Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hostile Book Review: The Bond

A Book to Borrow, Not Buy


Title: The Bond

Author: Wayne Pacelle

Date: 2011

Publisher: Harper Collins

ISBN: 978-0-06-196978-2

Length: 423 pages

Quote: “[T]he Farm Bureau and the Cattle­men’s Association...would rather have their members pocket a couple of hundred dollars for a horse they don’t want rather than pay a couple of hundred dollars for humane euthanasia.”

Wow. Who wouldn’t? Think about this for a minute. You live with an old, toothless horse who just broke a leg. You can’t prolong the horse’s suffering much longer, even if you want to. Your options are to sell the horse’s body for meat, in which case the horse will be slaughtered quickly by shooting or throat-cutting and put to good use, or to pay someone to give the horse a lethal injection, in which case the carcass will become completely useless, a ton of toxic waste. You’ve lived long enough to watch a few animals die by shooting, throat-cutting, and lethal injection, so you’re not naïve enough to imagine that the lethal injection is quicker. What do you choose?

Maybe a more appropriate question is, what’s wrong with people who emote about the logical, humanitarian, Green alternative presented above being more cruel than the idiot’s choice? I’m not sure, but I think Wayne Pacelle’s basic problem is that he thinks that altruism is a virtue.

Most of what  humans like to pass off as altruistic behavior is simply camouflage behavior, but genuinely altruistic behavior is (duh) self-destructive. What Jesus actually taught was “Love your neighbor as yourself,” recognizing that your self and your neighbor’s self may be said to have approximately equal value. The altruism that enables your neighbor’s selfishness is a vice. It’s good neither to be a bully nor to let your neighbor be one. 

I am not saying that shooting horses is pleasant. I am not saying that having given this horse a place to grow old and toothless in peace wasn’t a nice thing to do. I am saying that when it becomes necessary to put a horse out of its misery, in this scenario the “altruistic” choice is pretty obviously the worst choice for all concerned.

This may be the most unfavorable book review I'll ever publish; I am not, actually, claiming that I reached page 309 of this sickening sales pitch for totalitarianism with a genuinely detached interest in understanding Pacelle’s problem. Nausea set in around page 186. This is the chapter about Hurricane Katrina, in which Pacelle made himself look good to many people while doing something filthy.

He describes a New Orleans man, “Richard,” who stayed with his dog in the attic of their flooded-out house for three days, then built a raft and tried floating through the streets. “Authorities...ordered him to evacuate but without the dog,” who wound up in a Humane Society shelter in Ohio while Richard wound up in North Carolina. According to Richard, “I’d lost everything. I wasn’t working. I was trying to feel my way in a new place. Princess was all I had.” However, after weeks of searching, “Princess” was located in a shelter where “managers were reluctant to give her up, because she cowered from a man at one point in her stay and triggered suspi­cions of past abuse.” Luckily for Richard, somebody even in the Humane Society “believed that Richard was sincere” and persuaded the dog-nappers to “relent.”

Consider the viewpoint of the dog Princess. Men separated her, against her will, from her human; dragged her off to what must have felt like the other side of the world; locked her in a cage among a bunch of strangers, many of whom would have had infectious diseases, all threatened with the gas chamber. Probably dosed her with medications that had nasty side effects, too, since animals can hardly survive in shelters without them. This Siberian Husky “cowered” from one of those men? He should only have given thanks that she didn’t attack him!

Then I think of the creatures at the shelter in Ohio...I suppose it’s just as well for them that Pacelle doesn’t tell us which town.

An essential part of this story is missing. The narrative needs to continue, “Of course, that shelter has been shut down now. As a reminder to our more competent employees, and as part of their terms of probation, the control freaks who interfered with this dog’s restoration to her owner agreed to spend the rest of their lives working as kennel cleaners, paid only in kibble, and wearing muzzles to remind everyone that they must never be allowed a voice in any kind of decisions. Our staff are now required to recite before every encounter with a pet owner or prospective owner, ‘Shelters exist only because we haven’t dared to confront the animal haters themselves. Putting an animal in an animal shelter is abuse. I, having allowed an animal to be put into this shelter, have no right to question anyone who is so much more kind and more brave than I am as to take the animal out of this place. Please pray that God can forgive me for my part in the abuse of these animals.’ And of course, when owners are looking for pets we have inadvertently taken into shelters, we now immediately deliver the animals to wherever the owners are, and kiss the owners’ feet if they don’t prosecute us for pet-napping, for which federal law now sentences us to twenty years in animal-shelter-like conditions.”

But, of course, it doesn’t. Pacelle is not trying to clean up his own house here. He goes on to describe how local police confiscated another dog and TV viewers saw the dog’s seven-year-old human crying himself sick. Pacelle can hardly stop congratulating himself for his successful exploitation of this image. Thanks to his lobbying, disaster responses now have to help the Humane Pet Genocide Society confiscate more pets and direct “suspicions of past abuse” toward their grieving owners in order to deflect attention from the fundamental abusiveness that defines even the best animal shelters. More dogs like Princess can be stolen from more people like Richard! Hurray for Pacelle, Pacelle seems to think, for giving disaster victims yet another way to suffer and be “altruistic”!

Does Pacelle actually like animals? I think, in some weird way, he does—although he shows no appreciation for cats, nor any historical awareness that places where all the cats had to be “kept safe inside” were places where the local human population went extinct due to bubonic plague, and it served’em right. There’s an ominous difference between Pacelle’s book and books by people like Roger Caras and Cleveland Amory, who actually lived with and loved animals. Pacelle has little to say about having bonded with any individual animal, or about appreciating the valuable role domestic cats and dogs have played in displacing less human-friendly predators at the tops of ecological food chains. His own twisted “altruistic” view of “reverence for life” is that he doesn’t even need to do his own duty toward controlling the numbers of pests like flies and mosquitoes, so how could he be expected to appreciate the role of neighborhood cats in controlling rats and roaches.

Worse than that, it becomes clear, he’s not really so much interested in animals as he is in building a bigger government. More regulations. I suppose it’s possible that he honestly thinks bigger government and more regulations will keep everyone “safe,” although he’s not old enough to have been taught this as a point of doctrine, like a faith in angels, and he’s too old to go on believing it as a literal truth, like a faith in Santa Claus.

A vital part of twentieth-century history, from which many twentieth-century Americans were too dogmatic to learn much, was the enactment and repeal of Prohibition. When governments try to enforce laws that don’t make sense to the people, governments merely lose trust and respect; people build careers on breaking the nonsensical laws, and nobody thinks less of them for doing so. What I always want to ask regulation-crazed people like Pacelle is why they want their cause to be handled as clumsily as Prohibition, when with a little forethought and common sense they could let it be handled as expertly as the idea that needing a six-seat vehicle to get yourself around the block is normal.

Pacelle laments, over the course of pages 135 to 175, that local laws didn’t eradicate animal fighting. He gloats that adding federal laws, putting celebrities like Michael Vick in jail, will surely eradicate animal fighting. Ah yes...just like Prohibition eradicated alcoholism.

I live near a place where cockfights used to occur. Decent Baptist-types didn’t like having drinking, gambling, and brawling out on the other side of one of our defining mountains, but since most of us were familiar with chickens, what the idea of watching chickens fight brought to our minds was primarily laziness. Chickens are very social creatures, very status-conscious, and one way they gain status is by fighting. Of course, the fighting is mostly ritual displays. A pair of roosters can hop back and forth over each other’s heads for half an hour, threatening each other with their claws and heel spurs, but mostly displaying their moves and plumage, without either bird being hurt. The birds are graceful and may have pretty feathers, but decent Baptist-types don’t waste the time to sit down and watch them fight.

Of course, as Pacelle mentions briefly, a commercial cockfight is not like these normal, harmless bits of natural animal behavior. Aside from the fact that it probably takes a few alcoholic drinks to make a human adult want to watch chickens fight, and probably most of the humans found at a cockfight are drinking, gambling, and worse, these degenerate humans have worked out other ways to make a cockfight “interesting.” The birds are—drugged, Pacelle says, but in this case “drugged” is a euphemism. They are poisoned. It takes literal “fire in the belly,” or doses of things that make them sick and irritable, to give even Game roosters an incentive to fight to the death when they have no quarrel with each other. Game roosters like to fight, and they like an audience, but normally they’d stop fighting when they got tired. They wouldn’t often kill each other, either, if humans hadn’t attached razor blades to their heel spurs. A rooster wearing these artificial spurs might try to leap gracefully over his opponent’s head, and inadvertently gash his opponent’s head to the bone. And just in case what comes to his little chicken mind should be something like “Oh well, he’s whipped, now I can go home and brag about it,” he’s in a pit where he can be goaded to fight until the opponent is dead.

Documenting and publicizing the facts of animal abuses, e.g. cockfighting, just might work to turn people against the practice. What enacting federal laws against these quiet, private, local affairs does is: create a boondoggle. Cockfighting, fortunately, is not as addictive as whisky. A few determined people still do it, just to show what they think of the Nanny State, but television had mostly replaced cockfighting before Pacelle even started lobbying for his federal law. So what happens next is that tax money is now permanently directed toward paying an unnecessary person to do an unnecessary job.

At best it’s a waste. At worst the federal employees will become aware that they’re unnecessary, and will try to justify their continued employment by setting up an attack on some law-abiding slob like David Koresh (whose crime, if any, would have been tax evasion). And meanwhile the federal employees will be distracted from prosecuting real violations, as in the Koresh case, by receiving tips from violators of the law...the Waco Disaster had no noticeable effect on the methamphetamine trade, nor will federal laws against cockfighting have much effect on those who consider cockfighting a sport.

On the other hand, sharing facts with people has no backlash effect, and creates no boondoggles. All you have to do is make sure the facts are true and reasonable. Prohibition never stopped Americans from drinking alcohol, but a better understanding of alcoholism has reduced our alcohol consumption. Probably 99% of humankind would find the facts of commercial cockfighting disgusting enough to shut down that business, even in the places where it’s continued to exist after television became available. Probably 99% of humankind would never agree that poisoning an old toothless horse is better than shooting it.

Some of Pacelle’s facts are true. They have been more sanely handled by better writers. You can’t trust a man who wants the right to kidnap, hold for ransom, and arbitrarily withhold from ransom, the animal companions of disaster victims...but there are levelheaded documents, like Old Macdonald’s Factory Farm (which is recommended), that describe more abuses of animals on large factory farms than Pacelle does. Cockfighting literature documents, in euphemistic terms, the abuse of Game roosters; what Pacelle fails to mention is that, when these handsome birds are “transported” and sold to people who don’t participate in cockfighting, the hens lay big brown eggs, and both sexes can be rewarding pets once you’ve earned their respect. (My first pet was a Game hen; her mate, formerly a real “feathered warrior,” accepted my father as his superior officer, stopped fighting, and became a pet too.)

Most of Pacelle’s conclusions are self-serving, unconvincing, and nauseous. He says the legislation he’s tried to get enacted, concerning animal breeders, wouldn’t even affect most animal breeders...but he doesn’t actually discuss the possibility that he could endorse any breeders of domestic animals, because the most “altruistic” view of animals is of course a long-distance view of wild animals doing absolutely nothing for the benefit of humankind in nature parks. (Of which, by the way, he’d like to turn my home town into one. Local people have just said no, loudly and clearly, but Pacelle is still blathering on about the need to obliterate family farms to create “wildlife corridors” for creatures, such as bears and rattlesnakes, that Pacelle’s kind of people find more “respectable” than cats, dogs, and horses.) He tries to play it down in this book because he’s trying to present himself as a lover of all animals rather than a hater of your and my animals, but he can’t stop spewing “neuter and spay all domestic animals regardless of their value” rhetoric, either, which makes his organization a Humane Pet Genocide Society.

And, of course, don’t ever buy an animal from a friend or a pet store...everyone should always be “altruistic” and adopt a survivor of a Humane Genocide Society shelter; and never mind that the elitist bigots at the Humane Genocide Society tend increasingly to think that animals would be better off dead than in a household where the combined annual income is below six figures. (Recommendation, Gentle Readers: if you go to an animal shelter to adopt a pet, and someone there has the nerve to ask any questions about your income, say “It’s enough that I can afford to buy an animal from someone more civil than you,” and walk out.)

And, of course, Pacelle doesn’t actually admit that the effect of his preaching to pet owners along the East Coast has already been to make it impossible for people to adopt even one puppy or kitten without enduring months of dominance displays from Humane Genocide Society control freaks...who will, of course, abort the whole process if there’s any hint of a possibility that the family might want animals for the traditional purpose of teaching children about birth. 

Many Northeastern cities have already seen so much depletion of the lovable animal population that their shelters are having to import animals from other parts of the United States—Pacelle admits this, without shame. (He doesn't discuss the probability that these animals have been stolen outright from loving homes, but I personally know people whose cat was stolen by Humane Society shelter "volunteers," and newspapers have documented that the petnappers at the same shelter stole a little boy's puppy and held it for ransom at its full market value.) 

After all, if you can’t get a dog or cat, you can always pretend that some less friendly, less useful creature, like a skunk or a Central Park pigeon, is your “pet.” Maybe you can make pets of some of those rats and roaches that move into “Kitty Inside” neighborhoods! Isn’t it more “altruistic” to try to bond with an animal that’s not going to bond with you, or do anything useful for you?

And, of course, it’s “altruistic” meanwhile for you to “adopt,” rather than buying, a pet through Pacelle’s Humane Genocide Society. Pacelle does not here discuss why adopting a pet costs more than buying a similar pet...but that’s all very “altruistic.” Pacelle needs all that money to go on lobbying for more regulations, which he says aren’t designed to be used to harass ordinary citizens, but we all know they will be so used if enacted.

The scary thing is that, in Pacelle’s writing as in that of the late aforementioned David Koresh, I find no evidence that either man has any idea what a total jerk he’s presenting himself as being. Because, when people try to make rules for other people—whether the rules are “A physical attraction constitutes ‘spiritual marriage’ between your wife and me, so I have a right to violate your marriage” or “Domestic cats and dogs should become extinct, and people should try to domesticate other animals that aren’t naturally suited to domestication,” or perhaps “Nobody should ever drink alcohol” or “Everybody should follow the diet that seems currently to be working for Michael Bloomberg”—they always come across as total jerks. And they need to be told so, because, if they’re ever going to change, the change needs to begin with their being told that they’re acting like total jerks.

I don’t recommend that anyone actually buy The Bond. If you want even more of a gross-out than I’ve given you, check it out from the library. Then return it and explain to the librarian why it really doesn’t deserve a place in the library. And if the library keeps a copy, and someone happens to vomit on page 186, this reviewer won’t shed a single tear.

Save the kittens—boycott this book, its author, and his organization.