As an animal activist, I truly want to celebrate any step forward for animals. On one hand, it makes me very happy that President Trump signed the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act into law yesterday. (And yes, it’s difficult for this diehard liberal to admit that Trump actually did something good, but even a broken clock is right twice a day).
The legislation, which passed the Senate unanimously – something truly remarkable in these divided times – expands on the 2010 Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act and increases the punishment for instances of animal cruelty, making them felony crimes.
The new law was heralded by many in the animal protection movement. Kitty Block, the president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, had this to say: “PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level. The approval of this measure by the Congress and the president marks a new era in the codification of kindness to animals within federal law. For decades, a national anti-cruelty law was a dream for animal protectionists. Today, it is a reality.”
Now, like I said, I agree that this is a positive step. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that this new law completely ignores 99 percent of the animal cruelty that routinely takes place every single day in the United States.
According to The Washington Post, the PACT Act “outlines exemptions for humane euthanasia; slaughter for food; recreational activities such as hunting, trapping and fishing; medical and scientific research; ‘normal veterinary, agricultural husbandry, or other animal management practice’; and actions that are necessary ‘to protect the life or property of a person.’”
Of course animal cruelty to dogs and cats by private citizens should be dealt with severely. But what about the billions of animals tortured each year on America’s factory farms? Or how about the tens of thousands of animals, including dogs and cats, who are tested on and mistreated in laboratories?
Can we actually say we’re cracking down on animal cruelty when we still allow SeaWorld to keep cetaceans captive and force them to perform? Or permit insanely cruel practices like fur trapping and bow hunting?
My objective is not to trash Ms. Block or even President Trump on this issue (though Trump’s record on animals is pretty abysmal), but merely to point out that animal cruelty is still animal cruelty, even when it’s done for money or recreation or sport. In fact, we should take those cases of abuse even more seriously because they affect so many more animals. One sick fuck torturing his dog is abhorrent, but what about a business that tortures thousands in a laboratory or a puppy mill?
As society’s view of what constitutes animal cruelty evolves, so will our laws. But, in the meantime, it’s the animals who needlessly suffer day in and day out. Sadly, the PACT Act leaves the overwhelming majority of those animals no better off than they were before.
Main image: Anna Moneymaker / The New York Times