With “Friends” Like These

The morgue at a Texas shelter filled with body bags destined for the landfill.

For those of you who have been on my Facebook page* for a while, you are familiar with the debates that my posts often inspire. Recently, a shelter employee took issue with a post over the killing of Toothless, calling me “polarizing,” suggesting that I drive shelter staff away because I label them “enemies,” and that a softer-sell would win more converts. If you were facing the sharp end of a syringe filled with a fatal dose of poison, given your instinctual will and desire to live, what would you call that person? A friend? If you add that there are readily available, lifesaving alternatives, what else might you call that person?  Here is my response:

The No Kill movement is a movement for social justice, a movement to end the needless slaughter of millions of animals every year. Like every other social justice movement, we have to fight those who oppose our mission, or whose actions are the very reason we must exist in the first place. In most cases, that means taking on shelter leadership who refuse to innovate, who refuse to take the responsibility for the lives of animals seriously by keeping pace with lifesaving innovation, choosing to kill animals because that is easier than educating themselves about alternatives and them implementing those alternatives with integrity. Unfortunately, because many of the organizations we must fight come with the name “humane society” or” SPCA” or animal “shelter” we have a burden other causes do not. We are admonished for being “divisive” or “polarizing” simply for doing our job, calling killing for what it is—cruel and immoral—and for calling those who do that killing for what they are—people who choose to casually, needlessly and heartlessly kill animals in the face of simple alternatives they are too lazy and too uncaring to implement. But the truth is we are not the same movement and never have been. One kills animals; another seeks to bring that killing to an end. We are no more one the same side as an environmental group is on the side of an oil company that cuts corners and is responsible for massive oil spills and the environmental degradation that results from them.

But more to the point, you are wrong that soft selling the killing or the message would somehow gain the No Kill movement more converts within the traditional sheltering community. It would not. How do I know? I tried. For many years, I tried to get shelter directors and large national groups to endorse No Kill and the programs and services which make it possible. I tried to collaborate, I tried to communicate. I reached out, extended olive branches, wrote letters. They were not interested. In fact, they attacked me and other No Kill advocates for questioning the killing and for asserting that we can and must work together to do better. I learned that they were not, and are not, interested in changing. And it became clear that the only way we would ever end the killing was to fight them in the court of public opinion, just like other movements do to further their cause.

Since that time, the No Kill movement has grown exponentially. We have inspired the creation of roughly 70 communities with save rates exceeding 90%, and our cause is gaining in size and strength every day, disproving your assertion that we would win more converts if we cuddled up to regressive shelter directors rather than held them accountable for their terrible job performance and the lives they have and continue to needlessly take. Killing is easy and killing is convenient and for those reasons, there are far too many shelter directors who are simply not interested in doing their job any other way, whatever lip service they may pay to how much they care. That is unacceptable and as animal advocates, we are morally obligated to demand better.

Moreover, we do not attack shelter directors who do truly care and prove it by stopping the killing going on under their direction and their watch. We are critical of those who do not, and work to educate other animal lovers about the truth so that we change the climate of public opinion in which these shelter directors must operate. Our goal is to teach the American public which already loves animals what is really going on in their local shelter, and to expect and to demand better.

I am confident that someday in the not so distant future, we will in fact end the killing and create a No Kill nation. And when that day comes, and the killing of millions of dogs and cats at so-called “shelters” is a cruel anachronism of a by-gone era, no one will look back and think that those of us who demanded an end to that killing were “polarizing” or “divisive.” On the contrary, they will look back and shake their heads in astonishment that there was a time when some who considered themselves animal lovers could have ever argued that the people who systematically put dogs and cats in their graves when there were viable alternatives were in fact good people who cared about animals. It is sheer and utter nonsense and I will never apologize for saying so.


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* My Facebook page is Many people mistakenly believe that the Facebook pages at No Kill Nation and No Kill Revolution are my pages. They are not.