I have often stated that it is vital that animal rights not be seen as a left wing or right wing issue. Indeed the animals have supporters on both sides of the political spectrum. As we would like animal advocacy to take its rightful place among social justice causes, there is some natural tendency to align with the left. But as government spending rarely helps animals and so frequently aids animal abuse industries -- look at the massive subsidies for factory farming -- there is also natural alignment with those who wish to curtail government spending and subsidies. This week that connection is illuminated by a story from the news team at Fox 4 TV in Fort Myers/Naples Florida.
After I discuss that story I will point to a piece by New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, also about government spending. He would like to tax unhealthy foods and subsidize vegetables.
The website version of the Fox 4 story is headed, "Stimulus Money Going to Monkeys?"
It tells us that $538,000 of the stimulus money went to a company called Primate Products. At the end of the television story, however, which you can watch on the same page, the anchor lets us know that it has since come out that the company received $1.3 million.
Here is an excerpt from the web story:
"The company imports animals from all over the world for scientific testing.
"They have become a frequent target of animal activists who point to leaked photos showing mutilated monkeys in what appears to be a surgical setting.
"'We've got rampant unemployment,' said Don Anthony, with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, an activist group. 'And they're putting this money to such bad use.'
"Last fall, the federal government used $537,560 in stimulus money to buy 108 monkeys from Primate Products.
"The monkeys will be used for flu virus experiments, which federal health officials say can save human lives.
"'I think people are going to be disgusted when they find out their hard earned tax money is not going where it was supposed to go,' said Don Anthony, 'to help unemployed Americans.'
"The stimulus had three main goals: to create or save jobs, to spur economic growth and to be transparent.
"So did this money create any jobs?
"The president of Primate Products, Don Bradford, declined our request for an on-camera interview. But in a series of e-mails, says there are no 'stipulations' the money be 'directly spent on wages.'
"According to Recovery.gov, the government's own stimulus tracking Web site, it shows Primate Products didn't create a single job with the money here in Florida."
You can read and watch the full story on the Fox 4 website at
If you register with the site, which takes just a moment, you can leave a comment below it. Please do.
And you can thank reporter Matt Grant for the story at email@example.com
In the comment I left below the Fox 4 story I noted the irony of government "health" spending going to animal testing while at the same time the government throws money at animal abuse industries that destroy our health, such as the factory farming industry. On a somewhat similar note, in the Sunday, July 24 New York Times, Mark Bittman has a column headed, "Bad Food? Tax It, and Subsidize Vegetables."
He opens with:
"What will it take to get Americans to change our eating habits? The need is indisputable, since heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all in large part caused by the Standard American Diet. (Yes, its SAD.)
"Though experts increasingly recommend a diet high in plants and low in animal products and processed foods, ours is quite the opposite, and theres little disagreement that changing it could improve our health and save tens of millions of lives.
"And not inconsequential during the current struggle over deficits and spending a sane diet could save tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in health care costs.
"Yet the food industry appears incapable of marketing healthier foods. And whether its leaders are confused or just stalling doesnt matter, because the fixes are not really their problem. Their mission is not public health but profit, so theyll continue to sell the health-damaging food thats most profitable, until the market or another force skews things otherwise. That 'other force' should be the federal government, fulfilling its role as an agent of the public good and establishing a bold national fix."
You'll find Bittman's full article on line at
I send thanks to Batya Bauman for making sure we saw it.
You can keep the discussion alive in the New York Times with a letter to the editor. The New York Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
I hope you see the connection between the two pieces: The first slants right, the second slants left, but both argue, somewhat indirectly but effectively, against government spending on animal abuse. Concern about animal cruelty is universal; we can shape our other arguments and pepper our language according to our audience, knowing that we must reach out to all in order to have a real and lasting effect on the plight of those we hope to help.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts only if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line.)
Please go to http://tinyurl.com/254ulkx to check out Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which in 2008 was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of The Year!"
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Date: Thu Jul 28 18:57:38 2011