Friday, August 06, 2021

Protecting Animals While Evicting Humans

Protecting Animals But Not Humans

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 6, 2021, p. A5

Why does the law permit evicting the mammalian species Homo sapiens from shelter, but not mammalians like dogs and cats?

Of course, I support laws protecting animals’ rights. I love and attempt communication with all creatures. (Fish and ants are the most obstinate.) Increasing penalties and enforcement for animal mistreatment are encouraging.

But an Aspen Institute analysis reveals 30 to 40 million American Homo sapiens are at risk of eviction.

This is made worse by COVID. We knew since January 2020 COVID elimination is possible (test, trace, quarantine, isolate). Some elected officials preferred the path that produced 600,000 deaths.

Vaccine creation was appropriately celebrated. But vaccine in bottles is much less effective than vaccine in arms.

Rather than vaccination, some of our “leaders” prefer our “freedom” to choose risk of death to ourselves and others. So, more die.

Meanwhile, 7000 miles away in Wuhan, China, all 11 million residents are being tested. Since May 2020 Wuhan eliminated positive cases. Recently, when three symptomatic and five asymptomatic cases popped up, they resumed test, trace, isolate and quarantine.

Evictions in China? Yes, housing is a challenge for migrants. But during the 2020 lockdown Wuhan built shelters for about 5000 persons.

Like Americans, the Chinese have even more concern for animals. Bloomberg reports they are building 13-story condominiums for hogs to protect them from disease – with on-premises vets and individually prepared and served meals.

It’s unlikely that capitalist America will ever provide the housing for humans that China provides for hogs.

But can’t our Democrats and Republicans, the religious and agnostics alike, at least agree to provide every member of our species with shelter? It’s what we insist on for our fellow mammalians. It’s what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says is a basic human right.

So how do we do that?

Start by skipping the 38 percent of Americans who own their homes free and clear. Concentrate on the 30 to 40 million who are housing insecure – starting with the homeless. [Photo credit: Creative Commons]

Iowa City’s Shelter House is building a second “housing first” facility for Homo sapiens. Housing first is a movement demonstrating why it’s more effective and cheaper to assist the homeless and unemployed with housing before addressing their other challenges. Duplicate it across America.

It’s how Finland is eliminating homelessness.

Let’s start saving life on Earth while searching for life on Mars. We spend more on military than the next 11 nations combined. It used to be 10. Cut it to five.

Explain to those devoid of compassion how much we’ll save by housing the homeless. Cost? We can’t afford not to.

Then address the housing insecure. Forbes has headlined, “Housing Shortage Worse Than Ever.”

We need the government to start creating homes, not Section 8 vouchers. Learn from the early public housing “projects” problems. Build homes tenants and communities welcome. Charge no more than 30 percent of tenants’ income.

Let’s treat our own species at least as well as we rightfully require for other animals, starting now.
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is former co-director of the Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy. He is the author of "Columns of Democracy." Comments:

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Tougher animal protection laws. Kat Russell, “Tougher law ‘step in the right direction’ for animal abuse cases,” The Gazette, Aug. 2, 2021, p. A1, (‘the animal abuse and neglect cases reported to Cedar Rapids police so far this year — a year that to date has seen more arrests for the offenses than in the entire four previous years.” “recent changes to the state code strengthened penalties for some of the state’s animal cruelty laws … Under House File 737, if an animal was seriously injured or killed as a result of abuse or neglect, the crime would be an aggravated misdemeanor and punishable by up to two years in prison.”) And see, Rod Boshart, “Iowa Senate adopts tougher animal cruelty law,” The Gazette, March 4, 2020,

Evicting Americans. Emily Benfer, et al, “The COVID-19 Eviction Crisis: an Estimated 30-40 Million People in America Are at Risk,” Aspen Institute, August 7, 2021 (“The United States may be facing the most severe housing crisis in its history. … in the absence of robust and swift intervention, an estimated 30–40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction ….”[101 M Americans in renter households] [“eviction risk disproportionately impacts black and Latinx renters, and renters with children”] [People at risk of eviction by state: Iowa 118,000-239,000] “Foreclosure can lead to a lack of maintenance, urban blight, reduced property values for neighboring properties, and erosion of neighborhood safety and stability. Without rental income to pay property tax, communities lose resources for public services, city and state governments, schools, and infrastructure ….” See text under heading “Proposed policy interventions avoid suffering, save lives, and prevent severe harm”

Wuhan testing 11 M. Vivian Wang, “Wuhan, where the virus emerged, will test all residents after its first outbreak in over a year,” New York Times, Aug. 3, 2021, (Wuhan in Hubei Province) “Wuhan … is planning to test all of its 11 million residents for the coronavirus …. The city … had not recorded any local cases since May of last year, after a harsh two-and-a-half month lockdown helped eradicate the virus there. But city officials said they had detected three symptomatic local cases in the previous 24 hours, as well as five asymptomatic ones.”

Homelessness in China. “Homelessness in China,” Wikipedia, (during the 2020 lockdown “The Wuhan Civil Affairs Bureau set up 69 shelters in the city to house 4,843 people.” “In 2017, the government responded to a deadly fire in a crowded building in Beijing by cracking down on dense illegal shared accommodations and evicting the residents, leaving many migrant laborers homeless.”)

Hog Hotels. “China’s Putting Pigs in 13-Story ‘Hog Hotels’ to Keep Germs Out,” Bloomberg News, August 1, 2021, (“more than 10,000 pigs are kept in a condominium-style complex, complete with restricted access, security cameras, in-house veterinary services and carefully prepared meals.” Another is “equipped with robots that monitor animals for fever, air filtration, and automatic feeding and disinfection systems.”)

Owned homes. Jonathan Jones, “Cities Whose Residents Have Paid Off Their Homes [2020 Edition],” Construction Coverage, Nov. 4, 2020, (“According to Census Bureau data, over 38 percent of owner-occupied housing units are owned free and clear. For homeowners under age 65, the share of paid-off homes is 26.4 percent.”)

Housing First. “Housing First,” National Alliance to End Homelessness,” April 20, 2016, (“belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues.”)

Caleb McCullough, “Shelter House breaks ground on second ‘Housing First’ project,” The Gazette, June 18, 2021,

Finland eliminating homelessness. Tahiat Mahboob, “Housing is a human right: How Finland is eradicating homelessness,” CBC Radio, Jan 24, 2020,

US military spending. “THE UNITED STATES SPENDS MORE ON DEFENSE THAN THE NEXT 11 COUNTRIES COMBINED, Peter G. Peterson Foundation, July 19, 2021,

Housing shortage. Graison Dangor, “The Housing Shortage Is Worse Than Ever—And Will Take A Decade Of Record Construction To Fix, New Reports Say,” Forbes, June 16, 2021,

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