Pampering Pooches, Shooting Seals

(1) Pampering Pooches

Wealth inequality has reached a new high (or low): Paris Hilton’s dogs are now worth more than you. Alternet reports that the heiress recently constructed a $350,000 doghouse for her canine companions. While a million people in the U.S. sleep in the street each night, Tinkerbell, Dolce, and their friends doze easily in their bright-pink two-story home, which boasts central air, designer doggie furniture, a crystal chandelier, and even ample closet space: “My friends say [the dogs] have a better wardrobe than most people,” Hilton recounts.

The comments on the original Perez Hilton page, a celebrity gossip site, showed a heartening level of indignation. Most posters agreed that it’s “a shame to just spend money on dumb stuff when there are millions of americans [sic] that actually are in need of money.” One even assured Hilton that “Hell is waiting you [expletive deleted].” A few posters, though, asserted that “no one should begrudge what she spends her money on.”

This reminded me of a 2009 Salon article by Garrison Keillor criticizing another kind of pet pampering: medical care. Keillor was writing during the “death panel” scare, and his target was the right-wing opposition to the Affordable Healthcare Act. He points out that Americans spend some $10 billion a year on expensive—and often needless—pet surgeries and medical treatments, and yet some people don’t want to chip in to provide basic healthcare for their neighbors and co-workers. “There was real sympathy for the parent of the bassets with the adrenal deficiency,” Keillor writes,

whereas the 48 million uninsured Americans … are merely a big fat statistic. … We can sort of imagine the misery of walking into an emergency room with no money, no plastic, no Blue Cross card, and trying to obtain treatment for some ailment that doesn’t involve bone fragments protruding from the skin, but it doesn’t speak to the heart the way an injured dog does.

Nobody noticed “that the knee operation on the 14-year-old golden retriever (a recent cancer survivor) shows a level of caring far beyond what we extend to three-fourths of the world’s population.”

The protest slogan of wealthy pet owners? “Pooches Over People.” Many people in this country, not to say the world, would be very glad to receive this kind of medical care, or to live in Hilton’s doghouse. “People love their animals,” Keillor concludes,

and if we could just agree that everybody in America should receive the same level of care enjoyed by an elderly golden retriever, we could be done with this and get ready for the World Series.

(2) Shooting Seals

More animal news: in response to “Way Beyond Greenwashing” by Jonathan Latham (March/April), reader Don Staniford of Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture (GAAIA) forwarded us an open letter from GAAIA to WWF. The letter, which includes a link to Latham’s article, criticizes WWF for supporting the “slaughter of marine mammals” via its endorsement of “‘seal unfriendly'” farmed salmon. WWF sponsors farmers, like Marine Harvest, that employ marksmen to shoot seals before they can get at the fish. Over the past 18 months, 310 seals, including pups and pregnant mothers, have been killed just on Scotland’s west coast. “If you buy this salmon you’re paying for seals to be shot,” concludes a July 8 People (UK) article. GAAIA adds: “If you support WWF you’re paying for seals to be shot.” The WWF

has morphed into a corporate whore pandering to big business … and [a] sponsor of wildlife slaughter. …. Sadly, it seems that … [the] money-grabbing WWF has sacrificed its core principles at the altar of bloodthirsty corporations.

In its July 2012 report on salmon aquaculture, WWF endorses, with some caveats, “lethal action” against marine mammals. As with agribusiness, WWF’s standards on salmon farms aren’t having their intended effect, and are sanctioning the very kinds of policies they should forbid.

—Will Whitham

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