None of our local representatives helped protect the voiceless
Editor’s note: In late October, the Humane Society Legislative Fund released a preview of its annual Humane Scorecard, showing how representatives voted on animal protection and cruelty issues. View the report for yourself at hslf.org
Down through the centuries, philosophers and behaviorists have recognized the connection between animal cruelty and anti-social behavior. In the 1980s, in recognition of this connection, psychiatrists began including animal cruelty as a criterion for the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder. In 2009, this connection was confirmed by an epidemiological study conducted by a consortium of universities. They found that correlates of animal abuse included high levels of aggression toward other people and a wide variety of other antisocial behavior.
This connection appears to be related to a failure to develop an empathic capacity. The capacity is essential to successful functioning in any human social group. Immanuel Kant’s words echo to us from the eighteenth century: “If he [a human being] is not to stifle his human feeling, he must practice kindness towards animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealing with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.”
So if we accept Kant’s proposition that the treatment of animals is a window to the human soul, what do we see when our congressional representatives all score zero on the Humane Society’s annual evaluation of lawmakers’ votes on protecting animals? Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, and Chuck Fleischmann all received big zeros.
All of them voted to weaken the Endangered Species Act—and none of them supported any legislation that would protect domestic animals from abuse. Fleischmann even voted against a bill to regulate the ivory trade in America. The United States is the second-largest ivory market in the world. Every year, 35,000 elephants are killed for their ivory tusks. At the present rate of slaughter, elephants will be completely extinct in 10 to 20 years.
All three of our representatives failed to support legislation to protect horses from being slaughtered for food. Do you think they have a taste for horse meat? They also failed to support legislation to prevent cruelty to animals. This legislation was intended to prevent extreme cruelty in the pursuit of “entertainment,” especially the creation of so-called “crush” films which depict animals being tortured, killed, dismembered, or impaled. However, their most glaring failure to care about the well being of animals is their failure to support legislation to prevent the “soring” of Tennessee walking horses.
“Soring” is the sadistic practice of inducing pain in a horse’s feet, either chemically or mechanically, so that the horse will pick up its feet quickly and unnaturally. Despite enormous publicity about the cruelty of this practice, none of our representatives appear prepared to buck the influence coming from those who continue the practice.
Kant’s hypothesis seems to hold true. A lack of empathy for animals indicates a lack of empathy for other people. When was the last time these “representatives” showed any compassion for the plight of Tennesseans? Tennessee needs jobs, a living wage, health care, drivable roads, food for our hungry, a good education for our children and safe communities.
Are Alexander, Corker, and Fleischmann even aware of these needs—or are they totally focused on the “needs” of their rich donors?
Terry Stulce is native Tennessean, born in Birchwood and raised on a farm in Ooltewah. He graduated from Ooltewah High in 1963. He attended the University of Tennessee on an ROTC scholarship and graduated magna cum laude in 1967. He served two combat tours in Vietnam, one with the 101st Airborne and one with the 69th Border Rangers. He was an LCSW and owner of Cleveland Family Counseling before retirement in 2009.