Tuesday, September 4, 2012

No-Kill Movement - The New McCarthy Era

Today I'm embarrassed for my state.  Our governor and legislators regularly talk about the importance of small business owners, but I wonder if they're aware of their own complicity in a witch hunt against a small business across the country.  By passing CAPA in Delaware, a framework created by The No-Kill Advocacy Center, our state leadership provided a level of credibility to a movement whose leadership took part in and encouraged what can only be described as a cyberbully assault the last 3 days against a small business owner, who owns a gourmet vegan bakery and confectioner company called Allison's Gourmet.

Cyberbully Assault

While our state leadership and other community leaders across the U.S., may not have taken part in this assault directly, you have taken place in providing this organization with so-called success stories that allow the organization to drag other communities down the divisive path.  While we know that CAPA has placed our shelters in financial jeopardy, and has also harmed our animals and residents, it is touted as a success nonetheless by this group.  Even more concerning is that community leaders have allowed the minority voices of a few to become so emboldened that they feel entitled to shout down the masses, even on a small business Facebook page.  After the no-kill movement started pounding the business Facebook page of this business, the business owner posted the following eloquent message on the page.
I am disheartened by today’s assaults against my business, Allison’s Gourmet. For 15 years, I have poured my heart and soul into this delicious little company. My entire life is dedicated to compassion for animals, which is the guiding principle for everything I do, personally and professionally.
While this hurts me deeply on a personal level, what pains me even more, is the divisive undercurrent I’ve witnessed in the vegan/animal rights community over these past 15 years. As an ignited group, I am distressed that we seem to more quickly turn our flames inward amongst ourselves than to remain committed to the primary purpose of eradicating animal suffering. Whether or not we all agree upon every action every organization takes, there is no doubt that each group has contributed significantly to the betterment of animals. Perhaps imperfectly, but we live in an imperfect world.
Every voice on the spectrum has value and together we stand as a greater force for good. Divided, we fall short of realizing our full potential. It is my hope that we take this opportunity to rise to greatness, joining together in our common goal of alleviating animal suffering, recognizing that we are all on the same team, and respecting that we are each doing our part. Rather than attack one another in an anguished attempt to manage our feelings of hopelessness in the face of the atrocities of which we have knowledge, may we find refuge in solidarity by turning toward one another with the compassion we extend to animals.
With love and respect,
Allison Rivers Samson
In response to this message, the event that has taken place for the last 3 days can only be illustrated metaphorically as a bunch of playground bullies circling the business owner and yanking her arm until she says uncle, in an attempt to get PETA's lunch money.

Keeping in mind that the only thing this business did was send a gift basket to a shelter for a client, below are the comments that can only make one reminisce about the McCarthy era, when people were forced to denounce friends, coworkers, and others who McCarthy suspected of associations with communism, no matter how much of a stretch the accusation was.  To be honest, what took place this weekend was about Un-American as anything I've seen in decades.  While freedom of speech is something that all Americans value, invading a business space to tell someone to denounce another has much more in common with the McCarthy hearings that our freedom of speech.  You can't walk into a business and shout down their customers, and this was every bit as wrong as doing just that.
"It is in her best interest to denounce PETA. If not... then I would second guess supporting
this company if I were a vegan."
"Sorry, but unless you denounce the use of your products in gift baskets meant to thank people for killing cats and dogs I will NEVER buy any of your products, and I will encourage my friends to do the same."
"If Allison's Gourmet is as ethical as she claims, she should denounce PETA at once"
Edward R. Murrow said it best when it came to the McCarthy hearings and some of his statement applies well to what occurred this weekend.  In addition to the McCarthy era comparison, I grew up reading George Orwell, and the above comments also make me think of "group think" from his book 1984.  It's kind of eerie.
No one familiar with the history of this country, can deny that congressional committees are useful. It is necessary to investigate before legislating. But the line between investigating and persecuting is a very fine one, and the Junior Senator from Wisconsin has stepped over it repeatedly. We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always, that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular. This is no time for men who oppose Sen. McCarthy's methods to keep silent or for those who approve. We can deny our heritage and our history but we cannot escape responsibility for the result. We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are, the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the Junior Senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay amongst our allies abroad and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his, he didn't create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cassius was right, the fault dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck. - Edward R Murrow 3-9-54
Sadly, just as it appeared the nightmare for this business owner would end, No-Kill Advocacy Center's leader, Mr. Winograd, put out another blog post about this business to fan the flames with his followers.  Tonight as I finish up, the total comment count has reached 844.  I didn't see nearly as many of his followers on the PETA Facebook page.  I guess they found it more effective to beat up on a single owner business.  I wonder if he feels like a big man now? 

So Delaware state leadership, is this really who we should be getting our animal welfare laws from?  Could that be why CAPA has been such a failure?  I agreed with Fidel Castro when he raised concerns that our countries pursuit to increase ethanol production would impact the poor across the world with higher food prices, but I certainly wouldn't ask him to write our laws on the subject or our energy policy!  Maybe our  legislators needs to really consider the source of our laws in the future, and whether that source projects our values, from encouraging small business to a business's right to not have their customers harassed.

I wish Allison's Gourmet the best in the future.   I don't know her personally, but I hope this weekends travesty against your business by the "no-kill" movement has at least allowed more customers to find your products.  Here are some reviews from her website:

"I loved the brownies & S. wouldn't let me touch her chocolate chip cookies she loved them so much."

"The best gluten and dairy free cookies I've ever had!!"

"These are the best cookies and brownies in the world! I love to give them as gifts for birthdays and holidays."

"I ordered some emergency vegan treats for a visiting friend and they were a HUGE hit - not only did he appreciate my thoughtfulness, he was completely in love with the Snickerdoodles to the point of abstraction. Thanks so much for your prompt and delicious service!"

"Best cookies I've ever had! I will definitely be ordering again!"

"Every month I get an email from my Grandma telling me how much she loves the cookies. When I went out to visit her, I got to try the most delicious peanut butter cookies ever. I had a hard time not eating them all up. :-) Your vegan cookies ROCK! Keep up the awesome work!"

"My father received his father's day package from you today... thank you sooo much for getting it to him so quickly! He said it was packaged beautifully, and was DELICIOUS!! He will be keeping your info, as will I, for great gift ideas for family and friends!"

"Your Butterscotch Pecan Cookies are SENSATIONAL! We were oohing and aahing in the office today. Four women dying over how good they were. And so fresh. They may be my new favorite."

"My sister and I seriously loved those cookies!!! Thank you so much for them - they were so DELICIOUS & SCRUMPTIOUS! My sister and I alone finished them in less than 2 days!"

From a review on Yelp: "Allison, the founder, is very particular about freshness so she only ships Monday through Wednesday to ensure that you will receive a fresh-baked product."

"I sent your cookies to my non-vegan family members this year as a holiday gift. They all had rave reviews, but the best was from my father, who said 'These are the best cookies I have ever had!'"

"I ordered some emergency vegan treats for a visiting friend and they were a HUGE hit - not only did he appreciate my thoughtfulness, he was completely in love with the Snickerdoodles to the point of abstraction. Thanks so much for your prompt and delicious service!"

"Allison's Gourmet is my number one choice for business gifts. I appreciate the pure ingredients, the artful presentation and the array of flavors to appeal to every taste."

"I love having such a wonderful source of vegan cookies right here in Nevada County ... they are the best! I also love being able to receive my Christmas order 'hand delivered.' I love buying local!"

PETA Discussion

While it's unknown whether this stunt was orchestrated against the business above solely in reaction to gift baskets that PETA is alleged to have sent to Shelby County, or whether the fact that Mr. Winograd has an upcoming book that is aimed at organizations like PETA and the ASPCA had an bearing, but there were a number of posts that discussed PETA's budget, and that they didn't save more dogs and cats with that budget.  Anyone with any knowledge of the PETA, knows that animal sheltering is not a core program of the organization.  PETA clearly shows how their money is spent on their financial statements.  Most people don't donate to PETA because they believe they are supporting animal shelters. They donated because of the programs shown below. Just because the "no-kill" movement may not share the same enthusiasm for saving the lives of  research animals or factory farm animals, that doesn't make it acceptable to harass PETA or their supporters to try and divert PETA's donor dollars to the "no-kill" cause. Claims that PETA's fundraising is draining funds from "no-kill" has been an excuse for some time. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if the "no-kill" movement can't sell their product through fund raising, then maybe it's because the vast majority don't support the "no-kill" movements mission and values.

PETA's 2010 Form 990
Revenue $31,812,115
Research, Investigations & Rescue - $10,699,621
Public Outreach & Education - $10,124,809
International Grassroots Campaigns - $7,582,121
Other Program Services - $2,823,747

No-Kill Advocacy Center Form 990
Revenue $173,378
Salaries $64,461
Expenses for No Kill Conference $141,765 *
*including facilities, travel and accomodations for speakers, meals, equipment, and programs

So while PETA has spent their funds on various investigations, rescues, public outreach and grassroots campaigns, the No-Kill Advocacy Center has spent theirs on salary and a conference.  So I may be missing something, but it doesn't appear NKAC saved any animals. Considering how little revenue NKAC was able to generate, it does seem to confirm my suspicions that the majority of Americans aren't supporters of their cause as has been claimed by some of their followers. Too bad our state leadership couldn't figure that out before they led us down the horrible path of CAPA.