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Replies to National Zoo citing animal "privacy rights"



Previous Politech message:

"National Zoo cites animal 'privacy rights,' refuses to release info"
http://www.politechbot.com/p-03490.html

My unblushing collection of nude pandas frolicking at the National Zoo 
(call me a paparazzi):
http://www.mccullagh.org/cgi-bin/photosearch.cgi?name=panda

-Declan

---

Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 16:53:49 -0400
To: declan@well.com, politech@politechbot.com
From: Marc Rotenberg <rotenberg@epic.org>
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to
  release info

Off the record, EPIC was today contacted by representatives
of the Bear, Elephant House, and Great Cats exhibits regarding
a potential class action lawsuit. There are various tort
theories, including intrusion into seclusion. But there are
also questions about how the client interviews are to take
place. We are awaiting guidance from the National Zoo
administrators.

Marc Rotenberg

---

Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 22:47:13 -0400 (EDT)
From: Joel Schander <jschande@cuc.edu>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to 
release info

On Mon, 6 May 2002, Declan McCullagh wrote:

 > Next up: Irate privacy activists, upset at the practice of implanting
 > ID chips into pets to identify them if lost, sue vets to stop the
 > practice, citing Fluffy's "right to be let alone" and complaining
 > that, Revelations' "Mark of the Beast" is now being taken literally...
 >
 > -Declan

Declan,

The animals are right to be concerned about their privacy. The
Washington paparazzi wouldn't leave our poor male panda alone when he
attempted to engage in acts unbefitting a minor.  Even casual "tourists"
spend long periods of time staking out panda -- and other animal --
residences, taking pictures from the edge of the animals' very lawns.
This behavior corrupts society from the ground up, as well, as children
are openly encouraged to engage in this voyeurism, casually witnessing
-- as I did several weeks ago -- a male panda engaging such lewd
activity as scratching its ass with a stick for almost 10 minutes, nude
all the while, as if mocking those who snapped pictures while it
defecated publically.  While what the panda did is clearly inexcusable
and an affront to public decency[1], the country cannot wave away its
involvement in this carnival of the lurid.

[1] Unless it was performance art, in which case it was no doubt a
wonderful display.

Joel

---

From: "Vivian Hindbo" <vivian.hindbo@bownetworks.com>
To: declan@well.com
Message-ID: <87256BB2.00604596.00@bownetworks.com>
Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 11:31:31 -0600
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to 
release info

This was the funniest (saddest?) article you have ever sent out. Imagine
zoo-keepers worrying about the "privacy" of an animal while selling tickets
to people to come stare at the poor thing living the most intimate details
of its life behind the bars. 'Absurd' can't even begin to describe this
situation!

..vivian

---

Date: Tue, 07 May 2002 19:36:11 +0200
To: declan@well.com
From: Jose M Guardia <joseg@guardiasociados.com>
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to
   release info

This reminds me of Bertrand Russell's quote: "Animal rights, taken to their 
logical conclusion, mean votes for oysters"

:)

Best regards,

Jose

---

From: "Ray Everett-Church" <ray@everett.org>
To: <declan@well.com>
Subject: RE: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to release 
info
Date: Tue, 7 May 2002 10:37:45 -0700

One wonders if the zoo wasn't just having a little bit of fun with the
reporter. But since the zoo is as much a research installation as it is
a tourist attraction, they might well have refused to turn over the
medical records on the grounds that they constitute the private notes of
academics engaged in ongoing research. Few self-respecting academicians
I know would be willing to turn over their raw notes prior to an
opportunity to publish their findings, and many would still be reticent
to turn them over in a raw form even after that. The privacy issue might
be amusing, but I think it's not the whole story.

-Ray

---

Date: Mon, 6 May 2002 16:57:50 -0400 (EDT)
From: "J.D. Abolins" <jda-ir@pluto.njcc.com>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to 
release info

I got a good laugh out of your pun.

Actually where I could see lawsuits happening is with states that require
all dogs and/or cats to be ID chipped, including those of visitors from
non-chip-requiring states. California, I recollect, was considering such a
law. If a lawsuit does occur, I hope it won't be over "animal privacy
rights".

One strange spin-off from a legla acceptance of "animal privacy rights"
might be suits against nature documentaries for being Peeping Toms and
violating animals' privacy, especially their mating rituals. And if the
trends switches from "privacy" to other matters, could Steve "The
Crocodile Hunter" Irwin end up with a beauty of a lawsuit for causing
emotional distress to a python he picked up to show to the cameras? <g>

As for animal views concerning privacy, we might find variations. Cats
seem to be much more secretive than dogs for example. Alas, it's not back
up on the Web yet but the M-Dog page included a dog's view of privacy.
I'll try to put it online at http://weirdbytes.com/ in about a week or so.

On Mon, 6 May 2002, Declan McCullagh wrote:

 > Next up: Irate privacy activists, upset at the practice of implanting
 > ID chips into pets to identify them if lost, sue vets to stop the
 > practice, citing Fluffy's "right to be let alone" and complaining
 > that, Revelations' "Mark of the Beast" is now being taken literally...
 >
 > -Declan

---

Subject: Animal Rights Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights,"
	refuses to release info
From: Steve Withers <swithers@mmp.org.nz>
To: declan@well.com
Date: 07 May 2002 13:23:28 +1200

On Tue, 2002-05-07 at 09:52, Declan McCullagh wrote:
 > Next up: Irate privacy activists, upset at the practice of implanting
 > ID chips into pets to identify them if lost, sue vets to stop the
 > practice, citing Fluffy's "right to be let alone" and complaining
 > that, Revelations' "Mark of the Beast" is now being taken literally...
 >
 > -Declan

This might sound bizarre.....but it isn't necessarily so.

People who deal with animals every day learn over time that man animals
do have a level of intelligence beyond what we normally credit them
with.

I have 4 horses, 3 dogs and 5 cats. One of my dogs is easily as smart as
any 18 month old human child I have ever known. He unserstands a lot of
words and vocalises (not words...more like emotional sounds) certain
things readily in order to communicate.

One of my horses can un-tie knots and escape from the paddock. Or work
out which fence rail has a knot in the board and kick it out at its
weakest spot. Show me the human child that could work that out.

If we use sentience as a standard - as many animal advocates do -
instead of human vs non-human...then where would my dog sit on the scale
of life compared to a human who was severely mentally handicapped of
similarly limited in mental capacity?

If you take this view....then there are many individual animals and some
entire specieis who should be accorded some recognition under the law
that we use to protect humans of a similar level of capability.....or
less.

If that's wacky....then heaven help any alien species we ever meet. Our
laws already consider them to be animals without right...however smart
they might be.

Sentience is the thing....and many animals have enough of it to make you
wonder if we don't need to rethink the way we treat them under the law.

It is therefore not suprising that people in a zoo.....close to many and
diverse animals....would demonstrate an appreciation of animal
intelligence and consequent altered values that the rest of us might not
readily understand or appreciate....especially those in an urban context
whose contact with animals may be limited to the roaches under the
kitchen sink.

-- 
Regards,

Steve Withers
swithers@mmp.org.nz

----

Date: Mon,  6 May 2002 19:07:00 -0400
From: Jamie McCarthy <jamie@mccarthy.vg>
Subject: Re: FC: National Zoo cites animal "privacy rights," refuses to 
release info
To: declan@well.com

declan@well.com (Declan McCullagh) writes:

 > Next up: Irate privacy activists, upset at the practice of
 > implanting ID chips into pets to identify them if lost, sue
 > vets to stop the practice, citing Fluffy's "right to be let
 > alone" and complaining that, Revelations' "Mark of the Beast"
 > is now being taken literally...

It's easy to make fun of privacy activists or animal-rights people,
especially in this case, but the real culprit is more sinister.
As the article goes on to say, the National Zoo is run by the
Smithsonian, whose Board of Regents consists of Vice President
Cheney, Chief Justice Rehnquist, four Congressional Republicans,
two Congressional Democrats, and their appointees. [1]

One part of the context is that the Smithsonian has recently been
criticized for (some say) selling exhibit space for donors to put
forth their own views.  Our national museum is becoming privatized
and is hard-up for funds. [2]

But perhaps a more significant part of the context is that the
Republican Party, led in some cases by Cheney, is taking major steps
to limit citizen access to government.  One of President Bush's
first acts was to exempt former President Reagan from the
Presidential Records Act, in apparent violation of the law. [3]
Since then, he has allowed the law to be applied, but last I heard,
the large majority of the records, many of which presumably concern
current Bush aides, are still under lock and key. [4]

And the Post article goes on to list its own examples:

 > Hiding behind privacy rights is not a new tactic by
 > governmental secrecy lovers.
 >
 > In fact, many lawyers see a pattern.
 >
 > Media lawyer Paul Watler of Jenkens & Gilchrist said his
 > journalist clients have run into stone walls in the Bush
 > administration. He said former attorney general Janet Reno's
 > policy of accommodation was thrown out the window by Attorney
 > General John D. Ashcroft, who issued a memo after Sept. 11
 > telling agencies that if they could scrounge up a reason under
 > the law to deny FOIA requests, he would back them up.
 >
 > Ashcroft, for example, refuses to release the names of
 > thousands of foreign nationals detained after Sept. 11.
 > Journalists and others want to talk to the detainees to see if
 > they are being held in violation of their civil rights, yet
 > Ashcroft says their names can't be released to protect their
 > privacy.
 >
 > Missouri's Davis noted that Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham's
 > lawyers recently argued that releasing certain information
 > about corporate executives who lobbied on the administration's
 > energy plan would violate their privacy.

Is the argument about animal privacy rights really any more silly
than Cheney's claim that citizens have no right to know which
lobbyists their Vice-President has entertained?


[1] The Congressional Regents are Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), Rep.
Robert Matsui (D-Cal.), Rep. Ralph Regula (R-Ohio), Sen. Thad
Cochran (R-Miss.), Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), and Sen. Patrick Leahy
(D-Wash.). <http://www.commercialalert.org/smithsonian/regents.html>

[2] "The donor's contract stipulated that of the fifteen American
achievers represented in the exhibit, the Reynolds Foundation would
select ten and Smithsonian Institution would select five."
<http://www.oah.org/pubs/nl/2001aug/smithsonian.html>

[3] <http://www.thenewrepublic.com/082701/chafetz082701.html>

[4] As of March 11, only about 8,000 of about 68,000 pages had been
released.  <http://www.citizen.org/pressroom/release.cfm?ID=1050>

---




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