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May 01, 2012

They’re Back

The state of Ohio announced yesterday that Marian Thompson will get back the five wild animals who escaped the massacre after her unhinged husband set free dozens of other animals in Zanesville last October. Remember, Terry Thompson acquired more than 50 dangerous wild animals and housed them on his property, traded firearms to acquire some of them, recklessly released them after getting out of federal prison for gun charges, and then scattered chicken parts around his driveway before he shot and killed himself, leaving the Muskingum County Sheriff’s Office to deal with the large and powerful creatures as dusk approached. Thompson, who had a previous cruelty conviction, kept tigers, lions, and bears in what officials described as "big dog cages."

Bear

Marian Thompson allowed these inhumane and substandard conditions to persist and escalate, and her association with this incident should disqualify her from re-claiming these animals. Hasn’t her family created enough trauma for these poor animals, and placed the community of Zanesville in enough risk?

It’s now been 22 months since The HSUS signed an agreement with agriculture leaders and key officials in Ohio that included a call to ban private ownership of dangerous wild animals. We insisted on that provision because the state has been such an outlier on this issue. Last week, finally, the Ohio Senate passed legislation to crack down on casual ownership of wild animals as pets. But the House still needs to take action and pass a bill without any further weakening amendments, in order for Ohio to have any meaningful policies on this issue.

We should not have to wait for another fatal incident or passively stand by while a collector like Marian Thompson reacquires leopards, a brown bear, and monkeys that she and her late husband should never have had in the first place. It makes no sense for private citizens to keep dangerous wild animals. There are almost never good outcomes for these animals or for the people around them.

Speaking of bad judgment and unfiltered persistence, a gaggle of San Francisco chefs is belly-aching about California’s looming ban on the sale of foie gras from force-fed ducks. Somehow, these people say that the state’s restaurant industry will be adversely affected if the sale of foie gras derived from the process of force-feeding is prohibited. Do they not realize that foie gras is a table treat? If people don’t eat it, they’ll eat some other morsel, and the total financial picture for the state won’t change worth a whit.

State lawmakers passed this legislation seven years ago and the state’s sole foie gras producer supported the compromise bill, even urging the governor to sign it into law. The foie gras industry argued for a seven-and-a-half-year phase-out period to enable it to find an alternative way to produce foie gras that doesn’t involve force-feeding. Rather than spending the time productively, the industry has waited until the eleventh hour in an effort to manufacture an artificial crisis. It’s time to see the law go into effect, and the chips and foie gras fall as they may.

The man who has it spot-on is former Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, who authored the 2004 bill against force feeding. "I believe that force feeding is a very inhumane practice,” he wrote in a letter to lawmakers yesterday. “It is very painful to the animals. If these chefs have any doubt about that, they could sit at a table and have someone cram whatever food they like, including foie gras, down their throats and see how they like it."

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