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?