Comments Of The Day (3): “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”

There have been many excellent posts on the Ethics Quiz about the couple that executed their apparently loving therapy dog, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier named Cam. Three comments stand out (I could easily have selected twice this many, however) , one by Paul W. Schlecht, another by slickwilly, and a third by Elizabeth II. They cover some common ground, and together show the complexity and breadth of this issue, which goes beyond mere animal cruelty to our society’s emotional connection, confusion and hypocrisy about animals generally. I decided that they complement each other, and am posting them as a set.

First, here is slickwilly’s Comment of the Day on the post, “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”:

Growing up rural, animal management is a way of life. You care for ‘commercial’ animals and you care for ‘pets.’ Confusing the two causes problems with regards to ‘final disposition.’ You never torture the animal (as this was considered a lack of character and a sign of a dangerous person) but attempt to make the act as painless as possible. (Note this is why you never hunt deer with an insufficient caliber, or take low probability shots that may wound but not quickly lower the target’s blood pressure to induce unconsciousness. Not only is is more humane, but also prevents the meat from being tainted or lost.)

A good working definition of a commercial animal versus a pet is driven by what type of profits are earned on the animal. We (generally) keep and pay for pets for emotional reasons (a type of profit), and do not expect monetary profit. Commercial animals are for food and profit. The line can blur, as in the case of military bomb dogs or ‘barn’ cats, but this generally is the case. It is a pet if you cannot bear to think of eating it. Cows can be pets. Dogs can be junk yard guard animals. The owner’s feelings make the difference.

I remember some folks who were unable to kill their show chickens, pigs, sheep, (or whatever) for delivery to the buyer (who did not bid on a live animal, and paid well over market value to support the college aspirations of the seller.) The Ag teacher’s advice was to never name a meat production animal, if you intend to sell it. Reluctance to complete the life cycle of such animals indicated the person was not suited to that sort of rural agricultural activity. Go grow corn if you like, but don’t raise beef. There was no shame in this: find what you like to do and do it. But make no mistake: anyone who has cared for 20 pigs knows they are NOT pets, and they EAT a lot, which has to be paid for.

The ‘pet’ category does NOT include all dogs, cats, ferrets, and so on. (I have a hard time believing even ‘domesticated’ snakes are pets, but that is just me) Such are a detriment to a farm or ranch, when released to fend for themselves (or allowed to roam) and as such were subject to summary execution in the interest of the land owner. For instance, known goat killers who happen to be pets of a careless neighbor were first dealt with by calling the Sheriff. If the neighbor ignored the ‘chain your dogs’ instruction, we had no compunction about protecting our animals just as we did with coyotes, foxes, snakes, and birds of prey. Most of the time the offending pet just disappeared, as it was stupid to pick a fight with someone who did not care enough for their own pets to control them. If your animal was on MY land, YOU are at fault. I have shot dogs for hunting deer (especially in deer season) on my property, same as I have coyotes. Poisonous snakes are hunted down and removed, one way or the other (other snakes are left alone.) They were impeding my ability to feed my family.

Abandoned pets’ treatment depended on how they impacted the homestead. Many were just adopted, but the economic and emotional limits of adoption could cause summary execution as well. If the pet was not domesticated any longer (aggressive to humans and/or animals, attacking livestock, destroying property, and so on) they get shot.

Nor does the ‘pet’ designation include wild animals, especially those that are subject to hunting. Unless you control the animal’s access to leave your property (think high fence ranch) and other’s ability to hunt on that property (in Texas, the property owner says who can hunt) you cannot claim a wild animal as a pet. Situation many years ago with my wife’s family (who are not ‘normal’) where they ‘adopted’ a doe by feeding her until they could pet her. They put a collar on the little dear (spelling is correct) but did not control the land the animal lived on. When legal hunting commenced, they blew a gasket thinking someone might have shot their deer. They even held a hunter at gunpoint to demand to see a harvested animal (it was not theirs). Crazy!

Wild animals are just that: wild. We have laws dealing with them. They live by the law of the jungle (woods? plains? pasture? 🙂 )

deery said: “can a lay person kill a non-attacking, healthy dog they own, or is that something only vets and those who work for shelters can do? And if they can, under what circumstances?”

What if the ‘pet’ is a chicken killer? What about if it mauled a child? If it is in pain? If there is no hope of survival due to age, injury, or illness?

Pets sometimes have to be put down, whatever the reason. Making laws about that fact, minus cruel and unusual treatment, is an intrusion into the private property rights of citizens. People normally are not going to harm those they love, and if it happens, something is badly awry.

I hope I have shown a little considered viewpoint to my urban friends.

Next up is Elizabeth II, on the topic of societal schizophrenia regarding animals as food and as companions:

I am horrified, as is everyone else. But this incident does bring up several questions — separate from the fact that these sadists deserve the firing squad.

First, every culture of humans, at the top of the food chain, decide over time which animals are food and which are pets. You can see photos of skinned dogs hanging on racks in China for sale at grocery stores; in India, cows are sacred;, etc., etc. A Vietnam vet who flew me in a helicopter group tour on Maui and watched us interact with the Australian cattle dog we met in Hana commented that that dog would have been food for most of the Vietnamese, with no decision-making required about whether the dog was food or a pet. Most of us know what ducks suffer at the hands of breeders to create the pate we so adore, and how calves are made anemic so their flesh is whiter than healthy cattle, thus creating delicious veal. Yet we continue to eat those meats. After I saw “Babe” (about 10 times because my son was young and he loved it), I vowed never to eat pork again. Embarrassingly, this lasted only a few months. Some “game” hunters (geese, deer, etc.) actually eat what they shoot; others kill them just for fun. In the West, anyway.

I have begun to believe that so many of these animals below us in the food chain are in fact sentient beings that I should become a milk-and-egg vegetarian. I haven’t done this, for a number of selfish reasons.

So, the “pet-or-food” conundrum is not  answerable at this time, at least for me. Realistically, the world of humans simply cannot become vegetarians and vegans.

Second, EACH CULTURE MUST OBEY ITS OWN RULES ABOUT ANIMALS. In this country and most of the West, dogs are either pets or working animals who are cherished for the love and service they provide. This is ingrained in us from early childhood. And though we all know that there is an undefined group that does not agree with this ethic (Michael Vick, e.g.), those who do not act within it are punished and animals are saved.

What this couple did to that loving (and shocked) poor dog is not just cruelty, it is totally outside the boundaries of Western human behavior. It is psychopathic sadism, pure and simple.

So, the larger issues aside, these two need to go to jail, and in my opinion, for a long time. This is anti-social, psychopathic behavior,and though they need to pay society back for this, I have no sense whatsoever that jail time will change their attitudes. Nor do I think that this kind of real sickness can be addressed “psychologically.” They will be mean-spirited, sick people regardless of what happens to them as a  result of this one incident.

It’s easy enough to say that they are a danger to society, that most serial killers start with animals, and that these two will see jail time. But that begs the real question:

What do we do with this kind of sociopath in our culture?

Third: Murderers (of humans) are pariahs in our society, and pay the price. Murderers (or abusers) of animals that are not considered livestock or game are treated as pariahs as well. However, “murderers” of livestock and/or game, are simply businessmen or sportsmen of various kinds. This is our culture, our ethics, strange and irrational as it may seem.

So this couple will go to jail, because somehow they have ended up outside the big circle of morals and ethics that 99% of our population believe in; and they will be punished, as examples to the rest of society. This process has been extant since the beginning of civilization.

The question still remains: Why — in our enlightened society today — do we need a “Humane Farming Association,” for example? Do we treat the animals that are considered food with the respect they deserve? (See “The Last of the Mohicans,” and listen what the Indian hunters say to the deer they have just killed for food. They apologize…) We do not. Slaughterhouses are abattoirs of cruelty. But this is all right, because they’re FOOD. Do that to my cat or dog and you’re going to have to deal with me.

How do we fix this? Or can we? I just don’t know.

I’d appreciate input on both questions.

Finally, here are the thoughts of  Paul W. Schlecht on the obligations of individuals to protect abused animals:

Oddly enough, yesterday was the ten year anniversary of the Michael Vick “Bad Newz Kennels” raid. What followed was some of the most despicably disgusting revelations I’ve ever struggled to read.

There are dog ”owners” and dog “people,” I’m one of the latter. If you need to ask what the difference is, you’re one of the former. My nearly 12 year old Golden Retriever Hurley, (named after Hurley, WI, where I got married the only time I ever will) is without question the best friend I’ve ever had. I picked her out of a litter of 9, by rolling them all over. While on her back, she locked on to me with those “Seabisquit” eyes, and that was it. If ever I thought there would be some harm to come to her, I would do whatever it took, not batting an eyelash, to prevent it from happening; I’ve no doubt whatsoever she’d do the same for me.

This post reminded me of a time when I should have intervened. I was loading some mulch into my car, while Hurley patiently waited and watched anticipating our next adventure, as a woman walked past with her dog.

The dog stopped to sniff something and she kicked it.  It cowed and tried to get away and she said in a voice that literally dripped displaced anger and meanness “do you want me to kick you again?”

I’ve played and replayed that in my mind over and over I don’t know how many times, thinking how that dog probably endured a life of constant misery, wondering what it had done to deserve such a lot, occasionally getting something fleetingly positive from its owner, only to have it lapse back into the same old/same old.

Dogs are emotionally honest, unconditionally loving, and have short, forgiving memories.Unless you happen to be on Hurley’s meticulously developed ‘route’ of neighbors  and Odana Hills Golf Course golfers who she successfully, and with aplomb, works for treats; then you’re permanently penciled in. That woman’s dog deserved a hell of a lot better than it was getting.

Next time something like that happens I’ll step in, especially after reading this, and Hurley will be cheering me on.


10 thoughts on “Comments Of The Day (3): “An Especially Ugly Ethics Quiz: Cam Betrayed”

  1. To Paul: I too have one of those memories, when I saw a young woman with a dog on a leash — leash over her shoulder! — so that the dog was following along on his two back feet and she totally unaware or uncaring about the dog and the misery she was creating. I should have stopped my car (it was through a park) and confronted her, but I did not. Lack of courage. Thirty years later I am still haunted by this: my inaction and cowardice left this dog to (probably) a short and awful life.

    It doesn’t help, but you are not alone.

    • Paul and Elizabeth: In rural Texas during the 70s and 80s, it was a very fine line to call out the abuse of another’s animals. This was unethical, but the law just did not support action until a line was crossed, usually requiring gross negligence, disfigurement, or death before action could be taken. The mind set was ‘mind your own business.’

      Sad but true.

      • Zoltar Speaks!, E2 (nee Elizabeth 1), & slickwilly have all earned Jack’s coveted award.

        Me? I cross aBIG item off’n my Bucket List and will be humming “Cover of the Rolling Stone” tonight and into tomorrow.

        A pre-11/14/2104 “A Rape On Campus” (Sabrina Rubin Erdely) Rolling Stone, that is.

  2. Thanks, Jack. This is another landmark blog post, with a literal treasure trove of thoughtfulness and wisdom – thanks to your original post but also, this time, thanks to three immensely appreciated commenters.

  3. Willy’s comment brought to mind a complaint I have with internet comment sections… And that is how urban people just have no conception under god the difference between a pet and a working animal, but they’re more than willing to plaster their ignorance on full display.

    Where I grew up, the wildlife was frisky enough that every now and again we’d lose a chicken, or our neighbors would lose a sheep, I even heard about a cow taken down one lean winter. And so we’d keep dogs… Big ones. My parents right now have a couple of crosses between a Border Collie and a Great Pyreness, I swear to god we’ve had ponies that were smaller than those dogs.

    Anyway, one of our neighbors dogs went missing… It happens, sometimes there are accidents, sometimes they lose a fight, but they kinda resigned themselves to missing their dog and picked up a new one. Well… two months later, their dog turns up a hundred miles away in Winnipeg without his tags. We figure someone took him and realised they couldn’t care for a big dog. Somehow… And I swear it must have been the slowest news day ever, but somehow this makes the free press. And oh… my…. God… the internet hated my neighbors: “Why wasn’t it on a leash?” “Why wasn’t it inside for the night” “Serves them right, for not treating it right.” “Maybe we should make them sleep outside.” “Have they never heard of RFID or GPS tags!” “Some people shouldn’t own pets.”

    Tale of two cities.

    Anyway, no real point to that. Slight venting. Catharsis.

  4. I have some problems with some of Elizabeth II’s comments. First, few Americans really understand what sentient beings are. The Buddhists view them as capable of suffering although some of the Buddhist sects eat animal meat on special occasions and the Tibetan Buddhists regularly. I’m a fisherman and I believe that fish feel pain (which is technically different from suffering) but I usually eat what I catch. I guess in the act of catching them I kill them: However, the concept of murdering a fish makes no sense to me.
    Dogs are mammals and that is probably the big difference. Whether a dog loves a person is an open question: Dogs and cats can certainly bond with people and perhaps even “mourn their owners when they die. But it is not the same thing for a person, as losing a relative or a close friend.

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