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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Kindhearted Dairyman, Sacked for Feeding Feral Cats, Files a $20 Million Lawsuit Against Cornell University

John Beck and Samantha

"That's what the farm is there for, to take care of animals, not mistreat them."
-- John Beck

A kindhearted sixty-seven-year-old part-time farmhand who was fired by Cornell University for feeding a group of feral cats living on campus has filed a $20 million lawsuit against the Ithaca, New York institution.

John Beck who milked cows on weekends at the Ivy League school's twenty-six-hundred-acre Animal Science Teaching and Research Center in nearby Harford (fifteen miles southeast of the main campus), was fired in August of 2003 after he repeatedly disobeyed orders to stop feeding the twenty or so feral cats who call the combination animal research and meat production farm home.

"I didn't want to see them starve," he told the New York Post on May 31st. (See "I Was Sacked For Feeding Cornell Cats.") "Have you ever heard cats howling for food? I would come to work at 11 at night and it's pretty disturbing hearing those cats crying."

In addition to buying dry food for the cats, Beck also scavenged leftover pizza from the center's lunchroom to give to them. He also reportedly trapped some of the cats which he either turned over to the Cortland County SPCA or had sterilized by the school's veterinary department. The fate of the cats surrendered to the SPCA is unknown but as a rule one-hundred per cent of all feral cats entering shelters are exterminated upon arrival.

Beck, who once cared for eighteen barn cats when he operated his own farm, defended his actions on the ground that since the cats had come to rely upon the school as a source of food the institution had a moral obligation to continue to feed them. "That's what the farm is there for, to take care of animals, not mistreat them," he told the New York Post.

The school, speaking through Mary George Opperman, told Beck in a letter that his feeding of the felines "was not consistent with the needs of the farm." She furthermore extended to him the beau geste offer that he was welcome to take the cats home with him.

As far as the lawsuit is concerned, the school has filed a motion in Tompkins County state Supreme Court to have it dismissed. While Beck readily admits that his chances of prevailing in court are slim, he told the New York Post that he had filed the suit as a matter of principle. "How can you fire someone for feeding cats?" he asked rhetorically.

His gutsy decision to take on the swelled-heads at Cornell has, however, garnered him a good deal of both sympathy and professional support. For example, Dr. Brenda Griffin of Auburn University in Alabama told the New York Post that not only do feral cats not pose any risk to livestock, but that they are invaluable in helping to keep the rodent population under control. Furthermore, she stated that cutting off their food supply would not make them go away.

More importantly, Dr. Griffin is acutely aware of the moral dilemma posed by Cornell's decision. "I don't know how anyone could advise someone not to feed them, that is cruel in and of itself," she added.

Beyond the hateful dismissal of a kindly ailurophile, this case has focused attention on one of academia's dirtiest secrets: its mistreatment of feral cats. With the exception of certain center city campuses which are comprised almost exclusively of office suites, nearly every university in the country has a feral cat problem. Most often students are to blame. They bring in cats to live with them in their dorm rooms and then turn them loose to fend for themselves at the end of the school year. Irresponsible cat owners from surrounding communities also use college campuses as dumping grounds for felines that they no longer want.

Dr. Brenda Griffin

On some campuses, conscientious students, teachers, and administrators have allocated funds to provide food, shelter, medical assistance, and desexing for their homeless cats. Kate Hofstra, for example, left money in her will for the care of the feral cats who live on the Hempstead, Long Island campus that bears her name. (See "Cats Find Refuge," The (Hofstra) Chronicle, February 3, 2005.")

At Auburn, Dr. Griffin directs a TNR (trap, neuter, and return) program called Cap Nap and teaches classes devoted to shelter medicine and feral cat care. More importantly, she is in the vanguard of a growing movement to put an end to pet genocide.

Highbrows on other campuses are not nearly so magnanimous. Being either too cheap or too lazy to do the right thing, they feign ignorance of the problem in the hope that it will solve itself. Still others, having no more regard for a cat than a termite, call in trappers and exterminators.

There is a widespread belief within the intelligentsia that they are exempt from the dictates of morality; because of their exalted positions, they falsely believe that the world owes them everything while they in turn owe no one anything. No group, however, lives in a vacuum and if colleges refuse to take responsibility for their homeless cats, who will?

Cats, like all animals, have an inalienable right to life and liberty. Cornell's steadfast refusal to provide for its cats is despicable. Not only is it an extremely rich school, but it would cost it very little to provide food, shelter, and veterinary care for its resident felines. It also has a very spacious campus that without doubt has more than enough room to accommodate a handful of cats.

Cornell's cavalier treatment of its cats is not surprising in light of its overall record on animal rights. For example, on the farm where Beck used to work, the school maintains thousands of dairy and beef cows as well as a herd of sheep. The professors experiment on these poor animals, genetically modify them, and then finally slaughter them. It is, in reality, more of a money-making factory farm than it is a school in that livestock are exploited for their milk, meat, and wool.

At other locations, Cornell maintains units where chickens, pigs, and horses are treated in an equally inhumane and exploitative manner. Tens of thousands of other animals are subjected to the horrors of vivisection and dissection in the school's research and teaching labs.

Although the toffs at Cornell attempt to cloak their abysmal animal rights record in the highfalutin rhetoric of the advancement of science, money, fame, domination, and the pursuit of sadistic pleasures are the real motivating factors behind their so-called research.

Bereft of any genuine appreciation of the manifold uniqueness and beauty of Mother Earth, the animals, and man (at his better moments, that is), the scientific community's propensity for evil is far greater than that of even the capitalists and the militarists. (See Cat Defender post of May 4, 2006 entitled "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals.")

Photos: Wilson Cummer of the New York Post (John Beck and Samantha) and Best Friends Animal Society (Brenda Griffin).