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 Opponents of SB 777 profess astonishment that the animal-cruelty bill would extend even to cats, that it would provide what the critics call “extraordinary protection” for the light-footed little creatures. The critics are over-excited. SB 777 would ban the burning of live cats, or the use of kittens as baseballs in homerun-hitting contests, and yes, sportsmen who participate in these activities would have to find new forms of recreation. But SB 777 does not provide “extraordinary protection” for cats, nor for horses or dogs, the two other species the bill applies to. What it does is prohibit the wanton torture of these dumb animals, and the killing of them “in an especially depraved manner.” All but a handful of states already have laws like SB 777. Land of Opportunity Arkansas once was. We’d prefer it not be known now as the Land of Depravity.

It’s disappointing that the Arkansas Farm Bureau has dispatched a team of very mean lobbyists to waylay SB 777. We keep hoping for better, but no matter how much the rest of us do for the corporations who make up the Farm Bureau — tax breaks, allowing the use of pollutants, etc. — the Bureau never reciprocates. Contrary to what the Farm Bureau says, local law enforcement authorities will not be harassing farmers and hunters after SB 777 passes. Persuading local officers to act on animal-cruelty complaints will be the problem, but SB 777 empowers local humane societies to keep the pot boiling (hopefully with no animal in it) until justice is done. Justice for the worst of the animal-abusers will mean a felony, rather than a misdemeanor, as is now the case. Can’t do the time, don’t do the crime; let’s stop coddling these criminals.

If simple decency is not enough to compel support of SB 777, self-interest should be. Not all young animal torturers grow up to be mass murderers, but just about all the mass murderers started down their career path by torturing animals. If you have one of these fun-loving fellows in your home, there’s reason to worry about his future. Yours too.

Tell the world

Senate Concurrent Resolution 20, even if approved by the legislature, likely won’t impress the murderers in Sudan. As a resolution, not a bill, SCR 20 doesn’t even have the force of law. But it has moral force, encouraging state retirement systems to identify any investments in Sudan and to divest themselves of such investments until the genocide in Darfur is ended. We as a state have a duty to declare that genocide is intolerable to Arkansans. Maybe later we can do more.

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