My local PBS station, WHYY, aired a show last night called The Amish: American Experience. Over the years, the Amish have evoked quaint visions of horse-drawn carriages and bucolic farms, the simple life so many of us long for. I used to think that way – until I  met my first dog rescued from an Amish puppy mill. And when I heard of an Amish man whipping his pony in front of a Walmart because it refused to  continue pulling a carriage the 5 miles home that should have been pulled by two horses, not one small pony. Or when I attended the candlelight vigil for the 80 dogs who were shot by the Amish farmer who wanted to avoid paying to take the dogs to see a veterinarian.

I posted a comment on WHYY’s Facebook page yesterday when they promoted the show, saying that I hoped that The Amish showed how they are mostly responsible for making Pennsylvania one of the worst states with puppy mills. Someone responded to my comment that the Amish are struggling to support their families and need to breed puppies to make money. I responded, “it’s getting harder and harder for most families, Amish or not, to support themselves.” Does that give them license to abuse animals?

Of course, not all Amish are puppy millers and some of those who are do respect the animals and treat them kindly. We shouldn’t generalize any group of people. My comments are pointed at the ones who treat animals like they are just another crop and exploit them.

Many Amish are having difficulties making a living with farming (as illustrated in last night’s show) due in part to the very large families that they need to support and competition from large corporate food producers. So they look for other ways to make money. Breeding puppies is cheap and easy – and they can get away with very low standards of health and breeding. Most of the public still have the same notion of the Amish that I once had. They arrive to buy a puppy, see the old farmhouse and an emotional, sentimental response follows. The brain then thinks, “if I feel good, then this must be a good place.” That “pure bred” puppy for sale is in reality not always pure bred and may have genetic health problems. And yet they charge several hundreds and even thousands of dollars for this sub-standard quality.

The Amish show opened with this voiceover line, “The Amish represent something true and virtuous that is lacking in many of us.”  Tell me, how is being a puppy mill operator that dupes the public so virtuous? And can you guess? The show never gave a mention to animals. Of course not.

Survival or not, exploiting and abusing animals cannot be tolerated. And the only way to stop them is to stop buying their puppies.

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