Governing Animals: Animal Welfare and the Liberal State

By Kimberly K. Smith | Go to book overview

Introduction

[A] human being is by nature a political animal.

ARISTOTLE, Politics

[A] land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community
to plain member and citizen of it.

ALDO LEOPOLD, A Sand County Almanac

IN 2002, SENATOR Jesse Helms proposed an amendment to the federal Animal Welfare Act with the aim of preventing the US Department of Agriculture from extending the Act’s protection to certain classes of animals. The Act, first passed in 1966 and amended several times since, sets standards of care for warm-blooded animals used by breeders, dealers, exhibitors, and researchers. It mandates, among other things, humane care, training for those who handle animals, and supervision of animal experimentation by Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees. But in 1972, the US Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for enforcing the Act, adopted regulations exempting birds, rats, mice, horses, and farmed animals from its coverage, leaving a relatively small class of animals protected. The regulation was supported by the scientific research community but strongly criticized by animal welfare advocates as unfair and inhumane to the excluded animals. The animal welfare advocates very nearly won their point: In 1998, a lawsuit brought by the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation, a subsidiary of the American Antivivisection Society, resulted in a settlement with the USDA providing that rats, mice, and birds would be brought under the statute’s mandate. But before the regulation could be changed, Senator Helms persuaded his colleagues to amend the statute to preserve the exclusion.

Helms’s principal argument in favor of the amendment was to “make sure that none of the important work taking place in the medical research community will be delayed, made more expensive, or be otherwise compromised by

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