Of Dogs, Of Wolves, Of Monsanto and a Broken System – A Story

Imagine that you are a dog breeder.  Maybe your choice is good hunting dogs. Perhaps you really like fancy show dogs. Either way, you have this female or females that you have worked with, trained, pampered and cherished.   She is your pride and joy.

Down the road from you, there’s a rich guy who raises wolf hybrids. They are impressive, powerful, beautiful, unpredictable and maybe dangerous. All the neighbors have mixed emotions and conflicting views.  Some really like his dogs and see potential in home security or defense or even things like draft work.  Others are concerned that the hybrids may be more wolf than dog and can’t be trusted. Heck, what they’re breeding might even be immoral or illegal.  You don’t really like what they’re doing, but you certainly believe in their right to pursue their goals. Besides, you’re busy with your own breeding program.

One night, a big wolf hybrid, slips out of his kennel, jumps over the fence, races down the street, leaps into your back yard and breeds your favorite female. He then heads home and no one is the wiser. Nine weeks later, your girl gives birth to a litter of cross bred puppies. Some of them are distinctly wolfish in looks and everyone realizes what happened.

“Oh, my gosh”, you think, as you stare at the little mongrels, “What do I do now? This was not a part of our plan.”

You are angry and frustrated, so you march down the street with the puppies in a box to show the owner of the offending animal and ask him to keep his dog at home.

You courageously ring the doorbell and state your case to the neighbor, trying to be as firm, yet polite as possible.

After you finish, he turns away, picks up a piece of paper off his table and hands it to you. At first you think he’s writing an apology or maybe even giving you a check to offset some of the vet bills that his wolf dog has inadvertently caused you.  Instead, he hands you bill, demanding a stud fee.

Shocked and offended, you laugh, tear up the paper and head home, thinking to yourself that the rich neighbor has more money than sense, and probably has crossed the line between eccentricity and lunacy.

Life pretty much gets back to normal, with you raising the pups and hoping you will be able to find homes for them.  The crazy neighbor incident is almost forgotten until one day there is a knock at your door. You open it to see the postman with a certified letter. You sign for the letter, wish the mail carrier a good day and open the package.

Inside, you find a summons and a letter announcing the rich nut case down the road is suing you for the stud fee.

You can’t believe your eyes; or the audacity of the man who filed the suit. You also can’t believe you’re going to have to pay out more money to get an attorney to fight this thing.

Your next thought is, ‘Maybe I’ll just pay the stud fee, shut him up and make the whole thing go away.”

You quickly realize, though, that if you do that, he wins.  And who knows how many other neighborhood dogs would be accidentally bred? Would they get stud fee bills, too?  What if he knows his hybrids are escaping?  What if he planned it all along?

You have to fight this thing. You have to put an end to the outrage. So you get an attorney and go to court.  Your case is cut and dried. Your property was violated; your dog was bred against your will and knowledge. There is no set of circumstances in which you owe the owner a single red sent.

At the end of weeks of hearings, the judge looks down from the bench and says, “After hearing testimony and reading the evidence, I find in favor of the plaintiff. The defendant will pay the stud fee.”

Stunned, both you and your attorney gape at the judge. You want to scream and ask him if he’s lost his mind. You wonder if he’s been bribed, is a drug addict or just plain stupid.  Since, however, you can’t afford a contempt of court fine; you merely shake your head and file an appeal.

Appeals are expensive and time consuming. It would be cheaper to just pay the stud fee.  You are considering doing just that when you hear that three other people in your neighborhood had the very same experience with the hybrid breeder. In each case, they paid the stud fee because they couldn’t afford the legal expenses. You decide it’s time someone made a stand. You are that someone.

Fast forward two years.  You have spent your life savings and raided your 401k to pay all the legal costs fighting the stupid stud fee.  In your wildest dreams you could never imagine that a single judge would side with the wealthy breeder of wolf hybrids. You thought the courts would actually shut him down. Now, though, the case has been taken up by the United States Supreme Court.

Finally, you think, justice will be done.  Then you learn that one of the Supreme Court Justices was once the personal attorney for the neighbor you’re in court with. You presume he will recuse himself. You presume in error.

In the end, the SCOTUS finds in favor of your wealthy neighbor. You have spent all you have in the pursuit of justice and find it elusive. Now you, and every dog owner in America, are liable for paying stud fees anytime one of these wolf dog hybrids impregnates a dog. Property rights are negated. Boundaries are eliminated. Justice has been subrverted.

Does this story sound incredible to you? Perhaps even ridiculous? It shouldn’t. This is almost exactly what the Monsanto Company has done to farmers when their genetically modified soy beans have cross pollinated neighboring fields.  And the SCOTUS has sided with them.

Justice Clarence Thomas, normally one of my heroes, was an attorney for Monsanto back in the 70s.  He has not recused himself.

In another case, concerning deregulation of Genetically Modified Organisms, the original judge deciding in Monsanto’s favor is the brother of Justice Stephen Breyer.  Astonishing.

I find the whole scenario offensive on a variety of levels. My bigger issues are not with Monsanto. They are who they are. I am mostly outraged at what has become of our legal system. I fear we are in free fall.

Back in the 80s, British Blues guitarist and singer, Chris Rea wrote a song about rush hour traffic that applies to this kind of legal/moral gridlock. The words are, “This ain’t no technological breakdown. This is the road to Hell.”

 

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