Animals vs. People — Who Is More Important?

Resort Hotels for Pets Are a Sign of the Times

LONDON, JAN. 26, 2002 ( Animals are now as important as people, it seems, and to some even more valuable. A number of recent examples point out the disproportionate importance given to animals.

In England, the chocolate maker Mars has opened a luxury resort hotel for animals. Pet owners can leave their animals at the Triple A Pet Resort in Newcastle upon Tyne while they go on holiday, or just take them there for a treat. The facilities include a hydrotherapy pool, indoor gym, jacuzzi, beds with a duvet and pillow, sofas where the pets can recline while watching videos of their owners on their personal television sets, the Telegraph reported Jan. 6.

Cats have their own sun balcony and listen to a classical music station, while the macaws and African parrots are provided with video screens showing a stimulating jungle scene, with tropical birds squawking. The hotel even has its own pet cemetery, together with a funeral planning and bereavement counseling service.

The hotel has more than 50 staff members, and a two-week stay for an animal will cost owners almost as much as their own holiday, the Telegraph pointed out.

Lots of money has been spent too on the killer whale Keiko, star of the film “Free Willy.” Three years ago he was returned to his native Iceland, where he was captured 22 years ago. But as the New York Times reported Nov. 6, efforts to encourage him to return to the wild have failed.

Costs for looking after Keiko amount to $300,000 a month, and some estimate that killer whales can live 50 years or longer. Until now, the project involving Keiko has cost $20 million. The article noted many Icelanders are offended that so much has been spent on a single member of a species that is not even listed as endangered.

In Australia, meanwhile, the welfare of a handful of fish is considered more important than guaranteeing safe drinking water to 4 million people. The Sydney Catchment Authority maintains an aquarium with eight fish that swim in what is destined to be the drinking water for the city, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Dec. 12.

These fish are monitored for any signs of ill health to alert authorities to any possible impurities. The use of the fish requires quarterly reports on their care and an annual inspection. Now, animal rights activists say the use of the fish is too cruel. They are asking that the monitoring be delegated to a lesser creature, water fleas.

And in the United States, the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) criticized rescue and cleanup crews at the site of the September terrorist attacks. According to the December issue of Environment and Climate News, PETA was unhappy that authorities focused primarily on humans and turned away “animal guardians” seeking out orphaned animals in the World Trade Center complex.

Back in England, beset in recent months by scandals over the inadequacy of its hospitals, it was announced that a scanner worth millions of pounds is being used to treat pets. According to the Observer newspaper on Dec. 23, Bedford Hospital is letting out the scanner to raise funds. The hospital is short on nurses and also may have to close one of its operating rooms.

One recent patient for the scanner was a 13-year-old poodle, belonging to a London divorce lawyer. The dog was given a brain scan, paid for by its health insurance plan. The Observer noted that Bedford Hospital is ranked in the bottom 20 in the country for how quickly it responds to inpatient requests.


But it´s not just a question of wasting money on animals. Increasingly, animal rights activists are resorting to violence in their campaigns. In the United States, the Animal Liberation Front just released a list of its activities in 2001. Among these was arson, tree spikings, laboratory attacks and other illegal acts, the Seattle Times reported Jan. 16.

The report cites 137 acts in 2001 and claims the $5.3 million arson at the University of Washington on May 21 as the year´s most destructive. It says a $1.5 million Snohomish County egg-farm fire April 5 was also tied to the movement.

David Barbarash, a Canadian militant who released the report and is the spokesman for the group, boasts that new U.S. and Canadian anti-terrorism laws will not shut the movement down. The FBI has had few successes in tracking down and prosecuting the militant activists it classifies as domestic terrorists.

Extremism is present in England too. Last year, animal rights activist Barry Horne died as a result of a hunger strike. Horne was serving an 18-year prison sentence for a campaign of firebombings, the Guardian reported Nov. 6.

The 49-year-old refused food and drink and had signed a directive stipulating he did not wish to be medically treated. Prison-service officials stressed that, because of Horne´s sound mental state, they were powerless to oppose his wishes.

Horne was given the longest prison sentence for an animal rights activist in November 1997, after being convicted of a two-year firebombing campaign that caused £3 million ($4.2 million) damage.

The extreme nature of the tactics used by animal rights campaigners was outlined in a testimony published by the Times newspaper of London last Thursday. Sally Staples described how she has been persecuted for sitting on a residents committee which included an employee of the American bank that helped to finance (and recently withdrew its support from) Huntingdon Life Sciences. Animal rights activists are involved in a long-running and violent struggle against Huntingdon, a company that uses animals for drug testing.

The article described how during the past two months Staples has been “bombarded with obscene phone calls, threatening and abusive mail and rape threats. Pornography, fetish magazines and even a Haitian voodoo curse have come rattling through my letterbox.”

In order to counter the animal rights movement, scientists have recently started a campaign in the United Kingdom to defend medical research using animals. A pamphlet distributed by the Research Defence Society features a 16-year-old girl, Laura Cowell, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and diabetes, reported the Times on Jan. 16.

She has to take up to 70 drugs a day, all of them developed and tested on animals, to control her conditions and keep her alive. The Research Defence Society explains that without these drugs, doctors consider she would have died before her first birthday.

The campaign explains to the public that fatal diseases such as polio, tuberculosis, diphtheria, smallpox and whooping cough have been nearly eradicated in Britain thanks to drugs and vaccines that could not have been developed without animal testing. Research into other diseases, such as cystic fibrosis and cancer, also relies on animal experiments.

This isn´t acceptable to animal rights believers, however. Tom Regan, one of the ideological fathers of animal rights, proposes a type of “bill of rights” for animals, including the abandonment of pet ownership, elimination of a meat-based diet, and new standards for biomedical research on animals, reported the Christian Science Monitor in an Oct. 9 feature.

But, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “Man is the summit of the Creator´s work.” While God loves all creatures, he considers humans to be much more valuable than animals (see Nos. 342-3). God has given humans the dignity of personhood, something which sets them apart from the rest of creation (see Nos. 356-7).

We should certainly take good care of animals, as the Catechism later explains, but in no way are they to be considered as our equals.

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