Ernest Dempsey — Last week, Congressman Jim Moran introduced the resolution H. Res. 736 which opposes the use of gas for killing shelter animals. Instead, it advocates the use of more humane methods for euthanizing animals – like lethal injections.
Moran’s resolution is an example of what might be called “threshold compassion” such that it makes a case for minimizing the pain inflicted on an animal that has been marked to-die. It’s compassion at a level of helplessness where the basic question of why an animal has to be killed at all is not taken up for discussion. Commendable though, this resolution can be commended only as relatively better than the existing practice of killing animals with painful methods – like the threshold compassion, one can only accept it as the lesser of the evils. The basic question of why an animal has to die still waits for an answer. Do we have one, and a reasonable one?
As the news of Moran’s resolution notes, many of these shelter animals have to die because they don’t have a home to adopt them. In other words, there is no space for these animals in the human-inhabited, aka human-occupied, part of the world; so they must be killed, even though they are not harmful or dangerous as such. How much sense it makes? Little if any, for this practice of holding animals captive and then killing them is based on the grossly mistaken assumption that the entire space belongs to humans. In fact, the worst form of this assumption comes into play as that animals do not deserve to live if they are not adopted by humans.
Being natural members of planet Earth, animals are supposed to be inhabiting the wild. Since that right has been trampled by expansive human colonization of nature, animals like dogs and cats etc have been marked as dependents of humans. This has been made literally so because the survival means – food and shelter – have been seized by human populations. Worse, these things now belong to states, which have built pounds and shelter facilities for animals. No more can the animals be on their own – in which case truly compassionate people could feed and care for them, at least partially. But bringing them to shelters happens with the self-granted authority over the lives of animals.
This is where the cruelty begins – assuming control of the lives of animals. Since humans are the sole species that can, or are supposed to, act ethically, the death of animals in nature (of hunger, or predation, or disease) wouldn’t be considered cruelty. It would be a survival situation in the evolutionary sense. But imprisoning them at shelters, excluding the no-kill shelters, where you gas them (or humanely give lethal injection) is inevitably an ethical disgrace. It is targeted destruction of life.
Jim Moran’s resolution against gas chambers is commendable because it takes the first step toward a cruelty-free world where voiceless creatures won’t have to suffer, or die. Yet, there is a long way to go before arriving at a place where the poison of ignorance and indifference will not bring in either a gas chamber, a lethal injection, or any means of death. That ideal situation will always vouch for life, for the right of all to live.