The animal rights world has its own rules and intersectionality is not often among them.
But even I was shocked to see two local animal welfare/rights organization create a platform for State Senator Guy Reschenthaler (State Senator Guy) to talk about his strong commitment to critters.
Who is this State Senator Guy?
- He’s very pro-fracking
- He’s anti-choice
- He’s racist, anti-poor people, anti-safety net
- He held Children’s Health Insurance hostage to attack trans youth
- You can read more about his legislative history here.
And he supports some anti-cruelty legislation.
Now Animal Friends and Humane Action Pittsburgh can invite whomever they want to their meetings. To be clear, HAP is organizing the meeting at Animal Friends Camp Horne location. HAP is staffed by a representative from Animal Friends. They like to make all of these fine distinctions to absolve themselves of these things. But it is clear to the average bear that this is a joint effort.
They also run a program Animal Friends for Life which provides specific supports for Northside pet owners and caretakers.
My problem is that State Senator Guy is a horrible Republican who votes directly against the environment, wildlife, poor people, Black people, women, and more. If he had his way, most of the people who struggle with “the barriers of affordability and accessibility of pet wellness services in underserved communities” would lose many of their existing supports and be forced to make terrible choices about pet ownership. He is in no way shape or form ‘humane.’
He held CHIP hostage Do you think Animal Friends’ employees (and Humane Animal Rescue’s employees) have access to comprehensive affordable family health insurance? Or that some of them rely on CHIP? Do you think a parent losing access to health insurance for their child is going to have to make different choices about the family pets? This alliance is malignant with regard to most of your mission, Animal Friends.
The problem is that animal rights advocates will hit low and show contempt & disregard for intersectional approaches to policy. I have yet to see AF or HAAP make a statement on the Saturday protest at City of Pittsburgh Police HQ where survivors of Black residents whose murders are unsolved made the very reasonable demand that the City invest as much in their investigations and deaths as they do in the deaths of police dogs. Black lives should matter as much as dogs lives. Is that radical?
Another problem I have is that Animal Friends gets a lot of street cred for supporting pet ownership in underserved communities while inviting this bigoted jagoff to appease their upper-class rightwing Republican suburban donors.
But we have choices
We can choose to attend the public meeting and bring voices from anti-fracking groups, Black Lives Matter groups, environmental groups, and others who have sincere priorities that intersect with animal cruelty issues. That conversation can happen.
We can choose to work with animal welfare organizations that are not run by Trumpian adherents
And there’s a third choice.
That’s a choice where people back away from organizations that seem more concerned about animals than people. That’s a choice where people have pets, but don’t reach out for support or education around healthcare, vaccinations, training, etc because there is no trust. That’s a choice where people whose safety net programs are shredded by the State Senator Guy have to make terrible choices about their family – including elders, children, and pets. Because they have no animal welfare safety net that’s not tied to a rightwing agenda to destroy their families.
I’ll be transparent – we reached out to Animal Friends for Life for help & support to help two feral cats in our neighborhood. They were very responsive and helpful to us. Our costs to get these critters healthcare would be minimal because the City of Pittsburgh pays for it (our tax money.) A few days later the person in charge of that program invited me to hang out with the State Senator Guy.
That’s how white privilege works. We have common ground to help some cats and suddenly, I’m part of the animal rights world that doesn’t care about fracking or food stamps? Yes, that’s how it works. It creates a false sense of camaraderie and it is upon me to puncture that as loudly and clearly as I can. They may strike first by not permitting me to participate in the program because of my opinions, but I can work around it. And help for my personal situation is not worth the cost propping up the State Senator Guy will wreak on my neighbors in Pittsburgh’s Northside.
I think Animal Friends & HAAP should uninvite the State Senator Guy. I think they should take closer look at their grasp of intersectionality with regard to informing animal welfare and animal rights progamming.
I think the City of Pittsburgh should reconsider funding a program that is tied to this disregard.
I think we should all avoid the stalling and silencing tactics of 1) claiming Animal Friends is just the venue and 2) prostrating ourselves as silent martyrs for the poor animals and 3) disregarding serious problems in the animal welfare world. See Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society of the United States.
Tuesday, February 13 from 6-7:30 PM at the Animal Friends campus on Camp Horne Road. The meeting is open to the public.
If you can’t attend, perhaps you can leave a question or comment for the State Senator Guy on the event FB page.
You can contact the Animal Friends contact for HAAP Carol Whaley, Director of Clinic Services, at 412-847-7094 or [email protected]
Or go to the meeting. Ask questions.
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Here’s an excerpt from the City Paper descsribing how the State Senator Guy response to racism. This is who people elected to our State Senate. This is who he is.
But City Paper did listen to segments of a 2013 talk show that Reschenthaler hosted called The Sound of Freedom, a conservative podcast where the candidate and his co-host, Carl Higbie, discussed topics like taxes, immigration and gun control.
“I laughed out loud in the section of your book when you talk about having to sit next to fat people on the plane,” Reschenthaler says of a book written by his co-host.
In a segment about gun control, Reschenthaler says, “The Grundy school shooting shows us two things. That one is the fact that, just what you were saying, the way to stop a bad guy with a gun is to have a good guy with a gun.”
Clips of the show were released last week on the website guyreschenthalerpa.com, which was paid for by Arnet’s campaign.
“That’s his own voice. It’s his own words. It’s not edited or split. This is a direct audio clip from his radio show,” says Arnet. “And I think that’s what made [Reschenthaler’s campaign] so upset, is they realized that now people will start to learn about who this guy really is. They’ve been spending a lot of money trying to create a new identity for him. This speaks to his values and his beliefs, so it’s absolutely relevant and we’re not making it up.”
“It is very sad to see a campaign sink so low and make such outrageous accusations,” Reschenthaler said via email about criticism of the talk show.
But the more shocking statements made on the show come from Reschenthaler’s co-host. Higbie, who has campaigned for the candidate in the past.
“I think, stick a fence six feet high with signs on it in both English and Spanish [that] says, ‘You cross this border — this is the American border, you cross it, we’re going to shoot you,’” Higbie says in a segment on immigration. “You cross my border, I will shoot you in the face.”
In another segment Higbie says, “The black race is lazier than the white race.”