Based on his interviews after he tried to start a range war in Nevada, we know that rancher Cliven Bundy made some racist statements and seems to be a freeloader, failing to pay grazing fees that are already absurdly inexpensive for public-land users like him.
What some may have missed in the story is that the federal government had been telling Bundy to remove his animals from federal lands because the beating hooves of the livestock threatened the very existence of the endangered desert tortoises who live here. In short, he was obligated to move his cattle to save a species from extinction. He's thumbed his nose at all sorts of laws, and for some bizarre reason a bunch of cranks and even some pundits rallied to his side, before Bundy's racist rhetoric made him as radioactive as Yucca Mountain.
What kind of person calls himself a "patriot" while knowingly flouting the laws of the United States?
We see this with a lot with people who want to harm animals. They wrap themselves in the flag, but ignore the principles that the flag symbolizes.
Cockfighting enthusiast David Devereaux earlier this month organized a rally in Corbin, Kentucky, to legalize the blood sport -- the rally where Republican Senate candidate Matt Bevin was a featured speaker. Bevin first claimed he had no idea the rally was about cockfighting, but then a local television station exposed that he knew exactly where he was and had undercover video of him answering a direct question on the topic. The public was shocked that he'd been consorting with this crowd, and he soon apologized.
Devereaux has a right to advocate to assemble and to advocate for the repeal of Kentucky's anti-cockfighting law and the federal law against dogfighting and cockfighting. But he doesn't have the right to break the law that he disagrees with in the here and now. The HSUS has been undercover at numerous cockfights in Kentucky. Many of the same people who filled the crowd at the cockfighting rally raise fighting roosters and they are undoubtedly fighting them and selling them in interstate commerce, which is a federal felony.
And then there's the horse soring crowd. Since 1970, it's been a federal crime to show a horse that has been injured to exaggerate his or her gait. Yet, leading trainers like Jackie McConnell -- the subject of an HSUS undercover investigation that led to his arrest and conviction -- have for years kept right on soring and showing horses, and winning. A USDA examination of horses at shows has demonstrated that just about everybody in the "Big Lick" segment of the industry has tortured horses for the sake of a blue ribbon. One after another, insiders have come forward to declare that you cannot get horses to step in this ludicrous and exaggerated way without hurting their feet.
Now this crowd is working with a couple of lawmakers to try to stymie progress on the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, HR. 1518/S. 1406, which seeks to strengthen the federal anti-soring law. That's their right. But it's not their right to keep violating the existing law.
The law is, in a sense, a living thing -- it's being perfected, expanded and retracted as each legislative session grinds ahead. But at any moment in time, the law is the law. Whether it's David Devereaux, Cliven Bundy or Jackie McConnell, they should abide by it. If they don't, they should be prosecuted, as McConnell was. And never should we refer to them as patriots or give any credence to their rhetoric about "freedom." A more apt description of them would be "persons of interest" or "criminals."
This post originally appeared on Wayne Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.