What might be a great way for a multimillionaire celebrity to help out the cause of animal rights? Why, establish hefty endowments at law schools for the purpose of "studying" animal rights law:
When Bob Barker was growing up in Mission, a small town on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota, his mother always knew how to find him.
She would climb onto the roof of the only two-story building in Mission, he said, "and she'd look for the dogs, because I always had a pack of dogs with me and she'd know that's where I was."
In those years, he had all sorts of dogs - there were Jack and Barney, and another named Brownie, and others whose names have vanished from memory.
"They were all strays that came in and I adopted," Mr. Barker, the longtime host of "The Price Is Right," said this week in an interview in his Hollywood home. "There were a lot of dogs in Mission. Not many people but a lot of dogs."
Mr. Barker, who will be 81 next month, recalled his lifelong affinity for animals, a passion that prompts him to end every "Price Is Right" show with a call for spaying and neutering dogs and cats. In 1987 it impelled him to resign from a lucrative job as host of the Miss U.S.A. and Miss Universe pageants because their organizers insisted on having the contestants wear fur coats.
Now Mr. Barker has a new mission, which he is bankrolling with his own fortune. He has established endowments of $1 million each at several law schools - including those at Stanford, Columbia, Duke and the University of California, Los Angeles - for the study of animal-rights law. Other law schools, among them Northwestern University and the University of Michigan, are in the running for similar gifts.
The idea, he said, is to train a generation of lawyers, judges and legislators in animal rights and the widespread problems of cruelty and neglect.
"The laws are not stringent enough, and unfortunately the laws that we do have are not necessarily enforced," Mr. Barker said. "If we can get more and more young lawyers to be aware of this, then if they're involved in a case that involves animals, they'll know what to do. If they become judges, that's wonderful, they're making decisions. And some of these lawyers are going to become politicians.
"The most important thing we can do is to change legislation involving animals, and these young people will be in a position to do exactly that. So if the money I invest in this serves to do that, I think it's money well spent."
Harvard Law School was the first to benefit from Mr. Barker's focus on protecting animals. In 2001, when Pearson Television, which then owned "The Price Is Right," decided to allocate $500,000 to honor his 30 years as host of the show, Mr. Barker convinced company executives that the money would best be spent by donating it to Harvard University, which established what became known as the Bob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights.
I totally agree: let's hope the new generation of AR lawyers will find ways to criminalize the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats. After all, these animals have a right to live their lives entirely free from human control — or so the ideologically-pure AR zealot would argue.
As I myself have pointed out before, spaying and neutering of a pet (a practice PeTA strongly advocates) is a clear violation of the sanctity of its body, of the animal's right to reproduce, its right to enjoy sexual behavior, its right to enjoy the delights of parenthood.
Beyond this, spaying and neutering alters natural behavior by greatly reducing an animal's sex hormones: "altered" animals become unnaturally and artificially docile. Surely this, too, is an assault on an animal's right to live its life as nature meant, free of human-imposed restrictions, .
And why are pets spayed and neutered? For the most trivial and anthropocentric of reasons: human convenience. Humans simply find it easier to spay and neuter, and to exterminate "excessive" animals, than to protect their rights of reproduction and life.
This is where the lawyers come in. The animals clearly need legal representation — a voice for those without voices, if you will.
And then there is the campaign for the extermination of those pesky rats in the tenements of our large cities! I'm sure they'd benefit mightily from legal representation! Surely we should provide attorneys to defend their right to live! (PeTA is strangely silent on this matter . . .)
And finally, there's the problem of the happy Animal Rights home owner, who finds her house overrun with mice. Does she have the legal grounds to evict them (PeTA advocates eviction . . .) or to — gasp — exterminate one or more of them if eviction fails?
As "subjects-of-a-life" with "interests", those mice deserve legal representation as much as any animals do!
Getting back to Mr. Barker, it seems that he has a ton of money to invest in providing for the legal rights of animals (as opposed to their natural rights . . .):
Mr. Barker said he had been giving money to animal-rights organizations for several decades. In 1995, with an eye on the growing population of domestic animals, Mr. Barker, who is one-eighth Indian, put $25 million into what he named the DJ&T Foundation, which finances clinics that specialize in spaying and neutering. The foundation is named after his wife, Dorothy Jo, who died in 1981, and his mother, Matilda Valandra, a schoolteacher on the Rosebud reservation whom everyone knew as Tilly.
"There are just too many cats and dogs being born," he said. "Animals are being euthanized by the millions simply because there are not enough homes for them. In the United States there is a dog or cat euthanized every 6.5 seconds."
[ . . . ]
For the AR crowd, the individual animal is the moral unit: you don't deprive that unit of its rights simply because it would be best for preserving habitat, the curing of disease, or for purposes of entertainment or sport.
So why should one violate an animal's right to life simply because human beings find their numbers inconvenient to deal with?
Mr. Barker wouldn't advocate the forcible sterilization of humans simply because of overpopulation. So why would he advocate forcible sterilization as a means of controlling animal numbers?
I see fertile ground here for litigation, if not criminal charges.
Mr. Barker, a strict vegetarian, lives with two rabbits, one white, one black. His most recent dog, a Labrador retriever named Winston, was put down last January because of kidney disease.
Mr. Barker might like to think of himself as a man of unusually keen sensitivities, keeping loving care of his pets. But if he keeps pets, he is more than likely doing so against their will.
I think they need legal representation.