Phoenix case should foster concern for animal welfare

February 08, 2011

I am writing, first of all, to thank you for your extensive and substantive coverage of the Phoenix case, for both the content and context you brought to the case itself, as well as for the way in which you reported on the trial ("Mistrial in city case against twins accused of burning pit bull," Feb. 8). What could have been exploited as an opportunity for sensationalism was, instead, turned into a reflective examination of the urban crime scene and of egregious acts of cruelty to animals as one of its more disturbing manifestations.

As you so accurately reported, while the nature of this crime was horrific in and of itself, the violence inherent in the act of dousing an animal with an accelerant and setting it on fire is symptomatic of a larger danger. For years, the Snyder Foundation for Animals, and, now, the Mayor's Animal Anti-Abuse Commission, have been committed to promoting an understanding of the link between violence directed at animals as a predictor of future violence toward humans. We thought you did an outstanding job of bringing public attention to this connection.

Although I am reluctant to offer any criticism on the heels of your excellent reporting, I do, however, have one significant disagreement with your coverage. In a letter written in response to Jill Rosen's September 21 Baltimore Sun article on the Mayor's Task Force, I explained our objection to the consistent use of the term "animal rights" by many in the media to characterize the position of those who advocate for the welfare of animals. This is no small semantic quibble. When the term "animal rights" is used, it invariably conjures up visions of wild-eyed, out-of-control activists who splatter red paint on fur coats and who pass out graphic anti-meat pamphlets to little children as they are exiting McDonald's, Big Mac clutched in small hand.

A less pejorative and far more accurate description of those who encourage social policy that promotes a respect and appreciation for animals is the term "animal welfare" advocate. Those of us who consider ourselves animal welfare advocates are not seeking to invest animals with the same rights afforded to humans under law but, rather, to foster a society that demands the humane treatment of all living creatures. We hope your thoughtful coverage of the Phoenix case will help to move our community in just that direction.

Lora Junkin, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Snyder Foundation for Animals.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.