Specific Task Forces to Handle Animal Cruelty: Reasonable Or Not?

Emily Indriolo

            Upon first look for information on horse cruelty I found this post from Equine Advocates. It presents a very interesting theory: specific task forces within police departments to handle animal cruelty. It was surprising because it was something that never came to mind before. Why are there so few specific task forces to handle animal cruelty? It seems like a very good and efficient idea so one would think it would implemented across the country. A quick google search will inform you that not many states have them, let alone counties, and even if they do they don’t seem to be funded very well. So that leaves the question, are animal cruelty task forces a reasonable thing to implement? Or are they just too difficult to achieve and more of a dream than a reality? I would say that I stand somewhere in the middle.

            The post I found from the Equine Advocates website takes a very strong stance. They believe that an animal cruelty task force should be implemented in every county in every state but especially in the ones that have farms. They preface this argument by telling the reader about Skye’s Amendment, a New York State law that makes it a felony to abuse any animal in New York. We are told that the law has helped greatly with training police in the matter of animals and for putting dangerous people behind bars. They believe that stronger animal cruelty laws combined with specific animal cruelty task forces is the way handle the ever-growing issue of animal cruelty. Skye’s Amendment was only implemented in 2010. It took a horse being stabbed eighteen times with a butcher knife until she bled to death for the state to decide that animal cruelty should be a felony. Interestingly, it was surprisingly difficult to actually find the law in question but its actual title is N.Y. Afri. Mkts Law § 353-a. Aggravated cruelty to animals.

            I agree with Equine Advocates that stronger animal cruelty laws and an animal cruelty task force for every county would certainly make drastic changes in the country but I do not think it can realistically happen. I imagine that the sole reason for this is money. As they say, money makes the world go round, but apparently no one wants to use it to protect animals. Just recently, due to the call for action to defund the police in the Summer of 2020, the LAPD cut a portion of their animal cruelty task force and defunded it in general. It is quite clear that money is the biggest motivating factor in the decision to either help or ignore the plight of animals and while our world cares more about money over morals it will probably always be this way.

            However I do believe there can be a happy medium solution. Creating an animal task force for every county, while sounds lovely, is just unrealistic but creating an animal task force for every state is a very reasonable and good place to start. Once there is one there is room for more to grow. As the Equine Advocates post suggests there should be task forces in counties with heavy farm populations. Another thing that could help to move around the money issue is to take volunteers for the task forces. I am sure that many people in every county in the United States care about preventing animal cruelty and would be more than happy to help. Is it really necessary for the task forces to be made up completely of police officers? I don’t think so. I believe they should be made up of people who actually want to help and are not just doing it “because it is their job.” A little expense on training volunteers is nothing compared to having to pay a police officer’s salary every week for the same job. If money really is the issue then this is a good workaround. Although, police officers are the only ones with the power to make arrests but placing one or two on the task force is probably sufficient. Most animal protection teams are run by humane societies rather than the local law enforcement anyway so why not have the team created by law enforcement also have citizen members? It seems to work out well for them.

            Most people are willfully ignorant to the plight of animals. They know but they prefer not to see what is happening to them. If this wall of ignorance is removed then changes may start to happen. If the general public were educated more about animal cruelty they would probably want to help more and then maybe money won’t be such a barrier between humans and helping animals anymore.

Animals Have No Home In The Circus

Michael Schwartz

Humans would not enjoy entertainment at the expense of fellow humans torture and pain, so why should we allow the expense to be paid by the animals we love? In 1941, Disney produced an instant classic in the film Dumbo, which follows the life of an elephant who was taken away from the family he had known to perform as a circus elephant. Originally depicted as a cartoon, to perhaps lessen the depressed nature behind an animals life in a circus ring, the live action film produced in 2019 rings in a truer portrait of a mournful existence. The upbringing, training, and use of animals for the circus is an inhumane and barbaric practice that must be discontinued swiftly and immediately. The treatment which the animals are receiving on a daily basis in no way justifies any monetary or entertainment ends. This is a call for the banning of animal circuses.

            Before any performance takes place, every single animal, whether it be a tiger, elephant, monkey, or any other animal must undergo months of grueling training before they enter the ring. What does this training entail? Let’s start with the case of the elephants in training. A common practice in the field is to use bullhooks on these friendly giants. A bullhook is a long pole that has a sharp hook attached at the end. These hooks dig into the elephant’s sensitive flesh (usually used right behind the ears or ankles) causing extreme pain for the animal. Another cruel tactic used for almost all of the animals is a whip. The skin-crawling lashing is used merely for letting the animals know of what punishment awaits them if they do not quickly learn their stunts or behave in a manner according to the circus’s liking. Though it is not a competition, the most horrific allowance under the Animal Welfare Act is the allowed use of electric prods when training animals. The use of electric prods has drawn the attention of Dr. Temple Grandin, animal behaviourist, in the past. Not only do the electric prods create immense physical pain on contact, but they also “impair the animals’ immune system, stop weight gain, damage rumen function and reduce reproductive ability. Animals that are handled roughly and become excited or frightened will remember their experience and be much harder to handle the next time. Their level of anxiety or stress when entering the handling facility will be higher due to their memory of previous experiences.” The physical abuse circus animals take on a daily basis is well documented, but unfortunately, it is not the only method of torture they are dealing with. Coupling their physical mistreatment with their mental damages, circus animals are constantly left in a state of despair.

   A large percentage of the animals used in the circuses have been captured from their native habitats from very young ages. This theft and displacement places a distinctly different quality of life for all of the animals. Take primates as an example. Baboons, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, and other primates who are taken from their homes and placed into small, cramped cages live a life that is a stark contrast to what they were used to. Primates are widely known for living in close-knit communities, who live, travel, and communicate together, usually in large numbers. What is also known is the physiological horrors that animals must embrace when they are facing captivity. The tight housing of the animals, which is even seen in the off-season of the circuses, lead to unnatural forms of behavior such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing. Pacing is when an animal appears to be a “trance” as it continuously moves in the same motion over and over again. What is particularly saddening about this aspect is that the animals once used pacing as a means of stretching, exercising, and enjoying their day. But now, they are forced to barely shift around in their small cages, only furthering their anxieties and reminding them of the freedoms they once had. Another unfortunate habit the animals can develop is sham-chewing, which is the repetitive movement of the jaw, sham-chewing is another self-directed, deprivation stereotype and is commonly shown in sows kept in gestation crates.

In a fight to disband any circuses that benefits off of and continues the use of animals, it is essential to spread the awareness of the ongoings behind the scenes of these spectacles. Though the thought of the treatment of these poor animals brings in emotions of despair, it is encouraging to know that there is a wave of momentum on our side. The use of animals in entertainment has already been restricted or banned in cities across the U.S. and in countries worldwide. For instance, Bolivia, Greece, Israel, Peru, and Sweden have banned the use of all animals in circuses, and Britain has prohibited the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. There are a variety of options for wonderful, animal-free circuses, such as the famous Cirque Du Soleil. The captivation, and training of animals for our entertainment purposes is a barbaric tactic that has been shown to no longer be necessary. With action already being taken, it is vital to continue the momentum and not cease our hope of freeing animals from their torturers.

FDA, Milk up Your Mind

Áine Dillon

Spanning over the last few decades, there has been controversy growing in Europe and the United States about how plant-based milk alternatives can label their products. The debate surrounds which vowel the plant-based milk alternatives can use (milk with an ‘i,’ or mylk with a ‘y’). According to the Department of Agriculture, milk consumption has dropped 37% since 1970, and cow milk sales dropped from $15 billion in 2011to $12 billion in 2016. With the growing popularity and variety of plant-based milks, the cries from the dairy industry seem to be growing louder. The dairy industry is opposed to plant-based milks spelling milk with an ‘i,’ claiming that using the word ‘milk’ implies that the beverage has similar nutritional properties or taste to cow’s milk. However, will changing the vowel used in milk aid consumer knowledge? Or is it a ploy by the dairy industry to weaken their plant-based competitors?

Merriam-Webster defines milk as “a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young.” Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner, stated “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.” Using this definition of milk, it is clear that beverages made from almond, soy, cashew or hemp do not fit this definition. However, the dairy industry argues that a consumer may believe that almond milk has the same nutritional value as cow’s milk. What the FDA wants to avoid is having confused parents buying almond milk for their children, thinking that has the same nutritional value of cow’s milk, and the child having life-lasting conditions from being malnourished. Even though research shows that drinking milk is a good source of nutrients for children, there are many other ways to get the same nutrients, and recent studies have concluded that drinking milk is not necessary for children. Even further, many plant-based milks are fortified and contain many of the essential nutrients that cow’s milk offers, although none contain all the nutrients found in milk. 

However, the dairy industry claims that using the word milk implies that the beverage has similar fat, protein, salts, lactose, enzymes, vitamins to cow’s milk. However, simply looking at the nutritional value of the beverage compared to cow’s milk would exclude other milks that come from animals (such as goat’s milk or sheep’s milk). The question becomes if every type of milk (animal or plant-based) has a different nutritional makeup, why exclude the plant-based milks from using the ‘i,’ while allowing animal-based milks to use the ‘i.’ Similar rules by the FDA include defining butter to be dairy-based, therefore excluding oil-based spreads like margarine from using the word butter. However, if a food is not trying to be ‘butter’ then they can use the word. Therefore, peanut butter is still allowed to use the word butter because it is not intimidating butter. 

In 2013, a case was brought to a U.S. District court about the legality of products being labeled as soymilk or almond milk, and if they were misleading. The judge presiding on the case, Judge Samuel Conti, stated “Under plaintiffs’ logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper.” The judge concluded soy milk and almond milk are accurate descriptions of what the beverage is and are not misleading. 

Some argue that while labeling plant-based alternatives as milk with an ‘i’ is correct, plant-based alternatives companies should embrace the ‘y’ in mylk. Maybe they can be an indicator for consumers that this beverage does not come at the cost of forced pregnancies and inhumane treatment. Additionally, the change from i to y may not make a difference in sales either as the change most likely will not affect people who already consume non-dairy milks. Over the last 15 years there has been a 300% increase in veganism, and an estimated 70% of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant. Further, more people are aware of the ethical implications of consuming dairy due to the cruel treatment cows endure to produce milk constantly. The ethical, environmental, or dietary reasons for abstaining from drinking milk or consuming milk products will not change, no matter what vowel is used. However, it does enforce the idea that plant-based milk alternatives are lesser, or do not deserve the title of being milk. Further, more changes may come. Vegan butter, ice-cream and cheese might also need to change if the FDA finds milk to only apply to milks from animals. Currently, the FDA does allow for plant-based milk alternatives to use the ‘i,’ but growing concerns from the dairy industry may eliminate that choice.