15 October 2006

"Disposable" Animals

Here is a story about Wade Pilloud, a school principal who shot and killed two orphaned kittens on school property in Indus, Minn.

Why is it that people in our society view animals as disposable? I suspect that part of the reason is they are conditioned to think that way from an early age. Pilloud claims that he shot the kittens to prevent them from suffering and starvation. Surely, there were ways to prevent these two kittens from suffering and/or starving to death other than shooting them to death. While the story doesn't provide details as to how old these kittens were, presumably they could have been hand fed and nursed out of infancy and then fostered out to good homes. Think about what a positive message saving these kittens would have sent to all of the kids in the school, namely, that animals' lives matter and ought to be respected. Unfortunately, the message that was actually sent to the students by this unthinking principal was that animals are disposable—that it is o.k. to kill them for convenience. When children see adults behaving that way, they come to think that such behavior is acceptable, and the cycle continues for another generation.

Sadly, the students probably learned another lesson as well: How to do the unspeakable—e.g., kill an innocent kitten—with a good conscience! The art of rationalization: "I didn't want those kittens to suffer." As if killing these kittens were the only possible way to prevent them from suffering and starving to death. It is one thing to kill a horribly injured animal to put her out of her misery. It's quite another to kill two healthy kittens whose mother was killed by a lethal animal trap. [One wonders why there was such a dangerous animal trap on or near the vicinity of the school in the first place.]

Another disturbing thing about the story is how the kittens themselves are almost entirely absent referents. Pilloud said, "the shooting endangered no one." Well, it certainly endangered the two kittens. But they are "no ones". They don't count. The people who were upset with Pilloud's actions don't seem to care that two innocent kittens were needlessly killed. They only seem worried that the shooting might have put children at risk. Again, the kittens are nearly invisible victims in the story. Also, look at the alleged crimes Pilloud is charged with: "felony possession of a firearm on school property" and "reckless discharge of a firearm." There is no suggestion that he be charged with "animal abuse". Once again, the victims are absent.

It is bad enough that two kittens had to needlessly lose their mother to a lethal animal trap [Such traps should be outlawed. Unfortunately, these traps remain legal because of the powerful fur industry lobby. If you don't want your companion animal to be killed by such a trap, boycott the fur industry and the companies who make these traps!]. It's even worse that these innocent kittens were rewarded for their first misfortune by being needlessly killed themselves.

It's doubtful that Pilloud will be convicted of any crime, and even if he is, it is doubtful that he will see any jail time. He did, however, receive a retirement settlement from the school district. So, in all likelihood, he will get to live out the rest of his life in comfortable surroundings. Unfortunately, the kittens no longer have that option.

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