September 20, 2008

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Science that is BSL

Christina Ridge carries her search and rescue dog Doc after he cut his front paw on glass during search and rescue efforts in downtown Galveston, Texas. Photo by L. M. Otero for the L.A. Times.

Yes, that's a search and rescue pit bull. No, he wasn't bred to fight or "bred to kill" — he was bred to be blue, the color du jour. He was bred to be a companion.

A handful of articles on [human] genes and [human] race were published as Ontario prepared for its latest debate on breed specific legislation. Dogs aren't people — but prejudice is cruel and stupid whether it is directed at a human or a non-human animal, and as I read the articles on race and genetics my thoughts kept drifting to the anti-science that is BSL. How can anyone, in 2008 for crissakes, rationalize killing a dog by citing vagaries of appearance? "Breed specific" is a misnomer, after all: BSL condemns not only certain pedigreed dogs but also cross-breds and mixed breed dogs — friendly dogs that have never harmed or threatened to harm anyone — because of their coat color or the shape of their head. This is bigotry, not science.

"No fact in human history is more pervasive than our tendency to prejudge, fear, despise, persecute, and fight each other based on even the shallowest observable differences. It's simply reckless to feed that fire."

The reality of BSL, the cruelty and stupidity and utter uselessness of it, has become apparent to those who've seen its failures in their own neighborhoods. Caveat quoted this editorial:
An Ontario Court of Appeal is hearing arguments this week that literally are a matter of life and death. However, because these aren't human lives, many people might not even know it's going on.

That, however, doesn't lessen its importance.

The case in question is an effort to have the Ontario government's 2005 legislation that forbids the owning, breeding or selling of pit bulls overturned.
Maybe the Liberal government doesn't care about legislation that is immoral and ineffective because it's not as if a lot of voters care.

But we think people should care and we hope Clayton Ruby can force the government to take back its cruel and inhuman legislation and replace it with something that makes sense. He certainly has our support.
Proponents of BSL claim that extensive line-breeding has fixed specific behaviors in breeds of dogs — yet these same proponents contradict themselves by targeting mixed breed dogs in their killing sprees. BSL is irrational. It is a waste of time and money. It feeds the fires of prejudice, subjects law abiding citizens to needless anguish, and makes no one safer.

Testing Genes, Solving Little

A Dissenting Voice as the Genome Is Sifted to Fight Disease

Race, genes, and the future of medicine [also pullquote source]


Caveat said...

Excellent post, and the linked articles were a treat.

Since you are correct and there is no rational explanation for BSL, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the point of it is.

Why would a government want to do something like this and then waste years and Dog knows how much public money defending it in court? Initially I thought it was to set a legal precedent for further erosion of property owners' civil rights using 'pit bulls' as a distraction.

Then I wondered if it's because the world is shrinking and resources are becoming scarce so there's a subconscious anxiety about dogs, who are competitors for protein.

My friend thinks it might be because people have a need to hate something and dogs are sitting ducks for that, what with their being unable to read or gauge public opinion.

It can't be because they don't give a damn and want to score points with the uneducated, can it?

I hope not because that would be too much to bear.

Anonymous said...

There is NO science to BSL. None. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Just ugly politics and small-minded fear mongering.

As a *real* scientist - it annoys the freakin' crap out of me when people publish opinion as science.


(not even yours ;-)

Anonymous said...

Can I also add that, as a Dyslexic American (cripes, it took me 4 minutes just to type that..) I HATE the word verification thingy?

It makes me feel so... inadequate.

Luisa said...

smartdogs wrote:


(not even yours ;-)

I LOL'ed. [runs off to visit other blogs and evaluate efficacy of word verification thingy on spam]

Luisa said...

Selma, I think it's part of human nature - and I don't mean the 'better angels of our nature' - to enjoy having something or someone to hate, and hating pit bulls kills two birds with one stone: haters can enjoy hating 1) the dogs, and 2) the people who own the dogs. Win-win! That is, if pitchfork-waving, "Kill em all!" prejudice is your thing.

Anonymous said...

Very nice post, and thanks for the Slate article, which I had not seen!

Venter--"human genomics pioneer" that he is--was quoted a couple of years elsewhere:

"We simply do not have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to be right. . ."

I have admired him ever since. ;-p

Blue Dog State