During the past week, I've been struck by two media references to animals that suggest perhaps America's attitude toward basic animal rights is maturing. In one, a listener comment read on the air during National Public Radio's All Things Considered discussed the inherent cruelty of using elephants in circuses. Each spring, it has become a New York City ritual of sorts to march the Ringling Brothers circus elephants through the Queens Midtown Tunnel so they can perform in Madison Square Garden.
But the listener was saddened by the thought of such "majestic beasts" chained into submission and enslaved in an environment so totally alien to their native habitat. The listener was right. Elephants belong on the African plains, not in midtown Manhattan. In the other reference, a Web discussion blossomed around the question of how high to jump a young horse. An online video of a 3-year-old horse for sale showed the horse being jumped over a 3-foot fence. Horses of that breed are years from being fully grown at that age and should not be jumped high until their growth plates (leg bones) are fully formed. I was thrilled to see an online discussion open up from this particular point.
But then a third media reference to a major newspaper's online weekly review sported the headline, "Being Nice to the Bacon, Before You Bring It Home."
The article's author obviously saw himself at the forefront of humane treatment of animals, writing that meat farmers should allow their soon-to-be-slaughtered bounty to roam free before killing them (pigs, rabbits, etc.). Of course, free-range farming is much more humane than factory farming. But if the reason for bringing an animal into this world is to profit from its slaughter, there is little humanity in that.