Friends of Animals’ Position Statement on New York’s Proposed S 7765
“An Act to Amend the Agriculture and Markets Law, in Relation to Prohibiting the Anal and Genital Electrocution of Animals”
November, 2004, New York — Friends of Animals, a non-profit animal rights organization, has been confronting the fur trade every year since 1957, with an emphasis on New York, the hub of the U.S. fur industry.
New York State Senator Malcolm A. Smith and State Assembly member Scott Stringer have introduced legislation to ban the anal and genital electrocution of animals killed for their fur—but not to ban killing animals for their fur.
These lawmakers are doubtless intending to do a good deed; but in our view the proponents of this bill are misusing their representatives’ time and resources.
Although the bill acknowledges an ethical problem with New York’s fur production, the sponsor’s Memo submitted by Senator Smith describes the “justification” for continuing a regulated form of production, stating, in part:
Setting aside temporarily the debate over whether killing an animal for some exogenous benefit, such as the value of their fur, is morally and/or legally permissible… we have an interest in requiring those who kill animals to do so in a way that is adjudged humane and comports with the best practices as recognized by the “fur farming” industry.
Friends of Animals will not agree to set aside temporarily the debate over whether killing an animal is morally acceptable. An animal rights movement does not set aside animal rights.
The bill means that it’s acceptable to kill fur bearing animals by gas and pile them in heaps. The bill implicitly legalizes killing them by neck-breaking, a grotesque method of suffocation. Nowhere does it expressly rule out the bludgeoning of fur bearing animals to death. All would be legally accepted methods under this bill.
CBS’s 60 Minutes has aired video footage, obtained by Friends of Animals, of neck-breaking on a mink farm in the state of Washington. What the audience witnessed was unconscionable suffering. Neck-breaking is used on 85% of small fur farms.
Because killing a living animal requires sufficient physical trauma to force systemic shut-down, all of the legal killing methods will necessarily cause physical and psychological suffering. Most important, changing the mode of death fails to acknowledge that their lives are not ours to take at all.
The sponsor’s Memo submitted by Senator Smith says that it “stands to reason that no animal should suffer needlessly.” Friends of Animals wishes to remind the Senator that no killing for vanity is acceptable. In the 21st century, fur is a quintessentially frivolous product.
It would be better for the Senator to remind the public that fur is not necessary than to support a law which is likely to give consumers the impression that killing is, perhaps, not so bad. For this is how such things historically work.
In the 1980’s, for example, animal advocates had shown the general public the problem with veal. People routinely refused to eat the flesh of young dairy calves, understanding that doing so caused cows and their calves to suffer. Today, the voice of animal advocacy has been so muted that even veal seems to be acceptable to the public, as long as it is the purportedly more carefully produced pink veal. In the state of New York, we have witnessed a campaign to get restaurants to pledge to serve only pink veal instead of the white version—thus sending the message that selecting a certain kind of veal is not so bad after all—perhaps even praiseworthy.
The gradual watering down of advocacy can only happen because advocates know that other animals cannot hold people accountable for selling out their interests. But, whether they can or not, Friends of Animals will.
We have set out to stop the use of fur in this society. We refuse to tacitly condone fur that is produced using industry standards. Industry standards are never an acceptable guide when the issue is advocating the interests of living, feeling beings.
We will not capitulate. The fur industry needs to go, and it needs to go now.