Pennsylvania Legislators Shoot Down Pigeons—Again

 

by WALTER BRASCH 

 

If the first year gross anatomy class at the Penn State Hershey medical school needs spare body parts to study, they can visit the cloak room of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. That’s where most of the legislators left their spines.

The House voted 124–69, Dec. 13, to send an animal welfare bill back to committee, in this case the Gaming Oversight Committee. The bill, SB 71, would have banned simulcasting of greyhound races from other states. Pennsylvania had banned greyhound racing in 2004. Among several of the current bill’s amendments were ones that would also have banned the sale of cat and dog meat, increased penalties for releasing exotic animals, and stopped the cruelty of live pigeon shoots.

It’s the pigeon shoot amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Maher (R-Allegheny), that caused legislators to hide beneath their desks, apparently in fear of the poop from the NRA, which lobbied extensively against ending pigeon shoots. The unrelenting NRA message irrationally claimed that banning pigeon shoots is the first step to banning guns. The NRA even called the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) a radical animal rights group. The House action leaves Pennsylvania as the only state where pretend hunters, most of them from New Jersey and surrounding states where pigeon shoots are illegal, to come to Pennsylvania and kill caged birds launched in front of spectators and the shooters.

Most pigeon shoots are held in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania, with one in the nearby suburban Philadelphia area. Scared and undernourished birds are placed into small cages, and then released about 20 yards in front of people with 12-gauge shotguns. Most birds, as many as 5,000 at an all-day shoot, are hit standing on their cages, on the ground, or flying erratically just a few feet from the people who pretend to be sportsmen. Even standing only feet from their kill, the shooters aren’t as good as they think they are. About 70 percent of all birds are wounded, according to Heidi Prescott, HSUS senior vice-president, who for about 25 years has been documenting and leading the effort to pass legislation to finally end pigeon shoots in the state.

 Birds that fall outside the shooting club’s property are left to die long and horrible deaths. If the birds are wounded on the killing fields, trapper boys and girls, most in their early teens, some of them younger, grab the birds, wring their necks, stomp on their bodies, or throw them live into barrels to suffocate. There is no food or commercial value of a pigeon killed at one of the shoots.

The lure of pigeon shoots, in addition to what the participants must think is a wanton sense of fulfillment, is gambling, illegal under Pennsylvania law but not enforced by the Pennsylvania State Police.

The International Olympic Committee banned the so-called sport after the 1900 Olympics because of its cruelty to animals. Most hunters, as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission, say that pigeon shoots aren’t “fair chase hunting.” Almost every daily newspaper in the state and dozens of organizations, from the Council of Churches to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, oppose this form of animal cruelty.

On the floor of the House, Rep. Rosita C. Youngblood (D-Philadelphia), usually a supporter of animal rights issues, spoke out against voting on the bill, and asked other Democrats to go along with her. Youngblood is minority chair of the Gaming Oversight committee.

Youngblood’s chief of staff, Bill Thomas, emphasizes that Youngblood’s only concern was to protect the integrity of the legislative process. Although some members truly believed they voted to recommit the bill for procedural reasons, most members were just simply afraid to vote on the bill. Voting to recommit the bill were 52 Democrats, many of them opposed to pigeon shoots; 35 voted to keep it on the floor for debate. Among Republicans, the vote was 72–34 to send the bill to committee.

 

The Arguments

Germaneness: The Republican leadership had determined that all amendments to bills  in the current legislative session must be germane to the bill. “You can’t hijack a bill,” many in the House, including key Democrats, claimed as the major reason they voted against SB71.

However, the Republicans, with a majority in the House and able to block any bill in committee that didn’t meet their strict political agenda, raised “germaneness” to a level never before seen in the House. For decades, Democrats and Republicans attached completely unrelated amendments to bills. Even during this session, the Republicans, in violation of their own “rules,” attached amendments to allow school vouchers onto several bills, many that had nothing to do with education. But, the Greyhound racing bill was considered under both gambling and animal cruelty concerns. Thus, the amendment to ban pigeon shoots could also be considered to be an animal cruelty amendment and not subject to the Judiciary Committee, where it was likely to die.

 

Separate bill. Several legislators believed the attempt to stop pigeon shoots should have been its own bill, not tacked onto another bill.

However, only twice have bills about pigeon shoots come to the floor of the House. Most proposed legislation had been buried in committees or blocked by House leadership, both Democrat and Republican, most of whom received support and funding from the NRA, gun owner groups, and their political action committees (PACs). In 1989, the Pennsylvania House had defeated a bill to ban pigeon shoots, 66–126. By 1994, three years after the first large scale protest, the House voted 99–93 in favor of an amendment to ban pigeon shoots, but fell short of the 102 votes needed for passage.

 

The bill would duplicate or repeal a recently-signed law:

 Rep. Curt Schroeder (R-Chester Co.), chair of the Gaming Oversight committee, sponsored the House version of the Senate’s bill. If it was truly an unnecessary bill, he or the leadership could have previously sent it to committee for reworking or killed it. According to sources close to the leadership, despite his concern for animal welfare, Schroeder was not pleased about the amendments tacked onto his bill.

 

Short time to accomplish much: Several Democrats believed that by spending extraordinary time on the bill, necessary legislation would not be brought to the floor and the Republicans could then blame the Democrats for blocking key legislation.

However, both parties already knew how they would vote for redistricting (the Republicans had gerrymandered the state to protect certain districts), school vouchers, and other proposed legislation.  Further, the Republican leadership could have blocked putting the Greyhound bill into the agenda or placed it at the end of other bills. Even on the floor of the House, the leadership could have shut down debate at any time. Thus, the Democrats’ argument about “only four days left” is blunted by the Republicans’ own actions. During 2011, the House met only 54 days when the vote on SB 71 was taken. If the House was so concerned about having only four days left in the year to discuss and vote upon critical issues, it could have added days to the work week or increased hours while in session. Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), to his credit, wanted a vote, although he personally opposed the pigeon shoot amendment. “Let’s put this issue to rest,” he told the members. Taking the time to debate the bill, says Bill Thomas, “wasted taxpayer money and time.” However, “the amount of time spent avoiding the bill,” counters Prescott, “wastes far more time and resources than voting on it.”

 

Nevertheless, no matter what the arguments, sending the bill to committee was a good way to avoid having to deal with a highly controversial issue. It allowed many legislators to pretend to their constituents that they still believe in animal welfare, while avoiding getting blow-back from the NRA or its supporters. Conversely, it allowed many of those who wanted to keep pigeon shoots to avoid a debate and subsequent vote, allowing continued support from pro-gun constituents who accept the NRA non-logic, while not offending constituents who believe in animal welfare.

Whatever their reasons, the failure of the many of the state’s representatives to stand up for their convictions probably caused legislation to ban this form of animal cruelty to be as dead during this session as the pigeons whose necks are wrung by teenagers who finish the kill by people who think they’re sportsmen but are little more than juveniles disguised in the bodies of adults.

            [Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated social issues columnist, former newspaper and magazine reporter and editor, whose specialties included public affairs/investigative reporting. He is professor emeritus of journalism. Dr. Brasch’s latest novel is Before the First Snow, a story of the counterculture and set in rural Pennsylvania.]

 

 

 

'Following Orders' Never a Defense for Immoral Acts

 

by Walter Brasch

              A man who killed 100 sled dogs has received not a prison sentence but workers' compensation from a British Columbia agency. The man successfully proved he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he claimed he was ordered to kill the dogs. "It was the worst experience [he] could ever imagine, his lawyer told CKNW, Vancouver, which had obtained the government document and then contacted the Humane Society.

            Howling Dog Tours Whistler, a division of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW), had added hundreds of dogs prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, anticipating a significant increase in tourists who wanted to experience sled dog racing. Its advertising claimed that for $169 tourists could experience "a once in a lifetime experience [with] your team of energetic and loveable Alaskan Racing Huskies." However, the tourism interest, combined with a lack of seasonal snow, collapsed after the Olympics.

            According to the British Columbia review decision, issued Jan. 25, the man, unidentified by name in the document but later revealed to be Robert Fawcett, general manager and founder of Howling Dog Tours Whistler, "was tasked to cull the employer's herd by approximately 100 dogs." OAW denies it issued any such orders. Fawcett claims he was under orders to significantly improve the financial performance, and that killing about one-third of the pack was the last resort. However, a statement posted on the OAW website says "there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions." Thus, it seems entirely plausible that OAW expected Fawcett to eliminate about one-third of the pack. OAW has suspended all dog sled operations.

            According to the Review Board, Fawcett claimed he made extraordinary efforts to adopt out the dogs, but told the Board there was only limited success. He said he contacted a veterinarian to humanely euthanize the dogs, but the veterinarian refused to kill healthy animals.

            In a summary of testimony, the Compensation Board noted that Fawcett previously "euthanized dogs due to old age, illness, injury and where there were unwanted puppies." Killing dogs for population control is not acceptable, according to Mush With PRIDE, an industry-wide organization for dog sled owners. The Review Board noted Fawcett experienced stress in previous kills, many done by gunshot, but did not experience PTSD until after the killings in April 2010.

            Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society, said that his experience "in every case where people use animals to make money and when there are financial difficulties the animals’ lives are put at risk.”

            On April 21, 2010, Fawcett began the executions, using a shotgun, rifle, and knife to kill 55 dogs. Two days later, he killed 45. Most of the kills were not "clean." The workers' compensation board reported that dogs suffered as much as 20 minutes after first being shot before dying, and that some were shot and put alive into a mass grave.  The dogs were forced to watch others being killed before they, too, would be killed. In panic and fear, they began to attack their executioner who wrapped his arms in foam to prevent his own injuries. By the end of each day of killing, Fawcett was covered by the blood of his victims.

            The compensation board noted Fawcett's family physician "indicated that [following the mass killings] the worker [complained] of poor appetite, inability to cope, poor memory and concentration, agitation, anger and hopelessness after the mass culling." A psychologist, according to the board's report, "noted that he [Fawcett] complained of panic attacks, nightmares, sleeps disturbance, anger, irritability and depressed mood."

            Almost all references to the killings—by official documents and on the OAW website—use the word "euthanized" to describe what happened to the dogs and not the more accurate, "murdered."

             The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Humane Society are now investigating the killings, and criminal charges may be filed.

            Fawcett may believe he was ordered to get rid of the animals to improve cost effectiveness. He may also believe he had no other option but to kill them to meet financial demands of his employer. But, there is always an option, and nothing can excuse what he did or how he carried out the executions.

            The "Superior Orders Doctrine," informally known as the "I was only following orders" defense, is no defense at all. The first time it was recorded was probably in 1476 when Pietro diHagenbach, a knight in the Holy Roman Empire, claimed that atrocities and torture committed under his direction, but not personally conducted by him, was ordered by his superior, the Duke of Burgandy. For allowing such heinous crimes, DiHagenbach was beheaded.

            The Nuremberg Defense by Nazis following World War II that they couldn't be held accountable for the Holocaust and its atrocities because they were only following orders was dismissed by the court. The Nuremberg Principle IV is clear: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

            In U.S. v. Keenan (1969) a Marine private claimed he was not guilty of a war crime when he killed an unarmed elderly Vietnamese civilian because he was following the direct order of his superior. However, the Court of Military Appeals ruled "the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal." The rejection of the "following orders defense" to commit illegal and immoral acts in a non-military setting, when the terror of war isn't imminent, is even more appalling and inexcusable when a person's life isn't in jeopardy.

            Robert Fawcett may actually be experiencing PTSD as a result of the torture and murder of 100 huskies. He may need long-term physical and mental care. But, by he also cruelly and brutally killed animals, for whatever reason he thought he had to do so. For that alone, there can, and should be, no defense.

 

 

'Following Orders' Never a Defense for Immoral Acts

 

by Walter Brasch

              A man who killed 100 sled dogs has received not a prison sentence but workers' compensation from a British Columbia agency. The man successfully proved he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he claimed he was ordered to kill the dogs. "It was the worst experience [he] could ever imagine, his lawyer told CKNW, Vancouver, which had obtained the government document and then contacted the Humane Society.

            Howling Dog Tours Whistler, a division of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW), had added hundreds of dogs prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, anticipating a significant increase in tourists who wanted to experience sled dog racing. Its advertising claimed that for $169 tourists could experience "a once in a lifetime experience [with] your team of energetic and loveable Alaskan Racing Huskies." However, the tourism interest, combined with a lack of seasonal snow, collapsed after the Olympics.

            According to the British Columbia review decision, issued Jan. 25, the man, unidentified by name in the document but later revealed to be Robert Fawcett, general manager and founder of Howling Dog Tours Whistler, "was tasked to cull the employer's herd by approximately 100 dogs." OAW denies it issued any such orders. Fawcett claims he was under orders to significantly improve the financial performance, and that killing about one-third of the pack was the last resort. However, a statement posted on the OAW website says "there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions." Thus, it seems entirely plausible that OAW expected Fawcett to eliminate about one-third of the pack. OAW has suspended all dog sled operations.

            According to the Review Board, Fawcett claimed he made extraordinary efforts to adopt out the dogs, but told the Board there was only limited success. He said he contacted a veterinarian to humanely euthanize the dogs, but the veterinarian refused to kill healthy animals.

            In a summary of testimony, the Compensation Board noted that Fawcett previously "euthanized dogs due to old age, illness, injury and where there were unwanted puppies." Killing dogs for population control is not acceptable, according to Mush With PRIDE, an industry-wide organization for dog sled owners. The Review Board noted Fawcett experienced stress in previous kills, many done by gunshot, but did not experience PTSD until after the killings in April 2010.

            Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society, said that his experience "in every case where people use animals to make money and when there are financial difficulties the animals’ lives are put at risk.”

            On April 21, 2010, Fawcett began the executions, using a shotgun, rifle, and knife to kill 55 dogs. Two days later, he killed 45. Most of the kills were not "clean." The workers' compensation board reported that dogs suffered as much as 20 minutes after first being shot before dying, and that some were shot and put alive into a mass grave.  The dogs were forced to watch others being killed before they, too, would be killed. In panic and fear, they began to attack their executioner who wrapped his arms in foam to prevent his own injuries. By the end of each day of killing, Fawcett was covered by the blood of his victims.

            The compensation board noted Fawcett's family physician "indicated that [following the mass killings] the worker [complained] of poor appetite, inability to cope, poor memory and concentration, agitation, anger and hopelessness after the mass culling." A psychologist, according to the board's report, "noted that he [Fawcett] complained of panic attacks, nightmares, sleeps disturbance, anger, irritability and depressed mood."

            Almost all references to the killings—by official documents and on the OAW website—use the word "euthanized" to describe what happened to the dogs and not the more accurate, "murdered."

             The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Humane Society are now investigating the killings, and criminal charges may be filed.

            Fawcett may believe he was ordered to get rid of the animals to improve cost effectiveness. He may also believe he had no other option but to kill them to meet financial demands of his employer. But, there is always an option, and nothing can excuse what he did or how he carried out the executions.

            The "Superior Orders Doctrine," informally known as the "I was only following orders" defense, is no defense at all. The first time it was recorded was probably in 1476 when Pietro diHagenbach, a knight in the Holy Roman Empire, claimed that atrocities and torture committed under his direction, but not personally conducted by him, was ordered by his superior, the Duke of Burgandy. For allowing such heinous crimes, DiHagenbach was beheaded.

            The Nuremberg Defense by Nazis following World War II that they couldn't be held accountable for the Holocaust and its atrocities because they were only following orders was dismissed by the court. The Nuremberg Principle IV is clear: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

            In U.S. v. Keenan (1969) a Marine private claimed he was not guilty of a war crime when he killed an unarmed elderly Vietnamese civilian because he was following the direct order of his superior. However, the Court of Military Appeals ruled "the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal." The rejection of the "following orders defense" to commit illegal and immoral acts in a non-military setting, when the terror of war isn't imminent, is even more appalling and inexcusable when a person's life isn't in jeopardy.

            Robert Fawcett may actually be experiencing PTSD as a result of the torture and murder of 100 huskies. He may need long-term physical and mental care. But, by he also cruelly and brutally killed animals, for whatever reason he thought he had to do so. For that alone, there can, and should be, no defense.

 

 

'Following Orders' Never a Defense for Immoral Acts

 

by Walter Brasch

              A man who killed 100 sled dogs has received not a prison sentence but workers' compensation from a British Columbia agency. The man successfully proved he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he claimed he was ordered to kill the dogs. "It was the worst experience [he] could ever imagine, his lawyer told CKNW, Vancouver, which had obtained the government document and then contacted the Humane Society.

            Howling Dog Tours Whistler, a division of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW), had added hundreds of dogs prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, anticipating a significant increase in tourists who wanted to experience sled dog racing. Its advertising claimed that for $169 tourists could experience "a once in a lifetime experience [with] your team of energetic and loveable Alaskan Racing Huskies." However, the tourism interest, combined with a lack of seasonal snow, collapsed after the Olympics.

            According to the British Columbia review decision, issued Jan. 25, the man, unidentified by name in the document but later revealed to be Robert Fawcett, general manager and founder of Howling Dog Tours Whistler, "was tasked to cull the employer's herd by approximately 100 dogs." OAW denies it issued any such orders. Fawcett claims he was under orders to significantly improve the financial performance, and that killing about one-third of the pack was the last resort. However, a statement posted on the OAW website says "there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions." Thus, it seems entirely plausible that OAW expected Fawcett to eliminate about one-third of the pack. OAW has suspended all dog sled operations.

            According to the Review Board, Fawcett claimed he made extraordinary efforts to adopt out the dogs, but told the Board there was only limited success. He said he contacted a veterinarian to humanely euthanize the dogs, but the veterinarian refused to kill healthy animals.

            In a summary of testimony, the Compensation Board noted that Fawcett previously "euthanized dogs due to old age, illness, injury and where there were unwanted puppies." Killing dogs for population control is not acceptable, according to Mush With PRIDE, an industry-wide organization for dog sled owners. The Review Board noted Fawcett experienced stress in previous kills, many done by gunshot, but did not experience PTSD until after the killings in April 2010.

            Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society, said that his experience "in every case where people use animals to make money and when there are financial difficulties the animals’ lives are put at risk.”

            On April 21, 2010, Fawcett began the executions, using a shotgun, rifle, and knife to kill 55 dogs. Two days later, he killed 45. Most of the kills were not "clean." The workers' compensation board reported that dogs suffered as much as 20 minutes after first being shot before dying, and that some were shot and put alive into a mass grave.  The dogs were forced to watch others being killed before they, too, would be killed. In panic and fear, they began to attack their executioner who wrapped his arms in foam to prevent his own injuries. By the end of each day of killing, Fawcett was covered by the blood of his victims.

            The compensation board noted Fawcett's family physician "indicated that [following the mass killings] the worker [complained] of poor appetite, inability to cope, poor memory and concentration, agitation, anger and hopelessness after the mass culling." A psychologist, according to the board's report, "noted that he [Fawcett] complained of panic attacks, nightmares, sleeps disturbance, anger, irritability and depressed mood."

            Almost all references to the killings—by official documents and on the OAW website—use the word "euthanized" to describe what happened to the dogs and not the more accurate, "murdered."

             The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Humane Society are now investigating the killings, and criminal charges may be filed.

            Fawcett may believe he was ordered to get rid of the animals to improve cost effectiveness. He may also believe he had no other option but to kill them to meet financial demands of his employer. But, there is always an option, and nothing can excuse what he did or how he carried out the executions.

            The "Superior Orders Doctrine," informally known as the "I was only following orders" defense, is no defense at all. The first time it was recorded was probably in 1476 when Pietro diHagenbach, a knight in the Holy Roman Empire, claimed that atrocities and torture committed under his direction, but not personally conducted by him, was ordered by his superior, the Duke of Burgandy. For allowing such heinous crimes, DiHagenbach was beheaded.

            The Nuremberg Defense by Nazis following World War II that they couldn't be held accountable for the Holocaust and its atrocities because they were only following orders was dismissed by the court. The Nuremberg Principle IV is clear: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

            In U.S. v. Keenan (1969) a Marine private claimed he was not guilty of a war crime when he killed an unarmed elderly Vietnamese civilian because he was following the direct order of his superior. However, the Court of Military Appeals ruled "the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal." The rejection of the "following orders defense" to commit illegal and immoral acts in a non-military setting, when the terror of war isn't imminent, is even more appalling and inexcusable when a person's life isn't in jeopardy.

            Robert Fawcett may actually be experiencing PTSD as a result of the torture and murder of 100 huskies. He may need long-term physical and mental care. But, by he also cruelly and brutally killed animals, for whatever reason he thought he had to do so. For that alone, there can, and should be, no defense.

 

 

'Following Orders' Never a Defense for Immoral Acts

 

by Walter Brasch

              A man who killed 100 sled dogs has received not a prison sentence but workers' compensation from a British Columbia agency. The man successfully proved he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he claimed he was ordered to kill the dogs. "It was the worst experience [he] could ever imagine, his lawyer told CKNW, Vancouver, which had obtained the government document and then contacted the Humane Society.

            Howling Dog Tours Whistler, a division of Outdoor Adventures Whistler (OAW), had added hundreds of dogs prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, anticipating a significant increase in tourists who wanted to experience sled dog racing. Its advertising claimed that for $169 tourists could experience "a once in a lifetime experience [with] your team of energetic and loveable Alaskan Racing Huskies." However, the tourism interest, combined with a lack of seasonal snow, collapsed after the Olympics.

            According to the British Columbia review decision, issued Jan. 25, the man, unidentified by name in the document but later revealed to be Robert Fawcett, general manager and founder of Howling Dog Tours Whistler, "was tasked to cull the employer's herd by approximately 100 dogs." OAW denies it issued any such orders. Fawcett claims he was under orders to significantly improve the financial performance, and that killing about one-third of the pack was the last resort. However, a statement posted on the OAW website says "there were no instructions given to Mr. Fawcett as to the manner of euthanizing dogs on this occasion, and Mr. Fawcett was known to have very humanely euthanized dogs on previous occasions." Thus, it seems entirely plausible that OAW expected Fawcett to eliminate about one-third of the pack. OAW has suspended all dog sled operations.

            According to the Review Board, Fawcett claimed he made extraordinary efforts to adopt out the dogs, but told the Board there was only limited success. He said he contacted a veterinarian to humanely euthanize the dogs, but the veterinarian refused to kill healthy animals.

            In a summary of testimony, the Compensation Board noted that Fawcett previously "euthanized dogs due to old age, illness, injury and where there were unwanted puppies." Killing dogs for population control is not acceptable, according to Mush With PRIDE, an industry-wide organization for dog sled owners. The Review Board noted Fawcett experienced stress in previous kills, many done by gunshot, but did not experience PTSD until after the killings in April 2010.

            Peter Fricker of the Vancouver Humane Society, said that his experience "in every case where people use animals to make money and when there are financial difficulties the animals’ lives are put at risk.”

            On April 21, 2010, Fawcett began the executions, using a shotgun, rifle, and knife to kill 55 dogs. Two days later, he killed 45. Most of the kills were not "clean." The workers' compensation board reported that dogs suffered as much as 20 minutes after first being shot before dying, and that some were shot and put alive into a mass grave.  The dogs were forced to watch others being killed before they, too, would be killed. In panic and fear, they began to attack their executioner who wrapped his arms in foam to prevent his own injuries. By the end of each day of killing, Fawcett was covered by the blood of his victims.

            The compensation board noted Fawcett's family physician "indicated that [following the mass killings] the worker [complained] of poor appetite, inability to cope, poor memory and concentration, agitation, anger and hopelessness after the mass culling." A psychologist, according to the board's report, "noted that he [Fawcett] complained of panic attacks, nightmares, sleeps disturbance, anger, irritability and depressed mood."

            Almost all references to the killings—by official documents and on the OAW website—use the word "euthanized" to describe what happened to the dogs and not the more accurate, "murdered."

             The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Vancouver Humane Society are now investigating the killings, and criminal charges may be filed.

            Fawcett may believe he was ordered to get rid of the animals to improve cost effectiveness. He may also believe he had no other option but to kill them to meet financial demands of his employer. But, there is always an option, and nothing can excuse what he did or how he carried out the executions.

            The "Superior Orders Doctrine," informally known as the "I was only following orders" defense, is no defense at all. The first time it was recorded was probably in 1476 when Pietro diHagenbach, a knight in the Holy Roman Empire, claimed that atrocities and torture committed under his direction, but not personally conducted by him, was ordered by his superior, the Duke of Burgandy. For allowing such heinous crimes, DiHagenbach was beheaded.

            The Nuremberg Defense by Nazis following World War II that they couldn't be held accountable for the Holocaust and its atrocities because they were only following orders was dismissed by the court. The Nuremberg Principle IV is clear: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

            In U.S. v. Keenan (1969) a Marine private claimed he was not guilty of a war crime when he killed an unarmed elderly Vietnamese civilian because he was following the direct order of his superior. However, the Court of Military Appeals ruled "the justification for acts done pursuant to orders does not exist if the order was of such a nature that a man of ordinary sense and understanding would know it to be illegal." The rejection of the "following orders defense" to commit illegal and immoral acts in a non-military setting, when the terror of war isn't imminent, is even more appalling and inexcusable when a person's life isn't in jeopardy.

            Robert Fawcett may actually be experiencing PTSD as a result of the torture and murder of 100 huskies. He may need long-term physical and mental care. But, by he also cruelly and brutally killed animals, for whatever reason he thought he had to do so. For that alone, there can, and should be, no defense.

 

 

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