Blogging Hazards & Freedom of Speech

I am passionate about what I do and people have always either loved or hated my work. I eventually figured out that it is a career hazard.

The general rule of thumb is that if you have an opinion, voice it, and back it up–it is bound to rock the very foundation upon which some people cling. It also brings to light that which some people want to keep hidden.

Bear with me as I warm up to my point…

When I first began using head halter devices on dogs in the early 1990s people yelled and screamed at me.

When I advocated the use of training to ease stress and to use as mental enrichment in zoos in the early to mid-1980s people yelled and screamed at me–and told me I was out of my mind.

As one of the clinic associates in a center focused on enhancing the well-being of animals in the mid-1990s (providing holistic veterinary care, natural nutrition (raw food diets), animal communicators, innovative behavior modification, taking cells for cloning, and providing a cryobank for pets) I found we encountered the same resistance.

Today such activities, tools, and techniques that I took heat over for in the past are now considered necessities and industry standards.

Sometimes it sucks to be innovative, progressive…or outspoken.

Another incident that came up early in my Internet days was when I was accused of being an animal rights activist.

Now you probably don’t think that would be a bad thing–but it was. For those of you not in the wild animal training or zoo realm–this is akin to being called a militant guerrilla or a foaming-at-the-mouth religious fanatic.

Anyway, imagine my horror when a falconer group bashed and thrashed my good name around in their list-serve (of which I was a member). When I wrote in–seems the guy made a mistake–whoops.

How about checking your facts before bashing someone? After clearing up the issue I left the group in disgust. Nobody checked the guy’s statements nor did they ask me about them–they just jumped on the bandwagon.

When I did disaster rescue for a national group my zoo colleagues confronted me–was I an animal rights activist? They were afraid that since I was brought into help a zoo with major elephant problems that I might be a plant…it had happened prior to my arrival.

No, I wasn’t a plant but I was the Western Regional Coordinator for Animal Disaster Rescue for a group labeled as an “animal rights group” so they didn’t know if I could be trusted.

For the record I am an animal welfare advocate–if you don’t know the difference–you should learn. Because you might just be supporting a group that takes a lot of money without actually putting YOUR funds into really helping animals. Check their financial statements to see just how much of the funds actually reach the animals. It will surprise you.

Animal welfare, as I define it, are those actions that make sure animals get fair, humane treatment, mental stimulation, enrichment, and the best care possible.

I wonder why people send money to groups who were known to throw paint or blood onto others in protest over what they were wearing. Their financial supporters seem to fail to recognize that “liberation” techniques used destroyed property, hurt or kill animals, and set back medical research are bad things to funnel money into.

Now, don’t take my statements the wrong way because I am not saying that much of our animal treatment in the United States is the best BUT I don’t condone bad behavior.

Also, I have met and talked with leaders and participants of some of those “animal rights” groups–but I don’t support them or their work.

You might think that animal rights means fighting for “fair and humane treatment” (which is one definition) but the militant reality out in the world tends to mean that the agenda motivating the group(s) are that animals should not be kept as pets, nor should they be kept in captivity, nor should they (or their products) be used by humans in any capacity.

Since I’ve been writing on the Internet I’ve been flamed more than once. At another one of my blogs I’ve even been threatened with legal action for airing dirt or the truth about things people didn’t want revealed–just got through another cycle–at least it was a year since the previous threats and legal letters.

I live in the United States where there is the First Amendment and Freedom of Speech–and attorneys who specialize in those areas. Thank goodness they do–because more and more people try to shut bloggers up.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

And never mind that more and more people are turning to “citizen journalists” and bloggers for information that they are not getting from the major media–but that is another topic for another blog.

So my point to this ramble is that Gina over at the Pet Connection is a savvy columnist, pet enthusiast, and another outspoken blogger. The Pet Connection blog team is a good one–I read the Pet Connection blog daily and so do many, many others.

Anyway, she hit a nerve and has enough readers to get one of those nasty legal letters from PeTA telling her to retract previous statements from her blog post here.

Should I say welcome to the blogger legal letter recipient club? 😉

Now I have to say that I hate getting those letters–they disturb your peace but that is when your voice is more important. Sometimes you might acquiesce but sometimes you need to take a stand.

My vote is with Gina. I don’t believe she was wrong and I believe she is fair…

You go girl.

Now for you readers–go visit these links and you decide–just let me know what you think below in the comments:

Pet Connection March 28, 2008

PeTA Numbers as Reported 

PeTA Letter to Gina

Consumer Freedom Post

PeTA Letter to Nathan Winograd (PDF)

Activist Cash Website PeTA Page

No Kill Now Website PeTA Page

PeTA Kills Animals Website

About Ark Lady

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  1. Animal rights groups do help animals. I went vegetarian because of an animal rights group, so I’ve not contributed to dozens of animals being tortured and killed. (I’m now vegan.)

  2. Every person can implement change but it is how it is done that is important.

    The reality in the marketplace is that it is _dollars_ that motivate change (and motivate groups of all types–animal rights or not).

    Those who eat animal protein and products AND who make educated choices can leverage change–and thus more humane treatment of livestock. But like it or not, most people are not going to change their eating habits.

    How many people know (or care) that their fast food snacks come from poorly managed livestock or animals raised on destroyed rain forest land? This is a whole topic on its own but I digress again…

    There is too much of a “us and them” attitude over personal choices when it comes to militant groups of any kind.

    I remember a group of animal rights people (who were also vegans) who did more damage for their cause by refusing to respect others who did not meet their criteria for living.

    They not only presented holier-than-thou attitudes toward others who didn’t make the same choices–but also persecuted them–which is my point.

    We have freedom of speech and freedom of choices here in the USA–so I’d rather see groups focus on the work instead of trying to shut people up when something shady is brought to light.