Do ‘Animal Groups’ Need An Ethics Committee?

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Photo Credit: myCAES via Compfight cc

With the increase in the number of animal “matters” being ‘exposed’ through the media, is it time for animal protection groups to refer campaigns to an ethics committee?

In an ideal world, before any campaign or investigation was started, the group would lodge a submission with the ethics review board to assess the long and short term impact to the animals, and how the action compares to the aims of the organisation.

That way, only those activities which aligned with the aims/objectives of the group and had a long term positive benefit on the lives of other animals would see the light of day. Instead of how it is at the moment where groups are doing anything and everything for their share of the spotlight.

What’s More Important, Animals Or Attention?

For arguments sake, let’s use the recent greyhound live-baiting expose as an example.

Did the ‘powers that be’ within Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland weigh up whether the 4 Corners segment, and ensuing media and industry attention was a) in the best interest for greyhounds and other animals in the long run and b) how that action compares with the values/objectives of the group?

According to the Animals Australia media briefing, in Queensland the footage has shown 42 trainers and staff are/were involved in the live bating of greyhounds.

Racing Queensland has already seized 70 dogs and is ‘monitoring’ another 72. Animals Australia believes that over 300 will need to be re-homed due to the scandal. That is, if the relevant racing bodies ‘release’ the animals for adoption.

Despite some of the warm and fuzzy sentiment of sanctuaries and adoption programs, the unfortunate reality is that if there is a suspicion that the dog has been trained through live baiting, there is virtually no chance they would be deemed suitable for adoption.

The next thing that would need to be considered is the number of animals killed during the investigation. Let’s say hypothetically it is 10 a month in Queensland alone. With the investigation beginning in November 2014, and ending in February 2015, we could say that an additional 40 animals were killed.

Does the loss of life of over 300 animals justify the campaign that in all reality won’t shut down greyhound racing or have any sort of long term negative impact on it. In fact, after a few people have fallen on the proverbial sword the industry will be able to re-market itself as a family friendly activity. And, with the help of the respective governments, lure more people back with higher winnings, etc.

A Conflict Of Interest

By no means am I saying that the investigation shouldn’t have taken place, what concerns me is that it took so long to complete, and very little consideration seems to have been given to the future of the innocent victims of the scandal.

I am sure that there would be members of both groups who would have the view that the life of an animal is worth no amount of free publicity or increase in donations.

Yet, this appears to be the very opposite of what happened.

Somehow, these groups decided that the lives of these animals were acceptable collateral damage in their campaign to clean up greyhound racing.

A task that isn’t even theirs to begin with.

While I am sure that those people who are part of the management committee of these organisations really do care about animals, are they really the best people to decide what is and isn’t good for the animals?

Why An Ethics Committee?

An ethics committee for animal groups would be helpful in the following ways.

  • Campaigns actually need to be thought about, not just put together on a whim
  • The ethics committee is impartial, and separate from the running of the organisation.
  • The ethics committee will base it’s decision on the benefit to the animals, and the stated aims/goals of the organisation.
  • With the identity of committee members being confidential, the decisions wont be based on a popularity contest, or annual vote of members.

Having an ethics committee can only strengthen the integrity of animal protection groups and the campaigns that they promote. It will make it harder for different industry bodies to claim that the campaign is only there to promote the organisation, and not about saving the animals.

If ‘we’ as animal activists expect others to act ethically and in the best interests of other animals, isn’t it only fair that we do the same?

9 thoughts on “Do ‘Animal Groups’ Need An Ethics Committee?”

  1. The question appears to be based on the false assumption that the investigations were instigated as part of a plan to clean up greyhound racing, when in fact both Animals Australia and Animal Liberation QLD are opposed to greyhound racing and would see it shut down and banned, not “cleaned up”.

    This would of course see not only the thousands of animals used in baiting spared, but also the tens of thousands of greyhounds needlessly bred by people chasing the holy grail of a quick buck on the back of an unwilling competitor… not to mention the ongoing cruelty of the housing, training and forced racing.

    You may also be unaware that Animals Australia have secured the use of land donated by Jan Cameron, to set up a facility for rehoming and rehabilitating greyhounds, to be funded by industry bodies and State governments and to be overseen by AA ( IF the offer is accepted by those parties mentioned).

    • Hi Katrina,

      While I was hoping that ending greyhound racing is what these groups are after, it seems that this investigation has only resulted in the industry being forced to clean up it’s act. Once the dust settles from the relevant inquiries, greyhound racing will still exist.

      Both sides of government have too much invested in it to close it down either over night or through a phase out.

      I am aware of the offer to use the land from Ms Cameron, though there are far too many if’s there for my liking.

      The other thing that hasn’t been considered is who takes responsibility should a greyhound that has been trained using living baiting attacks and insures someone or another animal? Is RQ to blame because they allowed a supposedly ‘dangerous’ animal to be sent to an adoption group? Or, is it the group themselves because they were the ones who allowed someone to take the animal?
      Yes, I do know that all animals have the potential to attack, though do you honestly think the relevant council or court is going to care about that? All they will see is that the dog in question has previously been trained the attacking live animals.

      This is why I believe these groups should be referring their proposed campaigns to an ethics group.

  2. Hi Cameron

    Ending greyhound racing IS what these groups are after – I just stated that they are both opposed to greyhound racing and would see it shut down and banned – that is their policy; what the groups are “after” and the outcome of the investigation are not automatically synonynous.

    Two groups opposed to greyhound racing undertook an investigation into claims of blooding/live baiting, to help out RSPCA, who did not have the resources. That the resulting exposé and the actions (or inactions) by the relevant bodies and State governments may lead to a clean up of the industry does not change the fact that both animal protection organisations oppose racing. And who is to say that the resulting fall out and ongoing campaigns won’t be a death knell the industry can’t survive.

    • Actually Katrina, the opposite is true.
      For starters, according to the Animals Australia “About” page

      Animals Australia’s vision is a world where all animals are treated with compassion and respect and are free from cruelty. We believe that we can create a kinder world for all by fostering respect for animals and that our treatment of animals reflects who we are as individuals and as a society.

      and from the their “agenda” page

      Animals Australia exists first and foremost to represent animals. Not vegans, meat-eaters, farmers, or even donors — animals. Everything we do is informed by a vision for a kinder world where animals are free from cruelty.

      This seems to indicate for me that Animals Australia would be happy for greyhound racing to continue, as they are with horse racing and other animal activities, so long as the animals aren’t treated ‘cruelly’.

      And, I won’t start on how the whole greyhound campaign is in conflict with the stated position of a ‘vegan”animal rights’ group that goes by the name of ‘Animal Liberation’ Queensland.

      All this is beside the point, and changing the focus away from the issue that I raised in this article.

      Are the actions of these groups in line with their stated aims/objectives? With regards to Animal Liberation Queensland, I would have to say that the answer is a resounding no.

      Also, at what point, and who made the decision that the 70 dogs that RQ already has, along with those animals killed on the lure, were acceptable losses as part of their alleged campaign to shut down greyhound racing?

      How many animals have to die, as a result of this before they decide that the cost is too great? OR don’t those lives matter because they got national coverage and free publicity for the organisation?

      Finally, IF, as you say that this was done to help out the RSPCA, why did they then give the foootage, etc to 4 Corners? Why not just leave it with the RSPCA, and let them take all the glory?

      This is why these things need to be vetted by an impartial board/committee.

      • Hmmmm… you appear to have conveniently omitted Animals Australia’s policy on greyhounds which includes:

        “Animals Australia’s position:

        Animals Australia is opposed to greyhound racing as it places financial considerations ahead of the welfare of animals. Greyhounds in the racing industry are perceived as disposable goods and until greyhound racing is banned, these gentle dogs will continue to be confined in small pens, to suffer injuries, and to be neglected and killed.”

        http://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/greyhound-racing.php

        Nope – you’re WAY out of line here.

        • So, if greyhound racing placed the ‘welfare’ of those dogs on equal footing with the financial costs/rewards, AA wouldn’t have a problem with it.

          With that in mind, I am guessing that having a few hundred animals killed would be acceptable if it ‘cleaned up’ the industry…

          Anyway, that is all well and good for Animals Australia to say that they are opposed to this practice, though want that practice made ‘kinder’, though it doesn’t really excuse the actions of Animal Liberation Queensland?

  3. I am not concerned how evidence of the horrific abuse of animals was obtained. If it didn’t happen this vile disgusting practice would have continued and those responsible would not be punished – god knows how many more cruel people are out there that we have no idea about. I don’t care if these vile people loose money – as far as I’m concerned they don’t have any rights. If there is abuse out there – we need to act not request permission from a board or committee to do so.

    • I agree Heidi, that these actions need to be stopped.

      With regards to the activities of ALQ, I would like to know is who decided that 140 greyhounds being killed is an acceptable loss? At what point would the number of greyhounds killed not be acceptable to them?

      If they didn’t think that any greyhounds would be killed as a result, then they really didn’t think too much about the fall out once they went public did they?

  4. these orgs in Australia besides ALV are hypocritical. They propose welfare over rights all because they seek donations and to keep themselves employed or their egos stroked by being on a committee. Until rights are fought for all animals and veganism is the baseline and its out in the open for all non vegans to become educated we will argue all day long. Vegans who think AA or ALQ are doing the right thing by condoning and perpetuating welfare instead of rights are just plain frustrating and they need to stop being hypocrites like the orgs that they admire for the wrong reasons. Until these orgs promote veganism openly I have little respect for them.

What are your thoughts?

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