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July 08, 2013

The Repercussions of Callousness, Carelessness, and Cruelty

I often say there are bad outcomes all around when humans are bad to animals. When we at The HSUS work with law enforcement on raids of dogfights and cockfights, we often find other criminal behavior is taking place in these situations, like narcotics trafficking and illegal firearms possession. In homes where there is cruelty to animals, there are typically other forms of domestic violence toward children and girlfriends or spouses. And on industrialized factory farms, we often see fouling of the environment with massive manure loads and the routine dosing of healthy animals with antibiotics, which can produce antibiotic resistant bacteria and threaten public health.

A number of industries we fight have also had a huge hand in allowing invasive species to colonize U.S. soil and create havoc.

There are countless nutria – in the millions, perhaps – inhabiting Louisiana, Maryland and other states, competing with native species, weakening levees, and otherwise wearing out their welcome. These nutria, who resemble beavers in appearance, are native to South America and became established here after they escaped or were released from U.S.-based fur farms.

Wild piglets
iStockphoto

In Florida, one of the most troublesome invasive species is the Burmese python. Peer-reviewed studies from wildlife scientists have discovered that many small and mid-sized animals – from possums to raccoons to bobcats – in surveyed areas are severely depleted or gone, due perhaps to the predation from the Burmese pythons. These animals are native to Southeast Asia, and came to the U.S. as a result of the exotic pet trade. Some pet owners have released them, and others escaped after a hurricane hit south Florida several years ago. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the commerce in Burmese pythons, but has not yet acted on trade restrictions for five other species of large constrictor snakes at risk for colonizing the U.S. and wreaking their own havoc.

Last year, Kansas passed a law banning people from possessing or transporting wild pigs, and in recent weeks New York and Vermont passed similar measures. These hyper-productive animals now number in the millions, and are found in as many as 35 states. They are here, in part, because they escaped from private hunting ranches where they were offered up on a menu of animals to kill in fenced enclosures. In Pennsylvania, which is home to a number of these canned hunts, the state legislature and Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett teamed up to pass legislation to allow the trade in wild pigs to continue – despite concerns raised by the pro-hunting folks at the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the Pennsylvania Federation Of Sportsmen’s Club, and from environmentalists and from The HSUS, all concerned about the ethics of captive hunting as well as the issue of invasive species threatening natural resources and the agriculture industry.

When someone is doing something wrong to animals, typically there will be financial, public health, public safety or ecological costs, frequently of a broad and lasting nature. When we are good to animals, there are good outcomes on down the line.

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