The Island Vegetarian
Issue: Apr – Jun 2005
by Pam Davis, VSH Member
As some of you may remember, a few months ago we told you about an undercover investigation revealing the existence of a thriving dog-meat trade in our state. The investigation was conducted by Carroll Cox of EnviroWatch, Inc.
Mr. Cox posed as a person interested in buying dog meat, and gathered audio and videotape evidence, transcripts, and photos of the activity. A photo of Koko, the dog he rescued from the chopping block and dinner table, was featured in a previous issue of The Island Vegetarian. It’s time for an update of the situation.
There were two bills before the Legislature, HB 866 and SB 564. On February 10, 2005, the House Judiciary Committee heard much testimony in support of the bill, and no testimony in opposition. The committee room was packed, basically standing room only. Rep. Alex Sonson expressed opposition to the bill, interrogating Mr. Cox and insinuating that there is no problem of humans consuming dogs and cats in Hawai’i. At that time I began to realize that there are forces at work against this legislation. Perhaps this explains why the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) and the HPD have had “no success” in uncovering the activity (even when the evidence is presented to them), yet a nonprofit organization (EnviroWatch, Inc.) performed this risky investigation and exposed it in the media.
When Mr. Cox contacted HHS with the evidence, they told him it is perfectly legal to slaughter a dog or cat for personal consumption in your back yard, as long as the animal’s death is “quick and painless”.
Something is wrong here, and it smacks of political back-room dealing.
Despite the opposition expressed, the bill passed out of committee unanimously (even he voted for it, with “reservations”), and was on its way to the Senate. However, Sen. Colleen Hanabusa then stated that she would not schedule the bill for a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee because “there are more pressing issues.” This was disturbing because, in effect, this would block the hearing of an important bill supported by an overwhelming majority of citizens.
Why is the dog-meat bill worthy of action? In addition to the obvious ethical issues, there is public health and safety. As vegetarians and vegans, we know there are many cases of salmonella, E. Coli, and other pathogens each year, which contaminate meat and sicken or even kill unsuspecting consumers, and as a result the government has enacted many food safety regulations to establish standards of cleanliness for food meant for human consumption. No such inspections and safeguards exist in the dog meat trade, however, and in EnviroWatch’s investigation the dogs were kept in filthy conditions, and slaughtering, distribution, etc., were completely unmonitored. The investigation also revealed some drug addicts support their habit by stealing dogs from families or catching strays, and selling them to those in the dog meat trade. Thus, there is a link between the two types of illegal activity, and enforcement of prohibition of dog and cat meat could therefore help fight illegal drug activity. Yet this was considered not important enough to warrant a hearing.
According to Carroll Cox, Hanabusa agreed (in a later phone conversation with him) to hear the bill as long as it passed out of the House. But Speaker Calvin Say killed the bill on March 4th by not giving it a hearing in the House, so it couldn’t cross over to the Senate. Rep. Say stated the Filipino Caucus (about 4 legislators) opposed it. So, a bill supported by thousands was defeated by a handful of lawmakers. Scores of people supported this legislation with written and oral testimony, faxes, letters, and e-mails but were ignored if not betrayed by the politicians elected to represent them.