On Puppies and Sneakers | Opinion | Salt Lake City Weekly

On Puppies and Sneakers 

Is America in the throes of an epidemic of stolen pets ending up in stew pots?

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So much for gridlock. On Sept. 12, the U.S. House of Representatives proved that its members can, in fact, reach across the aisle to find common ground. On taxes? Spending? Foreign policy? Well, no. They agreed, on a voice vote, that Fido shouldn't be on your dinner menu.

"The Dog and Cat Meat Trade Prohibition Act of 2018" is exactly what it sounds like: A bill "to prohibit the slaughter of dogs and cats for human consumption."

What's up? Is there some pressing public health concern at stake? Is America in the throes of an epidemic of stolen pets ending up in stew pots?

Well, no. According to the bill's sponsor, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., it's all about "how beloved these animals are for most Americans." They "provide love and companionship to millions of people," he says.

In other words, it's all about making Buchanan and the bill's co-sponsor, Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., plus a bunch of other politicians, look warm, fuzzy and caring to the vast majority of Americans whose dinner plans don't include Manx Cordon Bleu and pulled Shih Tzu sandwiches.

I'm one of those people. I like dogs (I have two) and tolerate cats (my wife and kids have four). That makes it pretty simple for me. I don't want to eat dog or cat ... so I don't.

As for those who do want to eat cat and dog, well, in what universe is that any of my business—or, more to the point, Congress'?

There are countries on earth where the slaughter and consumption of certain animals is officially discouraged or even illegal. Two that come to mind are beef (India) and pork (Muslim-majority countries and Israel). My guess is that most Americans think that's pretty crazy. And yet Congress is trying to make Americans follow suit.

Under House rules, any member can force a counted vote, and one-fifth of the members can compel a recorded vote. That this bill passed on a voice vote means that not one, let alone 87, out of 435 representatives objected to passing the equivalent of Sharia or Kosher law right here in America. And it wasn't even based on any kind of coherent religious/philosophical argument, just "oooh ... they're so cuuuuuuuute."

And that's it for this installment of "why we're better off when Congress doesn't get anything done than when it does."

Speaking of outrage, the latest round of American boycott/buycott enthusiasm centers on Nike's new marketing campaign, which features former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick—the central figure of the "take a knee" protest movement in the National Football League and elsewhere.

Angry (and not very smart) anti-Kaepernick Nike customers are publicly burning their expensive Nike shoes and sharing the videos on social media as they vow to never buy the brand again. But pro-Kaepernick customers (and the apathetic) have boosted the brand's sales and driven its stock to an all-time high.

All well and good. One nice thing about markets is that they're hyper-democracies in which we all get to vote with our patronage, every day and with every purchase.

Unfortunately, some people think they're entitled to vote with other people's dollars. Marshall Fisher, head of Mississippi's Department of Public Safety, is one.

Fisher recently announced that the state police he supervises no longer will buy Nike products, telling the Associated Press that, "I will not support vendors who do not support law enforcement and our military."

The state's governor, Phil Bryant, defends Fisher, slamming Nike as "a company that pays an individual who has slandered our fine men and women in law enforcement."

OK, so this might be something of an empty gesture. Does the Mississippi Highway Patrol even buy athletic shoes and apparel? If so, such purchases hopefully constitute a drop in the bucket of the department's annual budget.

On the other hand, if Commissioner Fisher and Gov. Bryant want to make political statements with their purchases, they should cover the costs out of their own pockets instead of sticking Mississippi's taxpayers with the check.

Fisher and Bryant are virtue signaling. They're chasing political support from "law and order" voters and the law-enforcement lobby. Maybe that's good politics. I have a couple of questions, though:

If the quality of a shoe makes a life-or-death difference in a dicey situation a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer encounters, and if Nike's offering was the best for that incident, what words of comfort will Fisher and Bryant offer the loved ones of a dead trooper who was wearing the inferior footwear?

And if the quality of state-provided shoes makes no such difference, why wasn't it being fiscally responsible and doing its shoe-shopping at Walmart in the first place?

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Thomas L. Knapp

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