The Law Should Regard Dogfighters and Factory Farmers as Part of the Same Breed

Posted by Carter Dillard, ALDF's Director of Litigation on April 4, 2011

It should do so because factory farmers and dogfighters both attempt to profit from the suffering of animals, and this trait sets them apart from the humane people that the basic principles of animal cruelty law, and our consciences, tells us we should be. Of course there are differences between factory farmers and dogfighters: the level of brutality and sadism, the "benefits" factory farmers claim to bestow on society, and the culture surrounding the practices. But the willingness they share to exploit animals by causing their suffering is more striking than their differences because it is a characteristic very few people seem to have.

How many people do you know who really exploit animals in this way? That is, actually cause the animals before them to suffer, to take whatever tenderness, affection and compassion they might have had in their hearts for those creatures and exchange it for cash, cold figures on a balance sheet, or the fleeting kick of the blood “sport.” Would you treat those persons differently if you knew they did that? Factory farmers would never concede that their actions are similar to those of dogfighters, perhaps because what they do is generally accepted by society. Of course, our society knows little to nothing about how meat and dairy are produced – much the way we know little about the testing that goes on in labs, or what happens behind the scenes of a circus. Legislators in Iowa and Florida are actually trying to make it a crime to take pictures inside factory farms there. But society needed to learn the truth about dogfighting — needed to see those photos, the footage — to recently criminalize it. The truth had to come out for the law to evolve and prohibit the profiteering from suffering that we know to be wrong.

And the same is happening with factory farming as states – often through a referendum that gets around legislators comfortably nestled in the pockets of the factory farm lobby – ban certain devices and practices like battery cages, gestation crates, and the production of foie gras. The nuances of which species they exploit and their public image aside, dogfighters, factory farmers and everyone else willing to profit by causing animals to suffer share a disturbing characteristic: they lack empathy, enough to hurt animals in order to line their pockets. We make a step, as a society, towards being more human, more humane, when we proclaim our difference from them, and see dogfighters, factory farmers and others who cause animals to suffer as part of the same problem.

Peter Singer makes the fine point that factory farming may be worse than dogfighting because in those factories the quantum of suffering is so much greater. But we can see that in addition to what we find objectionable about the consequences of our behavior, the creation of suffering, there is something independently wrong with the person willing to profit from the suffering before they ever make it happen, wrong that they would want it to happen. Compassionate and humane people, the sort of people the basic principles underlying animal cruelty law tell us to be, don’t want that. The law should reflect our difference – the real difference – from those that do, and do so uniformly, eliminating the false or trivial distinctions between dogfighters and factory farmers, and be consistent, logical, and willing to express its integrity on this point.

14 thoughts on “The Law Should Regard Dogfighters and Factory Farmers as Part of the Same Breed

  1. Rana Adamchick says:

    Why not go after the shelters that are putting the dogs down at an alarming rate, for the $$? There are homes for many of these animals, but even when they know this, they destroy the animals.

    Take a look at this: and read some of the posts. Peta thinks it’s ok to kill them, even though they have WAITING ADOPTIONS! The shelters don’t want to have to answer to anyone, and they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. Perfectly adoptable animals are being SLAUGHTERED, and the shelters want to keep it that way, even if the dogs/cats have homes to go to.

    Look below for an example of this..this person called three times that week to find out if the cat had found a home, and offered to give it one, so that the cat would not be put down, but the shelter put the animal down, even knowing this information:

    “I was visitng a friend in the area and we found a stray cat that looked as if she was pregnant as well as had been in a cat fight. The cat was very friendly and I wanted to get her some help as well as a possibly find her a home. A rep came and I helped him put the cat in a carrier. A few hours later I called to make sure the cat was checked in and going to receive attention. I also stressed to make sure they dont put her to sleep because I would take her in if need be. I called that next Monday after the examination and I was told she was ok and being put up for adoption on that upcoming Saturday. I called back today to check up on her. Now remember I have called before and stressed not to put her to sleep and call me? WELL THEY PUT THAT CAT TO SLEEP. They never callled me. So they kill a very friendly cat and the kittens inside her? WTF? This girl on the phone says to me “Well you know we have over 300 animals here”. I guess that means if the animal is not adopted in 5 days they put them down and burn them up. Nice. I asked to speak with the staff person and make sure there was not an unkown medical issue. I have yet to hear back from anyone. Nice place…Can we change the name to the Inland Valley ‘Inhumane’ Society? I am sorry I called and now feel responsible for the cat’s demise. It would have been better off in my friends backyard. 03/29/2011 **UPDATE** still no word from the office as to why they put the cat down. All of my phone calls and messages remain unanswered. Nice place.”

    Is it the only occurrance? No, there are thousands of people saying the same type of thing, about many different shelters around the country. This is NOT an isolated incident!

    In particular, this one, Pomona, Ca (Inland) had only a few lousy pictures of the animals on their site, as of a few days ago, but since we brought it to the media, all of a sudden, they have many on their site. They’re an enormous place, and gun shots are often heard when people who want to adopt, go there. According to the shelter, that’s because there is a gun range close by. Well, gun ranges usually are sound-proofed, to prevent noise pollution from occuring within city limits. And, when a rescue goes there, they’re treated like dirt by the employees. And, if they’re interested in some of the animals, those particular animals are routinely put to sleep.

    If you think it’s only happening there, think again! ASPCA, HSUS, and many others are claiming to help the animals, but when a rescue says they’ll take the animals, they’re made to jump through hoops to get them, if they don’t put them down during that time. There is no valid reason. It’s done, ‘JUST BECAUSE’ That’s right…no reason, JUST BECAUSE! When will someone stand up to these butchers, on behalf of the animals? Well, I want to. Can you make it happen?

  2. Karin says:

    To Rama: A couple of points concerning your comment.

    First, I feel with you and your anger. I pretty much have written off our local SPCA and Humane Society.

    Second, these local organizations, even though they call themselves SPCA and Humane Society have nothing to do with the ASPCA and HSUS. I too thought they did and called the HSUS to complain about our local Humane Society. The HSUS made a courtesy call to our local to remind those employees that dogs have a legal right to shelter, water, and food. But … the HSUS did not have to do that, and I really appreciated that somebody cared enough to pick a fight with our local.

    Third, ALDF takes on all kinds of battles. But the factory farming battle is huge. About ten billion land animals live in factory farms and are slaughtered every year, just so people can eat their flesh.

    But then, I guess you already know that and you are vegan because you love all animals, right?

  3. Joanne says:

    I am also familiar with the Animal Shelter in Pomona. They put down Pit Bulls and Rottweilers because of their breed. We wanted to adopt a Rottie and was told no unless I had a 6 ft fence around my property and got a waiver from my Home Owners Insurance. Something definetely needs to be done at that shelter. I thought Shelter meant to protect not kill.

  4. Kait says:

    In regards to euthanasia: Communities are extremely over-burdened with the amount of litters and strays rescued and brought to them or just plain dumped with them. Kitten season is here, and hundreds will be born. Some kittens will be adopted, lots of oo’s and aah’s, but that wears off, just like buying a bunny for a kid during easter. Anywhere between 3 to 6 million cats and dogs are euthanized every year in the US. I don’t like it either, but, there are too many people not taking responsibility the way you tried to take responsibility. Do you see all the adult cats in shelters, not being adopted? Now that kitten season is here, the adults will be overlooked even more. The adult cats used to be kittens, then they grew up, and now don’t have a home. Not enough people take advantage of the free or discount spay/neuter programs. It is really hard to expect a facility to care for all those animals, while people still ignore the consequences because they never have to deal with it. They let their cat breed, a litter is born in the wild, and the cycle continues. The person you should be mad at is the person who didn’t get the cat spayed, and didn’t take care of her, not the humane society that is doing everything they can in the fact of all the challenges of over population. I understand it’s awful. It is. I wish I could rescue the hundreds I see on Petfinder, at the shelters that don’t have the resources and skilled employees to post ads. It’s really hard. Take a look at Craigslist during the spring and summer months. Kittens galore, with those who allowed their cat to breed saying “I don’t want them to go to the shelter because then they’ll be put to sleep”.. well, that is sadly the reality. Because THEY allowed their cat to breed. I suggest maybe you get discuss a spay/neuter program for your area and help with the situation. The humane societies are doing what they can, and really, sometimes their poor little lives, completely subject to human will, it is more humane that they aren’t here struggling because there aren’t enough homes to keep up with the rates of the negligence and irresponsible people. And I know someone who had a cat living in her back yard. She sometimes remembered to feed her, the cat was an afterthought. She allowed her cat to have four litters that I know of, and then, she took her cat and dumped her somewhere. I didn’t know about this until after it was done. Her neighbors? Also had unfixed cats, and many other kittens were hanging around the area. The person in question is my fiance’s sister, and it is really hard to discuss issues with those who just don’t care. She knew about the spay/neuter options in the area, I talked to her about it. She still never did anything, so litters were born, and then she was dumped somewhere without telling anyone she was going to do that. Also, I had an irresponsible moment. I took in two cats from the street, a male and a female. I took too long to get them fixed and made the appointment a little too late. The girl kitty was pregnant, and so the SPCA asked me if I agreed to still spay her. I did. Because they also had over 300 cats at that location, and had so many with their affiliated groups that they were running a “2 for 1” adoption. I was sad, but I didn’t want to contribute to that problem. I would have had I been able to just keep all the cats and maybe find them homes or just keep them if finding them good homes wasn’t successful. But I couldn’t keep them all, I was in a bad situation and I didn’t want to ask my landlords, and I didn’t have a ton of money. So, I agreed with the SPCA that spaying her was the best option. I’ve had her about 6 years now, and a year ago adopted a 5 week old stray found by the Feral Cat Foundation without a mom or siblings. It’s not easy… Promoting spay/neuter programs and educating is the best thing we can do for the animals.

  5. Windy says:

    Your ‘editorial’ on the similarity between dog-fighting and factory farming, and the burden it places on humans, is very well written. Thank you.

    Basically, you make a moral argument that the human behavior that is required for those activities lacks empathy.

    Empathy is characteristic of humans, the finest use of our minds to understand the state, especially the suffering of other beings. From empathetic understanding arises compassionate action.

    Dog-fighting and factory farming is nothing but brutality for human enjoyment. Such behavior should be criminalized. Until that is a possibility, then at least those of us who’ve learned what is going on must withdraw our support and seek ways to stop or prevent harm to others.

  6. Kait says:

    Aside from going vegan, which is the best thing we can do for the farm animals discussed in this blog post. The torture they go through by desensitized “farmers”/workers is gut-wrenching. Those who seek jobs in these industrial farming companies either already have a screw loose, or, they harden themselves to do the job quickly because the pressure to produce fast and cheap is great. But I’ve seen and heard farm animals in great pain, and a “farmer” in the background (or, right in the video frame) laughing and causing the pain. Maybe not laughing sometimes, sometimes seriously causing harm, calculated evil torture. Going vegan saves about 100 animals a year per vegan. It would do our souls a great service to stop eating these beings who have their own reasons for living, who have emotions, who feel love for their babies, who have friendships with others in and out of their species circle, who are intelligent, and “studies show” their intelligence. I hate that we spend all this time and money on “studies” to prove animals feel and think. It should be obvious. Thank you ALDF for this blog post; hopefully it will help meat-eating “animal lovers” make the connection and go veg.

  7. Amelia says:

    I have lived all of my 50 years in Iowa. I grew up in Titonka, have worked in Algona and DesMoines and Garner and have lived in Mason City since 1995. All of my years here have made me a zealot where animals and their well-being is concerned, starting when I rescued a crow shot with a bebe gun and affirmed when I witnessed the local meat locker owner butchering a sow. I was a town girl, a banker’s daughter who was a banker’s son. This didn’t stop me from exploring every inch of Titonka; and since friends were farm kids, I was aware of what their father’s and mother’s were doing for a living. One of my sisters married a farmer, another sister married a dabbler in dairy farming. I do believe that dairy farming is one of the most cruel forms of farming there is. Most of my brother-in-law’s cows were used up by the time they were 3 or 4 years old and sent off to slaughter. The male calves were ripped away from their mothers about 5 hours after being born and were shipped off to veal farmers or slaughter if they were ‘big boys.’ The female calves were taken from the mothers early, too, and were soon inseminated and on the milk line. Not a good life. I have done some photo taking for PETA and that makes me feel like I’m doing something right, and I have two rescued cats that I love with all my heart (my kids). I join causes on Facebook and I sign petitions, but I want to do more. I definitely agree that factory farming is akin to dogfighting. The incredible pain and suffering the animals are subject to is unconscionable.

  8. Patrick M. Donovan says:

    The basic issue is simple: “The question is not, can they reason? Nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?” (Jeremy Bentham, philosopher and animal rights activist; 1748-1832.)

  9. T. A. Hoffman says:

    Thank you Amelia and Patrick for a reasoned response to the article. I saw part of a video this morning ( that was so disturbing that I am now a vegan. The question becomes: What Can We Do? It seems the ALDF is a good place to start. Like most people, I give little thought to where food comes from or how pork butt can be $1.49/lb. or chicken legs 99 cents/lb. The USDA has minimal, disregarded regulations while supporting agriculture with billions in subsidies. I’m doing more research on this site and then lighting up the Web with petitions for meaningful, enforceable USDA regulations in the hope that as Americans understand the corporate food industry, they will be outraged as we are.

  10. Cynthia Mattera says:

    First of all, God Bless ALDF for all you do for the animals!
    I stopped eating meat, dairy and eggs 3 years ago when I watched a few undercover videos from Mercy For Animals and PETA. I could not believe what I was seeing!! Workers on these factory farms were intentionally hurting and torturing cows, pigs and chickens. They actually seemed to enjoy inflicting pain and hearing them scream. Laughing about it .I don’t get it?? Do Factory farms only hire people who are sadistic or have mental issues? I cried the entire time I was watching. I stopped eating meat immediately and then the eggs and dairy. How a human being could be so cold-hearted and cruel is beyond words. Where is their compassion for these farm animals, who spend their short-lived lives confined, scared and in pain every day.There still are no laws protecting these gentle, intelligent creatures from harm. I pray that one day soon, ALDF will make this happen!

  11. Yes, at the very least “protections” for one species should apply to all – That is only consistent, just and fair!

    But the idea that there really are any “laws” slanted towards compassion or decent treatment to any animals, let alone those designated as “food” are just non-existent.

    A few years ago when awareness came to me I immediately set out to find the “laws” that were in place as beings become “meat.” It was a pathetic few lines about how these animals should have “rest and water” if traveling more than 28 hours. That’s it! And the entire “humane slaughter act” is a farce – There are hundreds of pages with barely a mention to “render the animal unconscious”. It’s pathetic.

    Yes, I want “livestock” to be treated like “dogs” and dogs to be treated as the sentient, autonomous beings that they are!

  12. Marilyn Ridley says:

    To Rana: Yes, there are sometimes bad shelters and sometimes cases that even good shelters handle badly, but overall, the good shelters, of which there are many, do the very best that they can under very difficult situations. If you honestly believe that there are plenty of homes out there for all or most of these animals, you are truly delusional. Get off the computer, get out there and volunteer at a shelter, and get a dose of real life. I have worked as an animal rescue volunteer for many years, and there are far, far too many animals to place. Too few homes and too few caring, responsible people. Leaving animals running at large is not “kind”, nor is being lax in adoption policies. Both can and do result in these animals falling into the wrong hands and suffering unspeakable cruelties, like those caught and used as bait by dogfighters, those killed in “crush videos”, and those who are repeatedly abused in other ways. Too often, euthanasia is the kindest thing that can be offered by shelters; It is an ugly fact of life in a country like ours that knows better and can do so much more, but doesn’t. Don’t blame the overburdened shelters, their employees, and their volunteers. Continue to work with your local politicians to increase, not decrease, budgets for animal shelters; they are always the first places where the govt. wants to reduce spending.

  13. Elizabeth says:

    To those who want to get mad at shelters and who want other people to spay/neuter the loose cats in their yards/neighborhoods–why don’t you do it yourself? YOU take in the pregnant cat, get her vet care, let her have her kittens, spay her after the kittens are weaned, and find homes for the kittens? YOU offer to take the neighbor’s/friend’s/family member’s cat to the low-cost spay/neuter place and pay for it to get fixed? Spend a few years doing that out of your own pocket and you may not be so quick to get angry at the SPCAs and Humane Societies in your area. Some are bad and need help. So YOU volunteer to do outreach and adoptions. Yeah it’s a sacrifice, but the only way to change things is to actually start working on it. You’d be amazed at the difference you can make as one person.

  14. May says:

    To Rama and anyone else angry with kill shelters: They’re doing what nobody else wants to. They don’t enjoy killing animals. And it actually costs them money to kill an animal vs adopting it out the same day. The problem is that the number of people going to shelters is just not enough to counter the huge number of stray, unwanted, and dumped dogs and cats. Breeders keep breeding. Petshops can still legally sell dogs and cats in most areas. Everyone wants a puppy but when it stops being cute and and starts needing training, the owner “doesn’t have time for him anymore”. Or the owner wants a new puppy so the 5 yr old dog has to go somewhere because the owner “doesn’t have room/money for two animals.” It all goes back to a responsible public. If EVERYONE spayed/neutered and people thinking of a new pet did their homework first, shelters would have empty cages and the killing could stop.

    I work for a no-kill 501c3 horse shelter/adoption program. There are just not enough homes for all the animals being dumped because in our culture it’s so easy and normal to dump an animal as soon as it stops being useful/fun/cute. Horses have it the worst because they live 30 years not 10 and many owners won’t pay to keep one they cannot ride. Add to that the “solution” some in the industry like — horse slaughter — condemning the less lucky horses to a terrible fate after an inhumane treatment at a meat horse auction, holding lot, and overcrowded truck.

    Everyone needs to take responsibility for homeless animals. I don’t mean adopt one once in awhile. I mean as a society we all need to step up to the plate and recognize that when we domesticate a species and then allow it to breed, WE (each and every one of us) cannot shy away from the responsibility of looking out for the welfare of those animals for the rest of their lives. Yet we don’t want to pay more in taxes. And generally the only time a government will fund a shelter is when it’s paying for “animal control” services (picking up and euthanizing the masses of unwanted pets). No-kill shelters don’t get a dime from the government. If the government/society doesn’t want to fund a no-kill system and there isn’t enough funding coming from individuals, what then? The only two responsible choices are to euthanize or to turn some of the incoming away. Otherwise you get into a situation where a rescue runs out of money, goes out of business, and every animal is now homeless. Or you get a hoarding shelter where there isn’t enough money for vet care & food and the deaths are from infectious disease and malnutrition.

    And it all goes back to the original breeder of these animals: why were they bred in the first place? Why aren’t there penalties for overbreeding of dogs and cats (or even horses)? The puppy mills get hundreds of dollars for their sick-but-papered puppies from the new owner. The shelter who takes in the dog in 2 years because he’s sickly and has behavioral problems gets nothing from the owner. Our system rewards overbreeding and doesn’t do enough to help shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries.

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