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The three reasons:  the Missouri Tea Party, Phyllis Schlafly and Joe the Plumber. I don’t normally advocate arguments based on an appeal to authority, but in this case the temptation to argue negatively based on an appeal to (anti?) authority is just too strong. Doesn’t the fact that the Tea Party, Phyllis Schlafly and Joe the Plumber have jumped into the fray against the “Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act” (Proposition B) make you want to run out and vote for it immediately?

Animal cruelty is not a liberal or conservative issue per se. Many good, conservative Republicans in my neighborhood signed the petition to get Prop. B on the ballot. However, the anti-Prop. B lobbying efforts on the part of the Tea Party and the two media personalities is more or less predictable. The Tea Party, for instance, seems so worked up that a new group in Mexico, Mo. will devote it’s first meeting to figuring out how they can fight Prop. B. One can only imagine what frothing displays we will be gifted  with if they manage to get their bad-tempered act together.

The Tea Party involvement is easy to explain. The organization formed to fight Prop B, the misnamed Alliance for Truth (they claim that anti-animal cruelty activists “don’t like animals”), for lack of a better tack, is pushing all kinds of far-fetched conspiracy stories – catnip for Tea Party paranoia.

The Alliance has managed to distort the simple and straightforward provisions of Prop. 6 into a “radical” plot that reaches into (where else?) the White House. According to Alliance for Truth spokesperson, Anita Andrews, the main instigator of this plot is the Humane Society of the Unitd States (HSUS) which:

… seeks only to raise the cost of breeding dogs, making it ever-more difficult for middle-class American families to be dog-owners.”

[…]

Andrews  also explained that Cass Sunstein, “one of the biggest animal rights activists,” and President Obama’s Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is tied to the Humane Society, and is helping them give Obama “a punch list” of the animals rights activists’ agenda.

It would take its own separate post to go into all that’s wrong with this little gem.

The involvement of Joe the Plumber requires no explanation beyond the fact that taking up the fight against Prop. B offers one more avenue for expanding his fifteen minutes of fame. This explanation also helps us understand his incoherent, over-the-top statement on the Alliance for Truth site, which proclaims Prop. B proponents to be:

…cowardly hiding behind animal cruelty, lying to our citizens and taking our constitutional rights away – one state at a time.

Ahhh! The constitutional right to be cruel abuse animals! I knew there had to be a constitutional issue in there somewhere. Since Prop B doesn’t involve the federal government, but simply a state deciding for itself about whether or not it wants to allow longstanding abuses to continue, the constitutional card loses some of the old Tea Party punch. But never fear, it does its job with the target audience; all you have to do is repeat the word “constitutional” enough and they end up drooling on the rug.

Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, of course, opposes government regulation on principle. The weakness of this position in cases like that of Missouri’s scandalous puppy mill industry is revealed by her tactics.  Instead of principled arguments about regulation, even poor, old, hardline Phyllis is reduced to advocating conspiracy theories to make her opposition to anti-cruelty legislation palatable:

HSUS has attacked modern livestock production practices in several other states and, while the first battle in Missouri is targeted to dog breeders, this is the precursor to subsequent fight involving our Missouri farm families

Can’t these bozos get it through their heads that this legislation deals exclusively with dog breeders, and that it has been proposed because the puppy mill industry has been a blight on Missouri’s reputation for years? Any legislation, for good or ill, directed at other livestock will have to be passed or defeated on its own terms.

Read the provisions of Prop.B yourself. They are straightforward and describe minimal improvements in the welfare of dogs used for large-scale breeding purposes. TPM quotes Humane Society spokesperson Michael Markarian who summarizes Prop. B  as follows:

This measure would provide common sense standards for the care of dogs,” he told TPM, including sufficient food and clean water, vet care, regular exercise, and adequate rest between breeding cycles, among other things. Markarian said the measure only applies to “commercial dog breeding facilities” that have more than 10 breeding females who they use for “producing puppies for the pet trade.

If conforming to these very basic requirements would bankrupt a breeder, as some have argued, then that breeder should not be in the business in the first place. We don’t condone forced child labor because paying adults a living wage would bankrupt the manufacturer – do we?

It should tell us something when the opponents of proposed legislation resort to manufacturing non-existent conspiracies, imagining impossible constitutional encroachments, and projecting their own dishonest agendas on a clear-as-water initiative. The “slippery slope” argument that gets them so worked up has always been a loser that has hurt “us” more than “them.” In this case it will only serve to perpetuate unnecessary animal suffering.

Tea Party photo by Sage Ross from Wikimedia Commons; Joe the Plumber photo from Wikimedia Commons.