Animal Cruelty, Conduct Unbecoming…Posted by Stephen Wells, ALDF's Executive Director on June 29, 2009
The United States military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law of the land for U.S. military personnel no matter where they are stationed. Passed in 1950 the Code applies to all branches of the military and “Punitive Articles” cover everything from burglary and writing bad checks, to malingering and mutiny. (“Forcing A Safeguard” is also illegal and may be punishable by death. If I sign up I’ll be sure to find out what that means!) Unfortunately, for the past 59 years, there has been no Article specifically prohibiting cruelty to animals. That may soon change.
According to the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes, the 2009 Commission on Military Justice–“comprising law professors, private practitioners and other legal experts”–will recommend that the Secretary of Defense include an animal cruelty Article in the Code. It’s too early to say what the law would actually look like but, Walter Cox, a former chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces is quoted as saying, "It would model, in some fashion, some of the more progressive statues in the States." That’s good news.
The lack of a specific animal cruelty Article did not mean that the military condoned or allowed animal cruelty. In some cases, charges could be brought under a more general Article that addressed conduct that would discredit the armed forces. But including it in the Code sends a strong message to military personnel and the world about just where the U.S. military stands on animal cruelty. It will also give military police, prosecutors and courts-martial more tools with which to combat animal cruelty.