Murphy: ‘Methinks Thou Dost Protest Too Much’

In any discussion of controversial topics, these days, it’s not easy remaining logical, being reasonable or attempting to foster compromises that, while not fully satisfying everyone, at least reach some common ground that mitigates the acrimony partisan wrangling invariably generates.

Animal activists are among the worst at even considering such efforts. They can’t pronounce “compromise,” much less consider working toward its achievement. And the excuse is always the same: “These are animals’ lives we’re talking about. You can’t compromise with that!”

That may be true when documented cases of obvious animal abuse occur. Dog fighting comes to mind.

But activists expand the scorched-earth, ends-justify-the-means, never-give-an-inch approach to every issue they deem to be connected in any way to animal welfare. The most vocal among their ranks would have us believe that it’s as vitally important to force vegan pet food on dogs and cats as it is to curtail the breeding of dogs slaughtered for their meat.

Such an ironclad approach to what are often nuanced issues with multiple constituencies not only makes the messaging of these purity police easy to dismiss, it obviates any impact when they and their fellow travelers engage on serious matters worthy of their trench-warfare positioning.

Here’s an example of what I mean, this one concerning activists in the UK, people who were obviously not wrapped up in following every detail of the royal wedding.

Irony of Ironies
Our tale begins at an animal sanctuary in Ringmer, England, a village in the East Sussex area near the English Channel about 60 miles — excuse me, about 98 kilometers — south of London.

The venue, the Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, houses approximately 2,000 animals, mostly abandoned dogs and cats, plus an assortment of rodents, birds and a few of goats, sheep and ponies, judging from their website’s photo album, animals apparently “rescued” from people unable or unwilling to provide proper care.

All told, the two-year report posted by the foundation that operates Raystede noted that the following animals had been “re-homed:” 259 dogs, 267 cats and 172 bunnies, guinea pigs and other small animals. More than 550 chickens were also reported to have been “given sanctuary,” mostly older hens from local egg laying operations.

(Most consumers look at that statistic and mentally condemn egg producers for “abandoning” hens after only a few years of production. What they don’t understand is that as the commercial breeds universally found in egg laying facilities begin to age, their eggs become thin-shelled. Operators cannot risk marketing eggs whose shells may crack during handling, washing, sorting packaging and distribution before arriving at a supermarket or foodservice site. Those eggs are fine for a backyard “operation,” but from a food-safety perspective, unacceptable for sale to the general public).

Anyway, there is no indication that Raystede is housing animals “extracted,” shall we say, from livestock operations or taken from farmers raising them commercially.

The sanctuary itself also houses a gift shop and visitors’ café on the premises, “to generate profits that go back into helping the animals,” to quote from their literature.

It’s that latter facility that sparked a protest by the very same people who likely provide some of the monetary support for the sanctuary.

On a recent national holiday in England, one of the site’s busiest days of the year, protestors gathered in Raystede’s café. According to a story in the Sussex Express newspaper, they held up a banner proclaiming, “Raystede – please stop killing animals for your cafe.”

Basically, the protestors, who have also launched an online campaign to generate emails to the sanctuary, are demanding that Raystede’s café go vegan.

“There are no such things as humane animal products,” reads the automated email supporters can send to Raystede. “Farm animals suffer unthinkably for the pleasure of humans who like the taste. Serving meat, dairy, eggs and fish whilst perpetuating the deception that it can ever be humane is hugely detrimental to the cause of animal welfare.”

Now consider for a moment the big picture. If you’re someone who believes that rescuing abandoned or mistreated pets is an important and valuable mission for a nonprofit such as Raystede to pursue, then wouldn’t you want as many of these creatures as possible to be given sanctuary, and ideally, “re-homed” to people who would adequately care for them?

Of course you would.

And if you were such a person, it would seem axiomatic that you’d be aware that operating a not-for-profit anything, much less a giant farmstead with hundreds of mouths and beaks to feed would be expensive. In fact, Raystede’s own website puts the cost of just the food required for their cats at more than $16,000 a year, and the cost of maintaining the dog kennels at more than $6,800 a week.

So why would anyone genuinely concerned about the welfare of the animals housed at the sanctuary want to turn off the 95% of the population that doesn’t embrace a vegan diet? Why would it be a good thing to reduce the revenues the café brings in, when it’s questionable how many of the visitors to the sanctuary would be eager to eat only vegan food?

The answer to those rhetorical queries are obvious: Because animal activists can broach no departure from the party line that ALL animal food is a scourge on the Earth, that ALL farmers and ranchers raising livestock are the equivalent of Nazi collaborators and that ALL people who allow even a bite of meat or dairy products to pass their lips are complicit in the perpetuation of animal cruelty in its most heinous form.

The protestors at Raystede accept no compromise, they have predetermined that there’s no middle ground, and they accept no departure from their ideological message — even from supporters who patronize a café at an animal sanctuary dedicated to furthering the mission to which they claim allegiance.

The irony is palpable, and the prospects for meeting somewhere in the middle nonexistent.

Editor’s Note: The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.