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Both humans and animals need more compassion

Re: Compassion for animals, but none for humans? March 19.

Two centuries ago, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote, "He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men." Today, as law enforcement agencies become more aware of the connection between animal abuse and human-directed violence, they are becoming increasingly supportive of strong anti-cruelty laws and their enforcement. According to Special Agent Alan Brantley of the FBI's Investigative Support Unit, which is responsible for providing information on the behavior of violent criminals to FBI field offices and law enforcement agencies worldwide, "You can look at cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans as a continuum." He believes that "the earlier you can intervene, the better off you'll be," or, as Pinellas County Judge Paul Levine put it in the Times article, "It's extremely important to stop it (abuse against animals) at the first stage."

It is unfortunate that some people see the issue of compassion for humans and animals as an either/or situation.

Perhaps so many people write to judges regarding animal abuse cases because they fear that justice will not be served. If a child were beaten senseless with a baseball bat and his "teeth were knocked out," and "blood was spattered everywhere," people would assume that the prosecutor would seek the stiffest penalty possible and the court in turn would hand down a severe punishment for such a terrible crime. Yet, according to the article, the man who committed this act of violence against a puppy ("the worst abuse case that Elizabeth Lockwood, executive director of the SPCA, had ever seen") served less than five months in jail.

Perhaps the reason people inquired about the condition of the animals after the derailment of a circus train is that while the news media immediately reported the human deaths and injuries, as they should, little or nothing was reported about the fate of helpless animals trapped in chains and cages at the time of this fiery accident.

In any case, the answer to the problem of a lack of compassion does not lie in supporting less compassion for animals but in encouraging more compassion for both humans and animals. Albert Einstein wrote, "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Michael Furlong, Treasure Island

Understand the plight of animals

Re: Compassion for animals, but none for humans? March 19.

I am one of those guilty-as-charged persons Stephen Nohlgren mentioned in his article who reserve their greatest passion for animals. I do have compassion for humans; however, the reasons I feel stronger about animals are many.

We don't eat humans that were raised in confined conditions prior to being sent to slaughter. We don't wear the carcasses of humans. We don't cage humans for the purpose of entertainment or profit. We don't kill our homeless as a means of population control. We don't use humans against their will in government or commercial research facilities. We don't hunt humans for the pleasure of sport. We don't even dictate their very basic need of when and where they can relieve their bodily waste in their homes.

Human beings are born with certain rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Animals aren't afforded these rights and freedoms. We do have laws on the books that are supposed to protect them from blatant abuses; however, these laws are lenient on the perpetrators of violence against animals.

We are in control of whether they exist and how they exist. We utilize them to meet our needs. They are lesser beings with lesser needs. If reincarnation is possible, I would never want to come back to this world as an animal.

I'd like to end this letter with a few thoughts:

"I am the voice of the voiceless; through me the dumb shall speak till the deaf world's ear be made to hear, the wrongs of the wordless weak." _ Ellen Wheller Wilcox, 1850-1919.

"I am in favor of human rights as well as animal rights. That is the way of the whole human being." _ Abraham Lincoln.

"I am sometimes asked, "Why do you spend so much of your time and money talking about kindness to animals when there is so much cruelty to men?' I answer, "I am working at the roots.' " _ Nathaniel Altman.

I think they understood.

Sherry Nelson, Largo

Take care of humans first

Thank you, Stephen Nohlgren. I'm probably one of few, but I really appreciated your article Compassion for animals, but none for humans? I've personally felt this way for a long time.

I'm an animal lover. I do not hunt, don't believe in killing for sport but _ God forbid, send me to the chair _ I do put humans above animals. Take care of our fellow humans first, then take care of our animal friends.

I professionally raised and showed pure-bred dogs for 12 years. I currently offer my services as a professional snake remover to the Clearwater Police Department, and I have always loved and honored nature. So I'm not mean to animals. When I catch snakes, I never kill them; I release them in a proper area. How many animal lovers would do that?

My point is that I love animals, I love humans. I believe our priorities should be to first help protect and consider humans and then _ equally but not above _ protect and consider animals, including birds, reptiles and insects.

Mark A. Neff, Clearwater

About those animal owners

Re: Compassion for animals, but none for humans? March 19.

Do not hold your breath in expectation of rational behavior by pet owners.

Before coming to St. Petersburg we resided in a quite fashionable (and expensive) apartment complex in Coral Springs. We shared a common patio entrance with an adjoining unit. When the neighbor's mutt relieved himself for a second time precisely in front of our door, we protested in the most tactful manner we could command. The lady was offended and never spoke to us again.

On another occasion, when we were negotiating for the purchase of a near-new mobile home in Vermont, I noted the owner's twin black cats exiting their litter box and jumping onto the food preparation area. When I brought the matter to her attention, she responded with, "So what?" Her profession? Visiting nurse!

I can forgive the animals. Their masters are another matter.

Herman A. Lambert, St. Petersburg

Much ado about not much

Aren't we lucky to have such stalwart representatives in Washington who will see something wrong and spend millions of dollars to follow it to the end?

I speak of those evil things that Maggie Williams and the vice president did in the White House by passing on an envelope and making a telephone call on his credit card. It is unbelievable what would have happened to the White House if the action of these two had not been brought to light.

We should applaud the quick action of our Congress in bringing this before the public with the help of the media instead of the less important issues that are facing this country.

Let the concerns _ of the great percentage of Americans _ about education, health, jobs, highways, transportation, security and drugs take care of themselves. They will save the union by finding where the money came from.

W. H. Baldwin, Sun City Center

Our corrupt system

Re: Campaign finance reform.

Political contributions are nothing more than bribery made legal by the Supreme Court's decision to equate money with free speech. This ruling is an insult to my intelligence. Political contributions are not only corruption but bribes.

Polls show that voters believe the current system is corrupt. Except for Common Cause, most of the public lobbies operating have a stake in maintaining at least those features of the present system that allow them to exert their own influence. There is, in short, no one speaking for the electorate at large.

Complaining that foreign contributions can affect our foreign policy is laughable, considering that our country has tried to influence other countries, not only with money but with our military power.

Sylvia Zimbler, South Pasadena

Face up to rail realities

Re: Commuter train's benefits, letter, March 17.

Before we taxpayers go rushing off to build commuter train routes, I would like to see the Times publish an illustrated article showing where the necessary parking lots are going to be located, how much they will cost to build and how much the daily parking fee will be.

Unless you live within walking distance of a rail station, you've got to drive to get there and that means either the spouse drives you there and takes the car home _ and then returns to pick you up at the end of the day _ or you drive yourself to the parking lot and pay the fee. (Maybe proponents will say parking will be "free." Yeah, and who's going to pay to buy the parking lot sites, install and mark the pavements and maintain the lots?)

Finally, assume the rail station nearest your place of employment is eight blocks away. Are you going to hike it on a 90-degree, 100-percent humidity day, or during one of Florida's afternoon downpours.

It's fun to take a test ride on a demonstration train. But let's face reality.

Don A. Goodall, Dunedin

Leave Officer Knight alone

I am wondering why some of the media insist on trying to crucify Officer James Knight. Shame on you. This fine person was only doing his duty by stopping and questioning suspicious-acting and -appearing individuals. I would much rather he do this than to possibly let some person or group slip by that are up to "no good." We need more dedicated police officers like James Knight.

Unfortunately, there are some elements of society that have no regard for laws. These come in all colors _ white, black, etc. Let James Knight alone. He has done and is doing a good job.

Betty Sandberg, St. Petersburg

Lawmakers are lenient on tobacco

After reading The power of tobacco's generosity, by Martin Dyckman (March 18), I was saddened to see our Florida Democratic and Republican legislators accept tobacco money. At election time they profess to be champions of children's well-being, when in fact they know that the tobacco companies target these children to be future smokers.

Tobacco will continue to kill as long as the lawmakers allow it. Don't they have a conscience? We should remember their names when we vote.

Rose Corelli, New Port Richey

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