The Lost Ideals of ‘Miss O’
April 4, 2008
Does anyone remember back in the eighties when the Oprah Winfrey Show addressed serious topics like AIDS and racism; when Oprah was often the only person who would touch such topics? Twenty or more years later and Oprah has devolved from the highest of journalistic integrity to become a demagogue whipping people up into an emotional frenzy about serious topics that merit a logical and well-reasoned approach, not an approach that leaves mascara running down the faces of her audience and Kleenex in short supply.
Today’s show was one of the rarer, which, instead of highlighting Oprah’s favorite t-shirt, her favorite political candidate, a book she thinks everyone should read, or giving away free stuff, had her audience’s attention directed towards puppy mills. Oprah began by saying the show should spark the interest of anyone who cares about the humane treatment of animals. Ironically, that did not include some of her guests which included Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), nor even Oprah herself who reproved herself for buying from breeders when there are supposedly so many unwanted animals in shelters who are being euthanized every day.
Oprah immediately had her audience emotional after paying tribute to her dearly-departed Cocker Spaniel Sophie via a video tribute. All I could think about while watching clips of Oprah with her beloved dog was how much I love my dogs and how because Oprah, who has long been suspected of pushing “pit bull” bans in Chicago, has such a distaste for “pit bulls” she has put the ownership of my beloved bully breeds in jeopardy. Hey Oprah, if I put a billboard next to Harpo Studios like Main Line Rescue did asking you to look into puppy mills but instead I ask you to give a fair shake to “pit bulls” would you do it?? Is that what it would take for you to stop pushing for legislation behind the scenes that puts the lives of mine and other people’s dogs in peril? Do you not think that we love our dogs with as much passion as you do yours? How would you feel if someone said your breed of choice was an inherent killing machine and highlighted the rarest of rare phenomenons — a dog mauling — and made it look like a common occurrence particular to that breed? (and by the way, “pit bull” isn’t even a breed but a slang term used by dog fighters, gang bangers, and the media which can refer to any medium- or large-sized breed of dog). You can sit there in tears watching footage of Fort Worth Animal Control euthanizing unadopted dogs but have you any care for the hundreds if not thousands of dogs mislabeled “pit bull” that get killed in Chicago and other cities across the nation thanks to the misunderstanding of people like you? You must’ve been overjoyed when Chicago Animal Care and Control stopped allowing “pit bulls” to be adopted out of their shelter. Perhaps your film crew could go to Chicago ACC and film footage of all the “pit bulls” who walk through the front door and are carried out the back in Hefty bags.
Oh but look at me digressing before I’ve even really exposed Oprah’s latest and greatest hypocrisy via her show’s emotion-driven shoddy, lacking-in-proper-research propaganda piece. There weren’t as many criticisms to lob at the ‘O’ as I thought there might be, but still, the hypocrisy of Oprah’s show today was astounding. While she showed footage of puppy mills in Pennsylvania, again sending her audience through a labyrinth of emotional highs and lows, she and her staff failed to research the animal rights group Humane Society of the United States (which was repeatedly referred to throughout the show as “the humane society” as if to liken them to local humane societies which actually run shelters, unlike the HSUS). Perhaps it would interest Miss O to know that the HSUS’ Wayne Pacelle, whom Oprah had on her show today, has said things like,
“We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Animal People, May, 1993.
“We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States … We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.” Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the United States, Full Cry Magazine, October 1, 1990.
And perhaps it would further interest Miss O to know that spokespersons from PETA, with whom Oprah was supposedly in talks with about posing nude for their anti-fur campaign, have said things like this:
“In the end, I think it would be lovely if we stopped this whole notion of pets altogether.” Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Newsday, 2/21/88.
“For one thing, we would no longer allow breeding. People could not create different breeds. There would be no pet shops. If people had companion animals in their homes, those animals would have to be refugees from the animal shelters and the streets. You would have a protective relationship with them just as you would with an orphaned child. But as the surplus of cats and dogs (artificially engineered by centuries of forced breeding) declined, eventually companion animals would be phased out, and we would return to a more symbiotic relationship – enjoyment at a distance.” Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), The Harper’s Forum Book, Jack Hitt, ed., 1989, p.223.
“Pet ownership is an absolutely abysmal situation brought about by human manipulation.” Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), “Just Like Us?”, Harper’s, August 1988, p. 50.
“Let us allow the dog to disappear from our brick and concrete jungles–from our firesides, from the leather nooses and chains by which we enslave it.” John Bryant, Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of A Changing Ethic, Washington People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, (PETA), 1982, p. 15.
Is the agenda not clear with statements like those above? They want an end to domestic pet ownership and even animal agriculture. Do you believe in no-kill shelters Oprah because the HSUS doesn’t? Do you eat meat Oprah? Because if the HSUS and other animal rights groups have their way, you may become a vegan whether you like it or not.
Also, you might want to ask Mr. Pacelle, since it doesn’t look like your staff did, why the HSUS held on to undercover footage of what appeared to be downer cows in a beef processing plant in California for so long when that beef was allowed to enter the food supply resulting in the largest beef recall in American history. Ask him if the HSUS might have hung on to that footage just long enough for that tainted beef to enter into the food supply so that it would become as big a national topic of conversation as it has become, possibly making lobbying efforts by the HSUS easier, which could eventually lead to the end of animal agriculture as we know it. Ask him if he thought it humane to serve possible tainted beef from downer cows to school children in their school lunches.
That’s why when emotionalism is applied to topics like the suffering of animals, people whip out their checkbooks or contact their legislators (as Oprah instructed her Oprahphiles to do at the end of today’s show) and have no idea that their money isn’t going to help animals, but in the case of the HSUS, is simply going into their coffers which allows them to lobby for legislation that adversely affects pet owners’/breeders’ rights, that would end hunting, that could quite possibly make it impossible for anyone but corporations like Monsanto to farm/ranch.
Perhaps puppy mills persist because they are lucrative not only for those who profit from puppy peddling, but for those who highlight puppy peddling in order to fund-raise. And while Miss O has asked her audience to contact their legislators requesting that they change laws regarding puppy mills, what will probably happen, as so often has occurred in the past, is a crack down on responsible breeders. After all, those puppy mills don’t just turn out puppies for profit, they turn out great footage which has seen animal rights groups’ donations increase by millions of dollars.
Indeed, the HSUS does not appear to be interested in saving animals at all. In fact, the opposite appears to be true. Nathan Winograd, no-kill advocate and author of Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America, referred to the HSUS, among other groups, as “kill-oriented traditionalists” (184) noting that,
“…it was the shelter leaders themselves who doomed the [no-kill] effort from the start. In an astonishing keynote address, Roger Caras of the Humane Society of the United States who would later go on to lead the ASPCA, likened free roaming dogs and cats to ‘inhabitants of an interstellar craft…brought here with the purpose of disrupting our ecosystem.’ He described them as a threat of the highest magnitude, damaging property and decimating wildlife, and the notion of creating successful programs to save them as so impossible that it was ‘not worthy of a passing daydream’.” (22-23)
In other words, domesticated pets are non-indigenous species and are a blight on the ecosystem. This ideology is called “nativism” and it is why many animal rights (AR) groups have no interest in saving domesticated pets. In their view, domesticated pets are covered with the stink of humans since, according to the AR view, domesticated pets are products of human selective breeding and manipulation. Perhaps this is why the HSUS is also opposed to TNR (Trap-Neuter-Release) programs for feral cats and has called for the culling of feral cats as well as the arrest and prosecution of those who care for feral cats.
A mentality like the HSUS’ concerning feral cats (which are often the result of abandonment on the part of a few irresponsible pet owners) is why Winograd called pet overpopulation a myth. Indeed, these animal rights organizations need to keep pounding away at the idea that it is an irresponsible public, and only an irresponsible public, that is to blame for the supposed pet overpopulation problem in order to protect the entrenched bureaucracy in shelters that keeps the killing going. And while Winograd did not address it, many shelters in the U.S. have such low populations of pets that they must import them from across the country and around the world from places like China, Caribbean countries, and Mexico. Shelters have also been known to transport animals from shelter to shelter to pad their intake numbers in order to “prove” there is a pet overpopulation problem, serving to facilitate the passage of legislation like mandatory spay/neuter laws, which, when passed in enough cities and counties across the nation will see domestic pets becoming scarce, which not so surprisingly results in the accomplishment of the AR agenda to end domestic pet ownership. And yet Oprah maintains, without really knowing, that the reason so many animals are being put down in shelters is because people aren’t spaying or neutering their pets or because people are buying from breeders and pet shops.
It’s unfortunate too that Oprah would say out of one side of her mouth that responsible breeders always take dogs back no matter how long it’s been since the dogs were sold, which is true, and say out of the other side of her mouth that she will never buy from a breeder again. If it is true that anywhere from 33% to 50% of dogs in shelters are pure-bred, well, where do you think a lot of those dogs come from? And if a crack down on breeders is the result of Oprah’s show today, which it almost certainly will be, the targets will most likely be the quality breeders, not the puppy millers, because while as Wayne Pacelle of the HSUS stated puppy mills are a “cash crop,” they are a cash crop for both the puppy millers and the animal rights groups that likewise exploit puppy mill dogs in order to fund-raise.
So when Pacelle describes dogs/puppies at puppy mills as a “commodity” there is more than a hint of hypocrisy there. But it just wouldn’t be the HSUS if there wasn’t hypocrisy in some form in addition to some incorporation of race, religion, or creed into the mix to muddle the issue, and today’s show did not disappoint in that regard. It just so happened that the undercover footage of puppy mills shown on Oprah’s show today highlighted the Amish in Pennsylvania, many of whom are accused of being puppy millers. And, of course, the Amish make excellent fodder because as everyone knows the Amish hold archaic views, particularly as regards animals, believing they can use work horses, for gulp, work, or that cats on the farm should hunt mice, or that dogs are good for hunting, or that chickens should lay eggs. You know, preposterous ideas like those.
Indeed, the Amish, as described on Oprah’s show, hold the jaw-dropping belief that “man is to dominate animals.” This sneering insinuation of a lack of humane concern for animals is anti-Christian (and anti-Semitic, and “anti” any other religious denomination that holds the Bible, or the book of Genesis to be the gospel truth), because it refers back to the Bible and Christians’ supposed incorrect and antiquated view that man has dominion over the animals:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26).
Dominion need not translate into animal cruelty or inhumane treatment of animals, and if and when it does, Christians (and many other religions) believe that there is judgment for such actions. I have had the rare privilege of being allowed a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Mennonites, of which the Amish are a sect, and I can tell you unequivocally that the Mennonites must necessarily treat their animals well because their livelihood depends on it. It is unfortunate that the things people don’t understand give way so readily to prejudice, particularly on a show that prides itself on being so open-minded.
Undoubtedly Oprah thought today’s show approached the topic of puppy mills with an open-mind given that she tried to explain the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy mill. However, Oprah may have been duped, just like so many Americans are duped by animal rights organizations that make a buck off of the backs of suffering animals using pictures and footage of animals that are exploited and mistreated; animals who continue to suffer precisely because their suffering is so very profitable.
Given Oprah’s prominence, it behooved her to thoroughly investigate the HSUS before allowing Wayne Pacelle on her show. Additionally, given Oprah’s credentials as a journalist she should have allowed a rebuttal from those she alleges are puppy millers (and an interview with a responsible breeder would’ve been nice), particularly the Amish who so often find themselves objects of derision and excessive governmental intrusion.
But excessive governmental intrusion is precisely what will be the result of today’s Oprah show. Instead of the focus being placed on those facilities that truly do abuse animals, it will be the reputable, quality breeders who will be scrutinized. This is ironic given that the solution to puppy mills is a simple one. In fact, no more legislation is even required. The public must simply be made aware of the problem and buy their pets from a quality, reputable breeder or from a shelter. Unfortunately, all Oprah accomplished with her show today was to make it that much more easy for animal rights groups’ to fund-raise and/or lobby for legislation which will go on to negate pet owners’/breeders’ property rights, which will make the AR agenda to end domestic pet ownership and animal agriculture a reality faster than Oprah can give away a Pontiac.
Executive Secretary and Illinois Director, Responsible Dog Owners of the Western States
Director, Responsible Dog Owners Group of Illinois