By Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

The American Humane Association bills itself as “the nation’s ‘voice’ for the protection of animals.” And it claims that,

One of the important ways American Humane helps protect animals is by educating and training people how to provide the best animal care possible. Throughout the year, we host trainings nationwide for animal welfare professionals and for all people who love animals and want to make a difference in their well-being.

What kind of training does AHA provide for those who might want to “make a difference” in the “well-being” of animals? Every year, AHA hosts “Euthanasia by Injection” workshops where shelter employees from across the nation come together to learn how to kill animals. “Whether you’ve never performed euthanasia or have years of experience with it,” says AHA, everyone is welcome—including those who will use the knowledge to kill healthy and treatable animals. AHA holds the workshops at regressive shelters across the country—so there are plenty of animals on hand to kill.

Imagine it. A hall filled with people who are there to learn one thing: how to kill the dogs and cats. And although on the very same website that AHA advertises this workshop you can read their official position against dissection which states that dissection is wrong because it teaches children “that it is all right to disregard another’s life for the sake of learning,” this philosophy apparently doesn’t apply to them. And even though it is not the job of an “animal protection” group to teach people how to kill, at this workshop, not only will AHA teach you how to kill real animals, not only will they “catch you up” on the “latest techniques and drugs,” they’ll teach you how to kill animals in a variety of ways, too.

They’ll teach you how to inject animals with poison in the vein. They will teach you how to inject animals with poison in the gut. And they will teach you how to inject animals with poison straight into the heart.  And in case the animals you are killing realize that you are in fact trying to kill them and fight back, AHA will show you how to restrain them so you can get the job done. And then, when you think it’s all over and that the animal you just poisoned is dead, they will teach you how to verify that you did, in fact, kill him, just to make sure more poison isn’t required.

And what happens if you have a moment of clarity about what is actually happening—about how an organization that claims to be about helping animals is teaching you with precise detail how to kill them—and your conscience protests? What then? Not to worry. AHA will soothe your guilt by teaching you how to smother your compassion. With “an entire section” of the conference devoted to dealing with “the unique stress felt by those who perform euthanasia,” they’ll lull you back into a state of complacency and assure you that you are, in fact, a hero for helping create that pile of dead dogs and cats. They’ll teach you to regard any empathy you might have felt for your victims not as a plea from your better nature to reject killing, but as a pesky case of what they call “compassion stress.”

And when the weekend draws to a close and the two days of poisoning animals is nearing its end, when you’ve successfully watched other people kill animals without trying to stop them and you’ve even proven that you have what it takes to kill animals yourself, you won’t leave empty handed. AHA will make sure that your memories of their conference—of that horrifying weekend when you and other people from across the country came together in a hall to kill innocent animals behind closed doors—will last a lifetime. You will get a certificate that proves you are an AHA-certified killer so that everyone who sees it will know exactly what you are capable of doing.

It is true; No Kill shelter employees must also learn how to kill, even if it is just for irremediably suffering and non-rehabilitatable animals. When I ran the No Kill animal control shelter in Tompkins County, New York, I refused to send employees to similar workshops because they used healthy and treatable animals. And they were trained on the job with animals who were suffering, the way those who learn about human medicine are taught at teaching hospitals. Because it was a No Kill shelter saving 93 percent of all animals, what AHA promises to teach in a weekend took months, in some cases a year. But no one complained or would have had it any other way. And why would they? They were specifically hired for their love animals and because of that, it simply would not have occurred to them that it should be any other way. Moreover, unlike AHA, I would never have trained someone who would use that knowledge to kill healthy and treatable animals.

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For further reading:

Can we find homes for 2.4 billion animals? Ask the “experts” at AHA

Lessons from an Andy Warhol totebag

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