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MATTHEW SCULLY: Fauci’s ‘kennel of horrors’; A study in animal protection as a conservative cause

There’s nothing strictly liberal about concern for factory-farmed animals, nothing conservative about indifference, nothing partisan at all in simple fellow-feeling for these afflicted creatures, cursed for our sake. As a moral cause, it is a category all its own, not about anything else, not trying to rewrite your worldview or reorder your life.

MATTHEW SCULLY: A nonprofit called the White Coat Waste Project is devoted to investigating the precise uses of federal money in animal experimentation, making heavy use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to unearth evidence of both profligacy and cruelty. In July, the group zeroed in on research that might have been authorized by Dr. Anthony Fauci, and in October publicized some of the disturbing details.

These included a lab in Tunisia that had reported receiving grants from our National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the division of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) that Fauci directs. At that lab, beagle puppies were force-fed an experimental drug, then left to be eaten alive by hundreds of sand flies — the flies starved in preparation for this test. In an experiment elsewhere, funded by NIAID, similar tests were conducted: the puppies drugged, surgically silenced — “de-barked,” to spare researchers from hearing the cries of pain — and killed…

In general, the scandal was a case of excuse-making on the left as it contended with selective outrage on the right. And you have to wonder why it took the Fauci angle for our media to get on a story that’s compelling enough on its own merits. Among the hundreds of reporters on science, medicine, and congressional-appropriations beats, at least some might have made FOIA inquires of their own about NIH experiments. But other than Glenn Greenwald, who’s been on the case? Why did it take an advocacy group, White Coat, to do the journalists’ work for them?…

In most big-name newspapers, these studies were deemed unsuitable reading, while in the New York Post, Daily Mail, The Daily Caller, The Federalist, and at Fox News, and elsewhere, other revelations followed about “Fauci’s Kennel of Horrors,” as one headline put it. No evidence of the NIAID director’s other failings had ever broken through what writer Glenn Greenwald calls the “shield of liberal veneration”… In a 2018 Intercept piece, Greenwald explored “a largely hidden, poorly regulated, and highly profitable industry in the United States that has a gruesome function: breeding dogs for the sole purpose of often torturous experimentation, after which the dogs are killed because they are no longer of use”…

The Intercept piece is an unflinching work of journalism, and after reading it one can easily recognize the opposite, in the form of an October 25 defense of the dog experiments by Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank. The column reads like an exhibit in some other kind of study, supporting the hypothesis that, when their icons are threatened, liberals can be made to believe and parrot anything…

The Post’s former White House reporter has been told “it is mandatory that the dogs be euthanized,” and when something is federally mandatory that should be final; only the “anti-science forces” arrayed against Fauci, so “bitter about his aggressive fight against covid-19,” don’t get that. “Beagles,” he continued, “are used because of their uniform size.” In truth, beagles are promoted by laboratory dog breeders as ideal for experiments because they’re so compliant and trusting — undone, in the wrong hands, by their sweet temperament — traits that NIAID criteria term their “docile nature.” Even “de-barking,” Milbank had convinced himself, is really for the puppies’ own good. Awful as the practice sounds, and despite being a criminal offense in some jurisdictions, in laboratories, he informed us, “the dogs undergo cordectomies to reduce anxiety”…

And if you were following the scandal at the time, maybe you noticed another recasting, surely for the good. Placed by the lab revelations in the role of defenders of animals against institutional abuse, prominent Republicans found themselves on the right side of a moral issue with broad public support…

Fordham theology professor Charles Camosy, in an October 27 commentary for Religion News Service, doubted the sincerity of Fauci’s critics in suddenly pouncing on accounts of the goings-on at NIH, wondering, “Have conservatives, who in response to many issues raised about animal protection often respond by invoking how much they like bacon, done a 180?” It’s a fair point, worth thinking over before we rule out the 180…

As Camosy points out, some conservatives meet the issue with habitual contempt, brushing it off with their boorish “bacon” talk and the like. But the cruelty problem and its remedies do not follow any narratives of the Left or of the Right. We can leave animals and efforts to protect them out of our culture wars. There’s nothing strictly liberal about concern for factory-farmed animals, nothing conservative about indifference, nothing partisan at all in simple fellow-feeling for these afflicted creatures, cursed for our sake. As a moral cause, it is a category all its own, not about anything else, not trying to rewrite your worldview or reorder your life.

Whether progressive, MAGA, or something in between, you can be for protecting animals, including farmed animals — and even for alternatives to animal products — without giving an inch on any front. As Greenwald writes, this is “a movement that can attract people from all ideologies, who identify with either or neither of the two political parties, but unite in defense of universally held values and principles.”

Be careful before discounting the drawing power of those values among many conservatives. When Camosy writes that animals share with us “the breath of life,” as our companions in Creation, with a dignity of their own, that’s language we know, a dog whistle of the best kind. He could also have mentioned ancient ideals such as the moral restraint of the strong toward the weak and lowly, or our Judeo-Christian duty to be lenient and merciful to other creatures — truths that still speak to all but the hard of heart.

Even when it’s inconvenient, even when conventional opinion makes no objection, conservatives are supposed to stand against things that are degrading to life, vicious, tyrannical — all of which describes the deliberate abuse of great masses of innocent creatures in the name of efficiency and profit, no matter how much factory farmers might try to sanitize their image. Of course we should strive for and welcome alternatives to all of that — call them vegan, plant-based, or whatever you want.

In an age when, at any given moment, some 50 or 60 billion farmed animals worldwide know nothing of life but pain, dread, and despair, what are those alternatives but an acceptance of personal responsibility for the consequences of our own actions? Do rules for living get any more conservative than that?

It’s true that some interest groups with conservative leanings are deeply invested in exploitative industries, above all the meat industry, and are catered to in Republican policies as if enjoying their own shield of veneration against doubt or challenge. The other party hears from them too; that’s one reason animal-protection issues in general never receive the earnest, consistent treatment they warrant, even though public support could often be assumed.

Against the cause of animals we will always have such formidable interests and their apologists, who specialize in what C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain, called “that covert propaganda for cruelty that tries to drive mercy out of the world.” The best refutation of such propaganda is always the sight of the practices in question. Like those scenes of man’s best friend and next of kin trapped in nightmare laboratories, they leave any conscientious observer nearly as helpless as the creatures themselves to grasp the why of their misfortune.

Ideally, it would not have taken Dr. Fauci and his kennels to set off alarms and call attention to wicked things. But if the scandal makes all of us think and care a little more, about those animals and others, then we can put at least one NIH experiment down as an enlightening and successful test of empathy…

Stories about “de-barked” dogs and the like catch us with our guard down, allowing for unreserved condemnation. Much as we might admire and love dogs, however, it’s make-believe to act as though abusing them is an outrage while the massive, standardized, and carefully concealed abuse of other animals is an acceptable fact of life, just the way things are. We don’t need to run them through an NIMH lab to prove that pigs, cows, lambs, fowl, and all other farmed animals also suffer.

They have minds, emotions, and needs. They’re not nothing. If most humans feel no special connection to them, that is no verdict on these creatures and their worthiness. They can hardly be expected to attract our sympathy from across a chasm of willful ignorance between the animal products we use and the factory farms, which themselves resemble an elaborate torture experiment.

Here too our major media rarely dig deep into the issue, perhaps mindful of advertisers, or else too caught up in their easy and overwrought climate coverage to focus on a moral calamity in the here and now. So it was again Greenwald who, last year in the Intercept, captured the extreme torment inflicted by industrial-scale farming, with an account of the pandemic-driven “depopulation” and mass burial of pigs, some of them while still alive. SOURCE…

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