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On Photos of “Euthanasia”

As I’ve often written, I’m not a fan of using gruesome photos when it comes to animal rights. In fact, the photos in my pamphlet, which were taken by Deb Durant, are all close-ups of healthy individuals, looking directly at you (and of course there’s the token photo of Violet: the only great one I’ve ever taken).

When I wrote about "The Stark Reality of Animal Euthanasia" last week, I commented that I thought the photos were powerful:

What is most effective, for me, other than the numbers, are the photos. Fontaine takes the reader through each step in the euthanasia process, from the decision to kill the animal until inmates from the Palm Beach County Stockade cremate her (and I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have inmates do that. Might that desensitize them? Might they already be in a delicate state of mind that could be negatively affected by burning animal carcasses all day?) Fontaine has pictures from various points in the process. And there is also a slideshow of "sheltered living" that I challenge you to complete without crying.

The images aren’t that gruesome if you don’t know what’s going on. They’re not happy pictures, but their power comes from the narrative.

Meanwhile, there was quite a controversy about whether to include the photos at all, and a deliberate decision to have them not on the front page. What occurred next was fascinating. People claiming to love animals wrote to the editor, shocked (see ‘Shocking is too mild a word’) by the images. The one I found most interesting was:

Jane Alesi e-mailed: "It made me sick to see the appalling, atrocious, awful, dreadful, frightful, ghastly, grisly, gruesome, hideous, horrendous, horrid, horrifying, nightmarish, shocking, terrible and graphic pictures (shown) in today’s paper. The photos have not left my mind and probably never will. How can you with a moral conscience print this for people to see? We know what they do to the poor animals. We know the miserable people out there and what they do with their so-called pets. You don’t have to shove it down my throat or (that of) any other pet lover out there."

Let me get this straight: it’s unconscionable to show people what their tax dollars go to? It’s "nightmarish" to educate people about an issue that is so important it will likely lead to a mandatory spay/neuter bill (with breeders excluded, of course. Like they’re not part of the problem)? It’s "horrendous" to show you what happens every single day, to dozens of healthy animals, some of whom never even got to the point where they were up for adoption, and humans are responsible for this situation and it doesn’t have to end this way? What I think is "appalling, atrocious, awful, dreadful, frightful, ghastly, grisly,
gruesome, hideous, horrendous, horrid, horrifying, nightmarish,
shocking and terrible," is that people want to continue to keep their eyes closed and in fact find it morally objectionable when someone else tries to pry them open.

Now that I know the impact of these particular photos, I’m glad they were published. It’s time people in our community learn what goes on at Animal Care & Control. Maybe then they’ll do something about it. I say we begin by stop using the word "euthanasia" when killing is really what we’re doing. I left a comment:

I agree with JohnW. Our tax dollars are funding this killing (and it is killing when you end the life of a healthy animal or person. Ending the life of someone terminally ill or suffering gravely is "euthanasia"). We must work toward being a no-kill community. Though mandatory spay/neuter is important, it should include breeders, as they are in fact part of the problem. We created this problem, and now we’ve got to fix it. But it’s not a problem we can kill our way out of.

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