I have kindly been invited by Prof. Cassuto to guest blawg for a week while he attends all-night parties in Ipanema furthers the efforts of international law in Brazil with ambition that never fails to make me feel lazy in comparison. For now I hope to interest you with a thematic series of posts. I am going to explore how animal law issues are based around the Seven Deadly Sins. The seven sins, or vices, are eerily applicable to the branches of animal law most often discussed. As always, the law can only change to the extent that it reflects the will of the people it governs. Change starts with individuals, and knowledge is the first step. With that in mind, permit me to dive into the first vice.
Pride is the classic vice. It is the cause of many a Greek tragedy, and in the Judeo-Christian tradition it not only causes the division of heaven and hell, but is the consequence of eating from the tree of knowledge. Why is pride such a bad trait? Aren’t we encouraged to take pride in our work?
Pride becomes a problem in excess. Pride is a sin when love for oneself exceeds empathy for others. “Others” include animals. There is inherent pride in nearly every law, a pride in being human. The American legal system enforces the notion that you, simply by being human, should be and are more respected and valuable than any non-human. That is a whole discussion in itself. A more specific application of pride is vanity. How we look shouldn’t matter, or at least Saturday afternoon specials tell me as much. Yet the cosmetic industry is booming, and for every Lifetime movie, there are twelve teen magazines letting you know daily how much better looking you could be if you would just try a little harder, and oh yeah, buy this, it will help.
Animals bear the brunt of our vanity. You wouldn’t want to drop perfume in your eye to see if it is going to irritate you. Of course not. Luckily for you, rabbits are lining up by the thousands, ready to take the hit. By “lining up,” I mean being born into captivity and having no voice whatsoever in what happens to them.
The cosmetic industry, at least among the people I know, eludes the public eye in ways the other animal exploitation cannot. Unlike clothing or food, there is no obvious immediate connection between the product and the animal upon whom it was tested, and the consumer can easily be ignorant of the relationship. Because of this blindness it is essential that the laws governing animal testing be solid.
Alternatives to chemical testing on animals are feasible. Gilman D. Veith, Ph.D., founder and president of the nonprofit International QSAR Foundation to Reduce Animal Testing (IQF), recently announced that QSAR has developed software that can be used by government regulators to screen chemicals. Is a strong anti-animal testing world achievable through legal reform? Member of the European Union seem to think so. Animal welfare is a primary goal of the recent Lisbon Treaty, and advocates claim that standardized common controls for animal testing will soon be in place. Skeptics will argue that common controls that are acceptable to the entire EU will be so broad as to be ineffective, and that transparency to see them implemented will be a problem. These are good arguments, but that it’s even a primary issue is more than we can say stateside.
On the home front, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey is currently pushing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2010 bill through the House, which supposedly will give the EPA stronger control of chemicals used in manufacturing. American Chemistry Council president and CEO Cal Dooley claims that the Act reflects a need to reduce animal testing. This is all lip service, of course, but it’s the right idea.
Stronger animal testing regulation is a possibility, but how far it goes really depends on how big an issue voters want to make out of it. Blindly buying whatever the cheapest cosmetic is on the shelf won’t show lawmakers anything. I’m not saying that looking good means you hate animals. I think, however, we all need to be more self-aware of the message we send when buying certain products. No one needs to be marching on Washington. How you spend you money is a great way to communicate. That is a good kind of pride. That is pride in the welfare of others, the kind of pride you can, well, be proud of.
Filed under: animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal experimentation Tagged: | American Chemistry Council, animal cruelty, animal ethics, animal law, animal suffering, animal testing, cosmetics industry, Frank Lautenberg, Gilman D. Veith, pride, QSAR Foundation to Reduce Animal Testing, Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, seven deadly sins, vivisection