Animal welfare tends to be a vehicle for legislation that harms businesses, distorts market pricing, and places burdens on pet owners. The Colorado legislature, for example, has a track record that includes a ban on greyhound racing, special privileges to farmers engaged in “agritourism”, and a host of other regulations related to pet care facilities, vaccinations, gaming and others.
And when an Iraq War vet is fined for having ducks that help with his PTSD, animal activism becomes an issue of basic liberty. Animal lovers sometimes fight to defend the same sort of freedoms that are promoted and cherished by capitalists, conservatives, libertarians, and others.
Getting mired in another debate about the degree to which animals have rights is unnecessary, because consensus can already be obtained on many issues. Those coming from any place on the political spectrum should be able to agree on most, if not all, of the solutions on this list.
Showing some love for our four-legged and feathered friends can transcend politics. Here are a few solutions to problems regarding animal welfare.
1. Better Training for Law Enforcement Officers
Nothing upsets people more than hearing of yet another story of a botched drug raid, during which the family dog is shot and killed. Sometimes, the offender’s home is raided by a S.W.A.T. team over a few ounces of marijuana, and sometimes the police get the wrong house entirely.
In story after story, the dog is doing what dogs do: barking, because it’s scared. Trained law enforcement officers know better than to shoot a dog just for barking, and there are very good ways of handling even dangerous dogs without hurting them. Sometimes, it’s poor officer training, but other times, it’s just plain cruel.
Fortunately, this problem is getting some attention already. Requiring police cams is one solution, which would also help protect dogs in these situations. Police cams are cheaper than law suits, and when an officer is forced to wear one whenever he’s on duty, it is proven to reduce police use of force as well as incidents of citizen complaints.
2. Ending Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL)
Many don’t know it, but pit bulls are currently banned in Aurora, Commerce City, Denver, Castle Rock and several other cities in Colorado. Lone Tree has banned several other dog breeds as well. They’ve been banned in Denver for decades, but the city didn’t start enforcing the ban until 2005, when the city infamously rounded up almost 1500 of them and put them to death.
The only Libertarian of national prominence that I know of who is talking about BSL is Julie Borowski, whose view on the matter is as passionate as it is persuasive.
As she puts it:
“The argument against BSL is very similar to the argument against gun control. Pit bulls are the AR-15s of the dog world. They look scary! People want to ban them!”
The main point, of course, is that there is an entire community based on this issue, and she correctly points out that it’s an issue of Liberty, even if they don’t realize it. Nobody wants the government to tell them which dogs they can and can’t have, when everyone knows that bad owners are to blame for dangerous dogs, not the breed. Not to mention the many unintended consequences (like trafficking, and mis-identification of breeds that are actually legal).
3. Repeal “Ag Gag” Laws That Criminalize Ag Industry Whistleblowers
Even meat-eaters usually have standards on the humane treatment of farm animals, but the government makes it very hard for organic farmers to do business. It says that chickens are no longer allowed to be outdoors, and it forces some famers to do things like move cattle as far as 200 miles or more to another facility because of a regulation (something that is not good for the animals at all).
But most importantly, it creates “Ag Gag” laws that criminalize whistleblowers that might expose the unethical practices of Big Ag. Someone filming bad practices under false pretenses is not a crime, it is one potential way in which the market regulates itself. If someone were to lie and say a factory farm used a practice and the claim was false, it would be actionable by the law on the grounds of slander. But if the practice is not a lie, it would be up to the market to decide, and the market would likely punish such offenders. The government shouldn’t be protecting companies from market reprisal, especially if they are receiving subsidies from the same government.
4. Reasonable Wild and Dangerous Animal Regulation
The nation was horrified when an exotic pet owner killed himself in Ohio and set all of his animals free, including tigers, lions and bears. After authorities killed all the animals, lawmakers swiftly passed legislation which made it that much harder for exotic pet owners to own animals, forcing many of them to surrender their pets to state-run shelters. When it comes to wild animals, most state-run shelters may not be equipped to house the animal, which will likely result in the animal being killed.
Like BSL, the new law would also target the species, not the owner, and other states are starting to follow suit. West Virginia lawmakers passed a wild animal law in response to the same incident in Ohio, and they are not alone. New York City has banned such pets as ferrets, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, many reptiles, and other fairly harmless creatures.
Some kind of reasonable laws regarding dangerous animals seems just, but it shouldn’t hurt responsible pet owners and pet store operators in the process. Some relatively docile animals, like ducks, raccoons, hedgehogs, ferrets and skunks, are already illegal in many states to keep as pets. Any laws regarding exotic animals should focus on public safety, not species.
5. End Government Meat Subsidies.
There was a time when eating meat was a luxury, because it was expensive. Right now, however, the cost of beef is hidden, much like corn, energy, healthcare and many other things. It is hidden because the government is subsidizing so much of it. You can bet that if these subsidies were to end, we’d all be eating a lot less meat.
This might sound like a bad thing initially, but even a libertarians and conservatives who like meat should nevertheless appreciate the argument against subsidies (even if that means paying $15 for a Big Mac). Non-meat eaters shouldn’t have to pay to subsidize your food choices. Subsidies also usually mean you get more of the thing being subsidized, and this certainly has an impact on the way products like meat are produced (i.e. mass produced, as opposed to small, family-owned farms).
And if you’re a vegetarian, pescetarian, or vegan, you should appreciate it even more. You may know very well that sticking to organics and non-dairy products can be challenging and expensive. If market forces were allowed to play out in the absence of subsidies, the products you enjoy would become more widely available and mainstream, and they would be much cheaper. Eating meat would also become less culturally dominating, but not because anyone’s forced to stop eating it.
6. End Government-sponsored Animal Testing
This was also the subject of a recent video by Julie Borowski, and deserves serious consideration. While not everyone is going to agree about the usefulness or even the ethics of animal testing, animal activists and lovers of the free market can at least agree that it is not an appropriate use of tax dollars. The White Coat Waste Project estimates that the government spends $15 Billion every year on animal testing, which is why it partnered with lawmakers to present a bill that would require government-funded labs to be more transparent with the research they do.
The National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute for Health have both acknowledged that testing on animals is not just ethically questionable, but costly and ineffective as well.
But there is good news. The Harvard-based Wyss Institute has come up with a solution to animal testing that may actually be more effective. They have found a way to mimic human organs by recreating specific physiological conditions on a small chip. Eventually, they hope to be able to integrate these chips to recreate more accurate conditions for human biological testing.
Other strategies have been adopted, such as computer modeling, and “microdosing” of human volunteers. There have also been private sector solutions to education-oriented vivisection, such as what has been pioneered by Strategic Operations. Before becoming a training facility for reality-based medical exercises, it was a TV studio specializing in special effects makeup. They have an anatomically accurate “cut suit,” which can now be used to simulate a real life human body for education purposes.
Major breakthroughs in technology and medicine are happening all the time, too. As we wrote about this week, for example, a Swiss biotech company may have produced the first effective cure for cancer. There is no telling what else the future holds, but animal testing could easily become a thing of the past.
If you are aware of any other Libertarian solutions to animal issues, please let us know in the comments below. If you are a member of a group working on one of these issues, or are aware of such a group, feel free to share that as well.