Conservatives on Earth Day
April 24th, 2006

Good news for the animals is that their welfare, including their ability to survive in the environment we humans impact, is being seen less and less as strictly a Democratic or Liberal issue. Ben Stein, a conservative who writes for the American Spectator, focuses on animal issues in his column in that magazine's May issue. And the Monday, April 24, edition of USA Today includes an op-ed by Rod Dreher, author of "Crunchy Cons," headed, "A Green Christian Conservative." (P 19a.)

Dreher's column opens,
"Earth Day is not my day, not really.

"As both a conservative and an avid indoorsman, I've always seen it as a high holy day for hippies, Whole Foods devotees, spotted-owl fetishists and sundry crunchy-granola types who believe that "Think Globally, Act Locally" is the Eleventh Commandment.

"But you know, I've got to wonder how much longer we on the right can justify an environmental philosophy that amounts to little more than sneering at liberal tree-huggers.

"For one thing, whatever the self-righteous excesses of the environmentalist left, it is impossible to be true to traditional conservative values (to say nothing of the Christian faith conservatives like me profess) and hold laissez faire attitudes about the use and abuse of the natural world. And for another, have you noticed that, um, it's getting really warm in here?

"I justified my hostility to environmentalists because of their alarmism, their stridency and even a narrow but toxic vein of misanthropy among their lot. What turned me around was reading Dominion, a book by former Bush speechwriter Matthew Scully, who made a conservative moral case for animal welfare.

"Scully's critique rests on the classical virtue of piety -- a term taken these days to mean religiosity but which, in its older usage, means a deep sense of reverence and humility as a fundamental stance to reality. In fact, piety toward nature is part of traditional conservatism's intellectual patrimony."

Dreher writes that "our impiety appears not to be one of radically diminished resources, but of potentially catastrophic climate change. It comes from an arrogant refusal by a modern consumerist society to accept limits on its desires....No serious person can deny the overwhelming scientific evidence that the world's climate is changing dramatically for the worse. Conservative skeptics, however, argue that the science isn't clear enough to pinpoint the degree to which human activity is responsible. Even if that were true, given the staggering magnitude of the stakes, it is wildly imprudent to wait for a level of certainty that may never come, or come too late.

He quotes, Tim Flannery, author of "The Weather Makers": "Skepticism is an indispensable element in scientific inquiry, but when the intention is to mislead rather than clarify, we have not skepticism but deceit."

And he comments:
"There's much self-deceit about global warming among us conservatives. To take this stuff seriously would mean confronting the fact that we cannot continue living as we like. It would mean dealing like grown-ups with the real possibility that we are condemning future generations to excruciating hardship because we refuse our duty to stewardship."

You can read the whole piece on line at:

It offers us a great opportunity for appreciative letters to the editor that discuss the impact of climate change on the animals, or celebrating the emergence of animal and environmental protection as bi-partisan issues.

Ben Stein's column in the May 2006 American Spectator includes a segment about the HSUS Genesis Awards, and about the need for conservatives to take animal protection seriously. It is headed, "Finally, A Hollywood awards dinner that makes me feel great. Or at least semi-great."

Here is the segment:

"I drove home with my trusty driver, Mr. Selim, in his fabulous new Audi A8L (what a car!!!), quickly changed, and then headed off to the Humane Society Dinner at the Beverly Hilton, just a hop, skip, and a jump from our house. This thing is called 'The Genesis Awards 20' because it is the 20th year they've been given. The mistress of this whole event is glorious Gretchen Wyler. She is a famous theater and TV star who has devoted most of her life to helping poor animals. I met up with her decades ago when I used to write a column for the now defunct Herald-Examiner. Often, my topic was kindness to animals, so Gretchen got together with me. We did a function against laboratory cruelty to animals in front of the federal building in Los Angeles long, long ago.

"Now, we're working together again (if you can call it work) on a segment of the Genesis Awards devoted to people who helped out in the companion animal disaster that was Hurricane Katrina. Many, many thousands of cats and dogs became separated from their masters and mistresses. Many perished in horrible circumstances -- drowned, starved, electrocuted -- when their owners were taken away but no one would take them. Enter some very Good Samaritans who came to New Orleans to rescue the poor creatures who survived. Many of these were spurred on by media reports. Many media people did rescues themselves.

"So, I am giving them awards for their work getting people to focus on the plight of companion animals who suffered in Katrina. I got to hand out awards to TV station people, network people, ordinary people who saved dogs and cats.

"The best part was this: a poor large black pooch saved a poor black man from drowning in the cold, murky water. Then the animal went back to his porch -- from which his master had long disappeared. A fine man from KCAL 9 TV in Los Angeles came back the next day and the dog was still there. He brought the dog home in his media truck and now the dog lives with his family in L.A. He brought the dog out onto the stage and everyone went wild with applause. I kissed the dog and said, 'See, Republicans love animals.'

"But, unfortunately, this does not seem to be completely true. I sat next to a man named Brad Sherman. He is a Democrat congressman from L.A. He told me that the Bush White House had blocked a bill banning wild horse slaughter out west. This seems like a no-brainer to me. Why would anyone want to slaughter beautiful wild horses? Especially since they are tortured by being hung by one leg in the process of slaughter? Maybe Brad Sherman was feeding me a line, but if so, I pray the Bush White House wakes up and lets this bill go forward.

"Yes, cattle have to be fed, too. Yes, ranchers have the right to a living. But how can anyone shoot a magnificent wild horse from a helicopter? Why would anyone have it in his soul to do that?

"If I were President, I would make a more humane life for animals my very first priority. At the Genesis Awards, there were stories about horrifying, vicious kills of dolphins in Japan. Terrifying, blood-curdling stories of cruelty to dolphins in 'tame' dolphin parks in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Israel. There were videos of amazingly sadistic torment of caged chickens who live and die in an area the size of a sheet of paper. There were stories about torture on factory farms, all so pork chops can be a few cents cheaper. The award winner in this class was actually a man who edits the American Conservative magazine, which seems to have something to do with Pat Buchanan. He embarrassed me by letting his Hollywood audience know he had always opposed the war in Iraq, which brought applause. But I'll tell him, he gets nowhere by playing this card with Hollywood. They won't respect him in the morning.

"Anyway, my wifey and I went home, determined to eat a lot less meat. 'Humane actions starts with the fork,' as an award-winning cartoonist said tonight.

"But how can it be that when animals are our best friends, we are their worst enemies?

"As the kindly but slightly naive man from the American Conservative said (and I am paraphrasing), if we conservatives believe in God, we surely cannot believe He means for us to feed ourselves by torturing innocent animals. There has to be a better way.

"Anyway, this is Gretchen Wyler's last year doing this event, and she is bound for an eternity of glory."