THE ONLY IRONY TO which Frankie Trull (The Mail,11/3) can lay claim is that embodied in her dubious expression of concern for the fate of the Washington Humane Society (WHS). In fact, the Foundation for Biomedical Research, which she has led for nearly two decades, has consistently supported efforts to seize animals from shelters to be used in experiments. Compelling evidence exists to show that this practice has badly compromised the work of shelters throughout the nation. The foundation has never been a friend to animals, be they carriage horses or shelter animals, and I think it safe to assert that Trull and her sponsors would be nothing short of delighted if People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and every animal organization on earth went out of business.
As someone who supports animal organizations, I know that there are thousands of pressing situations to which they could easily be drawn, and how quickly the humane movement could be bankrupted were it to respond to all of these. Even so, I am often disappointed by the organizations’ failure to invest time and money in particular situations. This is not one of those instances, however. Animal organizations whose principal mission is to shape public opinion about human relations with nonhuman animals cannot afford to involve themselves in the political and financial morass that modern animal control has become without forfeiting their responsibility for the broader formation of a new and kinder sensibility concerning nonhuman animals. Henry Bergh, founder of the first SPCA in America, understood this and kept his own organization out of the business of sheltering and killing unwanted animals. Both those who contribute to animal groups and those who do not should recognize that there is a strong historical precedent for caution about entering the animal control arena.
It is worth noting that, whatever the combined resources of PETA and HSUS may be, they represent little more than pin money in comparison with the aggregate assets of the companies, animal breeders, research institutions, and cage manufacturers who support the Foundation for Biomedical Research. Perhaps it is to these interests, on whose behalf thousands of non-human animals lose their lives daily, that Trull should turn in her zeal to avert the tragic demise of WHS.
The condition of the animal shelter reflects every social ill to be found in this city. It is by no means clear, even with the infusion of millions of dollars from private organizations, that the shelter operation would flourish in the absence of concrete political and social meas ures aimed at improving all aspects of life in the urban environment.