Just another form of humane education

Five years ago today I was working on my daughter’s wedding cake. Over the years I had done enough fairytale type wedding functions to appreciate the simplicity of the small intimate day that she and her husband wanted. They were married in the same church in West Arichat that he was baptized in.
We rented the lovely old Cranberry House … not only was it roomy enough for our much smaller side of the family to stay, but it did double duty for a relaxed afternoon reception.
Her wedding dress came from Frenchies and the food trays from the Superstore and from Subway. Her maid of honors’ beau took the pictures and his best friend played the music for the ceremony.
It was a beautiful stress free day and I’ll always be glad we picked the simple path.
I hadn’t realized how well she had paid attention to my experiences doing weddings over the years. Honestly … at no point did I ever sit her down and rhyme off a list of reasons why large formal weddings are so fraught with peril. But children catch more than we realize and she figured out what she wanted for herself by paying attention.
So even if the society succeeds in getting humane education into the schools, the first lessons will always be learned at home. Right or wrong… good or bad .. that’s where it will start.
Did Mom and Dad give away the pets when they moved? Did they spay the cat? Drown the kittens? Shoot the dog?
How can such family traditions be changed for the better? The same way that any change is made. My best friend grew up in a home where his mother was repeatedly at risk by his father. The children used to have to creep out the window, over the porch and hide in the barn when their father had been drinking. Everyone knew it happened but nobody did anything.
Why? Because there were not enough laws with teeth to prevent it. The neighbours knew if they reported it that it would only make the situation worse.
Laws are one of the most effective tools to make social change. People didn’t wake up one morning and decide it was wrong to drink and drive. It took changing the law to deter most folks.
How does legislation change? Through our politicians of course … it changes when bills to effect change are initiated. It changes when bills are amended. It only changes when there is strong enough voter feedback to inspire the politicians to react.
Most of the legislation that would improve the lot of animals either does double duty as:
1. Public safety :

  • protecting dogs from being chained 24/7 protects children and neighbours
  • preventing dogs from riding loose in the back of pickups protects both the foot and road traffic in their vicinity

2. Consumer Protection:

  • legislation to ban the traffic of living breathing sentient beings in the free online ad sites minimizes the lack of support given by the ‘curbside guarantee”
  • in addition, it also minimized the chances for consumers to be sold unhealthy animals
  • and of course it reduces the chances of consumers finding out that free to a good home might be more than they bargained for owing to lack of training.

People obey the law because it is more convenient for them than breaking it. When the public prosecutor willingly engages in the travesty of the Five Dollar Decision … there is nothing in the penalty to make it inconvenient for anyone to kill an animal.

It will take stronger penalties to deter irresponsible pet owners and animal abusers ( the debate as to where the line is drawn between the two is a separate subject for another day )

At the end of the day …. changing the laws is just another form of humane education. Most men these days understand that it is just wrong to hurt a woman …. but for those who don’t get that … the social disgrace and financial penalties embedded in the law are there to act as a deterrent.

The lessons we teach our children are not always the ones we meant to give. If we want to ‘teach all our children well’ in NS, putting some teeth into our provincial animal cruelty legislation is a dandy place to start.

It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important. Martin Luthor King, Jr.

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