports show includes no animal housing. Their "shelter" is simply a "euthanasia room" and a walk-in freezer. Their often 90% kill rate, as documented in the reports PETA files with the Commonwealth of Virginia, should be enough for people to know their "shelter" is really nothing more than a killing shop. Unfortunately, few people read these reports and most PETA supporters have no idea what they are funding when they donate. That is where the silence of HSUS, ASPCA, Best Friends, and all of the other "alphabet soup" organizations comes into play.
Not long ago, PETA staff were caught on surveillance video stealing a happy, healthy Chihuahua off the front porch of a family home. The dog was named Maya. She was the beloved family pet of a small child. After noticing their pet missing and watching surveillance video they recorded from their home, they realized that a van clearly marked as PETA came and took Maya. They then called PETA to try to get her back. In response, PETA ended up confessing to having killed her (and several other pets they stole that day) within hours of taking them.
By the time the Maya news broke, PETA's behavior in this area was well known. They had been caught doing similar things before. And, every agency professing to speak on behalf of animals, and particularly those with ties to the animal sheltering industry, had a responsibility to call PETA out, not only for that event, but for everything that was already widely known about PETA... and known for many years.
Had the "alphabet soup" organizations gotten together and collectively chastised PETA for their "steal and kill tactics", they could have, with their collective resources, made Maya front page news world wide. Every donor to PETA would then have known precisely what their donor dollars were funding. But, ASPCA, HSUS, Maddie's Fund, et. al. did not do that. Instead, they were silent. The agencies that profess to be the voice of animals said nothing. To this day, PETA is able to attract A-list celebrities to raise money for them, because people don't know what the organization is really all about, because all of these other animal welfare organizations have failed to to speak up for the animals PETA kills. By remaining silent, they continually side with PETA.
Maya's family sued PETA and a lengthy court battle ensued, with PETA's attorneys arguing to the court, in public documents, that the case should be dismissed, or that Maya's family was not entitled to punitive damages because they said the dog was "worthless." The argument was worse than an insult to animals and the people who love them. It was also a potential precedent-setting legal issue that could have impacted future cases involving pets wrongly killed or injured. Still, these organizations, that profess to be the voices for animals and animal sheltering in general, said nothing. In remaining silent, they sided with PETA.
Similarly, by refusing to call out animal shelters that kill healthy and treatable animals, when alternatives to killing have been known and documented for decades, these organizations perpetuate killing through their silence. Their complicity, however, with shelter killing goes even farther than that, because they have frequently called out No Kill advocates for being "divisive" for simply calling attention to the killing that animal shelters are doing. The ASPCA took it one step farther and once called No Kill advocates "terrorists" in a document they published on their web site. At the 2017 BF conference, when talking about advocates who point out the killing going on in animal shelters, they also went beyond calling No Kill advocates divisive. They said they had "weaponized" No Kill. In other words, they attacked No Kill advocates (again) while remaining silent when shelters kill animals, when shelters lie about killing animals, and even when an organization steals pets, kills them and then tries to say, in court, that it's basically OK because pets are "worthless."
They are more than willing to chastise No Kill advocates as being "divisive," but when it comes to calling out the atrocities of PETA or animal shelters that continue to abuse and kill animals, their silence is deafening.
"Silence in the face of injustice is
complicity with the oppressor."
- Ginette Sagan
Continue reading... go to Part 2 of this series...